Resources for Talking to Your Kids About the Case of Trayvon Martin

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With Zimmerman’s innocence decided, the underlying issues of race and profiling continue to ignite quarreling responses and catalyzing debates about race in America. Here are some helpful sources that can help you talk to your kids about the issues surrounding these debates.

In an NPR post entitled, The Talk: What Did You Tell Your Kids After the Zimmerman Verdict, speakers share their stories about informing their children about race.

NPR code switch posted twitter responses from parents sharing how they explained the verdict to their kids. Twitter Reacts To Zimmerman Acquittal

The Wall Street Journal offers tips on how to use this case as a, “vehicle for change”. Five Tips on Talking to Kids About Race and the Zimmerman Verdict

In an interview on HLN Raising America, founder and editor of MyBrownBaby.com Denene Millner, Radio Host Bert Weiss and Ryan Smith discuss their ideas about race and how skins matters in America. Talking Race and Trayvon Martin With Your Kids

Learn how to “plant seeds of peace” with suggestions from the Huffington Post, How to Talk to Your Child About Trayvon Martin’s Death

The dualities of race has undoubtedly played a huge role in the reaction we are seeing across the states since the verdict. As Ghandi is falsely attributed as saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” By teaching our children to move beyond superficialities, like race, we are equipping a generation to transform a society into a more tolerant and equitable multi-racial community. We desperately need this progress in America.

The below section is by the prolific Larry Ferlazzo, who allowed us to repost his piece, “Thoughtful Resources on Trayvon Martin Case and Verdict.” You can visit his site for more education related resources and check out his regular column at Education Week.

The verdict is in, and here are some thoughtful additions to The Best Resources For Lessons On Trayvon Martin. Feel free to suggest additions:

On The Killing Of Trayvon Martin By George Zimmerman is from The Atlantic.

Trayvon Martin killing: what if George Zimmerman were black? is from The Telegraph.

Thank You, Rachel Jeantel is from The Nation.

One of the Saddest Stories Ever: I Am Rachel Jeantel

I Don’t Feel Your Pain is from Slate.

Trayvon Martin In Death: Whose Story Is It? is from NPR.

Fear of a Black President is from The Atlantic.

The Zimmerman Jury Told Young Black Men What We Already Knew is from Gawker.

Photo Credit: ~Urban Prowler~ (www.anshumm.com) via Compfight cc

Narrowing in on the Learner

Do you want to ….

  1. Boost your students’ self esteem?
  2. Keep them engaged?
  3. Have an alternative to testing your students to death?
  4. More specifically support their needs?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions read the infographic below which is all about competency based learning.

Competency-Education-Infographic
Source: Digital Learning Now 

Disrupting Injustice: Principal Strategies to Advance Social Justice

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The problem: Social injustice across our social landscape, with concentrations in schools where social justice is most needed.

A solution: Leadership focused on targeting, disrupting, and transforming such norms into new outcomes.

Teacher College Record published a paper by George Theoharis, an assistant professor in educational leadership and inclusive education at Syracuse University, titled “Disrupting Injustice: Principals Narrate the Strategies They Use to Improve Their Schools and Advance Social Justice.”

The study’s focus is on principals who positively advance social justice in their schools, who rely on the notion that schools can be places that break the predictive qualities of race, class, gender, and cognitive variation on student outcomes. However, the focus of these principals is not directly on targeting academic gains — which often result in practices that “maintain structures that isolate, track, and segregate instead of structuring inclusion and belonging of all kinds. The findings of this study directly contradict many current practices and reforms that propose that the best ways for students with disabilities, students learning English, and other struggling students to learn involves individually designed and/or remedial instruction conducted outside the general classroom.” Rather, their focus is on targeting the injustices themselves, with academic gains being an outcome.

The principals highlighted in the study focused on strategies to disrupt specific injustices. Below is an overview of the four main injustices and strategies that disrupt these injustices. They are reprinted directly from the study. However, for a fuller analysis and in-depth look at these strategies in practice, we would encourage you to take a look at the article.

Injustice 1: School structures that marginalize, segregate, and impede achievement

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Eliminate pullout/segregated programs.
    • Increase rigor and access to opportunities.
    • Increase student learning time.
    • Increase accountability systems on the achievement of all students.

Injustice 2: Deprofessionalized teaching staff

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Address issues of race.
    • Provide ongoing staff development focused on building equity.
    • Hire and supervise for justice.
    • Empower staff.

Injustice 3: A Disconnect with the community, low-income families, and families of color

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Create a warm and welcoming climate.
    • Reach out intentionally to the community and marginalized families.
    • Incorporate social responsibility into the school curriculum.

Injustice 4: Disparate and low student achievement

Strategies to Disrupt:

    • Confluence of all efforts and strategies

 

Image:Photo Credit: Dustin and Jenae via Compfight cc

Racing to the Top and Leaving the Impoverished at the Bottom

dollar eyePoverty cripples societal advancement. When prevalent in the richest nation in the world, it becomes mindboggling. Why are so many individuals struggling under the weight of poverty in America? Why is nearly 1 in every 4 children considered impoverished in this land of Race to the Top? Are we racing to the top of the wrong metric?

 My hat goes off to the many families who are pushing their children to aim higher than the constraints of their impoverished surroundings. As members in a society, we share their challenges too, even if we turn a blind eye.

During an interview with CNN, actor Jeff Bridges and “Share our Strength” founder Bill Shore, express why poverty, child poverty specifically, is our responsibility; “If we’re not taking care of our kids, we’re not taking care of our country. If another country was doing this to our kids, we’d be at war.”

relative-child-povertyIn a post titled, “Map: How 35 Countries Compare on Child Poverty,” the Washington Post reports, “A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, on the well-being of children in 35 developed nations, turned up some alarming statistics about child poverty. More than one in five American children fall below a relative poverty line.” Out of the 35 countries examined, America ranked 34th.

Mind you, In this study, UNICEF is using its own “poverty line.” Internationally, poverty is defined as families living on less than $1.25 or $2.00 per day, and as much as we grumble about how little we are paid, no gainfully and legally employed American is limited to these lowly amounts. (But in the shadows? That’s another story.) In America, poverty is defined as families living on less than about $22,000 per year.

Because of such huge gaps between developed countries’ internal economies, UNICEF instead measures how much poorer children are from their country’s national average.

“The UNICEF report looks at something it calls the ‘child poverty gap,’ which measures how far the average poor child falls below the relative poverty line. It does this by measuring the gap between the relative poverty line and the average income of poor families.”

Again, from the Post, “The picture (in the U.S.) looks even worse when you examine just how far below the relative poverty line these children tend to fall.”

What are we doing, America? And what should we be doing more of?

Eric Jensons, “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” provides insight into the weight of these children’s challenges. He highlights four major risk factors that, because of economic hardship, burden the developing child and hamper student achievement.

E = Emotional and Social Challenges

A = Acute and Chronic Stress

C = Cognitive Lags

H = Health and Safety Issues

This may explain why many of our students coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds experience difficulties performing in their classrooms. Unfortunately the direction educational policy is headed (as well meaning as it may be) is unjust, unequal, and unapologetic for learners outside of more affluent communities. If a student doesn’t make the mark, they are tracked to remediation or retention in attempts to correct their academic deficits rather than build on their strengths!

Show me a dropout who complained about not getting tested enough, and I’ll show a dropout that never dropped out. The truth is, how often do we hear about students dropping out because they felt the system spent too little time focused on their deficits? How many were exasperated with the focus on their strengths? Is this “leave no deficits behind” approach really attending to their needs and cultivating their interests? Clearly not.

However, while schools, school systems, and educational policy makers can play a role in transforming practices to meet the needs of these learners, we as a larger society have a role to play as well. We, the people, need to stand up to demand that the promissory note that MLK, Jr. referred to way back in ‘63 be delivered upon, because it is clear that we are, as a nation, are still defaulting on that promise.

Again, from the Post: “The poor U.S. showing in this data may reflect growing income inequality. According to one metric of inequality, a statistical measurement called the gini coefficient, the U.S. economy is one of the most unequal in the developed world.”

(What would MLK have to say about that, I wonder?)

Until such time that we fully, tactically and strategically engage in the war on poverty, we must focus where we can — on the students, children, and learners in our charge. Their voice, their dreams, their empowerment must be our first and foremost goal.  But how?

The 2007 Dispelling the Myth Award winners, Osmond A. Church P.S./M.S. 124 K-8 School, have done a remarkable job in breaking down those barriers.  Recognized for significantly raising students academic achievement, their dedication to these young minds is reflected in their success. With an enrollment total of about 1,227 students; 97% are low-income, 33% African American, 44% Asian and 21% are Hispanic, educators were able to provoke a lasting change. What once had dismissed this school, because of their high achievers awarded them much acclaim. Perhaps this school’s mission is responsible for their turnaround; “to inculcate all members of the school community with an understanding and acceptance of diversity, fostering individuality and creativity, where high expectations are the norm for all students.”

Yet we know a well crafted mission isn’t enough. Without the leadership and vision to pursue it relentlessly, such a mission is an empty platitude rather than a way out of poverty. If we want to actualize the talking point that education is a pathway out of poverty we must focus on four things:

1. Leadership.

2. Equity.

3. Cradle to college rap-around services.

4. Sustaining educator engagement.

And even these offer no guarantees without a larger effort to break the status quo of inequality. And judging by where we fall in a comparison of developed nations, our leaders seem abysmally disinterested in racing to the top of that metric.

So, for now, education offers our best hope for affecting change and breaking the predictive cycle of race, class, and gender on educational outcomes. So, bring along your copy of Jenson’s work and lets get to work.

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc
Graph: WashingtonPost

Year at Mission Hill, Chapter 7: Behind the Scenes

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Chapter 7 of this fantastic series delves into the fuel that keeps the fire going — questioning everything in relation to the whole child:

  • Asking for help.
  • Inquiry to inspire students’ voice.
  • Shared inquiry about students.

Building a community of curiosity, which changes teachers’ perspectives on teaching, learning, and their own empowerment as educators, empowerment they then pass on to students.

Such a paradigm shift or “mindset switch” is vitally important to sustaining transformational learning.

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America’s Promissory Note . . . Still Outstanding

bart-simpson-chalkboard-wallpaper-generatorIn a startling article in the New York Times, columnist Charles M. Blow lays out some statistics published in a recent UNICEF report that should equally appall and inspire us. He writes,

According to the report, the United States has the second highest share of children living under the relative poverty line, defined as 50 percent of each country’s median income, and the second largest “child poverty gap” (the distance between the poverty line and the median incomes of those below the line).

The United States ranked 25th out of 29 in the percentage of people 15 to 19 years old who were enrolled in schools and colleges and 23rd in the percentage of people in that cohort not participating in either education, employment or training.

When we consider the gravity of the challenges these young people face, both in terms of early educational opportunities and educational outcomes, we can’t help but confront our own moral and ethical responsibility to fulfill what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”

We must work together to reverse these trends and actualize a better tomorrow . . . starting today.

Below are some additional facts Mr 100mg viagra. Blow provided that are both sobering and enlightening.

In fact, according to data released last month by the Children’s Defense Fund, each day in America:

2 mothers die in childbirth.

4 children are killed by abuse or neglect.

5 children or teens commit suicide.

7 children or teens are killed by firearms.

67 babies die before their first birthdays.

892 babies are born at low birth weight.

914 babies are born to teen mothers.

1,208 babies are born without health insurance.

1,825 children are confirmed as abused or neglected.

2,712 babies are born into poverty.

2,857 high school students drop out.

4,475 babies are born to unmarried mothers.

Image: Simpson Chalkboard Generator
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Year at Mission Hill, Chapter 5: The Eye of the Dragon

missionhillSo much of the language that we know to be valuable in education comes alive at Mission Hill. Art. Empowerment. Choice. Voice. Inspiration. Creativity. Student experts. Student teachers. Community.

Every year they employ a school wide theme that aims for depth and breadth throughout the school. This year’s, “Long Ago and Far Away,” and the students share a seam of study (though not necessarily specific content) that everyone can relate to, no matter the age.

Narrowing the Digital Divide Between High and Low Income Students

No-Cell-Phone-Sign-S-4979In a recent post at KQED/Mindshift, Tina Barseghian reports on the work of Michael Mills, a professor of Teaching and Learning at the University of Central Arkansas, who advocates for closing the digital divide between high and low income students.  He argues that increasing access to digital devices can play a role in empowering low income students by opening pathways to information and social media, and by proxy, achievement. Ms. Barseghian cites a recent study reported at Mashable that demonstrated a 30% increase in test scores for low income students who were allowed to use mobile devices for learning and collaborating.

However, access and usage in schools vary along economic lines. The higher the income of the student body, the greater the availability and application of digital tools. Dr. Mills argues that this trend could be a matter of expectations and perhaps even “blatant racism” in the form of adults assuming that low income (read as minority) students will misuse digital domains. Ms. Barseghian quotes him as saying,

Access is a basic right. It’s the same as roads or clean water or electricity. Those are [accessible] here in this country because we expect it. The same thing should apply to the Internet. The Internet is about empowerment. If we take away this access because we think certain people aren’t going to use it right, we’re no better than governments who take away voting rights from minorities.

Ms. Barseghian goes on to provide a list of 11 ways that Dr. Mills suggests educators can work to narrow the divide.

HOW TO NARROW THE DIVIDE

For educators who want to start chipping away at the divide, Mills listed a number of ways.

1.   GIVE STUDENTS ACCESS.
Many Title 1 schools — those in low-income communities — receive funds and grants, but don’t always buy what they need. If they have enough funds, Mills said schools should invest in a 1-1 program — a device for every student.

2.   GIVE STUDENTS PROMPTS

Whether it’s the school that provides the device, or whether students are allowed to use their own, it’s important to give them guidance on how to use those devices for learning. “Students do not generally use their personal technology for learning activities unprompted,” he said. “We have to provide them with prompts.”

Educators should also be instrumental in guiding student etiquette with devices. For students who use text-speak and shorthand when handing in assignments, teachers can ask them to proofread and resend until the assignments are up to par. “We can teach them to use mobile literacy to help themselves,” he said.

3.   PROVIDE INSTRUCTIONAL OBJECTIVES.
“We need to think about what we are teaching,” Mills said. “This is not technology — this is Pedagogy 101.” Educators must understand the dotted line between an assigned activity and the instructional objective, which should be tied to learning skills.

4.   MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE.
Just giving kids a number where they can reach you has “exponential impact,” Mills said. “Just that small gesture tells kids you’re available.” For those who don’t feel comfortable giving students their phone numbers, Mills suggests using a Google voice account, which students can call and leave messages.

5.   INVITE OBSERVERS TO YOUR MOBILE ENHANCED CLASS.
Parents, other teachers, and administrators will learn a lot from watching how kids can plug into learning by using their devices. During their visits, talk about the upward trajectory of kids you’ve noticed who have benefited from the change.

6.   INVENTORY THE DEVICES.
Keep track of who owns what kind of device (especially after the holidays when kids receive new ones). This way, you can create flexible, shifting groups to make sure there’s a good variety of devices in every group. Don’t place all the iPhone 5 users in one group — mix them up to promote equity.

7.   USE DISCRETION.
Be careful not to publicly call out kids who don’t have a device when organizing groups. Use common sense and compassion.

8.   USE EVERYTHING YOU HAVE.
If the school has 10 Kindles, find ways to use them in your class. If it has six iPods or 30 computers, don’t let them collect dust. Even the oldest computers can be fired up for basic research.

9.   REFRAME PRODUCTIVITY.
Sitting quietly doesn’t exemplify productivity, Mills said. If you have flexible processes, you can give students different ways of understanding.

10.   TEACH PROCESS NOT CONTENT.
All educators, but especially those who teach low-income students, need to be open to students’ ideas of showing what they’ve learned. If they don’t want to write a blog, but want to create a video, be open to it.

11.   VALUE COLLABORATION.
Promote group work and project based learning.

While these can make a difference at a classroom and school level, what can we do on a larger societal level to change the game for low income students when it comes to digital access and technological empowerment?

Image: SmartSigns

 

5 Steps to Overhaul Teaching

Once again, Columbia University professor, Christopher Emdin, puts forth a rapid fire and common sense proposal for rethinking urban — and really ANY — education to ensure it is student focused, relevant, and purposefully engaging.

The basis of this video: Reality pedagogy which is, “Teaching based on the reality of the student’s experience.”

5 C’s of Reality Pedagogy:

  1. The Cypher (or Co-genitive Dialogue)
  2. Co-Teaching
  3. Cosmopolitanism
  4. Context
  5. Content

(Notice that content is last. Students need to know that they come first if there is to be any meaningful delivery of content.)

This post is a part of our series based on our Transformative Learning Model. This piece relates to Student Investment, Context for Learning, Culture, Personalization, and Academic Access.

A Year at Mission Hill Chapter 1

missionhillBelow is the first chapter of a remarkable video series: A Year at Mission Hill. The premise, as described on the project’s site, is simple:

Ten videos. One year. A public school trying to help children learn and grow. The national conversation we need to be having.

What goes into creating a powerful learning environment for children and adults? Meet the teachers, families and children of Mission Hill as they experience the highs and lows of a year of self-discovery, exploration, and frustration. And join us for a national conversation about the state of public education as it is – and as it ought to be.

Every couple of weeks until mid June, a new chapter will be released. The chapters are accompanied by additional resources and invite you to become a part of the story at Faces of Learning. It is our hope that through this sustained, in-depth look at what works in schools, we can have a sustained in-depth discussion, as a nation and as a people, about what we want for our schools, and more importantly, for our students.

Image: Year at Mission Hill and Education Revolution

 

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