1. ‘Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of Schooling-as-usual’ by Gregory Michie p. 43
~This article is based on an extended metaphor comparing new teaching and its difficulties to being caught in the undertow of the ocean. The article discusses what a classroom should consist of, including relating the learning to students’ lives. The author also believes that teachers should teach using their values and beliefs, but to remember not to feel as if they are alone because there are other teachers around you that have similar goals. For this reason it is important to seek out allies, whether they are other teachers or community members. Allies also help new teachers to discourage negativity. One important idea that the writer mentions is that teaching for social justice includes the environment you create as a teacher. Teachers must remember that while schools can be oppressive, it is important not to let them run wild with freedom, or your energy will be focused on classroom management instead of learning. It is important to use the methods and strategies you learn in meaningful ways that broaden knowledge and ideas, instead of restricting it. Michie’s article ends with a piece of advice, “choose your battles early on, pace yourself, swim with the current when you have to, and never lose sight of that spot on the shore” (p. 51).
2. ‘The Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club’ by Rita Tenorio p. 83
~This article recounts the many stories and strategies about racism and anti-racism teaching that occurred in a 1st-grade class. The teacher spends a great deal of time teaching the students about their skin colour and what it means to each individual. She gives a detailed explanation about six different activities that discuss race and skin colour. The activities introduce ideas about what it means to have different skin tones, other than the “lighter is better” notion they have already learned in their lifetime. It also helps students to accept themselves, and see themselves in a different manner. In addition, it is a way to show the class that the students are not so different after all. These activities, while being age appropriate, manage to discuss what racism is and offer other ways of approaching racism. The article concludes by reinforcing that while we have multicultural schools, we need to help our students to become tolerant and accepting of ethnical differences because they can ultimately change society.
3. ‘What can I do when a student makes a racist or sexist remark?’ by Rita Tenorio p.93
~This clip is a response to the above question by the same first grade teacher in the previous article. She reveals that while racist and sexist remarks do occur in young children, the adult’s instinctual response is to ask them to stop talking, say that it is inappropriate and move on. Tenorio reminds us that curriculum is not simply what we teach, but also what happens in school; our reaction or non-reaction is part of what students learn. She insists that even at a young age we need to teach our students skills to respond to racism and sexism in terms they can understand.
4. ‘Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers can be Sensitive to Students’ Family Situations’ by Sudie Hofmann p.95
~This article examines the diverse nature of families, and explores alternative projects that teachers could use to avoid assuming every student has “normal” families. It discusses that some students who have missing parents or other parental figures in their lives that do not fit the regular idea of a family may feel upset or frustrated by projects that single them out. Hofmann points out that while teachers experience training for many other types of diversity, family diversity is an area where many teachers lack guidance, and as such, she suggests that parents help teachers understand when activities are not inclusive.
5. ‘Heather’s Moms got Married’ by Mary Cowhey p. 103
~Cowhey’s article discourses the many types of families, including LGBT. Her story takes place in Massachusetts, a lesbian friendly community, and recounts the stories of how her 2nd-graders respond to learning about the variety of family options in this area. While at first there may be some hesitation, after a discussion about why these families exist – because they love each other – the students come to accept the differences and encourage each other to be open-minded.
6. ‘Out Front’ by Annie Johnston p. 111
~This article discusses the many challenges a out gay teacher faces, from being on the GSA or LGB and questioning youth support groups, to trying to incorporate gay issues in their curriculum and avoiding anti-gay slur in their classrooms. Johnston believes it is extremely important for gay teachers to be out with their students and be a gay role model for students. In addition, it is important for straight teachers to become allies and also use those ideas in their classrooms to show a united front. Once you establish an anti-gay slur campaign, there should be consequences for students that break this rule, or it will not be taken seriously. An idea that she also touches is that homophobic ridicule is a main reason that gender roles are reinforced.
7. ‘Curriculum is Everything that Happens’ by Leon Lynn, interview with Rita Tenorio p. 163
This interview is based on giving advice to new teachers about how to become involved in social justice issues. Her suggestion is to learn from teachers who are politically conscious and to find allies everywhere, from your school to your district to your community. It is vital to make sure students feel that they can contribute in class discussions about family and culture and that they will be accepted.
8. ‘Working Effectively with English Language Learners’ by Bob Peterson and Kelley Dawson Salas p.183
~The main topic in this article is about how to help new teachers understand what English Language Learners are going through, and become more committed to providing support and assistance for these learners. The article mentions that you should be respectful and get to know the languages and cultures of the students you teach, encouraging students to be proficient in both their native language and English, and perhaps learn a few phrases in each language. The most important idea is to teach in ways that your students can understand. This includes avoiding long class lectures and incorporating more visual aids, active learning activities and spending more time with these students to provide additional explanations.
9. ‘Teaching Controversial Content’ by Kelley Dawson Salas p. 199
~This article focuses on one teacher’s hesitation to teach the social justice units she had planned in her classroom. Her fears ranged from being fired, being challenged by parents, and being isolated, even though she believed that social justice helps kids learn other perspectives and critical thinking skills. In the end she taught the unit and nothing bad happened. Since then she has found more resources and adds to her units each year. Salas’s opinion about informing parents about teaching controversial ideas is that if you do not tell them everything then be consistent, and if questions arise, answer them at that time.
10. ‘Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year’ by Dale Weiss p. 317
~This reflection is the story of a first year 1st-grade teacher’s encounters with the Christmas holiday season in his school. The teacher’s approach to the winter holidays had been to show his students the diversity of holidays, including Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas in Mexico and Winter Solstice. Having been asked for his class to contribute to the school’s Christmas tree, his response was that they would submit the books they were creating about each different holiday. However, he approached his principal and asked if these other holidays could be added to the public spaces. He agreed, but other teachers did not and took offense. Their response was to take down their decorations. Although the teacher tried to explain that it was a miscommunication and he did not want the decorations taken down, simply that he wanted awareness and exposure of other cultures, the staff reacted negatively and it ended in leaving this new teacher feeling isolated in his beliefs.
Due to personal comments Part 2 of this assignment was submitted directly to my seminar leader.