A place for educators to find thought-provoking news, conversation and support for those who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools
"I'm done," I could have said. "Finished."
I felt I had potential as a teacher during my master’s degree coursework. "You have the building blocks to make a difference in the lives of children," one of my professors wrote on an assignment.
For two years, I have used the building blocks of compassion, courage and creativity to build my classroom.
Inspired by an article about cyberbullying, I asked my fifth-graders to write podcast scripts. They wrote about teasing, cyberbullying, gossip, intention vs. consequence, advertising, digital footprints and the lack of facial cues in electronic communication. Working mostly in collaborative groups, my students recorded complete “'casts” on our informal laptop studio.
Today I went to an individualized educational plan (IEP) meeting for one of my middle school students. The parent reported that her son “is constantly being bullied at school." She said he is being harassed by other students because of his disability. It happens before and after school. Once, students stole his hat and put it in the trash. Another time, they took his water bottle and put sand in it.
The Anoka-Hennepin school district, Minnesota’s largest, has been in the national spotlight since last year. That’s when several students who were gay or perceived to be gay committed suicide. According to friends and family, the students had one thing in common: They had been bullied at school.
The undercurrent affects my classroom. I can feel its tug and see its effects but can rarely locate the source or the exact flow. Cruel taunts and gossip are the culprits behind my students’ tears, stony faces—their anger and their fear. The ferociousness of the few vicious communications I have been privy to as a high school teacher caught me off guard. High school can be a shark tank and the blood flows with every passing class period, thanks in part to the popularity of online social media. I feel helpless to save the victims because I don’t even know who they are half the time.
Three girls take part in a common kindergarten classroom interaction—planning what they’ll play during morning recess. Recess is a time when children participate in unrestricted free play with their peers. The games to be played–and the players—are constantly on the minds of the 5- and 6-year-olds, especially during cleanup. One of the girls in the group offers the following suggestion, “How about only people wearing skirts are cats?”
At the start of my career as an eighth-grade language arts teacher, it never bothered me when students were described by teachers as “low,” “middle,” or “high” as a way to label their abilities. No disrespect was meant toward our learners; it was just a fast and easy way to describe our kids and get to know them when we had so little time with them.
I work as an instructional coach at a large, diverse and underperforming urban public elementary school. Our students are at-risk. Families are struggling with stress and trauma. Teachers work mightily to close the achievement gap. So as I left a third-grade classroom the other day after a check-in with the teacher, I wasn’t surprised when she said, “Wait, can I ask you one more thing?”