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 focuses on the ways we can collaborate with a range of community members, like fellow educators, students’ families, and community organizations, to create an authentic and engaging learning experience for our students (aka scholar-activists).
Let’s listen to Geneviève as she shares her ideas:
I began my teaching career in January, after a December graduation.
That first day, I took a deep breath and started to tell my first period class of eighth graders about my expectations.
A boy I’ll call Ben bounced out of his seat and turned away from me.
“Sit down,” I said.
“No,” he said. “We have to say the pledge.”
Just then, the speaker crackled to life and a voice from above asked the students to stand.
Ben was a challenge throughout the semester. But the first day Pledge of Allegiance was just the first of many things that could’ve gone better — if only I’d had someone to tell me the simple things about the school’s routines, and was there to help me improve my classroom management. By the end of the semester I decided to give teaching one more year, promising myself that if it didn’t get better, I’d look for a different career. The next fall I had a new job in a different district, where I was happy to stay.
Over time, I’ve benefited from the help of many of my more experienced colleagues. And I’ve mentored numerous student teachers and first-year educators, both formally and informally, and learned from them as well. Unfortunately, many districts still expect beginning teachers to “go it alone.”
What can you do if you find yourself in this situation?
Editor’s Note: Hear more about this program from Executive Director Basma Rayess in our #anewkindofPD podcast episode found on iTunes and Stitcher.
Michael had suffered for years as the result of his mother’s alcoholism. A teacher encouraged Michael to participate in a program where students could write about their experiences with violence. Michael wrote a powerful poem describing the disappointment, anger, and fear he felt with the situation, but he had no intention of having his mother read it. However, he needed a parental signature so he showed it to his mother with great trepidation. When she read it, she was silent, but something tremendous happened. The poem helped his mother make a commitment to get sober and she has been so ever since. Read more
There’s an urban legend in education that says new teachers will begin their careers as “roamers,” or traveling teachers, in overcrowded high schools. I suppose I was an anomaly. I had my own, beautiful classroom for my first year of teaching, but the glory was short lived. I became a “roamer” in my second year. Traveling to five different classrooms — one for each passing period — isn’t exactly thrilling. Needless to say, I was very disappointed to be displaced.
Was I really going to let this little setback ruin my year? Of course not!
Rather than looking at my new situation as a problem, I used this experience as an opportunity to try something brand new; something completely outside the box. I would redefine classroom. I would build a mobile app — a “mobile classroom” to fill the void.
The life of an instructional coach is a balancing act. On the one hand, you are still a teacher. You still plan lessons, they’re just called agendas. You still assess the effectiveness of your instruction, but now refer to the process as follow-up professional development sessions. On the other hand, you are a part of the instructional leadership team with the assistant principals and principal of the school. You have “crossed over” to the other side, to use teacher parlance.
This straddling of two perspectives can help you craft initiatives for great teaching that work for both teachers and the instructional leadership team. The beauty of this duality is that it allows teachers and leaders to work together to determine what the initiatives will be. The improvement of teaching is best realized when teachers are involved in the conversation, rather than summoned to the table. Here are four ways I’ve worked with teachers and administrators to create room for teacher voice and collaboration:
The sun shining down. Palm trees blowing in the wind. And you, with 150 of your newest thought partners learning together over video and Teams. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? This spring Teaching Channel Teams will host our Fest in Palm Springs, California, May 18-20, and you’re invited.
As we ring in the new year, let me take this opportunity to introduce myself and to share some wonderful news.
First, the news: Teaching Channel – that is to say, you, the vibrant community of teachers, coaches, mentors, and educators of all stripes that comprises Tch — just topped the 800,000-member milestone and continues to grow each day!
This number represents to me not just the individuals across the country and around the world who call Teaching Channel a professional home. It also represents a validation of our mission to open classroom doors, through high-quality video, so that teachers can share practice, inspire and learn from one another, and, in the end, get better together. Read more
As the year comes to a close, we here at Teaching Channel would like to thank our Teams partners for making this year a rousing success. You are part of a growing crowd leading the nation in PD that makes a difference, by opening up classroom doors and collaborating with others to get better at what you do. We’re proud of your work, and you should be too!