During advisory lunch on Monday, one of my eighth grade advisees asked why people might not want to arm teachers. The conversation quickly shifted to our school’s policies around lockdowns and other policies meant to help keep kids safe, so we ran out of time before her question was really answered. I told her I hadn’t forgotten the original question, and said maybe we could talk on Wednesday.
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 am not a pretty girl. That is not what I… do.” - ani difranco
It’s 10 days after Parkland and, while some of the initial rawness has subsided, I know many teachers who are still having difficulty sleeping, having nightmares when they do get to sleep, crying on basically a daily basis. While one of my colleagues and I were discussing actions the kids here are resolving to take, she told me, choking back tears, “I just feel so helpless.” My office mate and I had a long conversation yesterday in which she pointed out she was so young when Columbine happened that she can’t remember a time when we didn’t have to worry about school shootings. She’s profoundly angry about that, and goodness knows I would be.
In writing up Sonia Nazario’s keynote speech for the Fenn School Multicultural Educators’ Forum, I deliberately left out a number of details in order to focus on the central story. While it makes a smoother narrative and hopefully helps focus on the power of her story, it neglects some important facts and details she deliberately and skillfully wove in. Among them:
“The idea that only special people can create change is useful if you want to prevent mass movements and keep change from happening.” (Lyn Mikel Brown)
“Maybe the kids will save us.” It’s a phrase I periodically and not infrequently hear among teachers, along with “They give me hope.” I’ve said it myself - just two days ago, in fact - and no doubt will continue to, because I do firmly believe it. And on that horrible Wednesday, when the last Rock Band group of the night smiled and thanked me and walked out the door laughing together and there was nothing left to enable me to wall off my emotions about the news from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, one of my first responses was to turn immediately back to the kids. I asked Windsor’s permission to post her beautiful and powerful All School email to our blog, and she quickly and graciously agreed. It has become our most widely read blog post ever, and for good reason.
“Hey, Bill, can we trade instruments and make a lot of noise?” It’s not the kind of request I would normally go for, much as I value student voice, but I knew it was Thursday evening and the lead singer for the middle school rock band was still on their way, having gotten out of theatre rehearsal late and needing to grab a quick dinner. I said, “Let’s do it!” The kids shouted happily and jumped up and ran, practically running each other over, eventually settling into place. I counted off - 1, 2, 1 2 3 4 - and the grand and joyous cacophony began.
“But don’t you think there are differences between men and women?” I thought for a moment, and responded, “Well, I know that brain differences at birth are minimal, and it seems to me that the gender constructs created by society drastically amplify those differences.” The conversation continued for a moment, still focused on binary gender differences, and I added, “But we don’t even know what would happen if a child were to actually grow up in a non-patriarchal society. I only know of a few isolated examples.” My friend affirmed that a few matriarchies do exist, at a minimum two in China that she knew of.
by Celine Nader
Here at Stoneleigh-Burnham, our mission statement is both descriptive of what is, and aspirational, considering what we hope will be. We talk about fostering voice, choice, and agency in our students here at SBS — and I feel confident that this is, by and large, quite effective.
“If you went to the Women’s March, could you please come up front with me?” said Celine Nader as she prepared to start a presentation in housemeeting. Interspersed with her beautiful words (included here in her blog post) were the students’ own thoughts. They loved the march for its sense of a diverse community coming together in support of each other. One student specifically mentioned she loved the intersectionality, the acknowledgement of race and of the fact that the rally was being held on land that was known as Pocumtuck for thousands of years before colonists renamed it Greenfield. Another student said that it’s wonderful that we cultivate and support girls’ voices here but that it’s also important to take them out into the world, and this march gave us a chance to do that.