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Book Review

This semester, we read Rethinking Elementary Education. Overall, we found the book to be very interesting and relevant to classroom situations today. The book had very creative ideas about how to deal with different situations in our classrooms and we found it to be very relatable in terms of teachers telling their own personal stories from their classrooms. We didn’t read the whole book, especially the parts that related to the subjects of Math and Science (everyone in my group has a focus in Language Arts, so we usually don’t enjoy math and science as much). However, the parts we did read left a lasting impact on us and what we expect our classrooms to be like when we start teaching.

After a while, we got a bit tired of the book and just assigning readings from it, so we moved on to watching video clips, particularly Ted Talks. We enjoyed these a bit more because it is more interesting listening to someone talk about their own experiences and seeing their faces as they describe their different situations. The Ted Talks seemed a bit easier to discuss in our groups too because we all seemed to have the same reactions to the messages.

Overall, we decided that Rethinking Elementary Education is a book we would want to hold on to and keep in our personal classroom library as a refresher on how to deal with certain social-justice issues in our classroom. In times of need, we can always flip back to it and reread articles that seem relevant to us.

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A Concordance for Rethinking Elementary Education

We found this text to be a great resource for teachers, especially elementary school teachers. It is insightful and comprehensive. Every school would benefit from having a few copies of this text available to teachers.

PLC Group 3

 

Beginning of a concordance for teachers on subject matter in Rethinking Elementary Education:

 

Reading and writing (whole of Chapter 2)

  1. “Teaching for Social Justice” pg. 49, Ch 2
    1. An overview of how to move from progressive teaching to critical teaching
    2. “In addition to studying movements for social justice of the past, students discuss current problems and possible solutions”
  2. “Writing for Change” pg. 57, Ch 2
    1. Accessing students funds of knowledge
    2. Resource: Persuasive writing flow-charts
  3. “Patterns and Punctuation” pg. 66, Ch 2
    1. Teacher guided inquiry vs. student guided inquiry
    2. Resource: Punctuation inquiry chart

 

Children’s Rights:

  1. Confronting Child Labor” pg. 73, Ch 2
    1. Issues of domestic and foreign Child labor
    2. Resources: Child Labor Tea Party materials
    3. Examples of student work

 

The Environment:

  1. “Exploring Our Urban Wilderness” pg. 231, Ch. 5,
  2. “Polar Bears on Mission Street” pg. 236 Ch. 5,
  3. “Measuring Water with Justice” 241 Ch. 5,
  4. “Water Dialogue Poem” 247, Ch.5

 

Using science to relay the power of misconceptions and how to change them:

  1. “Learning from worms” pg. 248 Ch.5,
  2. “Rats!” (students defend classroom pets) pg. 253, Ch.5,
    1. “My students found their voices. They learned, through writing and speaking up publicly, about an issue that is important to them, that they can have an impact (258).

 

Race:

  1. “A Letter from a Black Mom to Her Son” pg. 261, Ch. 6
    1. “I felt very black and obvious because I knew that my experience was different from that of my peers. But I also felt invisible because this was never acknowledged in any meaningful way,” (262).
  2. “Peers, Power, and Privilege” pg 19, Ch. 1
  3. Who can stay here? p 182

 

Freedom of Speech:

  1. “The Power of Words” pg. 264, Ch.6

 

Languages:

  1. “Defending Bilingual Education” pg. 269, Ch.6
    1. “More Need, Less Bilingual Instruction”

 

Libraries

  1. “A Librarian in Every School, Books in Every Home” pg. 274, Ch. 6
  2. “Reading First, Libraries Last” pg. 277 Ch. 6

 

Testing

  1. “Think Less Benchmarks” pg. 282, Ch. 6
    1. “Essentially, it’s an expensive assessment program built on the assumption that repeated testing of children will help them do better on tests” (282).
  2. “Tracking and the Project Method” pg. 40, Ch. 1

 

Immigration

  1. “Deporting Elena’s Father” pg. 285, Ch. 6
    1. People ask me, “How does deportation affection children?” The question I’d like to pose is “How doesn’t deportation affect children?” (286).

2) “Testing Kindergarten” pg. 297, Ch. 6

3) “They Call This Data?” pg. 303, Ch.6

4) “Who can stay here?” p182, Ch. 3

5) “Learning About the Unfairgrounds” pg. 86, Ch 2

6) “Crossing Borders, Building Empathy” pg. 91, Ch 2

7) “First Crossing” pg.96, Ch 2

 

LGBTQ

  1. “Teaching the Whole Story” pg. 288, Ch.6
  2. “Heather’s Moms Got Married” pg. 10, Ch. 1
  3. “Creating a Gay- and Lesbian-Friendly Classroom” pg. 13, Ch. 1
  4. “It’s OK to Be Neither” pg. 15, Ch. 1

 

Administration

  1. “My Talk with the Principle” pg. 300, Ch. 6

 

Poverty/ Economic Inequality

  1. “Math and Inequaltiy” pg 207-208, Ch. 4**
  2. “Peers, Power, and Privilege” pg 19, Ch. 1

Dealing with Stereotypes

“Math, Stereotypes, and Voice” pg. 208-209, Ch. 4**

            Beyond Pink and Blue p 167

“Girls, Worms, and Body Image” p 176

“Save the Muslim Girl”  p188

 

Classroom Community

  1. “The Challenge of Classroom Discipline” pg. 3, Ch. 1
  2. “Inner and Outer Worlds” pg. 5, Ch. 1
  3. “Bad Signs” pg. 35, Ch. 1
  4. “10 Ways to Move Beyond Bully Prevention” pg. 32, Ch. 1
  5. “Helping Students Deal with Anger” pg. 24, Ch. 1
  6. “Staying Past Wednesday” pg. 29, Ch. 1
    1. Dealing with Death and Loss.

 

Gender

1) Beyond Pink and Blue p 167

3) “It’s OK to be Neither” pg. 15, Ch. 1

4). “Girls, Worms, and Body Image” p 176

 

Violence

1). TV Selfishness and Violence Explode During War on Terror. p 171

 

Disabilities

1). Beyond the Medal p 194

** Overall, Chapter 4 involves incorporating a variety of social justice issues into daily math activities, and does not specifically address one issue in detail.

How Do We Fix a “Broken” School?

For our last PLC, we watched another TED talk: “How to Lead a Broke school.” because we have found them to really helpful and motivating as future teachers. Linda Cliatt-Wayman did not disappoint and was very inspiring. Through the semester in our case studies, we have discussed a wide range in variety of schools from Urban to Rural, from wealthy and private, to poor and public. A school labeled “low-performing and persistently dangerous” school discussed in this TED talk was in Northern Philadelphia. She said, “For far too many schools, for kids who live in poverty, their schools are really not schools at all. But this can change.” (4:06ish)

From this talk, we discussed some ways we could implement some Wayman’s theories regardless of the school we’ll be teaching in.   Every morning on the announcements she would say, “And if no one has told you today, remember that I love you.” From this particular statement, we discussed how important it is to build meaningful relationships with our students. We may be the only support person they have, making it extra important to show by our actions and words of affirmation that we care. We connected to a teacher who recently went on “Ellen.” [TEACHER’S NAME] spends an hour every morning in her first grade classroom making sure all of her students have on clean clothes, have eaten breakfast, and are ready for the school day. MORE ABOUT TEACHER

Another theory of Wayman’s is lead. It sounds scary but the little changes they made around their school are easy ways for us to lead at our future (or current) schools. They assigned all students a locker, decorated every bulletin board in the school with inspirational sayings, cleaned the classrooms, and replaced old dull light bulbs with new ones. However, we discussed the other examples she used in her school may be harder to implement as teachers. One of them was the reconstruction of the school’s daily schedule. Wayman’s new schedule included all extracurricular activities, remediation, hours course, and counseling all during the school day. Her schedule allowed for those unable to stay after school because of transportation, job, or any other reason to participate. This is a huge issue we’ve discussed over the semester: access. Depending on where a student goes to school and how much money they have influence which activities (if any) they can participate.

Our group slogan Wayman used was “So what? Now What?” In their school, they use this phrase when trying to solve any problem. It’s a great way to get students of all ages, not just high schoolers, to examine the situation and use critical thinking to solve each problem they encounter without consciously doing so. Already in my Kindergarten classroom, they are using these basic questions to build homes for the three little pigs.

This video is generally a great example of how to be an effective leader in a school; however, it’s especially great to use when going into a “low-income” school. From out class, we’ve learned that as educators we can serve as catalysts for change in public school systems.

As we come to an end with our PLC, we’ve learned a lot about discussing and disagreeing with one another; however, it is difficult to gauge how our real PLCs will be. It would be helpful to have us plan a lesson as a PLC with the standards of Common core.

Our book, Rethinking Elementary Eduation, was overall a great book. As a group we felt some of the articles were not as productive as others.

A Letter to the Administration

We were thinking for our culmination we would do a letter to an administration. This letter would give a list of concordance on the Rethinking Elementary Education text. We would list topics that teachers might discuss as a unit with their students (ex. Race, Gender, Immigration etc.). Therefore, if a teacher wanted to do a unit on race they would go to our list of topics from the text and then they would be able to easily go to that section of the book in order to find activities and lessons to do with their classes.

Current teachers, would this be something that you would be interested in having? Do you think that the administration would like this idea as well?

Thank you!

The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen

For this week we watched a Ted Talk by Takaharu Tezuka entitled “The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen.” Tezuka is an architect that designed a kindergarten in Tokyo that consists of one large building with two floors. The upper floor has a track where the kids can run around, as well as a tree for the kids to safely climb on. The lower floor has classroom and table space that is completely open; there are no doors and windows to confine the kids to one area. By being allowed to roam around in an open area, the kindergarteners are truly able to explore and be kids.

The kindergarten also has a play area in which kids are faced with obstacles that are challenging to maneuver through, which creates a sense of danger for them. Tezuka describes that it is important for kids to feel that aspect of being in danger, as it allows them to understand that at points in their lives they will not always feel safe. It also adjusts the kids to the feeling of an adrenaline rush that occurs when you are doing some “dangerous.” We also think that one of the best parts about this play area is that the kids will often work together to move around obstacles. This helps teach the kids team building, a skill that will help them be successful throughout their lives.

Thinking about this kindergarten, one of the aspects we thought was most interesting is that each morning, parents will drop their kids off at this big, open space and feel totally comfortable leaving them there for the day. This says a lot about the culture, and that there is a feeling of trust amongst the parents of the children who attend the kindergarten. We feel that this is a good lesson to take from the Toyko kindergarten.

For next week, we are all going to find a different Ted Talk that we feel relates to our future practice as elementary teachers, and share what we found valuable from the videos with the rest of the group.

Six Going on Sixteen

http://inspirationlab.org/story/7447

The music video above is from a local A Capella group, XIV Hours, from Durham Academy in Durham, NC. In the video, high school students sing to a mash-up of songs from “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke to Rihanna’s “Stay.” The music video shows the audience the overtly sexual themes that young people are hit with every day by the media.

In the Rethinking Elementary Education article, “Six Going on Sixteen,” Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin addresses the over-sexualization that she sees in her young students. Even though she teaches first grade she can still see the role that the media has played on her six-year-olds. She had students saying comments such as, “Yesterday after school Trina and Shayla got in a catfight over Brandon!” and “I got his phone number!” It concerned McLaughlin that comments that might not raise an eyebrow in a middle school classroom had become commonplace in her first grade room.

McLaughlin writes of initiatives that can help children from growing up too fast in a media centered world. These include “toy lending libraries” and Family Game Nights. Basically, anything that reinforces a strong sense of community. McLaughlin also states the importance of pretend and creative play for children. Her spring curriculum plan was “Imagine, Pretend and Play.” She wanted children to be in charge of creating their own stories, inventing scenarios and thus, evolving as powerful individuals. Her goal for these initiatives was to help stop the commercialization of childhood.

While XIV Hours might be a teenage group, our own elementary students are listening to most of these same songs and hearing the same lyrics. As McLaughlin states, “Children are complex, and pop culture and media are not the sole cause of their troubles. However, protecting them from a corporate world that forces them to grow up too soon, and promoting their creative play are giant leaps in the right direction.”

**(I encourage you all to take a look at the XIV Hours video. Along with this, if you are planning on teaching high school students this video could be a great resource for a class discussion).

Immigration and Other Tough Issues in the Classroom

“I want my 5th graders to regard themselves as part of a broader human family and to think critically about the border and the way it legitimates the ‘us’ and ‘them’ divisions.”

-Bob Peterson, “Crossing Borders, Building Empathy”

We would definitely want to do a unit on immigration with our elementary school students.

Getting personal with your students: It is important to remember that students come from various backgrounds and that some may not feel comfortable sharing their personal lives and that some parents may specifically tell their children not to talk about family life in the classroom.

The AIDS section brought up this general question: How do you deal with tough topics when some of your students may have a personal connection to them? What if a family member of theirs had AIDS or what if their families had immigrated etc. etc.? How do you make your students feel comfortable and safe in the classroom? How do you approach these topics without having a full grasp on the students’ lives at home?

It would be interesting to develop a mental health unit with your elementary students. It is a topic that is really not addressed and many of us have not talked about it until we got to college. It would help students know what mental illness is and also how to handle it if their peers may develop it or if they themselves might develop it.

Questions for Teachers:

  1. Do you feel comfortable having students “act on” passages in a reading when the topic may be difficult or controversial? If so, how do you go about doing this?
  2. What other topics could you implement where the main tactic of learning is group discussion?
  3. We were surprised by using the “mock trials” in a 2nd and 3rd grade classroom. We were thinking back to 2nd grade classrooms that we have worked in and we were not really sure if the students would understand the concept of a “mock trial.” Would this just go over their heads? Would you use this activity for 2nd graders? If so, how would you go about teaching the students how to act in the trial/what it is/how to go about telling them what are appropriate things to say and bring up?