Tag Archive | Rethinking Elementary Education

Final Product

By: Iris Sun, Elizabeth Parry, Emily Wilder, Rumer Wilkinson, Carrie Barlow, Emma Moore

For our final product we decided to create a concordance for teachers on the text, Rethinking Elementary Education. We grouped sections in the text based on topic that teachers would teach (ex. immigration, death and loss, environmental issues). We hope that teachers can use this in their own PLC meetings in order to figure out quickly what resources they can use to teach a certain social justice oriented topic.





What stands out in our society? How do we address it in our classrooms

Today we focused our reading on sections that discussed topics that are very visible in our society and our students are aware of people that fit into these groups, such as headdresses Muslim girls wear or disabilities that some people have. It is important to address these things in our classroom so that our students do not generalize or stereotype or have deficit thinking. However, it can be hard for teachers to decide how to appropriately include lessons on such topics that sometimes can be considered taboo and seen but not spoken about because no one wants to step on anyones toes. But, to be a social justice focused teacher it is our job to discuss how we could do this. So, this was our days focus.

Implications for Practice:

-emphasis on looking and analyzing the author of the material you are teaching. What bias do they have? Do they represent a certain stereotype? How can we break this stereotype? Open up the discussion for your class.

-Answer questions! Do not let students whisper about topics. Have open dialogue and let students share. Build the community and students will become more accepting in general.

-Study other cultures.

-Not just looking at someone for their disability. Find the positive and find similarities

-Have students do research. What do they find is available? Does this match the stereotypes. Again, how can we break free from these.

-Look in our own school community. How can we learn from people that we know and appreciate. These people are more to us than just stereotypes. Making these lessons personal and relatable to students helps the students understand, connect and care more.

-As a teacher you must be educated. Do not allow your bias or lack of knowledge to affect your students perception on people who are different from you. Everyone is special. Cliche, but true. And teachers should highlight how our differences are not defining, we are all able-bodied and contributing to society and our planet.

Reading for Next Week: Chapter 4!

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!

Six Going on Sixteen


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?

I Am Jazz – The Importance of Acceptance

Meet Jazz Jennings – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7gjICQ3kL4

Jazz Jennings is a transgender teenager from Florida. She has her own documentary TV show on TLC which follows her as she maneuvers life as a transgender youth and how it affects her and her family daily. Along with this, Jazz also has her own YouTube channel where she has been making videos about her life for a while. She is one of the youngest transgender females to speak publicly in history about transgender issues. Jazz identifies as being female, so I will refer to her as “she” throughout this post in order to respect her as an individual.

In our PLC group, we have read and talked about many issues involving acceptance in the classroom and the importance of teaching children that differences are okay and should be celebrated rather than ignored. More explicitly, we read an article titled “It’s OK to Be Neither,” which discusses teaching methods that support gender-variant children. It tells the story of a little girl named Allie who feels more comfortable wearing clothes and doing her hair in a way that generally would be associated with being a male. Because of this, however, people tended to refer to her as a boy, even though she wanted to be referred to as a girl, even though she may have resembled what a boy might look like. The children weren’t quite sure what to make of this situation and began to ask Allie somewhat incriminating questions about why she looked like a boy if she was actually a girl, and the teacher saw this as a great teachable moment for her class to talk about gender stereotypes.

The teacher knew that the first step she should make would be to broaden the students’ ideas about what was acceptable for boys and girls. She also pointed out little things that many teachers do daily and how they relate to gender stereotypes. For example, instead of saying “boys and girls” when referring to the class, she simply uses gender-neutral terms such as “children” or “students” so as not to alienate a particular child. All in all, Ms. Tempel wanted to teach her students that it’s okay to be different, along with bettering both hers and other teachers’ classrooms to become more sympathetic towards gender-variant children and the struggles that they deal with daily.

This article ties in with Jazz’s story because although Jazz identifies as a girl and is not necessarily gender-variant, transgender students go through many of the same challenges that Ms. Tempel illustrates in her article. Children don’t often understand such heavy topics as being transgender, particularly because adults don’t always take the time to explain just what it means to be transgender to such young children because they think the topic is a bit too mature for them. However, Jazz explains that even though she was born a male, she knew that she was a female from before she was even 6 years old. So, if Jazz can know that she is transgender at such a young age, don’t you think it’s important for other children at this age to understand what it’s like to be transgender or gender-variant, so as not to isolate children like Jazz? It’s definitely OK to be different, and it’s important to understand and accept these differences.

-Natalie D.

Information about Jazz – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_Jennings
Trailer for “I Am Jazz” – see link at top of page

For next week, we are watching the Ted Talk by Rita Pierson titled “Every Kid Needs a Champion”