Go Visual With a Graphic Novel, Comic Book, or Zine!

Today’s blogger is Adam I. Attwood (Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee), whose article “Comic Books and Graphic Novels for the Differentiated Humanities Classroom” appears in the October 2020 issue of the Kappa Delta Pi Record. Get free access to the article through the month of December.

Incorporating comic books and graphic novels into collaborative English language arts and social studies education offers an additional strategy for bringing complex stories to students and for developing higher-level thinking skills. Teaching core literacy skills in middle and high school often draws on time-tested strategies such as rote memorization, sentence diagramming, or row-by-row read-aloud. Though these strategies can work as part of a balanced, scaffolded curriculum, Jill Gerber and I explain in our article in the Kappa Delta Pi Record that incorporating an increasingly good catalog of graphic literature offers additional opportunities for differentiated instruction using more interactive media to engage and encourage students.

Reading graphic novels or comic books requires students to do multiple literacy activities at once. It makes their brains work more.

For example, looking at integrated illustrations while reading a story takes sight words to another level of “sight ideas.” In middle school, this is a logical progression from elementary sight-word instruction.

Similarly, by integrating social studies and English language arts instruction based in graphic literature, teachers promote connections in contextual understanding of concepts. The stories in comic books and graphic novels create more immersive opportunities to design activities that encourage simultaneously interacting with history, literature, and art so that students make connections between past and present as both a personal dialogue and as a community conversation.

In an easily replicated example of this strategy, Gerber, who hosts a blog about graphic literature at Perceptive Gaze, intentionally applies this literacy strategy by having her students write and self-publish “zines.” Like miniature magazines, zines are small booklets that emphasize comic book–like structure. This activity creates a product-based assessment in which students are required to simultaneously demonstrate their learning across subject areas.

Gerber’s approach involves a multistep process for students to design and present their zines.

  1. Research, organization, and resources. Students research their topics of interest in their assigned subject and use a simple, six-statement template to organize their thoughts for approaching this project. The teacher offers resources for overcoming the challenges of pairing art with concepts and words.
  2. Storyboard and script. Students plan and outline their story on index cards, including how they want to illustrate the concepts.
  3. Production. The teacher can demonstrate how to lay out the students’ plans on paper, advise students on which paper size would best present their stories, and assist them with the “manufacturing” of their zine. Students ultimately do all the work of writing, drawing, folding, and cutting, including making decisions on how to letter the text so that it works with the art in the context of the story.
  4. Editing station. Students practice the complexity of editing in a step-by-step process. At first, the teacher models this process; but, with practice, students edit more and more of their own work and engage in peer editing to practice constructive feedback.
  5. Presentation. In this final step, students present and explain their work. Discussion can be organized in small groups or whole-group seminars.

With practice, students internalize these skills and grow their creative output. Technical artistic skills are less important than form and format. The teacher functions as a guide for students to help them get more comfortable with the concepts and mechanical aspects of the illustrated storyboard development process. Gerber summarizes one such project on her blog and offers some additional advice with examples.

That one sample project focuses on a single activity in a social studies classroom that can be adapted for a personal narrative in a language arts curriculum or extended for other subjects. The rewards from integrating graphic literature into your instructional strategies can be even more pronounced when the approach is used to combine complex concepts in social studies with language arts literary analysis.

This type of project may take extra coordination, but its benefits for a wide range of students can be substantial by increasing their motivation and interest across topics and skills.

8 Tips for a Successful Transition to the Home Teacher Zone

Dr. Tina L. Callaway is the Program Chair of Undergraduate Business and General Education studies as well as the Resource Coordinator at New England College of Business at Cambridge College. She is most recently affiliated with Concordia University – Portland’s Kappa Delta Pi chapter, which has sadly closed its doors after 115 years as an institution.

COVID-19 has unexpectedly opened the door to online education, sending our faces across the web thanks to programs like Zoom. Video conferencing has given our students a view into our lives outside the classroom. As teachers learn how to juggle working from home, teaching a virtual classroom, and reminding the family you’re at work, here are a few pointers from my 17 years of online teaching.

  1. Dress for success (from the waist up). Ladies, that really cute skirt or leggings looks great with a solid cotton t-shirt when you’re in front of a live class. In front of the camera, students see a plain old t-shirt. Get dressed in a shirt with a collar or at least be sure to doll up your t-shirt with a nice necklace or scarf. Male teachers, always wear a collared shirt, whether a button-up or polo. (I was in a pinch once to attend an evening Zoom meeting and had already changed into my fortunately nice pajamas. I threw on a strand of pearls, put on dangle earrings, and finished with a swipe of lipstick. Worked one time; doubtful it would work again. Do not try this at home!)
  2. Put on shoes. Why not just my fuzzy pink slippers? There’s a psychological switch when you put on shoes. Shoes indicate going somewhere and doing something other than sitting on the couch watching Netflix and eating bonbons. The simple act of putting them on will give you an “it’s time to work” mindset. Socks get you bonus points.
  3. You have now entered the Teacher Zone. If possible, dedicate a space or set up a boundary where your family knows that, once you’re there, you are in the Teacher Zone: Do not disturb. There are two benefits to having a dedicated space, whether it’s a desk in a corner or the luxury of your own home office. The first is that this, like shoes, puts you in a work mindset. This is your time for your students, not grabbing snacks for the kiddos, taking Poopsie puppy for a walk, or finding your spouse’s keys. Some people use masking tape on the floor for a boundary. Remember using tape to divide your bedroom with your sibling? The second is, this is your safe place to work and not feel guilty for not giving snacks, walks, or finding keys. You are at work.
  4. What is that?! Have you stopped to look at what’s behind you when you’re on-camera? For those fortunate enough to own a green screen and then apply a background, great. The rest of us are not so well equipped and have to rely on what’s in our home. Turn on your camera and really look at what students can see. I’ve seen a dresser mirror positioned so the unmade bed was visible. Dirty dishes and cluttered counters are distracting. Does your camera pick up the bathroom? Shut the door. Make sure your background is as clean and neat as your classroom at school.
  5. The disappearing head. If you use graphic backgrounds without a green screen, unless you’re able to stay perfectly motionless, parts of your head will disappear as you move, such as an ear or the left quarter of your brain. These backgrounds can be fun, but they’re more of a distraction as students watch to see what’ll vaporize next.
  6. Check me out! Do a test run on camera. Most programs will let you record, so do a quick session and see what your students will see. Do you wear glasses? Are you shooting laser eyes at your students? Do you have a flattop haircut or is your camera too low, cutting off the top of your head? Check your makeup, ladies: too bold makes you look clownish, not enough makes you look washed-out.
  7. Look deep into my eyes…. It’s natural to talk to the screen image of the student, but when you do this, you are not making eye contact with them. Looking into the camera (with the occasional glance to see if they are engaged) will show you are speaking directly to them. Think about watching the news. When they look into the camera, it’s like they’re talking to you. It provides that sense of connection.
  8. Who’s that girl? By now we’ve all seen the funny clips of reporters having their small children bursting into their home office. In your online classroom, these visits are distracting. Make sure your family respects your camera time. Your son may be cute in his Batman undies with his He-Man sword. Your spouse may think he can casually stroll behind you with only his shoulders and knees visible. The pets you love should also be kept away from the camera. Online time means work time. (True story: I was on-camera with a student and his teenage brother came sauntering through in only his whitey-tighties.)

I hope these tips made you smile but also made you think about what you can do to be successful as you navigate the new waters of teaching remotely.

Resources for further information:

4 Tips for Teachers Shifting to Teaching Online
https://www.edutopia.org/article/4-tips-supporting-learning-home

7 Tips on How to Prepare for Teaching Online
https://elearningindustry.com/7-tips-prepare-for-teaching-online

Zoom Tips for Teachers: Learn and Grow Together Online
(Don’t miss 10 tips for running a virtual lesson on Zoom – halfway through the article)
https://techboomers.com/zoom-tips-for-teachers-education

That Uncomfortable Topic of Social Justice

Today’s blogger is Katherine E. L. Norris (West Chester University), whose article “Using the Read-Aloud and Picture Books for Social Justice” appears in the October 2020 issue of the Kappa Delta Pi Record. Get free access to the article through the month of November.

Over the last six months, issues of race have been in the spotlight. Turning on the television inevitably leads to hearing stories about racial injustices and civil rights protests. In fact, over the last few years, stories of racial tension, immigration, and LGBTQ concerns have received extra media attention as we grapple with policies and practices that impact our diverse population. And children are not immune to the daily news stories and social media posts.

In many classrooms, common practice when it comes to diversity and justice has been avoidance.

With diversity, equity, and inclusion thrust into the spotlight because of the obvious inequities made more visible by the pandemic, racial injustices, and worldwide protests, educators have a renewed opportunity to begin to support students as they attempt to navigate these new realities.

Some teachers aren’t sure how to begin the conversations and how to handle sometimes uncomfortable topics of justice and fairness as they relate to race, immigration, poverty, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. Teachers must start early to introduce students to the ideas of equity and justice, and to begin to give students the tools they need to work together to appreciate and value one another both inside and outside of the classroom.

Most school days are packed with content, and teachers often struggle to cover all the required curricula, so the thought of adding something else into the school day may seem overwhelming. Many teachers already use storytime or the read-aloud in their daily schedules. Why not take this opportunity to incorporate picture books that support teaching social justice and equity in the classroom?

Picture books are a great way to cover diverse concepts and experiences in a way that young children can understand. The use of picture books during the read-aloud allows teachers to introduce topics to students and guide them as they attempt to understand the importance of equity and justice.

By using the read-aloud and picture books to teach social justice, teachers can guide their students’ understanding through questioning and clarification.

The read-aloud gives students a chance to appreciate and understand cultures and lifestyles that differ from their own. Cultural appreciation and understanding serve as a place to start in breaking down barriers and eliminating stereotypes for both teachers and their students. For teachers who feel too overwhelmed to handle diverse topics, the use of the high-quality picture books during the read-aloud time is one way to begin to navigate conversations with students in a nonthreatening way.

Teacher Preparation for Online Learning: Now Is the Time

Mary RiceToday’s blogger is Mary Frances Rice (University of New Mexico), who co-authored the article “Orienting Toward Teacher Education for Online Environments for All Students,” which appears in The Educational Forum. KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share access to the article free through June 30, 2020 at Taylor and Francis Online.

In March 2020, 1.3 billion learners at all levels were displaced from their educational buildings due to COVID-19 (UNESCO, 2020).

In the U.S., most school buildings closed for the rest of the shool year (Education Week, 2020). For many, closures of this magnitude were previously unthinkable.

Even as buildings closed, many schools and institutions of higher education adopted some form of remote emergency learning.

Aside from the psychological panic induced by COVID-19 that made transition to new ways of learning difficult, many students did not have the devices and reliable internet access necessary for online learning. In fact, many teachers did not. Moreover, teachers had not been prepared to teach online. Why not? Well, for many reasons (see Rice & Deschaine, 2020). For some teacher education programs, it was because they thought online teaching was not real teaching. For some programs, it was because they lacked resources—faculty with know-how and models to emulate. For others, it was because they (and their state licensing boards) were tightly tethered to the notion that (time in seat = learning) and online instruction disrupts that equation.

Regardless of the reason, teachers in many schools distributed devices as best they could and started sending work online to families.

Did they bring their strongest pedagogical practices to the emergency online work? Some probably did.

Success stories abound from teachers at schools who already had consistent access to infrastructure and who were already using digital resources. I have a research site right now where students are receiving private music lessons with instruments provided on a rent-to-own basis by the school as part of their home-based learning. In this school, teachers are also sending students to break-out rooms for conversations, reading bedtime stories to students, and making use of learning management systems for young children. In these nice, safe neighborhoods, teachers can parade in their cars and wave to students to lessen the distance while keeping everyone safe. Moreover, in these neighborhoods, parents can stay home with children, find places in their spacious homes to make fun spaces for learning, and monitor children’s formal learning for a few hours a day.

But that is not what it is like for most families.

In many schools, the worst pedagogies and the most deficit-laden attitudes followed them to remote learning.

In another school site where I am conducting research, students were assigned to watch a 45-minute slide presentation with narration about the Falkland Wars. Students were supposed to take notes and write an essay. This  expectation—to learn using one of the driest content delivery systems ever invented—is for 12-year-olds! In another district, parents of students with disabilities were barred from entering their children’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) virtual meetings because they did not have district email addresses. When parents were not logging on, school officials chalked it up to parental ineptitude instead their own.

And then, there are the teachers who are not able to teach at all.

The devastation of the virus in some communities has been so intense that teaching and learning are the last priorities—with good reason.

For example, the Navajo Nation on the Arizona/New Mexico border is fighting the virus while most community members lack running water (McGraw, 2020). Surely, if we have to choose between the internet and running water, the water should win, along with food and medical supplies. But in most communities, if they had decent internet bandwidth and families had access to devices and teachers were prepared to teach online and collaborate with families remotely, all students could do home learning with some success.

Although there were good reasons to prepare teachers to teach online before the pandemic, it is understandable that many educators and many communities were caught underprepared.

However, moving forward from COVID-19, it seems prudent for institutions of higher education who prepare teachers to make preparation to teach online and in blended or hybrid spaces their highest priority.

Yes, teaching online requires different types of skills (Pullham & Graham, 2018).

Yes, teaching online requires teachers to think about time and achievement differently (Yan & Pan, 2011).

Yes, teaching online increases the transactional distance between students and teachers which must be lessened through strategic actions from teachers (Moore, 1993).

But, teaching online can be done well.

Teaching online can be a positive relational experience for students (Rice & Carter, 2015). Teaching online can also support the development of critical digital literacies and other advanced skills (Blau, et. al., 2020). But stop-gap emergency will not ever be anything other than that. And if we continue to rely on it in times of trouble, we run the risk of exacerbating educational inequalities that are already beyond tragic and unacceptable.

Communities need internet.

Students need devices.

Teachers need preparation.

Parents need support. Let’s lay the blame for uneven remote learning where it belongs—lack of planning, lack of interest, and structural inequality.

Then, let’s fix it.


References

  • Blau, I., Shamir-Inbal, T., & Avdiel, O. (2020). How does the pedagogical design of a technology-enhanced collaborative academic course promote digital literacies, self-regulation, and perceived learning of students?. The Internet and Higher Education, 45, 100722.
  • Education Week. (2020). Map: Coronavirus and school closures. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures.html
  • McGraw, G. (2020). How do you fight the coronavirus without running water? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/02/opinion/coronavirus-water.html
  • Moore, M.G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education. (pp. 22-38). Routledge.
  • Pulham, E., & Graham, C.R. (2018). Comparing K-12 online and blended teaching competencies: a literature review. Distance Education, 39(3), 411–432.
  • Rice, M. & Carter, Jr., R. A. (2015). With new eyes: Online teachers’ sacred stories of students with disabilities. In M. Rice (Ed.) Exploring pedagogies for diverse learners online (pp.205-226). Emerald Group Publishing.
  • Rice, M. F., & Deschaine, M. E. (2020). Orienting toward teacher education for online environments for all students. The Educational Forum 84(2),114-125.
  • UNESCO. (2020). COVID-19 educational disruption and response. Retrieved from https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse
  • Yan, H., & Pan, S. (2011). Rethinking time management of online instruction: Flexible or strict?. Open Education Research, 3. Retrieved from http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTotal-JFJJ201103018.htm

7 Resources for Teachers to Change a Racism Narrative

As one of the articles we are sharing describes, racism is alive and well in America.

In your classrooms, whether in-person or virtual, you have a responsibility to ensure all children receive an equitable education.

We’ve compiled 7 resources for you from our magazines, The Teacher Advocate and the KDP Record, to help you address racism and racial inequity in your classrooms and communities.

We’re All in This Together: Four Tips for a Culturally Responsive Learning Environment

article

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Author: Marquita S. Hockaday (@KeeKeeHockaday), Assistant Professor of Education at Pfeiffer University

Today’s classrooms are even more diverse, mirroring the changes in American society. More than half of the students in these classrooms are culturally and linguistically diverse. They need culturally responsive instruction that allows them to recognize and understand their own culture, while building knowledge from that cultural base. These four tips will help you create and maintain a culturally responsive learning environment in your classroom.

Teaching in an Increasingly Polarized Society

article

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Author: Jacqueline Jordan Irvine, Charles Howard Candler Professor Emeritus at Emory University; she is a 2015 KDP Laureate Inductee

Our democracy and equal opportunity for all students are endangered as schools become increasingly polarized. Dr. Jacqueline Jordan Irvine calls for better-prepared and more committed teachers in the areas of social justice and culturally responsive pedagogy.

Racism is Alive and Well in America

article

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Author: Joyce Lynn Garrett, Teacher and Administrator in the public schools and higher education for 35 years

“A recent event from my own experience provided the impetus for this column,” writes author Joyce Lynn Garrett. “At a social gathering, someone used a racial slur to describe President Obama. After I made it clear I was offended by the comment, I left immediately.” Read more of Joyce’s story and find three areas she recommends teachers address in the fight against intolerance.

Broadening Our Approach to Educating Children in Poverty

article

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Author: Pedro Noguera (@PedroANoguera), Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education at UCLA; he is a 2011 KDP Laureate Inductee

 

New York City leaders have embraced a holistic vision of school reform that begins to confront the race and class disparities in learning opportunities for poor children that most other cities neglect. Though their plan for high-quality, full-service schools goes against the current tide of market-based reform, research has shown that these schools can have a major impact on the academic and social outcomes of children.

Failed Citizenship, Civic Engagement, and Education

article

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Author: James A. Banks (@DrJamesABanks1), Kerry and Linda Killinger Endowed Chair in Diversity Studies and Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington, Seattle; he is a 1997 KDP Laureate Inductee

Many racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious groups are denied  structural inclusion into their nation-state. Consequently, they do not internalize the values and symbols of the nation-state, develop a strong identity with it, or acquire political efficacy. The author conceptualizes this process as “failed citizenship,” compares and contrasts it with “successful citizenship,” and describes the role of schools in reducing failed citizenship and helping marginalized groups become successful and efficacious citizens in multicultural nation-states.

Fighting to Be Heard

article

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Author: Tracey Flores (@traceyhabla), Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin

“On an evening in June, four Latina girls entering ninth and tenth grade, along with their mothers and fathers, gathered at [my] university for an evening of drawing, writing, and sharing. Sitting side-by-side at tables, girls and their parents busily sketched, in pencil and crayon, a drawing in response to the question, De dónde eres? (Where are you from?).” Read more of Tracey’s story by downloading the article.

Hiding in Plain Sight: Understanding and Addressing Whiteness and Color-Blind Ideology in Education

article

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Author: David Gillborn, Professor of Critical Race Studies and Director of the Centre for Research in Race and Education at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom; he is a 2015 KDP Laureate Inductee

Dr. David Gillborn argues that color-blind ideology amounts to a refusal to deal with the reality of racism, which protects and extends White racial advantage, as well as shares thoughts on dismantling Whiteness in education.

BONUS: Intro to Social Justice Course

We live in a diversifying democracy—one that (at least in theory) is built upon the values of the dignity of all people, equal opportunity, and justice. But a quick glance at headlines tells us that, despite the progress made, we have a way to go. To close the gap between our democratic vision and reality, citizens (and educators) need to develop skills in citizenship and democracy.

The KDP University Intro to Social Justice Course introduces the notion of social justice and guides teachers in the development of awareness and skills needed to reframe lessons and units to have a social justice lens.

Enroll in the course for FREE by DMing us on Instagram (@KappaDeltaPi) or Twitter (@KappaDeltaPi) or by emailing us at marketing@kdp.org and simply request the Social Justice Course code.

COVID-19: A Substitute Teacher’s Perspective

LizTaylorLiz Taylor, a 2019 Daytona State College graduate, has weathered a significant numbers of ups-and-downs in her short life. She recently wrote about how her chapter supported her recovery after a life altering accident. (link to blog). She’s currently serving as a substitute teacher for Daytona-area schools.

Phew! It was Thursday, March 12th, the day before Spring Break.

I spent the day at Bunnell Elementary in Flagler County, Florida.

I had already gone tumbling down half a flight of stairs while walking my students to lunch, so I was looking forward to what I thought would only be a week off school.

All the students in the class I was teaching that day were freaking out about the Covid 19 pandemic that’s been spreading around the world. I reassured them the best I knew how to.

Little did they know, I was scared, too.

I knew that we all deserved a week to relax away from school. Little did I know we’d be off much longer than that.

I had just arrived home from work that afternoon when the news broke. The Florida Department of Education was extending Spring Break for Central Florida students by one week to slow the spread of the virus in Florida. “Hmm… okay. I’ll manage,” I said to myself as I walked over to my refrigerator to check my work week schedule. You see, I had just graduated from Daytona State College’s School of Education that past spring with my Bachelors in Elementary Education. Unfortunately, there weren’t any full-time positions available. I was substitute teaching for the time being.

Then, as time went on, the virus continued to spread. “Social distance,” we were told. Then, the DOE told everyone that two weeks would be turned into four and then eight, and that the full-time teachers would start to plan for computer-based “distance learning.” “Oh, no!” I said, as the panic started to set in. A lump started to form in my throat. “I guess online learning doesn’t leave districts with the need for substitute teachers,” since Florida teachers would be working from home. I would be left jobless.

I took the easiest first step I could think of and I started looking for jobs teaching virtual school through Florida Virtual School. They weren’t hiring elementary teachers, either. I jumped on my computer and started reaching out to people at my district, letting them know that I was free, certified, endorsed, and willing and able to work anywhere they needed me. Then, I emailed the principals and assistant principals of the county’s five elementary schools and relayed the same message. Everyone reached back out to me, thanking me for my willingness to help, and told me that they’d reach out to me if they needed me. I’ve done all that I can for the time being. Now, my responsibility is to keep myself busy while keeping myself and my family safe.

I reached out to a couple of working moms that I know and let them know that I was free and available to help their kids with any online learning that they needed help with. It’s important to stick together during these times of uncertainty. I might not know what’s next as far as my career goes, but what I do know for sure is that we will eventually be back in classrooms in front of students at some point. Just because I don’t have any work doesn’t mean I want to be away from kids. If I can help a couple of local families during this time of uncertainty, I’d be glad to.
I wasn’t planning to be starting my career as a teacher during a global pandemic, much less as a substitute teacher without job security.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about viruses, it’s that they don’t care what your plans are for the year. They do not take into consideration jobs, after-school activities, substitute teachers and others being left without jobs, or the thousands of students around the nation who would be left without a classroom to go to for an undetermined amount of time.

Learning will still happen. Together, we can get through this.

As for me, for now I will continue supporting my fellow teachers while daydreaming about a future classroom and class of my own next school year.

COVID-19: A Professor’s Perspective

Cosco-TaraTara Cosco, Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Education at Milligan College. She has been a KDP member for more than 20 years and serves as the Counselor of the Alpha Iota Iota Chapter.

 

 

Initially, when we heard about the Coronavirus, the college was on spring break, so to be honest I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. I was enjoying my time off.

Then, the college announced we had an extra week of spring break.

Naturally, I reacted joyfully. I took long walks in the park with my co-worker and enjoyed the extra time off from work.

Then, the college announced we needed to transition to online teaching for the rest of the semester.

What? I better look into what this is truly all about. The college is one of the last places to close. When public schools close, we tend to stay open if at all possible, so this must be serious, I thought.

I wasn’t too worried about the transition to teaching online. One of my classes was already online, and most of my materials are housed online anyway.

The first week of online teaching was okay. I added assignments to make up for the in-class work I would have typically given them. I wasn’t feeling the stress I assumed some of my other colleagues were, because I love technology and use it often anyway.

Then, we had an area meeting, and the realities of what others were facing became apparent.

My chair talked about the students’ fears about graduation and how they would finish the hours needed in the schools as a student teacher and intern. We were told many of the mentor teachers were now having to homeschool their own children and at the same time teach their students. Spouses were out of work and tensions were high. My heart started to ache for the students who dreamed of their senior year with friends and their graduation celebration. The moment they had all worked so hard for was now something that we feared would not happen.

The second week of class in quarantine, I decided to hold a Zoom meeting and allow students to gather together virtually if they could. I allowed those who were unable to attend the virtual class to watch the replay later.

I was thrilled to see my students’ faces again! I had missed them terribly!

This pandemic had taught me that there was a lot in this world I took for granted. I took for granted the everyday conversations, interactions with colleagues, students, friends, and family. We held class as usual, only through a screen instead of in person. It worked well! I was pleased with the technology, the ability to share my screen, and interact as if we were in an actual classroom.

It is now early April, and we are starting a month-long lockdown.

I am missing my colleagues, students, friends, and loved ones terribly!

I miss eating out, social gatherings, a friendly hug. The news tells of projected deaths and times are scary.

I hope everyone stays safe and we return to normal soon with an attitude of gratitude.

For e-learning resources and a community of peers, visit KDP’s website at http://www.kdp.org.

Focusing on African American Male Preservice Teachers

Today’s bloggers are Samantha L. Strachan and Jillian Davis, who co-authored the article Loud and Clear: The Importance of Telling the Stories of African American Male Preservice Teachers,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

Close your eyes for a few seconds and think about all the teachers who taught you.

How many of your teachers have been African American males?

If you thought about your past experiences as a student, and your answer was “none,” you are not alone. In fact, many students in today’s P–12 schools will never have the opportunity to be taught by an African American male teacher. While a number of programs and initiatives have been implemented across the country to place Black men in classrooms, there is still much work to be done.

The Problem

Educational leaders and researchers alike have focused on several issues that impact the teaching profession. One issue that continues to make headlines is the absence of African American male teachers in P–12 schools. Currently, around 2% of all teachers in the United States identify as Black males (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). This dire statistic means that concerted efforts must be made to understand how these men can be recruited and retained in classrooms as teachers. Neglecting to do so will continue to result in their absence from the classrooms and from the lives of the students who most need them.

In our article in the current issue of The Educational Forum, “Loud and Clear: The Importance of Telling the Stories of African American Male Preservice Teachers,” we advocate for understanding the perspectives of African American men on the pathway to the teaching profession. We make an argument for placing the stories of Black male teacher education candidates front and center in education. We encourage understanding of why they decide to become teachers, despite not always having had good experiences in P–12 schools as students. We also discuss how, even as preservice teachers, men of color can experience challenges that, if not confronted, can continue to hinder them from fully participating in the teaching profession.

Transforming the Profession, One Story at a Time

Stories can be powerful. Like all teachers, African American men have stories that need to be shared and heard. These stories can provide the impetus needed to transform how they experience the teaching profession. However, their stories must be told and highlighted in a way that does not perpetuate stereotypes and negative notions, but instead will further how the education and research community could make changes to ensure that Black men can fully engage with the teaching profession. This is especially true for men in teacher education programs.

Since the stories of Black male preservice teachers are rarely highlighted, it is important to use their perspectives as a foundation for understanding the specific changes needed in the teaching field, and how these changes could be implemented in a manner that allows men of color to thrive in the profession.

African American male preservice teachers are uniquely positioned to provide insights that could be transformative to the teaching field. They have made the decision to become educators, and their perspectives, especially during training, can serve as reflections for teacher education and the teaching profession.

If we want to know how we can engage African American males as educators, providing spaces for them to share their stories will be important.

Not doing so will continue to sideline a group of educators whose impact in classrooms could be great.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through March 31, 2019.

References

  1. Department of Education. (2016). The state of racial diversity in the educator workforce. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/highered/racial-diversity/state-racial-diversity-workforce.pdf

Dr. Samantha Strachan

Dr. Samantha L. Strachan is Interim Chairperson of the Department of Teacher Education and Leadership at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. She also serves as Director of the M.AL.E. (Males for Alabama Education) Initiative, a state-funded program focused on recruiting and preparing minority men for P–12 classrooms. Dr. Strachan’s research is focused on improving minority students’ participation in teacher education, particularly in the STEM fields. Her work also focuses on examining creative ways to diversify the teaching workforce. This includes sharing the stories, perspectives, and experiences of African American men on the teaching pathway.

Jillian Davis

Jillian Davis is a MEd candidate in Elementary Education at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. Her current research explores the stories of African American male preservice teachers, discussing their personal experiences, understanding their perspectives, and raising awareness of their impact on education. Jillian’s interests include the study of social justice in education, inequality, and poverty. Jillian serves as a graduate assistant.

Truth Talk: Conversations About Race

Khasnabis

Dr. Debi Khasnabis

Today’s bloggers are Debi Khasnabis and Simona Goldin, who co-authored with Ebony Perouse-Harvey and Margaret O. Hanna to write “Race and the Mona Lisa: Reflecting on Antiracist Teaching Practice,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

Race permeates every thread of the fabric of society in the United States, regardless of whether we recognize and speak to it.

Simona Goldin

Dr. Simona Goldin

This truth is stitched throughout all aspects of public schooling, from the gaps in academic learning opportunities that children of color experience relative to their White peers, to the racial marginalization of children at recess. This truth weakens the fabric of the institution of schooling.

As teacher–educators, we support beginning teachers in seeing and responding to the ways that race pervades children’s experiences in classrooms.

In doing so we help them leverage the knowledge that children of color and their families bring to their work in schools as well as repair the rips in the social compact.

Our current research, highlighted in “Race and the Mona Lisa: Reflecting on Antiracist Teaching Practice” in this issue of The Educational Forum, is inspired by our awareness that children’s full sets of knowledge are often unseen in schools. Children of color, especially, are unlikely to be seen for their knowledge. This invisibility occurs in instructional moments when that knowledge is related to students’ racial or ethnic identity.

What does it look like when children’s knowledge is made invisible? 

A common refrain heard in schools is “That’s racist!”

Digging into this, we were initially surprised to learn what young children identify as “racist.”

When children are raised to be “colorblind,” they can think that referring to people by their racial identifiers is racist.

What are the effects of this? From Black colleagues, we learned that their race-conscious children who had been raised to recognize, discuss, and analyze race and its associated qualities were silenced by their peers and teachers in discussions of race.

One colleague’s son, after referring to a Black person as “Black,” was hushed by a peer and told “That’s racist!” This also occurs in instructional interactions when children of color speak about race and racism. When they are silenced, what becomes invisible is their racial literacy and fluency, their advanced and sophisticated knowledge.

More than just students blister at direct discussions of race in classrooms. Teachers also frequently steer clear of discussions having to do with race.

A teacher candidate once consulted with Debi after two Black students in her science class critiqued a Bill Nye video as racist.

The students’ critique rested on their judgment that the film featured fewer people of color than White people. The teacher candidate expressed trepidation about how to handle this accusation, especially as she saw nothing “blatantly racist” in the film. She wondered how she could convey to the students that their critique was inappropriate.

These everyday occurrences affect the health and vibrancy of classrooms.

In addition to silencing students, they fail to leverage and mine the racial fluency and expertise that some students, especially students of color, can bring. Further, students whose racial fluency is undeveloped lose out on critical opportunities to speak directly about race and racism, to practice having substantive discussions about inequality, and to construct, together, a pluralistic society.

We argue teachers should model interest and engagement in the child’s thinking. When students use racial identifiers, teachers should perk up, as this is a sign that their students are bringing reservoirs of knowledge about race to this discussion. This knowledge is a rare and precious resource.

When students launch racialized critiques, this shows their teachers that they have reservoirs of knowledge about oppression.

Recognizing students’ reservoirs of racial knowledge for what they are—assets to be built upon for learning—is in the interest of the child and the learning community.

When we silence these discussions, we uphold normative ways of being that support White supremacy.

Simona Goldin teaches courses pertaining to the sociology, history, and policy of schooling in the U.S. She conducts research on ways to transform the preparation of beginning teachers to help them teach in more equitable ways and has elaborated the teaching practices that bridge children’s work in schools on academic content with their home and community-based experiences. 

Debi Khasnabis is a clinical associate professor of education and the chair of elementary teacher education at the University of Michigan School of Education. She teaches courses focusing on multicultural and multilingual education and conducts research on pedagogies of teacher education that support the development of culturally responsive teaching and understandings of inequality in schools.

How to Incorporate Environmental Science in Your Classroom

Rodriguez-Kaitlyn_blogHi there – it’s Kaitlyn Rodriguez again.

Sustainability and conservation are both key in helping the Earth.

Lately, more than ever, it seems that companies and organizations are moving toward more “green” practices.

Solar panels and alternative energy sources are becoming more prevalent. Recycling initiatives are seen everywhere.

Schools must now start incorporating these practices into the classroom and teaching students how to protect and help the Earth—but how?

With new curriculum standards and practices being mandated, many teachers feel overwhelmed and without enough time for “extra” activities.

What some people don’t know, however, is how simple it can be to incorporate green practices into their daily curriculum and schools. Below are suggestions of what teachers can do to learn more about being eco-friendly, teaching their students about the environment, and helping their school and community.

  1. Host environmental cleanup days. Whether scheduled weekly or monthly, having cleanups at the park, beach, or even school can be simple, fun, and family-friendly activities for all to participate.
  2. Increase the emphasis of environmental concerns in the curriculum. Environmental issues can be incorporated into any grade level and subject. Besides the obvious science lessons, English lessons can involve students writing research reports on endangered species or writing persuasive letters to local officials, urging them to increase their environmental awareness. Social Studies lessons can involve looking at the timelines and history of conservation efforts and sustainable practices, while examining local and national politics regarding the environment.
    • Some organizations offer teacher resources to teach environmental awareness in the classroom. In New York State, for example, the Department of Environmental Conservation hosts a series of educator workshops that provide all attendees with a book of resources, lessons, and curriculum suggestions (dec.ny.gov/education/2035.html).
  3. Go on a field trip! Kids love getting out of the classroom. By going to nature centers or places that deal with the conservation of a particular species, you are helping to make the world more sustainable. Show your students that some people work on these initiatives all their lives, which could be something they may want to do when they get older. If traveling to the site would pose an issue, work with your building administrators on bringing the organizations to your school. A simple Google search provides myriad results for field trip ideas in each state (e.g., Kansas: www.ifamilykc.com/blog/education-learning/field-trip-ideas).
  4. Take the classroom outside. Teach a lesson outdoors to give your students the chance to get some fresh air. Let them put what they’re learning to use in their local community. Go for a nature walk and teach your class about observations and predictions. Test a science experiment outside. Bring your class to an open field and let the nature around them provide inspiration for poetry or any form of writing.
  5. Make a STEAM project assignment that involves recycled or upcycled materials. Assign your class a project over a break that involves using recycled/recyclable materials to create something new, such as a robot. Keeping a project open-ended allows students to display their creativity and interests. Here are some suggestions of activities: https://leftbraincraftbrain.com/stem-goes-green-17-upcycled-and-earth-friendly-projects-for-kids
  6. Provide students, faculty, and staff with environmental, conservation, and sustainability resources from local organizations. Providing literature on what one can do and how one can help—and what can result from one person’s efforts—can offer the motivation to get involved and become interested in these topics. Increasing the availability of such resources in each classroom also is important. Scholastic has nonfiction articles for the younger grades, and National Geographic also makes magazines and articles that students can read. Look for ways to add more nonfiction pieces to your classroom library. Here are some books you may be interested in buying for your classroom: www.amightygirl.com/mighty-girl-picks/top-children-s-books-on-the-environment
  7. Start a Go Green initiative in your classroom and school. Set up recycling bins around the school. Have your students use both sides of their paper. If copies are made incorrectly, or you have extra paper, keep a scrap paper bin for students to use for projects, drafting ideas, and more. If you can afford it, or fundraise for it, buy your students metal water bottles to bring to class instead of plastic bottles. Model for the students what it means to Go Green and they will follow in your footsteps!

These are only seven ways to make your classroom and school a greener one.

If every classroom were to do at least one of these suggestions, just imagine the impact all those students could make on the world.

Tell us how you plan on incorporating sustainable practices in your classroom this year on the Educator Learning Network!

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