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
During spring break, I was reminded of what a huge impact a small decision can make.
I caught up on information about two former students: Richard and Patrick. They were quite similar when I had them as eighth-graders nearly four years ago. Both were over-age (16 years old) and received special education services. Both got into trouble regularly and were suspended multiple times. However, due mostly to a couple of seemingly small decisions, their lives changed in vastly different ways.
Each year, about 65,000 undocumented young people graduate from high school only to find a brick wall between themselves and thefuture. They are some of the 2 million or so children living in the United States without “papers.” In most cases, these young people were brought here by parents at an early age and, for any number of reasons, have not been able to obtain legal residency or citizenship.
As the school year draws to a close, the SPLC salutes just a few of the students this year who fought the good fight, challenging homophobia and gender discrimination in their schools. If it’s true that young people are our future, the future is looking pretty diverse, free and fabulous. We hope you are as inspired to read about them as we at the SPLC have been to work with them.
The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq marked my first year of teaching. When one of my students referred to Iraqis as “towel heads,” I told him he had to do extra homework researching turbans and present a report to me the next day. It took him a week to complete the assignment, and instead of gaining insight and compassion for a different group of people, he probably just became more resentful. I now see this as a lost opportunity.
As a precursor to our social studies unit on conflict in the Middle East, I taught a unit this year on world religions. We started off studying seven of the world’s major faiths and then narrowed it down to the three Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
"Don't Be a Bystander,” says one of the anti-bullying posters created by Tualatin High School students. It’s an important message for students to hear.
In an effort to combat the growing bullying crisis, Teacher Rachel Robinson showed her advanced digital arts classes Teaching Tolerance’s film, “Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History.”
Many of my third-graders are very angry. They have good reason. Growing up in the most violent area in Oakland, many have lost family members to violence or experienced racial injustice. They distrust the people who are supposed to protect them.
Anthony was one of my angriest students. His father was in prison. Anthony told me that he wanted to kill his father because fathers aren’t supposed to leave their families. He was 6 years old at the time.
I overheard two students talking in class one day about their after-school plans. One said she would be volunteering at the local women’s shelter.
I hurried over, excited to congratulate her on this great thing she was doing—being part of her community and supporting marginalized groups. Lesson plans were already beginning to form in my head: writing prompts about social awareness, student interviews with our populations of homeless, hungry, mentally and intellectually disabled and those in poverty. I imagined students writing editorials to the local newspaper about the needs of our community.
In our kindergarten classroom, there are no desks. Instead, we have three large, child-sized tables, around which 20 children and three teachers can fit. We call it the writing table. Here, students can draw, write and complete phonics-based workbooks.
One morning, Greta was drawing a picture of something that had happened the day before: She and her friend Lily had made bird nests during outside recess and had placed them all throughout the yard. Greta was illustrating herself and Lily making nests. Her classmate Ellie watched her create the drawing.