Tuesday, July 10, 2018

#CyberPD Week Two

This is week two of #cyberPD, a virtual book study group that I am participating in along with other educators. The group is reading Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed. You can find out more about #cyberPD here

Watching the news or scrolling through my feed on social media, I have no doubts that there is room for our society to change and grow. In fact, change and growth our vital to a better world. We could use more kindness, more compassion, more humanity. Reflection, exploration, and conversation about our world, our place in it, and how we relate to others will help lead to this change. As tough and uncomfortable as this work may seem, it's the work that will propel us forward.

Chapters three and four of Being the Change, offer us tools to reflect, explore, and converse with our students as they consider ideas about the world and their understanding of it. As I read these chapters, I found myself thinking that the conversations the lessons will inspire are the sort that I tend to avoid. I have been guilty of steering the conversation in a different direction when the topic seems to be one that could potentially cause distress or when students bring up questions that are hard to answer. Although discussing bias and supporting students in recognizing bias, the focus of chapter three, can be a heavy topic, it's important to address. Classrooms can be the safe places where students discuss these ideas. Students naturally have questions about the events that are taking place in their lives and the world and the lessons in chapter four can help them make meaning out of what is happening. Even if these questions about the world lead to discomfort, students need the time and space to explore what is happening around them.

As I read the chapters this week, I found myself changing. Rather than avoid the difficult conversations, we can create a safe environment of trust and respect and foster deeper understanding. We can help students make sense of ideas, such as bias, and the events of the world. We can help them figure out the kind of people they want to be and how they want to relate to others. Getting their may take some hard work, some of it risky and uncomfortable, but if we trust in our students and ourselves we can do it. 

12 comments:

  1. I agree! And, I think our kiddos will surprise us. Especially if we show them that we face the same discomfort. That we all have these biases and recognizing them for what they are, looking closely at them is the point.

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    1. It's true that kids will surprise us. For this to happen I think it's necessary to take a learner stance versus an expert stance. You're right, I think it's important for kids to see us grappling with tough ideas just like they are.

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  2. Good for you! I'm excited to hear how things go as you push yourself into more uncomfortable topics with kids. I think you'll be amazed at their insights.

    Last year, my 7th graders were buzzing for days after their science teacher did the "draw a scientist" activity with them. The girls were furious at themselves for mainly drawing Einstein-ish men! Eye-opening is such important work.

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    1. Definitely eye-opening work. That activity sounds like a powerful one.

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  3. We just got back from Nerd Camp in Michigan and were in a few sessions with Sara Ahmed. She reminded the group of how much students know about what is going on in the news and to make sure we acknowledge and listen to how these events impact different students. Our classrooms can be safe places for kids to share their feelings.

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    1. I would have loved to go to Nerd Camp and see her present. She must have been fabulous!

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    2. Hey Lisa great post!

      Just a thought about student knowledge....

      Although Sara's comments about how much students know about the world is likely true in some demographics, it's not true everywhere. For example, my district is quite rural and isolated. The media-rich environment that influences urban youth does not have sway for my students. Even social media has diminished impact. Some students don't have access to personal devices or even Internet service. Other students are wary of the openness and high visibility of social media platforms, so they connect in limited ways, if at all.

      Major news stories that have a direct bearing on my students' community will be noticed by a handful of students. They may want to talk about those stories, but in order to do so as a class, time has to be spent bringing the class up to speed first. This is often hard to do on a regular basis in the high school classroom, where we'd like the content of the discussions to have some relevance to the course the students are taking.

      As it is with all things in our business, there is no "usually" or "typically". Rather we need to adapt the generalized professional learning to our specific situation.

      (I certainly would love to hear Sara present, too!)

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    3. Julie, I agree that we all have different contexts in which we teach and that the professional learning has to be adapted to our situation. It even varies by grade level. As an elementary teacher most of my students are not directly interacting with social media (although some are) and are not paying close attention to media outlets. Most of what they know and bring up in conversation is from hearing others talk. Reading Sara's book is making me think about how this work can be adapted for students in the elementary grades.

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  4. I ALWAYS want to steer the conversation about from controversial topics. I'm really thinking a lot about how that might change for me.

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    1. I am glad I am not the only one guilty of this!

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  5. For sure. One of the reasons I participate in #Cyberpd whenever I can is to experience the learning from multiple perspectives. Too often, I think, we try to solve problems that emerge in our teaching-learning process from what we already know, and that is quite narrow. While I worked as a literacy coach, I learned so much from the primary teachers that I would not have before considered.

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  6. Thank you for your reflection, Lisa! I nodded my head in agreement and am so thankful to Sara for reminding us that we create the environments where these difficult conversations can happen and that we don't have to have all the answers! We can allow for silence and see where the kids take the conversations. I think know many of us are more comfortable with taking this risk ... instead of turning away.

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