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 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.
Trey loved to challenge whatever rule he could in class. He was the student who would question every nuance of the dress code, just to see if the faculty could come up with a worthy reason.
During a discussion of homophobia in The Catcher in the Rye, he, blurted, “Holden’s just so gay.”
The class groaned as they awaited my response.
I recently visited a friend’s preschool classroom. While there, I saw an argument that mirrored my high school students’ conflicts. I walked away curious about the way younger and older students use their words to explain their feelings and the actions of others.
Sometimes school tracking sets students up for failure, academically and socially. My students with disabilities, who require extra academic assistance, often ended up on the short end of the stick. Because they were in all of the same classes together I noticed that they also clung to each other in the cafeteria. They had a difficult time fitting in and making friends with other students.