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
As an eighth-grade writing teacher, I routinely focus on reading student writing and utilizing it for several purposes. I am designing effective lessons, creating sound rubrics for assessment, developing peer conferences and monitoring their ability to meet standards and benchmarks. However, I often forget about one of our most important, frequently overlooked roles as writing teachers: our role as listeners.
For more than 20 years, Teaching Tolerance, based in Montgomery, Ala., has worked to help educators embrace the diverse classroom. We strive toward bias-free schools. We advocate acceptance, respect, equality and safety for all students.
For all the wonderful things that diversity brings to a classroom, teaching a diverse group of students can be much more difficult than teaching a seemingly homogeneous one because of our assumptions. Some people are uncomfortable talking about diversity and culture. No one wants to be labeled a racist. I learned this lesson during my fourth year of teaching.
My journalism students were brainstorming topics for their final story projects. I urged them to come up with compelling ideas that relate to their experiences but that push deeply into national trends.
“Stop letting all the midlife writers (like myself) tell your stories,” I pushed. “Tell your own.”
A teacher notes that a student looks uncharacteristically pale and avoids eye contact with her classmates. When asked privately if she’s OK, the girl bursts into tears, sharing a weekend-long saga of harsh criticism delivered via emails, chats and texts.
Anna quickly entered my freshmen English classroom when the third-period bell rang. She is no longer a freshman. This was a free period. Still, she sat at the desk closest to mine and buried her head in her AP European History textbook.
She knew she was safe here.
The explosion of news coverage over the controversial execution of Troy Davis in Georgia recently is a reminder that our students learn powerful lessons outside our classrooms.
These events offer opportunities for lessons of context inside our classrooms.
Oct. 8, was a day of victory for a group of 22 Life Academy students in Oakland, Calif.
They are part of a 2-year-old advocacy club called “The Real DREAM Act Movement.” Students met regularly to support in campaigning for the passage of the federal DREAM Act. After several weeks of active letter writing and campaigning, their dream had finally come true: California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB 131, a companion bill to AB 130, together known as the “California DREAM Act.”