American Education Week (November 13-17), first celebrated in 1921, is an opportunity to celebrate public education, to inform the community of the accomplishments and needs of public schools, to secure cooperation and support from the public, and to honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education.
How will you kick off American Education Week?
As teachers, we’ve all dealt with days that are particularly tough in the classroom. Unfortunately, we seem to be increasingly faced with teaching in the days and weeks that follow a local or a collective tragedy. For nearly two weeks, Northern California has been ravaged by devastating wildfires — the deadliest in California history. For many at Teaching Channel, the Bay Area is home, and we’ve been thinking a lot about how we can help our friends and neighbors. From making a donation to volunteering your time, if you’re looking for a way to help, you can find a number of great ideas here and here.
Whether local, national, or international in scope, times of crisis can have a significant impact on our students and our classrooms. While the impact is more obvious when students are in direct proximity to the event or personally involved, large-scale national crises, often accompanied by heavy media coverage, can be equally difficult to navigate. The resulting stress and anxiety students — and teachers — bring into the classroom in response to a crisis can affect teaching and learning.
Courtesy of the American Library Association
Banned Books Week (Sept. 24 – Sept. 30) was founded in 1982 by the American Library Association and Amnesty International to celebrate the freedom to read through highlighting banned or challenged works, and the authors who have been persecuted for writing them.
For school librarians, Banned Books Week has evolved into an awareness campaign that provides information about attempts to prevent students from accessing a variety of books and websites that could have a meaningful impact on their education.
Books featured during Banned Books Week have been scrutinized for a variety of reasons, including racist or offensive language, sexual content, or political views that challenge the establishment of the time.
- The Harry Potter series, a staple of many school classrooms and a favorite of even the most reluctant readers, offended some Christians because of its use of sorcery and witchcraft.
- Classic children’s author Roald Dahl has faced international bans of The Witches over claims of misogyny.
- Controversy stirs around William Stieg’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble for the depiction of animals wearing clothing, including pigs dressed as policemen.
The list of challenged books, and the reasons for their status, is as long and varied as the number of communities in which these books appear. Defenders of these works, including school librarians, provide several reasons why access to these books should not be restricted for our students.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
This Won’t Be Easy
Important conversations never are. But our students — and colleagues — learn as much from what we do (or don’t do) as what we say (or don’t say). The events that transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia are likely weighing heavy on your students’ hearts and minds, just as they are on yours. You haven’t had the opportunity to learn their names, set up a structure, or lay the foundation for learning this year, but you can still create a space for your students to begin to unpack race, face history, and grapple with the lasting legacies of the past.
When events like those in Charlottesville, Virginia happen, we watch the news in disbelief and despair. We scroll endlessly through our Twitter feeds — tweeting, retweeting, sharing resources, and keeping abreast of the latest developments. Maybe what you saw invoked anger, maybe sadness, maybe fear.
The question that remains is, what are you going to do about it?
Teachers need to talk with their students about race, but before you begin to explore race, bias, and identity in your classroom, you’ll need to do a bit of work to be sure you’re prepared.
When you’re ready, the resources below can help spur discussions about implicit bias, privilege, and systemic racism, and empower students to work toward a more just society.
Total Eclipse of the… Start?
Bonnie Tyler’s infamous tune has been resonating for months and the national solar eclipse on August 21st has been overshadowing conversations about the first week of school for many this year.
Even though The Great American Solar Eclipse is helping science educators start the school year off with the NGSS phenomena of a lifetime, there’s no need to throw shade at your science coworkers. The solar eclipse has the potential to be a bright spot all across the curriculum, and one that students won’t soon forget.
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.
This time of year most of us are a little fidgety.
Summer is right around the corner, but as we’re constantly reminding students “the year isn’t over yet” and “don’t give up,” some of us find ourselves needing the same pep talk from our administrators and social media networks. We’re almost there — but in the year of dabbing here and there, flipping hydration, and slime (yes, slime!) enters an item that’s making heads spin.
|What is this amazing tool that’s taken our students by storm? The fidget spinner!
Wait. You mean that at the end of the year our students are obsessed, unknowingly, with NGSS phenomena? Students are loving science and some don’t even realize it.
So how can “Spinners” be spun into relevant phenomena for science classrooms and what is the science behind the spin?
|| via GIPHY
See Matt’s Video on Teaching Channel: Encouraging Students to Take Action
A petition is a concise, direct, and powerful tool to teach the essentials of civic engagement.
After going through a few cycles of civic engagement projects in my classroom, I found that what distinguished effective projects from mediocre ones was the ability of the student group to articulate a clear and appropriate demand that was addressed to a specific target audience. To help students think about the criteria of an effective “ask” and its relationship to a target audience, I have all of my students write a petition as their first semester history final. The petition serves as a “trial run” for their civic engagement projects and as a checkpoint, midway through the year, to define and practice the fundamentals of civic engagement.
I didn’t come to the realization about the importance of a petition project in terms of teaching civic engagement on my own. This conclusion was the result of many conversations and an inquiry cycle that was supported by the history department, both at my school site and at the district level. I think this is crucial to point out because teaching for civic engagement depends on several supportive conditions, primary among them the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers. My teaching has grown tremendously through the conversations I’ve been able to have with my colleagues in the space created, and funded, by my school and district.
It was in an inquiry cycle during my first year of completing civic engagement projects that a colleague asked, “What do you think separated the effective projects from the not so effective ones?” This simple question helped me identify the differences between two specific projects.
Editors Note: This post was originally published on Catherine’s blog on Medium.
DO NOW: What is Whiteness?
After taking out their supplies and getting ready to engage, my students reacted to the question I’d written on the board as their “DO NOW.”
Some students giggled. Others made faces – perplexed, overwhelmed, entertained. A few began to chat with classmates. Some looked at me hoping for guidance. My co-teacher, having just entered the room, said, “That’s a great question!”
After giving my students time to react, I told them I knew it was a difficult question, but I wanted them to think about it. I told them there were no right answers, but they should draw upon their lived and learned experiences — and that I expected them to try to respond.