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
Recently, I met with the second- through fifth-grade teams at our school to look at student achievement on our district benchmark tests. We analyzed the results. Then we set out to identify specific focal questions that large numbers of students answered incorrectly. We’d hoped to develop an instructional plan to help the students answer similar questions correctly in the future.
“To err is human” but to reflect is divine. Teachers are human. We get frustrated, lose our tempers, make bad judgment calls and sometimes wish for a do-over button. Unfortunately, there isn't a magical reset button—or is there?
Being an effective, successful teacher does not mean you never make mistakes. It just means we need to learn from them.
How does a school community deal with the violent loss of a student? Unfortunately, this is a question my school has had to answer too often. Still, no matter how many times I’ve been through it, trying to understand my own pain while holding space for my students to feel theirs is something that pushes me beyond my capacity as a teacher.
Throughout the year there are opportunities for school dances. It could be homecoming, Sadie Hawkins or even a Halloween costume party. Students spend hours discussing them. While many students view dances as a tremendous opportunity for fun, socializing and a great experience, others view them as potentially dangerous and anxiety-filled events. I am not thinking about the general stress induced by dating or the politics of popularity that often emerge here.
Rather, what concerns me is the anxiety for LGBT students.
Katie is the student I imagined all my students would be like when I first started teaching. In my fantasy, all my students were motivated, conscientious and ready to independently tackle any challenge I proposed. In this same fantasy, I was not the wild-haired, one-legged juggler I’ve become, but rather a calm force of wisdom and benevolence.
On a recent rainy afternoon, our 20 kindergarteners were kept indoors for playtime. I stood near a group of four children stringing beads for bracelets and necklaces.
Levi explained he was making a bracelet for his daddy.
The child next to him, Catherine, blurted out angrily, “I hate daddies!”
Levi searched for words, looked at Catherine and asked, “Why do you hate daddies?” He repeated it a few times.
“I don’t have a daddy,” Catherine replied. “I hate daddies.”
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.