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 I head back to the classroom, I think about the last school year. In the second-to-last week of school, my fifth-grade classroom was 90 degrees, with no air conditioning. My students were sitting together, helping each other, laughing, struggling and having fun. At the beginning of the year, they were unsure of each other. They smiled politely but kept to themselves or the friends they knew and never asked for help. So what had changed?
Classroom discussions are usually dominated by a few “alpha” students eager to participate. We can all envision those students. Hands stretched high, fingers waving, literally or figuratively saying, “Ooh, pick me, pick me.” But how do you get that student who is desperately trying not to make eye contact with you—or anyone else in the classroom—involved in the conversation?
As a matter of practice, we encourage teachers to integrate learning opportunities about religious tolerance and cultural understanding throughout the school year. But this is especially important as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches.
Given the beating that public school teachers have taken in recent months, the results of the 43rd annual PDK/Gallup poll were kind of surprising. The headline for it could have read “Americans love teachers!”
My son was a 16-year-old high school junior on 9/11/2001. He could see the twin towers burning a few miles across the harbor from his school in Staten Island, N.Y. Across the country, other students watched the images on television, either as they were happening or later, as they looped endlessly on cable news.
On rainy, dreary days, an announcement breaks into my class around 11 a.m. “Please excuse the interruption. Recess will be held indoors today.”
From around the room, there are scattered cheers. My students are often happy to have indoor recess. I’m happy, too, because I see this as a positive time for my students to build friendships and interact.
It wasn’t always this way.
As the final Space Shuttle mission touched down last month, ending NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program, I wondered what would come next for women in aerospace. Without a clear, defined mission from NASA, I questioned where that leaves girls and young women who dream of becoming astronauts.
A common misperception in many early childhood environments is the idea that, as one teacher told me, “There’s no diversity in my classroom.” She, and many others, think that a focus on diversity is unnecessary in an apparently homogeneous classroom.