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“High school students hate history. When they list their favorite subjects, history always comes in last. They consider it “the most irrelevant” of 21 school subjects, not applicable to life today. “Borr-r-ring” is the adjective they apply to it. When they can, they avoid it, even though most students get higher grades in history than in math, science, or English. Even when they are forced to take history, they repress it, so every year or two another study decries what our 17-year-olds don’t know… “
And so begins James W. Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.
The study of society and our collective past is important. It helps us understand ourselves, how we got to the present, and the world around us. It’s interesting that, as a society, we show a great interest in our culture and history. Whether it be historical novels and nonfiction, games, television programs, feature films, museum exhibits, or Broadway shows, American audiences — young and old — are fascinated with the “story of us.”
Yet our students sleep through the classes that present it.
See Matt’s Video on Teaching Channel: Encouraging Students to Take Action
Identifying and analyzing what makes for effective civic action is pretty murky business. One reason it’s so challenging to evaluate the effectiveness of a particular movement, group, or action step is because definitions of effectiveness vary so much.
There are a number of ways to define an effective action or group. You might choose to focus on the outcome, such as how many people were impacted, the extent to which a demand was met, or the amount of concrete change that’s accomplished. Others might choose to focus more on the process of making change, such as the degree of solidarity and community formed by a group, the style of leadership or core values that are developed, or the extent of internal change or consciousness raising that’s created. The reality is that none of these criteria are wrong — it just depends on your perspective.
For these reasons, instead of giving my students the criteria I think they should use to evaluate past efforts for social change, and then use to plan their own action steps, I allow them to develop and hash out for themselves what they think makes for an effective social justice movement.
Over the past few weeks, Teaching Channel has been offering up ideas for getting better at something this summer to prepare for the next school year. We’ve given you suggestions for learning about classroom organization, growth mindset, classroom management, and social emotional learning. This week, we’re offering you ideas for learning alongside other educators in the Tch Video Lounge.
If you’ve never visited the lounge before, summer is the perfect time to join us in our redesigned space! We now have 30 interactive videos for learning, organized by topic area. Each video is layered with prompts to focus your thinking and inspire you to share your ideas with other educators.
Seeing math routines through the lens of every grade level has been such an amazing experience. While I’ve remained fairly consistent in the types of routines filmed in the kindergarten, third, and fourth grade classrooms, I’ve introduced a new routine to this first grade collection called Choral Counting.
Choral Counting is an activity in which students count together by a given number as the teacher records the count on the board. The purpose of a choral count is not just to practice rote counting, but to engage students in reasoning, predicting, looking for patterns, and justifying things they notice in the count.
How would you describe your perfect classroom?
I imagine you’re thinking about a classroom where deep learning happens because your students feel supported, understood, and inspired; everyone gets along, respects one another, and manages their emotions and behavior with ease.
Maybe you’re picturing an oasis of calm or a classroom that runs like a well-oiled machine. All of your students are responsible and accountable and you’re wrapped up in a warm cocoon of “Teacher Zen.”
Sound impossible? Well, maybe just a little… But when you have resources and support, it’s definitely a bit easier.
Whether you want to incorporate social and emotional learning into your classroom or explore SEL as a dedicated class — we’ve got the tools for you!
Research tells us that LGBTQ students continue to experience harassment and discrimination at school, and these climates negatively affect health and educational outcomes. However, the narratives mean more coming directly from the students themselves. Below are the responses offered by three students when asked what they would like teachers to know about their experiences as gender-nonconforming students.
As teachers, our greatest charge may be moral: create a safe and responsive environment where all students learn. And that charge — in the face of 12+ hour days, isolation, and little support — can be hard to live out. But summoning the requisite courage and compassion is particularly essential for students who are gender-nonconforming. In a world too often lacking in understanding and acceptance, sometimes even in a student’s own home, teachers have a potent opportunity and responsibility to make our classrooms and schools an oasis of grace and safety.
On the Youth Mic blog, three transgender students have shared their perspective in their own voice. Their experience personalizes and echoes the findings of a recent report, “Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth and School Facilities,” which found that 70% of transgender students said they’ve gone out of their way to not use campus bathrooms. This means drinking less, even to the point of developing urinary tract infections in an effort to skip the public restroom, in addition to complications around physical education classes, attendance concerns, and the effects of dehydration on attention and study habits.
But the bathroom question, though serious, is also symbolic. It begs us to ask a more fundamental question. Will we fully include these students — these human beings — in our public education system?
Does anyone not want to get better at classroom management? Even the most experienced teachers can find ways to make their classrooms more welcoming and productive places. But for new teachers, classroom management can feel make it or break it.
If you’ve had a rough year, congratulations on getting through it!
This summer, let’s settle in and learn how to get better at classroom management.
How do we help students to move beyond their own perspectives to understand the lives of others? How do we challenge them to deeply understand another person whose life and experiences differ greatly from their own? How do we cultivate empathy, compassion, and even love across the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, and disability?
These questions lie at the heart of social justice education.
To create a truly equitable society, we must be able to empathize with experiences we may never share. We must break down “empathy walls” to transform our society. But how do we do so?
Theater in the history classroom provides one possible answer.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series by Tch Laureate Emeritus Sarah Brown Wessling for new teachers wrapping up the school year.
“Every fear hides a wish.” — David Mamet
My first year of teaching was equal parts fear and wishing. In fact, they each pulled me from opposite directions, sometimes so tautly, everything seemed to bounce right off me, into the distance, uncatchable. That was my first year of teaching: lots of wishing for magical teaching moments and lots of hiding from my fears. I wished the kids would like me, but my fear meant I had some classroom management issues early on. I wished my colleagues would think I was doing a good job, but my fear meant I wouldn’t reach out to them with my own insecurities. I wished my lessons would all be inspired, but my fear meant that too often I would think about a “cool lesson” instead of a scope of learning.
My first year taught me that the rest of my years would be about shrinking the fictions of wishing and fear in order to opt for the beautiful and real mess of a teaching life. In case you’re finding yourself, at the end of this first year, needing a little less fiction and a little more beautiful mess, here are some common end-of-first-year struggles and how to use them to launch yourself into an even stronger year two. Read more