Every day, when I walk into my classroom, I’m thinking “Who are these kids, what do they need in general, and what does it look like they need today?” To my thinking, good pedagogy is quite simply that which enables me to know the answers to those questions and fulfill those needs.
When Frances McDormand ended her epic Oscars thank you speech with the two words, “Inclusion rider,” I’ll admit I was one of millions of viewers who wasn’t sure what exactly she meant. It had the feel of “freedom riders,” and if so, I loved the ideas of finding strength in taking definitive action and of not quitting until the world becomes a better place.
I hope this finds you well. In honor of the International Day of the Girl, my students will be hosting several Hangouts to connect girls around the world. The conversations will be self-directed by the students who attend, with student facilitators. We hope to provide an opportunity to unite girls across borders on the ways we are similar and bring us closer together by celebrating our differences.
Only rarely have I ever looked forward to a game more than my beloved UConn women’s basketball team going up against Mississippi State in this year’s March Madness semis. After all, one of our school’s alumnae, Chinwe Okorie, played for MSU and was likely to get significant playing time. It would be wonderful to root her on as well as my own favourite team. I confess, though, I was a little jittery as to how UConn would do. At one point in the season, MSU had been ranked #2, and they were the only highly ranked team UConn had not yet faced. I felt in my bones that, if anyone was going to stop UConn in this tournament, and I knew that was possible, MSU had perhaps the best chance.
Words in motion evoke change when spoken. - Jasmin Roberts
Because Thursday was Mountain Day, Rock Band had the night off, and that meant I was free to join EduColor’s 7:30 Twitter chat on engaging and supporting families of colour. Being white, this meant both an opportunity to chime in when I felt I genuinely had something worth adding, and an even greater opportunity to listen in and learn from voices of colour. I knew that if I retweeted every tweet I loved, I’d flood my timeline. So I found myself favoriting left and right so people would know I was listening and they were being heard.
It’s one of those cold and rainy days that keeps me online more than I would be otherwise on a Sunday with most of my class prep behind me and all student writing having received feedback. That’s fortunate, because otherwise I might not have seen Mel Greenberg’s tweet that Imani Boyette and her mom Pamela McGee might become the first-ever mother-daughter pair to play in the WNBA if Ms. Boyette can make the regular season roster for the Chicago Sky. The WNBA is the longest-running women’s professional league in U.S.history, and it feels encouraging that it is reaching this major landmark.
“So how do your students look this year?” The question was asked not, as many people might expect, by a colleague or even a parent but by three of my former students who are now juniors as we found a chance to talk at the annual Local Family Picnic. “They look great,” I said. “Of course. You know! Given the emails they’ve been writing me about the books they’ve been reading.” One of them laughed and said, “Your favourite Humanities 7 class of 2014-2015?” I laughed in return, responding “Absolutely!” knowing she was secure in the knowledge they were all part of my favourite Humanities 7 class of… 2010-2011. (For the record, I only teach one section of Humanities 7 each year, so the “favourite Humanities 7 class of...” line is something of a running joke.)
As I prepare for the imminent arrival on campus of my brand new students, as the middle school team prepares to bring together and start building this year’s community, I find myself focused not just on what the kids might be thinking and feeling but also on the parents. My son attended boarding school for three years and is about to start his junior year at college, so I know firsthand what parents are going through. The level of trust we parents place in a school when dropping off our children is powerfully and deeply touching, and part of what motivates me to do my absolute best each and every day is working to meet that trust (not that I need any more motivation than looking out at my students looking back at me!).
You may not know Xian Barrett. You may not even have heard of him. If you have, it may well have been through Lauren Fitzpatrick's mid-July article in the Chicago Sun-Times, "CPS calls teacher's mom to tell him he's laid off." Mr. Barrett, a 2009 Teaching Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education, is one of 2113 employees of Chicago Public Schools who was laid off at the time. 1036 of those employees were teachers, joining the 545 already laid off (along with 305 other CPS employees) due to the recent closing of 48 schools. That represents a total layoff of 6% of the CPS faculty, blamed on the expiration of a three-year period of pension relief. In the meantime, "the Board of Education voted to increase its payment to [Teach for America] from $600,000 to nearly $1.6 million, and to add up to 325 new recruits to CPS classrooms, in addition to 270 second year 'teacher interns.'" (Fitzpatrick)