The Atlantic: “The stain of segregation bleeds into the most basic elements of black lives—from housing and health to food equality and educational opportunity—and no area exemplifies this like the neighborhoods that make up the South Side of Chicago.”
The Atlantic: “Even with help from excellent teachers, counselors, and principals, school can be an insurmountable challenge for undocumented kids ... .”
The Baltimore Sun: “The school system would have been the first in Maryland to close on the two most important Islamic holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, when they fall on school days.”
Education Week: “‘We do see corporal punishment as just one piece of the school-to-prison pipeline and the disproportionate disciplining of students of color.’”
The Guardian: “‘Coding is extremely creative and is an integral part of almost every industry. Make girls see that.’”
NBC News: “As a transgender student in a conservative district of Florida, Adams can only use one of three gender-neutral bathrooms—all of which, he says, are inconveniently located. Two weeks into his sophomore year, he hasn’t gone to the bathroom at school once.”
NPR: “Many common terms used in sex education exist in [American Sign Language] quite literally—gestures that seem to mimic the act being described. For other explicit terms, there isn’t a sign at all.”
The Undefeated: “The social tightrope that black athletes have to walk to avoid criticism is absurd. ...”
The Washington Post: “[Louisiana] school leaders are far more worried about making sure they have enough teachers than they are about the physical condition of classrooms ... .”
The Washington Post: “The lines drawn around school districts ... serve as walls that define communities and drive property values, separating black from white and poor from affluent.”
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.
Mix It Up at Lunch Day turns 15 this year! Register today, and you’ll become part of a long tradition of kickstarting new friendships in schools across the country and around the world. The "official" date for Mix this year is October 25, but you can host your event any day—just be sure to register.
Let this be your guiding principle as you plan: Don’t do it alone. Mix planning is a great opportunity to create relationships with colleagues in other grade levels, subject areas or departments. And don't forget to enlist administrators, office staff and cafeteria workers—this is a lunch event, after all. Here are some tips to get you going:
- Find four. Invite a minimum of four people to an initial planning lunch. Begin with at least two teachers from departments or grade levels other than your own. Then invite at least one administrator and a couple of folks from the cafeteria.
- Maintain an air of mystery. “I have an idea I want to talk to you about. Can you come to lunch with me to discuss it?”
- Get away for a while. Meet in a location where you can talk without distraction.
- Break the ice. Use these Mix It Up icebreakers to get the group comfortable with each other.
- Get ‘em in the mix. Make an announcement: “I want our entire school to do what we just did!”
- Spell out the details. Tell them all about Mix It Up at Lunch Day, set for October 25.
- Assemble your team. Ask each staff member to commit some time and energy to helping you plan this year’s Mix event. They may know other colleagues who would be perfect for the planning committee. You’ve just created your core group!
While you’re on a roll, enlist parent organizations, local sports teams and community groups that interact with your school. Organizers who have “mixed it up” themselves will be the best models for students when the big day arrives.
Be sure to check out our six easy steps for getting started. And stay connected to the Mix It Up community through Mix It Up blog posts, Facebook, Twitter (use #MixLunch!) and online resources. With the support of the Mix community, your school can plan and carry out a great campaign. We can’t wait to hear about it!
Born and raised in Argentina, but having spent my adult life in the United States, I am fluent in English and Spanish. I always thought that speaking more than one language was beneficial, so when I had a daughter, I wanted her to learn both of my languages. Since she was bound to learn English from her teachers and peers, I chose to speak Spanish with her. She grew up bilingual, and decades later, she is now raising a bilingual child of her own.
I have often wondered why so many Americans with parents or grandparents who spoke another language never learned a word of it. When a friend of mine pointed out that, in her family, the first generation of immigrants was focused on fitting in, I realized that the perceived practical value of a language is a crucial factor for learning it. Recently arrived immigrant groups are usually poor, not well connected and frequently shunned. With language as the main identifier of one’s group, the more quickly one learns English, the sooner this identifier goes away. Foreign languages in this context may be perceived as liabilities.
The first time I noticed a child in the United States who spoke Spanish but pretended he didn’t, I was baffled. But if you were a Latino child in my poor, Northeast Connecticut community, speaking Spanish may have given you nothing but grief. And so, ironically, the most disadvantaged become less likely to take advantage of the rich, low-hanging fruit of knowing an additional language that eventually may give them an edge in the workplace. In a global economy, a foreign language is a marketable skill that may tip the scale in a competitive situation.
In my town, teachers and school administrators do their best to support bilingualism, but with prejudice and discrimination entrenched, speaking Spanish is not perceived by many of their students as helpful. Unintentionally, these students’ families may support this stance through their own negative experiences within their larger communities. All these elements present emotional barriers to developing and maintaining bilingualism. For successful learning, this negative perception must be addressed with every child who has the opportunity to learn a language other than English from a young age.
When I’m out with my young granddaughter, we speak Spanish. The wide range of responses I sense from strangers around us spans from sheer delight to harsh judgment. At times, even I become self-conscious enough to switch languages, as if needing to prove that we can speak English, that we are home. Children may not be able to understand and articulate these subtleties, but they certainly notice and internalize them. Their perceptions of others’ reactions will be a factor in their motivation to learn.
What can teachers do to counteract these internalized negative perceptions to promote the learning of languages? The first step is to recognize that these perceptions exist and that children want to be “cool” among their peers. Persistently uncover and demonstrate the benefits of speaking additional languages, and consider a variety of strategies to do so.
Field trips and travel to areas where different languages are spoken may not be possible for school systems with limited resources, but connecting with children in other countries using technology may be quite easy. To provide just one example, linking with a “sister classroom” in Senegal may offer motivation to communicate in French via Skype, as well as endless opportunities to enrich curricula in other areas, such as geography, biology, history and anthropology.
The use of bilingual books could also be expanded. Bilingual books in schools help children make linguistic connections between languages. In children’s homes, bilingual books allow every family member (a grandma who may not speak English or a young uncle who doesn’t know Spanish) to share the same story. These books benefit adults in the home, too, by improving their own language skills and communication competence.
Getting bilingual authors to read bilingual books in schools or bringing in other bilingual role models for special topics clearly illustrates to children that bilingual skills are valuable. For some students, the experience of meeting bilingual professionals, entertainers, artists or entrepreneurs may highlight the positive aspects of bilingualism and provide motivation to develop and maintain it.
In spite of recent anxiety about immigration and global connectivity, people will continue to travel and interact with the rest of the world. While there always will be challenges to cultural understanding, language doesn’t need to be one of them. We need to prepare children to cope with a rapidly changing environment. Improving their learning of languages is a good start.
Berlin writes bilingual children’s books and essay collections. Learn about her work at deliaberlin.com.
Editor’s note: This post is the second in a series of blogs on teachable moments from the 2016 Summer Olympics. Find the first here.
This TIME.com headline ran with an article that explains the reason: A few of Phelps’ friends from back home were loudly paying homage to their hometown Baltimore Orioles.
Hours before, when Gabby Douglas stood on the gold-medal podium, she didn’t laugh; she just stood at attention. She also didn’t put her hand over her heart—and the world of social media roared. Many people didn’t find her behavior as endearing.
Douglas was called “disrespectful” and “unpatriotic.” Phelps, on the other hand, was considered adorable as he giggled with his friends. His behavior will make you “smile.” Hers was enough to send social media into a frenzy of trolling and bullying, to the point that she had to make a statement.
Putting aside the problems with call-out culture in general, we should consider why Douglas and Phelps were treated differently.
Phelps’ public persona is rooted in being one of the greatest swimmers of all time—but his maleness and whiteness factor into that identity as well. He is “the boy next door,” laughing during the anthem with other boys next door who came to see him swim. He is the Opie to the American Dream perpetrated during the “simpler” time of The Andy Griffith Show—a time when women couldn’t get credit cards and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had just been enacted.
Douglas may be the girl next door for many Americans, but not in the version of the American Dream that privileges whiteness. And her visible identities—black, female—put her under different scrutiny. The fact that her behavior is perceived as disrespectful and Phelps’ behavior is seen as cute exposes structural racism and sexism.
I have already written about how the media does not know how to speak about female athletes, but to speak about black female athletes is another, even more complicated discussion that needs to happen online and in our classrooms.
To cultivate cultural literacy about the ways we talk about people of different identities—and to help students see the importance of intersectional analysis—we can use a comparison of the treatment of Phelps and Douglas. Their similarities are specific and parallel, and the differences are so tremendous they cannot be ignored.
To foster critical thinking, we can ask our students first to compare the situations. Once they have observed that the treatment of Douglas differed from that of Phelps, we can ask them the bigger questions:
- Why do you think the response was different?
- Do you think this situation is a one-off, or do you think it is part of a structural problem?
- How does gender matter here (see the comparisons between Phelps and Katie Ledecky)?
- How does race factor in here (see the difference in response to Douglas and McKayla Maroney)?
- How does the intersection of gender identity and racial identity play into this discussion?
The rhetoric used by this summer’s Olympic media has given educators many rich examples that we can use in the classroom to introduce students to intersectionality. We can use these events in popular culture to help our students investigate larger societal issues.
Clemens is the associate professor of non-Western literatures and director of Women's and Gender Studies at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.
It was the last day of classes this past June, and I hadn’t felt this level of anxiety since my initial job interview at Moses Brown School 10 years ago. With my heart beating out of my chest, I nervously sipped water and mumbled to myself between repeated trips to the bathroom. I turned around to smile at my wife, who had left work early to attend the middle school talent show.
In February, in a fit of inspired bravado, I had emailed my teaching partner and fellow history nerd, Graham Holland, and our school’s drama teacher, Steve Kidd, about staging a surprise performance at the talent show. The three of us, it turned out, shared a mutual love for and deep obsession with the musical Hamilton, and I had suggested we try out the rap battle scenes. Graham and I both teach seventh-grade American history and had spent the whole year working Hamilton references into our classes and conversations. It felt like a fitting, thrilling way to end the school year.
It would also be the first time I’d ever performed a musical number outside of my car or the shower. I am not a comfortable performer even though I spend all day on a “stage,” and my nerves had been mounting all week. I was shaking with anxiety as the student performers offered their songs and dances. And then it was our turn.
Steve stood first, riffing on the fact that, in spite of its popularity, no songs from Hamilton had been performed at the talent show. Meanwhile, three of our colleagues set up their instruments. As the trio began laying down the recognizable beat of “Cabinet Battle #1,” Steve made his transition into George Washington, and Graham and I donned our Colonial-era coats and took the stage as Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, respectively. Those students in the “Ham fam” realized what was about to happen, and those who didn’t know the musical teetered with uncertain excitement.
Graham (Jefferson), tall, stately and confident, dominated the stage, rhyming about the founding principles of our republic and the dangers of Hamilton’s financial plan with enviable ease. I thought my heart might fall out of my chest as Steve (Washington) handed me the floor. I took a deep breath, did some weird pivot dance move that I had never seen myself do and began rapping—loudly, aggressively, brashly—in front of a crowd of some 200 screaming students and adults. My chosen verses addressed the necessity of uniting the newly liberated Colonies around a plan to relieve the country’s debt, calling out the South’s reliance on slavery.
We worked our way through the two numbers, trading barbs and rapping excitedly about the dangers of too much capitalism and the perils of aiding the French in their post-revolutionary war with Britain. And then, just like that, it was over. The applause was raucous, especially as we punctuated our performance with a Cam Newton-inspired “dab.”
For me, it was a highlight of the year. This was a major stretch for me, and it was a reminder of how important it is to cultivate a culture of risk taking and boundary pushing in any learning environment. That anxious, heart-beating-out-of-my-chest feeling happens to our students all the time, and it was the encouragement of my peers and the thrill of trying something new that pushed me to rise up to the experience. For students, modeling that behavior can be inspiring. They need to see us pushing ourselves, embracing productive discomfort and exploring new activities.
Another aspect of this experience that I hadn’t expected was that we needed to practice! Everyone else in our ensemble is a seasoned performer and knew that we needed rehearsals to get our timing, staging and flow down. I thought it would be enough just to know the words, but the process of rehearsing (in secret) and fine-tuning reminded me of the importance of careful planning. I was ready to try this new experience because I had prepared, which is another great lesson for students.
Most important, however, was that in spite of my nerves and the rehearsing, it was fun. It was the kind of energetic fun often missing from school. Hamilton—with its incredible artistic, intellectual and story-telling qualities—is a great vehicle for students to learn about the past. And I know how important it is for our students to see us, as educators, enjoying ourselves, laughing with our colleagues and genuinely bringing our whole selves into our work. We get only so many chances to make a positive impression on our students; don’t throw away your shot!
Gold is a seventh- and eighth-grade history teacher at Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island.