Monday, January 19, 2015

Barricades on the Road to Freedom

While watching the newly released Selma, the movie, believe it or not, I thought about school. Last week we began our unit study/gamification on all sorts of rights. Our unit includes human rights, civil rights, migrant worker's rights, women's rights, children's rights (and child labor laws), etc. Our unit also includes what happens when those rights are ignored or even snuffed out: genocide, Nazi treatment of Jews and minorities, America's seldom-mentioned Japanese internment, Native American atrocities, et cetera. I have also included amazing activists for students to learn about.  

It took me months of mulling the idea over and over and around before boiling it down.  During the movie I had an insanely strong urge to jot down a note so as not to forget it. Thankfully, hours later, I was able to remember!   

So. Back to Selma, the movie. 

It dawned on me the reason all people want and deserve the rights that have been fought for...we all deserve to be free. 

There have been many things keeping the human race from arriving at freedom. There have been many things blocking the road to freedom. It could be that the road to freedom is the way it is because elder generations haven't known any other way. It could be that changes come and we don't see it happen. Change never comes easily to our species. Regardless of our history, future Homo Sapiens deserve FREEDOM from all forms of bondage:

F aith 
R ace
E ducation 
E levation
D ifferences 
O rigin 
M orality 

If all men and women were created equal -- truly equal to all others -- then why do we have so many speed bumps and barricades on the road to freedom?

What are the speed bumps or barricades on your road to freedom?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Talking About a Revolution

Let's talk about a REVOLUTION.  I want to start one..., I don't want a revolution based on Women's Rights...

  ...and I don't want to rehash the Mexican Revolution, either.

I want to start a student revolution...
        ... a revolution that will break the bondage of student to teacher.
        ... a revolution that will make students more independent.
        ... a revolution that will make students more self sufficient.
        ... a revolution that will make students more self-capable. 

(Wait, did I just make up a new word?  Oh well!)

This revolution will be fought in a non-violent, educational manner.
This revolution will be for independence.

Why do some of my students come to me as though their 
situation is DEFCON5? 
Have they even read the instructions? 

I saw a poster at a school in Arkansas and have searched the internet trying to purchase it.  Coming up short, I created my own.  

I numbered in order of the steps students should take, hoping this will assist my students in improving their self-reliance skills. A co-worker reminded me of another self-reliance strategy, "C2 B4 Me," or in other words, ask two other students before you go to the teacher.

If you want to join the Student Self-Reliance Revolution at your school, please join in! 
My poster is available for you to use if you so desire.  
Do you have something revolutionary to share? Let's use the hashtag 


Sigh. I've strayed from the provided curriculum. Fortunately, my administration has said several times it is an option and that I may use it as a tool in teaching, or find other tools.  So my toolbox has grown in 5 months.  I have used various online news sites for nonfiction lessons.  We have read a novel together.  And I had a grant from DonorsChoose allow me a class set of monthly literary magazines for many other genre options.  Now? Now I want more. Over the past semester I have learned that my students are sadly unaware of our history...or of their histories! I use picture books for skill lessons, and one or two were able to correctly tell me who Harriet Tubman was. There were a few each hour that knew erroneous snippets they could rattle off. "She freed slaves." Harriet Tubman helped slaves get to freedom." "Wasn't she the one who took people to those train stations? I mean, not real train stations, but the houses? But this comment? "She was the one who rode the train in America." This was one that made me cringe.  As a certified middle school social studies teacher, now, I feel compelled to teach tolerance as I teach reading skills.  

I read a blog post by @bluecerealeducation (#WhiteSilence, Teacher Edition) that made me wonder if I were falling into the category of white woman teaching tolerance to diverse students.  So, I commented on his blog post...and as I wrote, I felt better. I now know I am not "teaching" tolerance or diversity or culture.  I am leading the learning. I am opening a door to a place where my students may choose and learn, and HOPEFULLY fall in love with true American heroes!

The following is my comment to @bluecerealeducation's blog post:
I am a 40-something white, married woman teachIng 6th grade literature in a middle school with 75% minorities (66% are from bilingual homes) and 99% free lunches/1% reduced lunches. The education powers that be in our state deemed us a failing school.
I have been amazed at how little my students (even those of diversity) know about American heroes and of the history of their rights. So, as an educator, I'm preparing my classes for my upcoming unit to teach them. I have selected a hodge podge of rights: human, civil, migrant workers, women's, children's, etc. Since Wednesday, I have handed out candy to those wearing red (one of our school colors), only the students have NO IDEA WHY I'm handing it out. Two students have asked why "those kids" got suckers but the rest didn't. Another was argumentative stating "It's not fair! I've been working hard and I've been quiet. Why didn't I get one?" Many others have noticed and have even shot looks back and forth, questioning each other in looks about my qualifications for suckers. When students ask to use the restroom or get a drink, I cringe. Those wearing red are allowed, those not wearing red are not allowed. I based my "faux preferential treatment" on a clothing color rather than eye or hair color since we have so many dark hair, dark eyed students. It would end up looking like racially based preferential treatment. That's not at all what I wanted!
So how am I approaching such a wide-spreading topic in literature? I'll have a brief group lesson on a reading skill of focus for the day, then students have choices from a reading activity game boardgame board, of sorts, to help them select ways of showing comprehension. What will they be reading? Picture books. Lots and lots of picture books about Jews in Nazi Germany, Jackie Robinson, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr. , Elizabeth Stanton, Frederick Douglas, Suffragettes, American child labor of the late 1800-1920's, Ruby Bridges, Harriet Tubman, Cesar Chavez, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, and so, so many more.
All this to say that I'm either totally insane, completely naive, or both! I am passionate about allowing them to know who true heroes are. I grow weary of rap stars and athletes being held in such esteem when true heroes are literally unrecognized in my classroom. I feel my students deserve to know from whence America has come.
**stepping off soap box, clearing throat**

I'm busy, busy, terribly busy...PROGRESS, not perfection!

Is anyone else familiar with the lyrics to Veggie Tales, "Busy, Busy?"  I think it's been my theme song for the past 5 months...

Having been a SAHM for the most part of the past 12 years, I'm fairly new to balancing everything that comes with teaching full time, 3 kids, a 19 year marriage, 2 dogs, and family in town. But this is a new day, the start of a new week, and we are in a NEW YEAR! I am trying to become more balanced at work.  Not yet on top of everything, but certainly getting better.  I think I've logged only 1 late night the past two weeks, instead of one night home by 4:00 in the two weeks, as it had been.  Progress, not perfection. With the new year, I have decided to focus on one word instead of several goals or resolutions.

My #oneword ?

I need to simplify my closet to make mornings easier.
I need to simplify my lessons (not learning or engagement) so students and I can better focus.
I need to simplify my assignments and grading so my desk...wait, where is my desk...oh, yes, its under Mt. Paperwork!
I need to simplify my activities so I can have more time with my family.
I need to simplify.
I simply need to simplify.
Simply simplify...

Sounds simple, right?

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