Teaching in the Undertow
Resisting the Pull of Schooling-As-Usual
In this story, Gregory discusses that novice teachers often enter the teaching profession with a strong sense of passion to inspire your students and a desire to provoke your students to think critically and creatively. Often these originally thoughts get hindered as teachers begin to work. Gregory provides some tips for novice teachers to help keep this positive attitude alive. First, make connections with colleagues – regardless of their years of experience. Another key is to start small – he uses the example of simply using a blackboard as a tool to convey thoughts – this definitely can erupt into much more than you had originally thought. The issue of content is important. Novice teachers should not become overwhelmed by this. Often teachers resort back to text books but we need to attempt to try small things to bring the subject to life for students. It is important to balance freedom and control within your classroom. Most important lesson from this story is to hold on to hope. There will be many days where we will question both the value and effectiveness of what we are teaching. We need to believe that we are making a difference in these children’s lives.
‘Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club’
Raising Issues of Race with Young Children
This story brings to light the deep biases and racism that exists within our world. Children tend to mimic these ideologies. This teacher teaches a 1st grade class in an elementary school that includes a great deal of different races. She witnesses many situations where the ‘darker-skinned’ children and children with ‘different’ accents are being excluded from games and groups. The school she teaches at now teaches a great deal about race and social justice for the grades 1 – 5 classes. They have created a variety of activities which really seems to open up the children’s views and begins to deconstruct some of the negative ideals that they have already adopted.
‘What Can I do When a Student Makes a Racist or Sexist Remark?’
Rita reminds us that curriculum includes everything that we learn in school – not just the textbook lessons. Students need to be taught the skills to counteract racism and sexism within their own lives. Respond honestly if a student makes this type of remark and include the class if able. She also explains that our reaction is very vital to the student’s learning and that sometimes these comments may generate and stimulate a great conversation within the classroom.
Framing the Family Tree
How Teachers Can Be Sensitive to Students’ Family Situations
This brings to light the topic of what is a family. Often teachers subscribe to the nuclear family definition – meaning a mother, father, and siblings. This is often not the case. Teachers need to be aware and sensitive to the many different distinctions of families. They also need to validate the many different types of families. Each child deserves to be proud of his/her family. Teachers really need to think about each project and determine if it includes all the children and the diverse families.
Heather’s Moms Got Married
This story visits classroom discussions about race and sexual preferences. The children think in an honest manner referring to laws about same-sex marriage as “stupid rules.” Mary talks about how homosexuality is seen as such a taboo topic(especially in elementary school) even in the progressive state that she lives and teaches in. In the state she teaches in same-sex marriages became legalized and this sparked a great amount of interest and conversation between many of the elementary students. The students seem to be excited and very open and willing to share the different stories about their families. It is important to create such an open, relaxed, and accepting environment within your classroom.
This story brings life to homosexual students and teachers. There often are many stereotypes attached to this and it can be challenging to open up about your sexual orientation in a highschool setting. This highschool is fortunate to have LGBT support groups in which students can feel comfortable being a part of. Teacher role models are an “endangered species.” There sometimes tends to be a great deal of backlash for teachers who identify to their class as being homosexual. Awareness and acceptance seems to be improving in many highschools. This story looks at different stories of the many struggles that these young homosexual students had to go through – and just how difficult it is for some. This story stresses the importance of having teachers as role models for all students. Teachers should feel that it is there right to open up about being homosexual and should not feel as though it will affect their job.
Curriculum is Everything That Happens
An Interview with Veteran Teacher Rita Tenorio
Rita states that new grads from the teacher program still have a great deal of learning to do. This learning takes place with experience. One of the most important things from her interview is that schools are impacted by larger social forces. These forces control a wide array of things that largely affects what occurs in the classroom. It is important to really get to know your students. Knowing about their background is vital. She stresses that curriculum is everything that happens. It is not just lessons and text books but different relationships, attitudes, and experiences that contribute to the curriculum.
Working Effectively with English Language Learners
-Bob Peterson & Kelley Dawson Salas
Communities are becoming more diverse and it is up to the teacher to effectively provide instruction for all of the students in the class. Schools often offer support for ELL and have programs set up precisely for this. It also is important to possess the knowledge base of how the language acquisition process works. There are different strategies discussed in this story. Make sure that the teacher speaks slowly, clearly and audibly. It is also vital not to single an ELL student out in front of the classroom. Incorporate the use of different visual tools as often as possible and try to work in smaller groups as much as possible. It also seems to resonate with the student if the teacher learns some simple phrases in the students’ first language.
Teaching Controversial Content
-Kelley Dawson Salas
There are many fears for teachers related to teaching different controversial topics. Teachers fear being disciplined by principals, being isolated from other teachers, and dealing with resistance from parents of the students. Teachers do have the right to teach in the manner in which they decide. Kelley went out on a limb and created a unit about the Civil Rights Movement. She had fears about how this would be perceived and accepted within the school, overall it went well. To be safe it sometimes is necessary to clear ideas with the school principal.
Unwrapping the Holidays
Reflections on a Difficult First Year
This story begins with the common practice of making Christmas decorations. One teacher decided to challenge this by providing her students with a look at the 4 different holidays that people celebrate in December. By refusing to participate in creating decorations for a Christmas tree, this teacher had caused a great deal of controversy. Some appreciated it as an eye opening experience as some of the students did not celebrate Christmas and often were just excluded from this project in the past. Other teachers took offense to this idea and were upset about the idea of change. They dramatically took down Christmas decorations. This teacher even received an anonymous semi-threatening letter that worried her. This teacher’s intent was not to completely change the school’s traditions but to make everyone aware of the diversity of the students. This teacher finished her year of teaching and transferred to another school. This teacher did learn valuable lessons and definitely would have approached this issue much differently if she could go through this again.