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WIHWT: Why I write.

This Wish I Had Written That is inspired by Rebecca Solnit.

Sometimes the artmaking stalls out.

Sometimes I’ve written my truth and it conflicts with someone else’s narrative. Writers step on toes, cause disquiet, and challenge ideas and status quo: and yes, I count myself in that group.

And when I stall out it’s because of fear. Fear of reprimand, unwarranted criticism, or being misunderstood.

But I suppose if I want to write, reflect, question, challenge, and process I must let go of any naivety and just write. Let go of the belief that all my words and ideas will be welcomed as a first-grader’s art project stuck on the fridge with a souvenir magnet.

It’s fun when there are over 1,000 hits and views on this blog. I realize other writers get tens of thousands a month, but for now, I’m satisfied with whoever takes the time to read.

There are too many fascinating and amazing miracles happening every day not to take snapshots of them, and curate the wonders of this world, and let fear get in the way. This age demands transparency and questioning. Carry on, be brave.

From:

Focus:

“You make art because you think what you make is good, and good means that it’s good for other people, not necessarily pleasant or easy, but leading toward more truth or justice or awareness or reform. I write nonfiction and know a lot of journalists, political writers, and historians, whose efforts tend to be more overtly geared toward changing the world but I believe this is true of poets too. This weekend a friend sent me a Neruda poem to celebrate the king tides—the exceptionally high winter tides we get here—and though it’s hard to say the way this might help someone, it helps me to read:

the disdain, the desire of a wave,
the green rhythm that from the hidden bulk
lifted up a translucent edifice

Because pleasure is part of what gets us through and helps us do what we’re here to do. Because the political struggle is to protect the vulnerable and the beautiful, and paying attention to them is part of the project.”

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A plan of attack, with love.

Spider Pie

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a piece came out in the New York Times that temporarily broke the internet, titled: “A Voice of Hatred in America’s Heartland.” While I discussed it on Twitter, my husband followed it on Reddit, and overall the takeaways were the same: what the (bleep) is wrong with the New York Times to publish a soft, fluff piece about a NAZI?

I saw it as a warning to those who have grown apathetic, complacent, and downright complicit in their acceptance of the banality of white supremacists, racists, and hate-crime mongers in our nation. I knew there were there. They paint swastikas on my fence. They stole my Obama sign off my lawn during the 2008 election. They work in my district, thinking it’s “cute” and funny to support the current president, which is tantamount to supporting and condoning his dog-whistle and seditious calls for violence. They are students who add hate crimes to their list of nonchalant violence and privilege.

We are in the center of the storm. Which way do we go?

Aside from the meta-discussion about the article itself, it begs the question: there are still Nazis next door. Right now. What do we do next?

We, teachers, choose to challenge hateful thinking, or we don’t.

I suggested this:

I received this amazing response. There are so much goodness and hope in here:

And I made a new friend.

That is how it’s done: make alliances. Discuss with purpose and action-minded responses. Subvert. Teach the picture book. Show the war images. Never forget history.

There are two questions, and we all better become fast historians, folks:

  1. How did Germany allow Hitler to happen?
  2. How did Germany recover?

We can’t allow Nazis and White Supremacists groups to flourish. They are our domestic terrorists. How do citizens in countries like Egypt fight ISIS? That is what we do–and the reason we’re all so wobbly now is that we never, ever really thought of ourselves as that.

Whatever “that” is.

Eve Bunting’s Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust 

When I lived in Tehran, Iran at the age of 11-12 I thought how every American kid should live somewhere else, too. Somewhere completely different. During that same time, we visited Amsterdam and I visited the Anne Frank house.

I’ve been on my field trips. Now it’s time for our children to go on theirs. Let’s lead the way.

 

 

 

 

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the devastating abyss

 

I am not a fan of Ayn Rand.

At all.

Clearly, this is not an image of Ayn Rand.

It’s Colin Kaepernick.

There is a name on this T-shirt of someone I have seen. I didn’t know him, but my colleagues did. His name is on our gymnasium wall as an athlete of the year from a previous time.

A few months ago at a gathering, a dear acquaintance stated how much she hated Colin Kaepernick. Since I was a guest in someone else’s home I didn’t pursue the topic nor challenge her opinion. We’ve already been divided and our friendship diminished by these current political times. She would be the first to say life is about choices, and she’s chosen identity politics.

And I cannot tag her in a social media post to let her know that one of my school’s former students, who was shot and killed by police, is another name in a long, heartbreaking legacy of names that many respectfully and somberly ‘take a knee’ for. Young men and woman of color whose lives were cut short in a nation of violent responses for prejudicial fear.

We all have this story. We all know friends, relatives, and colleagues with whom we now look upon with disdain and suspicion because of 1. their political views 2. their apathy which leads to 3. privilege –their personal endowment of their own rights to ignore what is happening because they don’t perceive it’s happening to them. It’s happening or affecting “others.”

That is not to say that those who chose to remain silent are not affected, nor does it mean they don’t help the affected. There are many teachers out there who may have voted for the current president, and believe themselves to be good people: they’re not, though.  They may coach teams, help struggling students, continue to give to charities, work long hours to create the best lessons and instruction they can. They’re working hard to help students read, write, tap into a love of science and wonder. (Well, maybe not science. That would be a hard cognitive dissonance working there.) But they can’t possibly be helping anyone if they support racism and bigotry, even if indirectly. Because there is nothing indirect about it.

My horrifying epiphany came when a few things came on my radar from varying social media teacher pages, this T-shirt, and just thinking about things in general: my own identity politics led me to believe that banning books is bad, censorship is always wrong, and we all need access to great writers.

Coming back full circle, I still believe that.

But I hate Ayn Rand’s works.

And I realized that teachers who use her novels in singularity, without commentary, juxtaposition or nuance may be selling students the same load of garbage I was sold when I was in high school. But now, more than ever, her novels may need to be taught so students have historical context.

In other words: some teachers are still teaching crappy novels, and posturing them as great works.

But that is just like, my opinion, man.

The same thread occurred over To Kill A Mockingbird. However, so many amazing educators provided critical analysis from authors about this seminal work. I love Scout, but I can also criticize her father.

It’s a mourning process when we revisit beloved texts and find out that they may not be the pillars of justice and societal right we once believed. And I guess my wish, my hope –is that educators, have the responsibility above all to make sure students know not what to think, but how to draw their own conclusions.

We are faced with students who come to us with very different political views than we have. There are conservative teachers who are making the more liberal child feel embarrassed. There are liberal teachers who may lecture only one side of an issue.

Please: help students curate and discover connection and nuances in thinking. Support them when they grieve the loss of a favorite media or text.

This is a daunting task. Just please: we must consider and reflect deeply on what we’re offering to students. There is too much anti-intellectualism out there in the ether for us educators not to be incredibly mindful of this. Be brave.

 

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beat of your drum

 

Peter Dewitt posted an article in EdWeek, Why Does Teacher Talk Still Dominate the High School Classroom? 

This is a topic full of complicated nuance, add a dash of cognitive dissonance, and complicated traditions. But seriously:  why do we insist on talking so much?

Well: it’s easier in the short term. But like all actions that require preparation, it exacts too many long term costs.

My epiphany in the last post concerning teacher agency aligns with this: we don’t learn when someone in the room talks constantly, so why should our students?

We don’t love when someone hands us canned curriculum or tells us, “Teach it like I do.” (Good coaches show us how to dance, not step on our feet.) If teachers leave the profession in droves, all one needs to do is refer back to Daniel Pink’s Drive, or their own common sense that asks and reflects, what makes us happy and motivated? Purpose, agency, and creativity.

Teaching is learning: learning is creativity, exploring ideas, taking risks, failing, and reshaping.

If teachers are allowed encouraged to do this, both collaboratively and independently, perhaps we can move forward.

This is not to say that frameworks and scope/sequences are bad–they’re not. But sometimes the unintended consequences are so damning they must be reconsidered. We have big questions to answer, and sometimes I worry that we’re looking for answers in the wrong places. In a system that is chronological and age-based progression versus skill progression, we put emphasis on peer approval and not self-approval or reflection.

  • Instruct for about 15 minutes max. I set a timer and tell students my purpose for talk, and stop when the timer is done.
  • Use co-constructive norms in the classroom, such as Question Formulation Technique, shared notes, side by side notes, partner talk, ‘ambassador of the table’ consensus talk, poster making, etc.
  • Slow down instruction. Painful? Yes. Necessary? Definitely.
  • Link past, current, and future learning together in small leap-frog ways.

New and old teachers want fresh ideas, and no one wants canned ones. And even though Sir Kenneth Robison believes we should not deliver instruction, but become artists, in reality we must be both.

Here is where we are:

Where do we go?

We’d better get real creative real fast, folks. Perhaps administrations all over the nation can take a hard look at what they’ve been promoting in the past, and create their own paradigm shift. Change is terrifying. Give teachers the agency and locus of control they deserve. Promote and encourage master teachers to support all staff and students. Bring PD in house. Utilize and trust the resources and knowledge on staff.

And stop talking so much. Listen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bluebird of happiness

I ordered this five minutes ago, (because it’s payday, and these things must wait for paydays) and even indulgently asked for free same-day shipping. I am so grateful for Three Teachers Talk for promoting Newkirk’s new book.

My great and burning question may be answered by this text: How do we help students look past their peers’ acceptance and gain self-respect and confidence? 

After I receive the book, I’ll follow up on my tweet: the ideas he put forth are the ultimate playlist of pedagogy –putting these concepts into practice will be the trick.

Looking for theme teaching ideas? Check out this great post by Gwen Flaskamp: she provides the step by step path using the greats: Notice and Note, Book Love, and Falling in Love with Close Reading.

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