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
The empty space left by the death of a young person seems somehow larger—perhaps because we sense not only the absence of who he was, but also of who he could have become. This emptiness can engulf an entire community, even a nation, when the death is unjust.
Recently, I was in a public place with a friend when I saw a woman wearing a very creative, flamboyant outfit. Knowing that my friend would be interested, I discreetly whispered to her to look at the woman in the colorful outfit. She looked but didn’t see her. I offered different descriptors. “The woman with short hair,” I said. Then, “the woman in heels.” And finally, “the woman with the large earrings.” Finally she noticed. This would have been easily forgettable except that I realized a pattern in what I had avoided saying. Throughout my description, I had avoided pointing out the woman’s race.
My day begins supervising fourth-grade recess. It’s a nice way to ease into being in the school building, where I often cringe at how we insist that small children stay tethered to their chairs for so many hours in a row.
A group of technology-loving eighth-graders at Georgetown Day School combined their digital skills with a passion for helping others. It was community service in a computer lab.
As part of the school’s service learning program, we asked the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry (NOVAM), a local health organization, if students might interview staff, record the interviews and produce podcasts about its work and mission. NOVAM educates the public about HIV and AIDS and provides support to people and families coping with the disease. The eighth graders hoped their mini-radio programs might be posted on the organization’s website for clients to download.
In my eighth-grade language arts classroom, we use discussion as a vehicle for learning, thinking, writing, posing and defending arguments, questioning and reviewing—just about everything. And as can be expected, we sometimes digress from the topic at hand.
On Monday, LGBT students’ rights were vindicated in a comprehensive settlement with Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District over its policies that hindered teachers from effectively responding to anti-gay bullying—policies that may have contributed to some of the district’s recent suicides. Then on Tuesday, in the afterglow of this historic victory, the Utah Senate passed its own discriminatory bill (HB 363) prohibiting educators from teaching about, or even talking about, homosexuality.
Many times in my career, I have heard a colleague warn, “Watch out for that one! He’s trouble!”
Students quickly gain a reputation with the teachers. In an effort to help each other, teachers may offer a warning about a challenging student. I’ve learned not to believe everything I’m told.
Schools have a responsibility to maintain a safe learning environment for all students—this seems on first examination a simple enough statement. It isn’t.
Two words are key—“learning” and “all.” A school that is inclusive of all its students but unable to nurture learning has failed in its responsibility. An academically successful school that only supports its majority students has equally neglected its obligation.