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 class was silent as we waited for Samuel to collect himself. It was a respectful silence that happens when everyone knows something powerful is taking place. Samuel’s elbows were on his knees, his head was down. A few tears had fallen.
Our chairs were placed in a circle. A sign posted on our classroom wall read, “Every person in this community is as important as every other person.” We were in the middle of our weekly class meeting, a time when we acknowledge conflicts and work to resolve them as a group. The current topic: name-calling and disrespectful speech.
Every now and again, a student will say something that leaves me speechless and desperate for the correct response. I can feel in my bones that the moment is about to become pivotal. One of these moments came while we were reading Katherine Paterson’s novel The Great Gilly Hopkins, in which the main character deals with her racism. We were in the process of analyzing her character, her motivations and her racist attitudes, and I could tell that my sixth-graders didn’t really understand the theme of racism, so I needed to step away from the novel for a moment and put the history in context for them.
I like to switch things up every once in a while, so I assigned my high school students a project I’d never done before—a gift book. In addition to the academic value, I hoped to strengthen at least one teen-adult connection at a time when it’s sometimes hard to just grunt, “Good morning,” without an argument. (I know this because I have two teens in my own house.) I also wanted students to be able to create a keepsake to give a loved one during the holiday season. Many students could not afford to buy anything. In our rural school, many students come from low-income homes.
Several stacks of fake dollar bills enclosed in a Plexiglas case sit at the center of an exhibit entitled “RACE: Are We So Different?” at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. One stack towers over the others. This teetering pile of bills represents the average net worth of “white” people’s assets in relation to those of other racialized groups based upon data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau from 1997 to 2000. While the “Asian” stack is almost as high, the “black” stack can hardly be called a stack at all; the “Latino” stack is almost as low.
This year is the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl's classic children's book James and the Giant Peach. In the story, 7-year-old orphan James Henry Trotter escapes his two rotten, abusive aunts by crawling into a giant peach, which rolls, floats and flies him to a new life of wonder and love.
Whenever I see a movie about teachers, I get a little nervous. I wonder how my profession will be represented. I’m always curious, but usually disappointed. I have found that on-screen teachers tend to perpetuate two frustrating stereotypes about the profession. The first is that anyone can teach—or worse—“those who can’t, teach.” There’s a misconception that teaching requires no special skills or talents beyond a basic knowledge of the content area. The other stereotype is teacher as martyr-saint. This portrayal assumes that the one qualification for being a good teacher is a heart of gold, a willingness to sacrifice everything out of love for children.
Most films ignore the complexity of the craft of teaching. This makes me cringe.
Somewhere around Thanksgiving, we’re bombarded with the commercial celebration of the holidays.
Schools are no exception, and the hype is difficult to ignore. Is this a great time for our students to study the holidays celebrated throughout the globe?
When I was in elementary school, it was common to overhear adults say that children were from “broken homes” if they lived with a single mom or dad or sometimes with grandparents. One of those families belonged to my friend Ellie, who lived with her mom. So I asked my father, a Congregational minister, why some people thought Ellie’s family was broken? Dad gently explained that strong families, Ellie’s included, have three characteristics: love, connectedness and commitment.