Pieces Worth Reading: The Thanksgiving Edition

After complaining about Thanksgiving in my last post, for this post on Thanksgiving Day I want to share pieces and people for which I am thankful. There are two things which have existed during my teaching career that I cannot imagine teaching without: the internet and post-it notes. I don’t understand how people taught without those two tools.

The number one reason I am grateful for the internet is because of how it connects me to others. Like these folks…

Doyle regularly reminds me that I need to be sure my students are a part of the world outside, a part of nature, experiencing it, questioning it, and enjoying it. This post, Late October and the ghosts are here does that, as he often does, but these questions really struck me:

Look at your classroom.
Are you teaching?
Are you brainwashing?
Are you helping a child become a reasonably happy adult?

That second question, especially. It’s one I’d like to ignore because I’m afraid of the answer.

This next post is old, but Kelly Wickham Hurst recently shared it again. It hit me because it seems like it could have been written today and because I have a high school daughter now and windows into that world fascinate me more than ever. (My kid goes to a very different high school, socioeconomically than the one Kelly is describing, I believe. And the stories might be different, but at the same time they are the same. Teenagers have unique needs that schools do not always work to meet. I’m grateful to those educators, like Kelly, who see teenagers as people. And care for them as people.) Kelly is a gifted storyteller and I’ve read this post multiple times and loved it every time.

All my time could be spent talking to students and checking in with them and being there for them on an intermittent basis. It’s not all I do, but these stories can’t really be told by anyone who isn’t here to connect with them. These things don’t exhaust me all the time, and I was, in fact, energized by my interactions with students. They might come back some day and bring their babies to me and show me their degrees and tell me what kinds of things they’re doing. They might go off and I’ll never see them again. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the waiting and a lot of hope, too. I don’t know the answers to what they’re dealing with now, nor will I be able to fix anything. It is what it is. And in the meantime, we all work, never knowing the outcome.

In the past two months with Columbus Day and Thanksgiving I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how Native voices are heard in my classroom. It’s an area I do not do well and around which I have a lot to learn. Again, thank goodness for teaching in the age of the internet when I can learn from people who know so much more than I do and who are willing to take the time to teach. NCTE shared excerpts from an article by Dr. Debbie Reese on this topic. We Can Do Better: Rethinking Native Voices in Classrooms is a quick read with specific, doable tips on how to do this better. She’s also included many helpful links so I can go further with my learning, including her own fabulous site.

I missed NCTE this year but loved the tweets and posts shared from those who were there. (I could have written multiple posts like this just on those items…) One of the things that impresses me about NCTE is how willing it is, as an organization, to face areas of growth. NCTE is continually working to serve all students and all teachers and, in order to do so, seems to take critique well to see where it is not living up to that goal. Another thing that astounds me is that the (now) president of NCTE is a classroom teacher. I’ve been reading Franki Sibberson for many years and have been lucky enough to meet her a number of times. I don’t know how a person can be a classroom teacher and lead a national organization, but Franki is doing it. I find that inspirational. And I loved the piece her friend and co-blogger Mary Lee Hahn wrote about Franki.

The blog’s been quiet this fall, but when you see this convention that Franki’s been planning, you will understand why she’s gone missing. It’s so…Franki! The focus on student voice, the importance of equity and justice, the diversity of the featured speakers, the innovation of the “Build Your Stack” sessions.

It’s been a few weeks since the election. There have been lots of pieces written about the results and what they mean (and I’ve read many with great fascination and sometimes skepticism). My favorite, however, came from David Griffith of ASCD. He does policy work for them and knows more about education and the federal government than anyone else I know. So this piece about the midterm election and what they’ll mean for educators and education is fantastic. This first statement alone brought me great joy:

With more than 100 educators on general election ballots in the states, educator activism was one of the campaign season’s biggest winners, regardless of the final outcomes.

John Spencer has been writing more frequently lately and I’m grateful for that. He is a teacher and a parent and his perspective shows both of those lenses as well as his experiences working with a range of students. That all shows up in this, A Thank You Letter to Teachers. I’m not going to pull a quote because part of the power of that piece is the flow and all of it together. Enjoy.

Back to NCTE, Jose Vilson was one of the featured speakers. Yet another reason to love it – a math teacher speaking there. I mean that for two reasons: math rather than English so that’s exciting and a current classroom teacher. Wow. He wrote about it and it is, as always, beautiful and thought-provoking.

At my best, I’m less concerned with assuring that the right words show up on my lesson plan and more concerned with the revelations of inquiry and the interplay of children’s minds with the math they’re learning. At my worst, I worry about survival and becoming another exemplar of study on the lack of racial diversity in the teaching profession. On a daily basis, the implicit and explicit job descriptions we abide by and the contracts we’ve signed mire the revolutionary / oppressor dichotomy in complications.

Another post from NCTE comes from Jessica Lifshitz, another classroom teacher. This one pairs nicely with Dr. Debbie Reese’s post because Jess helps me think through how to do a better job of including LGBTQ+ voices in my classroom (something I’m thinking hard about with my daughter’s elementary school right now as it seems to be a slight problem). I’m grateful for her willingness to share so openly, both at NCTE and on the internet, so that I have the chance to get better. I mean just read this beginning and tell me it doesn’t make you stop and think:

If you were to ask me when I came out, I could tell you I was 25 and in the bathroom of a Las Vegas casino when I came out to my best friend. Or, I could tell you that it was a year later, when I was 26 and crying over my salad in a restaurant when I came out to my mom.  Or, I could tell you that it was three years after that, when I was 29 and had gotten engaged and finally decided to come out to my first group of students. Or, I could tell you that it was three months ago, at the age of 37, when I once again came out on the first day of school to this year’s group of students. And all of that would be true. Because coming out, doesn’t really ever stop. And when you are a teacher, every new group of students, every new school year brings a new need to come out all over again.

Finally, Dan Meyer has helped me think differently about math for many years. He was one of the first bloggers that caused me to realize what a gift the internet was to me as a teacher. He was, back then, a high school math teacher. I have always been an elementary school teacher. I often have no understanding of the math he is discussing. And I’m totally okay with that. However, the bigger ideas about students, learning, teaching, and math have all been useful to me. He helped me see how much I could learn from educators and others whose worlds are so different from mine. In this post Dan is thinking about what we mean when we say ‘mistake’ and what message that sends kids. That’s not a high school math specific idea at all.

Mistakes are the difference between what I did and what I meant to Do.

For example, I know that words in the middle of a sentence generally aren’t capitalized. I meant to type “do” but I typed “Do.” That was a mistake.

What we’re seeing in the table above, by contrast, is students doing the thing they meant to do!

When I call that table a mistake, what I’m actually saying is that there’s a difference between what the student did and what I meant for the student to do. Instead of seeing the student’s work as a window into her developing ideas about tables and linear patterns, I see it as a mirror of my own thinking.

I’m going to leave that alone and not think more deeply about it here because I need more time for that. I’m not ready to write about all this has me thinking. (Which is what I get for sharing this piece so soon after I read it. It’s the most recently read by me and, not surprisingly, the one I feel least confident in my thinking about.)

Every time I write a post like this I reflect on the representation included. These posts get collected without any real system. As I read a post that really strikes me, I open it in a tab. I keep them open until the number of tabs begins to drive me crazy. Then I carve out time to write. So I’m not very thoughtful over that time about the representation of authors I’m collecting. I am more thoughtful, I believe, about the representation of authors I am reading. Which I think is more reflected in the collection of these collection posts than it would be in just one post. Regardless, that is one thing these posts do for me. They help me stop and notice who I am reading and think about who I might be missing. That is something else for which I am grateful.

2 replies on “Pieces Worth Reading: The Thanksgiving Edition”

  1. maryleehahn says:

    Thanks for the shout-out! Great post! I love these curated digests that point me to blogs that haven’t been on my radar!

  2. Dan Meyer says:

    If blogs have any purpose any more on this busted old internet of ours, it’s to thoughtfully synthesize disparate posts and authors like you did here. Always good to see you around the internet.

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