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
A student pleads with me at the beginning of class to bring an electronic reader to class?
“I’m almost finished reading my book and I want to finish it, but it’s on my (electronic reader name), the students says. “Please? I’m at a really good part.”
At first, this appears to be every language arts teacher’s dream; students begging to continue reading things they’ve read on their own time for fun.
But, then come the problems.
Our cover story, “Possession Obsession,” focuses on teen dating abuse. With almost one-third of teen relationships involving abuse, it is imperative for educators to know how they can help their students avoid or escape unhealthy dating relationships.
We also examine stereotypes about low-income students. “The Poverty Myth” looks at how these stereotypes persist in classrooms, leading some teachers to view low-income students as unprepared and lacking ability. Too many believe “low-income” means low expectations.
Whenever I go into an unfamiliar school, I look closely to see what the walls tell me. I’m not just looking at signage—although that is important—but everything on the walls.
A school’s “cultural ecology” is mirrored on its walls. Of course, some physical features of a school come with the territory, but the important question is, “what have they done with the place?” It starts with the halls. A building that is several decades old may feature clinical tile walls, harsh fluorescents and windowless hallways. Some buildings in that age range look like prisons, with bare, gleaming walls. Others of similar vintage shimmer with colorful student art, invite the viewer to explore ideas through posted classroom projects, or offer information for upcoming games, plays, elections, charity drives or concerts.
In our wide and chilly central meeting room, I find book bags wildly scattered about the room. A mess of teenagers have forgone the neat circle of chairs to convene in the middle of the room.
The mission seems simple; they want to mimic the dance steps Kendra has designed. I hear the simultaneous snap she has integrated into her steps and the bursts of laughter that follow their inability to all achieve the perfect synchronized timing.
All over the nation people strive to answer Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous invocation: “What are you doing for others?” Many engage in projects to make their community a better place to live. My students at Life Academy in California have answered the call to service in several ways. First, they showed up on campus during a school holiday to beautify the school grounds, paint a mural, clean out an old storage room, build benches and tend to a garden. Second, they launched a 74-day fast “Season of Peace Building.” Students signed up to fast on certain days, in a kind of relay, to highlight the time from MLK day to Cesar Chavez day.
Some of my favorite teaching moments are when I can shut up and let students teach each other. This magic happened recently when a group of high school students from one of Chicago’s most under-resourced neighborhoods came to our university campus—just a few miles—but an entire world away.
Nearly 14 million children live in low-income or poor families in the United States.
One of those was Devin.
He had been in my English class during my first year teaching. His uniform was old and faded. He (like 95 percent of the school) was eligible for free or reduced lunch. He didn’t have much in the way of supplies. It was unclear if he really didn’t have the materials, or if he simply didn’t care.
There is a very poignant scene toward the end of “The Loving Story,” an Augusta Films documentary premiering on HBO Feb. 14. Peggy Loving, about 8 years old, pages through a book of paper dolls. With scissors in hand, she happily points out a bride and groom who are dancing at their wedding. The tall, handsome groom wears a formal tuxedo. The bride, sporting a 1960s-style flip, wears white gloves and a long, flowing veil. They look into each other’s eyes as they dance; on the opposite page, honeymoon clothes with their paper tabs wait to be hung on cardboard shoulders.