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
With all the recent news about single-sex classrooms, it would appear that the idea is gaining traction. Not true.
When I was growing up, most of my friends were a lot like me. We looked a lot alike, lived in similar neighborhoods and rarely questioned the racial and cultural uniformity that was the fabric of our lives. This isn’t to say that my high school lacked all diversity. Like many high schools, our student population was fairly segregated, and I stuck with the group where I felt most comfortable. It wasn’t until college that I experienced some authentic diversity, developed friendships with people who were different from me, and began to recognize how isolated I had been in high school.
One of the simplest ways to foster compassion and understanding in our classrooms is to give students opportunities to share stories about their lives. By communicating and listening, students can break down stereotypes and see each other as real people. This can be done through curriculum-related projects such as personal narrative and poetry or as part of a daily class meeting.
Every morning, Leo's smile brightens the cafeteria at my elementary school. He hobbles in, holding his teacher's hand. His eyes squint at the bright lights. He squirms at loud noises. And always, he smiles.
We are ending this school year mid-sentence in an ongoing conversation about what it means to live together in a learning community and treat each other with basic respect and human decency.
A war on obesity is raging. Everyone from Jillian Michaels to Michelle Obama is calling for all Americans to lose the fat. But as doctors spend millions of dollars on fat-shaming billboards targeting children and studies proving that dieting simply doesn’t work, one might ask where does encouragement end and bullying begin?
My eighth-grade girls squealed at the shirtless male movie star photos in a magazine. “Oh my gosh! Check out the abs on this one!”
“Yeah,” responded another. “And look at that picture of Taylor Lautner. His face isn’t very good looking, but who cares. Look at those muscles!”
This is a typical exchange in my classroom during lunch or before morning meeting. As a teenager, I remember flipping through fashion and celebrity magazines, looking at female models with long legs, luminous skin and perfect hair. They represented what I was supposed to be. Knowing how far away I was from looking like them definitely made me feel ugly. But the magazines were also telling me what kind of guy I should find attractive. Apparently, not much has changed in teenage popular culture.
I was anxious, opening the cover page of my literacy project. I paused and took a deep breath and held it.
"Excellent job,” my professor’s comments began. “I especially liked your focus on how to increase the literacy of boys not interested in reading." I beamed. I’d worked hard on this project. Although her words were few—about 20—it was rewarding to be praised. I felt recognized, validated.