Teaching Tolerance couldn’t serve educators the way we do without the feedback and support of an important group of teachers, counselors, media specialists, school- and district-level administrators and education professors: the Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board. These educators and leaders volunteer their time to review our resources, try our curriculum and act as ambassadors for TT.
Last spring, we put out a call for advisors and received nearly 600 applications. Our staff reviewed each application with an eye for the applicant’s knowledge of our work and resources and for his or her experience in the field of anti-bias education. With our final selections, we also aimed to achieve a wide representation of disciplines, grade levels, expertise, locales and voices on the advisory board.
Without further ado, we’re happy to announce the 2015-17 advisory board members, who will begin their two-year term on June 1.
We’re excited to welcome 20 first-time members:
- Dale Allender – Assistant professor of education, Sacramento, California
- Kim Estelle – Elementary school teacher, Huntsville, Alabama
- Carrie Gaffney – Middle school English teacher, Indianapolis, Indiana
- Alice Garcia – High school ELL teacher, Gonzales, Louisiana
- Gail Heath – Elementary school English and social studies teacher, Las Vegas, Nevada
- Michelle Higgins – High school social studies teacher, Walla Walla, Washington
- Amy Melik – K-12 ELL coordinator and teacher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Veronica Menefee – Middle school English, social studies and special education teacher, Parkville, Maryland
- Jane McGowan – Middle school science teacher, Selma, Alabama
- Amber Neal – Elementary reading and language arts teacher, Houston, Texas
- Sarah Neely – Elementary school teacher, Grosse Pointe, Michigan
- Lois Parker-Hennion – High school library media specialist, Orangeburg, New York
- David Paschall – High school social studies and humanities teacher, Austin, Texas
- Celeste Payne – High school science teacher, West Chester, Pennsylvania
- Donna Saide – Elementary teacher and diversity coordinator, Gahanna, Ohio
- Kim Siar – Elementary school teacher, Norristown, Pennsylvania
- Joe Schmidt – Social Studies teacher leader, Madison, Wisconsin
- Scott Thomas – Elementary school principal, Eagan, Minnesota
- Barbie Garayua Tudryn – Elementary school counselor, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Mickie Wong-Lo – Assistant professor of special education and director of an undergraduate learning behavior specialist program, Chicago, Illinois
And five members from the previous advisory board are returning for another term:
- Lhisa Almashy – High school ESL teacher, Palm Beach County, Florida
- Sonia Galaviz – Elementary teacher, Boise, Idaho
- Amber Makaiau – Professor at the University of Hawaii, Oahu, Hawaii
- Demea Richards-Scott – Middle school counselor, Bolingbrook, Illinois
- Robert Sautter – Kindergarten teacher, San Francisco, California
Congratulations to our new and returning members. We look forward to working with you!
Interested in being part of the Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board? The application will open again in the spring of 2017. Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter to keep up with the latest TT news.
Editor's note: We learned of Grant Wiggins' death this morning via Twitter. A conversation with one of his colleagues at Authentic Education confirmed that he died suddenly yesterday afternoon. Our condolences go out to his family, his friends and all those he touched during his remarkable career.
I was saddened today to hear about the loss of an influential giant in the field of education: Grant Wiggins. Wiggins, in his work with James McTighe and Authentic Learning, transformed the way I and countless other educators think about teaching, learning and assessment. His dedication to teachers and students was steadfast. His influence is almost impossible to calculate.
The development of Understanding by Design (UbD) and backward planning altered the way practitioners in the field of education think about thinking. This transformative approach to lesson planning not only helps teachers embrace content-specific standards with real-world applications and higher-level thinking; it helps students grasp their own learning goals through connections to the big ideas and essential questions (EQ).
Wiggins demonstrated that EQ can help teachers plan instruction geared toward mastering the big ideas and skills, and they can help students transfer subject area knowledge within—and sometimes across—disciplines to their lives to solidify their understanding.
I experienced the effect of UbD firsthand in my own classrooms. Formerly frustrated students found doorways to new understanding when the horizon was broadened by big ideas. Wiggins' work around UbD helped me understand, as an educator, how to expand a particular topic from closed question-and-answer sessions to open-ended dialogue that provoked higher-level thinking and intellectual engagement from my students. I was a better teacher when I planned backward because I knew exactly where I was leading my kids.
Wiggins influenced our work here at Teaching Tolerance, too. Our K-12 literacy curriculum, Perspectives for a Diverse America, was designed using UbD. At its heart is a set of anti-bias standards. Perspectives offers a bank of EQ within those anti-bias standards from which to start planning. The accompanying anthology of diverse readings gives educators the "stuff" to build student literacy skills and discuss social justice issues while answering the selected EQ. UbD laid crucial groundwork for our development of this resource for teachers.
The work of Wiggins (and McTighe) forever altered the canvas for educators across the United States and, like essential questions, his memory, influence and contributions to education will live on for years to come.
Wicht is the senior manager of teaching and learning for Teaching Tolerance.
It’s that time of year again: a bit of a summer break and then onto planning for next year! Maybe you’ve been thinking about ways to revamp your curriculum or enhance student engagement. Either way, here are three things you can do now to help get next year off to a great start—and keep it going.
Free to educators, Teaching Tolerance is published three times a year—print editions in the fall and spring and an online-only edition in the summer—and offers the latest in social justice and anti-bias education. Rich with feature stories, lesson ideas, book and film recommendations and more, each magazine offers a plethora of resources you can translate into your practice. If you haven’t already, subscribe now, and then you’ll get each Fall and Spring issue delivered directly to your mailbox. Meanwhile, check out the Summer 2015 issue, which features a video feature on youth activism, a spoken-word Story Corner and a printable poster to help you support students who don’t conform to society’s binary gender norms.
Not your average curriculum, Perspectives for a Diverse America is a full K-12, literacy-based, anti-bias curriculum built on backward planning principles—and the notion that you can teach social emotional skills, use content relevant to your students’ experiences and maintain rigor simultaneously. The searchable Perspectives anthology currently houses nearly 300 diverse readings and is steadily growing. It also contains over 150 tasks and strategies that you can use to customize learning plans that speak to the students in your classroom. Perspectives can help you rethink your approach to social justice education and, like all other TT materials, it’s completely free. All you have to do is sign up!
As detailed in our report Teaching the Movement 2014: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States, most states’ standards for teaching about civil rights history are woefully inadequate. We know you strive to do great work on this front in your classroom, though. That’s why we created Civil Rights Done Right, a tool organized into five steps for curriculum improvement. Each step identifies specific suggestions and procedures for building robust, meaningful lessons that cultivate a deeper understanding of civil rights history. The tool is an editable PDF so your revamped lessons can be downloaded, printed and shared—year round.
Many educators want to teach about religious and nonreligious diversity, but introducing content about belief systems into curricula may seem scary or dangerous. Some teachers worry that families will object to the content and that these objections will isolate or marginalize students. This was one concern we heard from our audience recently when Teaching Tolerance teamed up with the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding to provide the webinar Religious Diversity in the Classroom: Applications for Middle Level Educators (the fourth in a free five-part webinar series on religious diversity in the classroom).
Because communicating with families about controversial subjects is clearly of concern to educators, we decided to offer some try-tomorrow practices to make teaching about religious diversity less daunting.
Ask families and students.
Make it a goal to get to know your students’ home lives. A questionnaire or survey can serve as a collaborative and respectful way to start a relationship between your classroom and students’ homes. To get started, create separate questions for family members and students.
Sample questions to ask family members:
- Who are your student’s family members?
- What are some important dates or events for your family?
- What traditions or customs does your family practice?
- What are some typical weekly routines in your household?
- What do you want to know about what your student will learn in my class?
Sample questions to ask students:
- Who’s in your family?
- What’s your favorite thing to do with your family?
- What’s your favorite family meal?
- What’s your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate it?
- What’s the most relaxed time of day for your family? What goes on then?
- What’s the most hectic time of day for your family? What goes on then?
You can revisit the completed questionnaires or surveys partway through the year, or conduct a mid-year questionnaire or survey as a way for families to update previously shared information. Mid-year questionnaires and surveys allow families that arrive later in the year to share their narratives.
Think about additional opportunities for incorporating questionnaires and surveys. Perhaps you will ask questions on specific content prior to a unit that will address belief systems. Invite families to share their wisdom and knowledge, and include it in what you are doing. Listen and assure them that you hear their concerns.
Note: Because language plays a crucial role in families’ lives, communicate with parents in their home languages as much as possible. However, asking students to translate for their parents can put them in an awkward position, especially if relaying difficult or complicated information. Provide a translator whenever possible.
Even when the best intentions are involved and you have done all the prep work, families may still object to the inclusion of content on diverse belief systems. Here are some suggestions for building inclusiveness and respect into your communication with families in those moments.
- Assume good intentions and approach all families or guardians as partners who want the best for the child.
- Share with families or guardians your learning goals and materials for including discussions about diverse belief systems.
- Invite families or guardians to share information about family cultures and traditions.
- Recognize and respect different family traditions. View linguistic, cultural and family diversity as strengths.
Reflect on the role your identity and background may play in shaping relationships with families. Bring a sense of cultural humility to all interactions.
Connect to content.
Teaching about religious and nonreligious beliefs fits in well with the content-rich, text-based, critical approach to education that the Common Core State Standards envision. Content-rich texts on diverse belief systems ground students’ reading, writing and speaking in specific textual evidence while building knowledge and academic vocabulary. Share with concerned families that their student is actively seeking to understand other perspectives and cultures through effective communication with people of varied backgrounds, and team up with families to meet the needs of all students.
Additional strategies for engaging families can be found in the Family and Community Engagement section in Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education.
Wicht is the senior manager of teaching and learning for Teaching Tolerance.
BRIGHT: Writer Thomas Maffai shares his concern that, in the age of technology, the "belief in the value of classroom learning built on human connection appears to be slipping."
Edutopia: Some beliefs about educating English language learners are outdated or just flat-out wrong. Edutopia debunks five of the most common myths.
Futures Without Violence: A new report offers recommendations to educators on how to effectively recognize and respond to the needs of children who are exposed to violence and trauma.
The Guardian: This collection of stories sheds much-needed light on the experiences of undocumented children whose parents relocated from Mexico to the United States.
Indian Country: When a 10-year-old Wukchumni boy raised questions about an offensive song celebrating Spanish Missions, he sparked a series of events that changed his California school district’s curriculum.
The José Vilson: When a respected colleague was fired, this blogger regretted not expressing more appreciation for her, and resolved to thank his colleagues on a regular basis.
NEA Today: TT blogger Chad Donohue explains that he walked out of school "as a show of solidarity for all educators who are committed to improving the lives and outlooks of young people."
Newsweek: In the same week that the president of the Boy Scouts highlighted the need to end the organizational ban on gay adult leaders, the Girl Scouts faced criticism for its policy of inclusion for transgender girls.
Salon: Author Robin DiAngelo examines racial illiteracy among white people—and how it "poisons" the national conversation around race.
If you come across a current article or blog you think other educators should read, please send it to email@example.com, and put "What We’re Reading This Week" in the subject line.