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
Each spring, at the start of baseball season, fourth-graders at my school connect with Shorty, a character from Ken Mochizuki’s book Baseball Saved Us. Shorty’s a Japanese-American child who plays baseball on a makeshift field in an internment camp during World War II. Mochizuki’s consummate read-aloud story encourages a fired-up discussion in the library. Students talk about the inequities and intolerances foisted on kids and adults alike. It’s the kind of lesson that I thoroughly enjoy teaching, year after year.
B loves bugs. I met him during the first week of school as I conducted the standard assessment of how many words he could read per minute from a second-grade story. After the assessment, I gave him the customary caterpillar sticker to put on his shirt to show everyone that he was going to emerge as a great reader during his second-grade year.
Today is the kickoff of Farmworker Awareness Week. It is a time to honor the backbreaking work that goes into harvesting our food.
Oakland Unified School District is trying to change its image. And well it should since it has a reputation for mismanaging funds. In 2002 administrators were forced to pursue a $100 million loan from the state to cover a shortfall. In addition, the district lost students to private schools and nearby suburbs, experienced an abysmal teacher turnover rate and posted poor test scores. That led to a state takeover in 2003 to clear up the fiscal disaster. When the state takeover ended in 2009, a re-empowered school board elected Tony Smith as superintendent. Smith’s administration has promised to listen to the people.
This news story out of Duluth, Ga. yesterday caught our attention. It spotlights a homework assignment given to third-graders at a Gwinnett County elementary school. One of the stories the students were expected to read bore the title What is an Illegal Alien?
“Illegal alien” is, of course, the pejorative term that immigration opponents use to stigmatize undocumented immigrants. That was bad enough in a class assignment for third graders.
Going to graduate school at New York University was often a literal walk through American history. A row of brownstones facing Washington Square housed school offices, and it was hard not to think of Edith Wharton each time I passed. The urban campus, which spread out along the blocks surrounding the square, included converted early 19th-century stables and one-time factory lofts refashioned into classroom and office spaces.
The most infamous of those lofts was the Asch Building. Today it’s a science center with a bronze plaque that lets you know it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On March 25, 1911—100 years ago—it was the site of one of the worst workplace accidents in American history, the Triangle Waist Company fire.
The O’Brien boys were a handful. Apathetic overstates how disinterested in school they were. They wandered in and out of my class, and when I wasn’t teaching, I’d see them aimlessly strolling the halls as if they had no place to be. They were mischievous yet charming, belligerent at some times and cooperative at others. They were also smart, funny and irreverent. But no matter what I or anyone else did, they wouldn’t engage in school.
Consider the humble lunch as one of your most powerful teaching tools.
From the first day of school, Ricky was one of my most difficult students. Defensive, angry, and sensitive, this 7-year-old was constantly putting up walls and “testing” the adults in charge to see if we would respond to his needs. With the lack of a guidance counselor or a full-time school psychologist in the school, I knew that I had to find a way to connect with him, or we were going to have a disastrous school year.