In the spring of 2017, our middle school experienced an eruption of racist slurs and hate speech, from swastikas drawn on the cheeks of unsuspecting students at lunch, to “KKK” mysteriously appearing on the Google image linked with our school’s website. And we were not the only ones. Newspaper headlines highlighting intolerance at schools were popping up all over the country.
Our school community felt broken, and we knew we needed to do something. One idea kept coming up: an all-school read, where every student, teacher, and staff member reads the same book at the same time. We already knew that stories help readers develop empathy. Having everyone read the same story at the same time seemed the perfect opportunity to build school community and promote understanding.
With only a couple months left in the school year, we set our sights on the fall of 2017.
We know that students benefit from strong social-emotional support, and a big part of that is being included in the school community. In part two of our series Engaging Newcomers in Language & Content, we go back to ENLACE Academy, a school-within-a-school focused on supporting the academic and social-emotional needs of newcomer English Language Learners.
ENLACE aims to create an environment in which all students feel known and are able to build strong relationships with each other and with at least one adult. Through restorative practices, socio-emotional learning activities, and family engagement, students build strong communities and support each other as they adjust to a new school environment.
TchLaureate Geneviève Debose Akinnagbe teaches ELA at Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists (BSSWA) in New York City, a secondary school where teachers refer to their students as “Scholar-Activists.” She’s developed a unit on Scholar Activism for her middle school students so they have a better idea of what that title means and the honor it carries.
So far, we’ve explored the following questions:
What, exactly, is “scholar activism,” and why is it important to teach our students about scholar activism in the classroom?
In this post, Geneviève shares what she calls one of the coolest projects she’s ever done with students, when they engaged with a community organization called Citizens Committee for New York City to actively improve their school community in the Bronx.
Let’s learn a little more about the Beauty of the Bronx:
I learned a new word: kuleana. It’s a Hawaiian word that means one’s personal sense of responsibility.
I accept my responsibilities and I will be held accountable.
As an educator, having a vision is important. We have a great responsibility to our students and to society. I’m privileged to be an educator, and part of my vision is to teach children not only academic skills, but social-emotional skills that will prepare them to master this concept of kuleana and use it throughout their lives.
This same personal sense of responsibility is naturally embedded in the work I do every day. I’m part of a community of educators who believe in the principles of the Responsive Classroom, a K-8 approach to teaching and learning which includes specific tools, strategies, and practices to help teachers provide a high-qualityeducation to every student, every day. It’s not an add on nor a stand-alone program. These principles, woven into everything we do, how we speak, and how we model behavior, are based on research that shows a strong link between academic success and social-emotional learning.
Finding teaching resources online can often feel like a scavenger hunt. Even when searching one particular area of teaching, there are videos here, blogs there, and various conversations floating around social media. With such a variety of resources, it can take a great deal of time to learn in a progression that makes sense.
Teaching Channel just made this searching and learning so much easier with their new Deep Dives! On one page, dedicated to one idea, you can read background information, watch related videos, read blog posts, and ask and answer questions. It’s a one-stop shop for learning individually or as a team, as well as planning professional development for your school or district.
Over the course of the last week, I watched in horror as the imaginary world I live in, or lived in, came crashing down around me. I built myself a world where discrimination was largely a thing of the past. A world where people worked together to achieve equal rights for all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my daughters, and even my students, that things are different now. I lied. I lied to the children; I lied to myself. We still live in a country where it is open season on black people.
Super reader teaches her mom how she uses pointer power when she reads
The classroom is filled with parents, siblings, and grandparents eager to learn from kindergarten super readers. All around the room, students dressed as their favorite reading superpower are sitting alongside their their families, immersed in stacks of books, teaching their families how to use superpowers as they read.
When they get to challenging “kryptonite” words, students demonstrate how they use picture power to study the picture and think about what word might make sense. This is how we celebrate reading. It’s an opportunity for students to demonstrate their growth and for families to learn about how they can continue to support their child’s reading at home. It’s a bridge from school to home. This is one of the many ways that we engage families at our school.
Engaging in meaningful school-family partnerships is foundational to improving student outcomes. Families are an essential resource as we strive to work together to best support our students. Over the past few years, our school has grappled with this question: How do we build meaningful school-family partnerships? While our practices are always evolving, I’ll share some of the ones that have successfully enriched our school-family partnerships that you might try in your own school:
For too many years, I used to think my classes would either have good chemistry, or they wouldn’t. Sometimes there was a group of students who just clicked, but more often than not, students don’t know each other when we begin together. And even though my department offers our students many courses to choose from, they are always filling a requirement when they come to one of my English classes. Some bring their natural enthusiasm, others their implicit skepticism, and at least a few always have to be won over. Finally, I decided to get honest with myself, to take a step back and look at why some classes just “had it” and others didn’t. That honest look taught me some careful lessons about class chemistry.
First of all, it wasn’t about chemistry at all; rather it was about culture. And when I realized that difference, I realized why some classes clicked and others didn’t: I was counting on it to just happen, rather than setting out to create it. Over time I learned that culture is something learned, that we have to work at it, that I have to speak it in order to live it. This week we’re highlighting a series of videos that take a look at the lessons I learned.
Building classroom culture is something we tend to think a lot about at the beginning of the year, but it’s just as important to maintain and nurture it throughout the year. For this month’s chat, we want to talk about how you set up your classroom culture, how you maintain the things that are working, and how you change the things that don’t.
This #TchLIVE chat will be on Thursday, March 26th at 4pm PDT.