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
Today somebody vomited in fourth-period study hall. Before the period had ended, kids in my study hall already knew about it. On my way to fifth-period class, every kid I passed in the crowded hallway was talking about it.
Webster’s dictionary defines gossip as “a report about the behavior of other people.” In my school, gossip is the pipeline through which all sorts of misinformation, lies, and occasional truths get exchanged.
Florida representative Kelli Stargel has proposed a bill requiring the state’s teachers to grade parents of children aged kindergarten to third grade.
Stargel suggests parents be graded “satisfactory,” “unsatisfactory” or “needs improvement,” based on whether their children arrive at school well-rested, well-fed and on time with homework completed. Her bill also requires regular communication between parents and teachers.
Last June, eight students at Susquenita High School near Harrisburg, Pa., got a nasty surprise. The students, who ranged in age from 13 to 17, got caught with nude photos of each other on their cell phones. School officials brought in the police, and each teen was slapped with a felony pornography charge.
In early 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders continued plans for a Poor People’s Campaign. It would take place in the spring in Washington, D.C. The poor and those in solidarity with them would take up temporary residence and march peacefully on the Capitol and advocate for substantial anti-poverty legislation from Congress. They would demand jobs, healthcare and decent housing.
If you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, you might remember the scene in which Scout beats up Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard. It’s the first day of school and Scout’s teacher, Miss Caroline, is not from Maycomb. She doesn’t understand just how hard the Great Depression has hit the farmers of southern Alabama. So she innocently offers Walter a quarter to buy lunch in town. He refuses. As Scout explains he’s a Cunningham, and Cunninghams never take anything they can’t pay back. Every student at my school is eligible for free lunch this year, so they understand Walter’s situation. But what they don’t understand is “why other students get to go off campus for lunch and we don’t.”
Every week I write a quotation on the board and ask my students to write responses to it in their journals. One of our favorite quotes is by William Butler Yeats: "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." This quote aptly captures the reason why I teach. A group of minds in a room–thinking through problems together–can generate amazing heat and ignite a fire.
There are some new labels kids have created for one another since I was in school. When I grew up, there were no skaters or noobs. No one was goth or emo. In my day, kids who wore collared shirts and madras were preppy. Kids who smoked cigarettes and listened to Led Zeppelin were burnouts. Jocks were still jocks, although the jocks of my youth were all-inclusive. Today, they separate themselves by sport.
The Spring issue of Teaching Tolerance arrives in schools this week. Here’s a sneak peak: