Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Now that my Instapaper has fewer than twenty things saved in it (impressive especially because I’m still adding to it regularly) I’m beginning to feel like I might manage to dig myself out of the hole I created.

Several years ago at ASCD’s annual conference I had the opportunity to hear Shanna Peeples speak (she was the national teacher of the year at the time) and it was an experience for which I am immensely grateful. Her writing continues to inspire me. I appreciate the self-reflection in this piece, especially in her willingness to recognize her own flaws or failures and share how she has grown and what she has learned. It felt extremely familiar to me.

My models of classroom discourse tended toward those of the “white savior” genre that we all know from famous “teacher movies.” I could see myself in those white ladies who just applied pen to paper — and presto! — poverty and structural racism were erased (along with students’ actual lived experience).

She goes on to write about avoiding exploitation and passing the mic to others. It is a thoughtful, meaningful piece that is full of wise guidance.

I have long struggled with the tension between content and kids. It seems like structures, systems, and people often prioritize one over the other (I tend to prioritize kids, with the positives and negatives that brings). Dan Meyer‘s piece here addresses this from a secondary perspective, which always fascinates me. Secondary teachers are, I think, more closely aligned to their content because they have chosen to focus there. They also have an absurd number of students. We elementary folks are the opposite: tons of different content but a much small number of kiddos.

It took me several frustrated years of math teaching – and years of work with other teachers – to realize that each of those energy sources is vital. Neither source is renewable without the other.

Dan owns his own path as he has come to the above conclusion and it is intriguing to read. I am always grateful to other educators who open their reflections up to the rest of us.

Another piece from Dan got me thinking and made me laugh. He writes about spending time with second graders (having been a high school math teacher) and what he learned from that experience. Again, he is willing to reflect openly and help the rest of us gain from his time and energy. That said, if you’re an elementary educator it’s just fun to hear a secondary educator’s take on your daily life.

For another, these students were inexhaustible. Their default orientation towards me and my ideas was rapt engagement and an earnest, selfless desire to improve my ideas with stories about their friends, their pets, and their families.

Jessica Lifshitz is one of those people who, when their post show up in my RSS reader, I know I’m going to need time and brainspace for it. I don’t click on her writing lightly. I click when I am ready to engage deeply and really learn. This piece is typical of her work. She shares what she is doing with her students in depth and why. Her thought process in the planning and implementation, including any necessary revisions or modifications along the way, is all there.

I think that when we read about history, we need a specific set of skills as readers. Too often, our students read about history only to absorb the specific content, without learning a process through which they can walk on their own in order to learn about moments in time in a responsible way. By focusing on teaching how to read about history, specifically, we are able to ensure that our students are learning how to read in a way that gives them a more accurate understanding of history.

Diversity in children’s books is something that has been important to me my entire teaching career, but my understanding of what that means and how that can or should look has evolved significantly. I’ve been reading Charlotte‘s reviews of books for some time but it was extra interesting to read about the ways her understanding of diversity in children’s books has changed over the years. (And her reviews are great so if you aren’t familiar with her site, look at her more recent posts too.)

I began really reading blogs more than a decade ago and my RSS reader has a large number of feeds (not all of those folks are still writing and many write every once in a while). After doing a National Writing Project summer institute some years ago, I was astounded to realize how many of the people I follow are also writing project folks. Are we just more likely to write regularly? Do I gravitate towards something in writing project folks? I don’t know the reason but it still makes me smile. Kevin Hodgson is one of those folks I was following before I knew much about the writing project. He helps lead a summer camp every year and this short piece is about one of the days there. Everything about this piece gets me because it hits on history, how history links to now, writing, and how writing helps students reflect and learn. So much.

Afterwards, I realized how little I have ever used the sense of smell in my own classroom, but how powerful it was. I could see it on the faces of campers, and afterwards, in reflection, they explained how they found the activity memorable, connecting what they discovered through their noses with historical information Reba Jean was sharing.

One last piece here is from Kin Lane. He’s been writing up a storm lately and it is wonderful. This piece, I Used to Enjoy Engaging in Debate with Conservatives in My Life, shows Kin’s thoughtfulness. He grew up in a conservative area and he is not, himself, conservative. He has conservatives in his life and his thoughts on how he previously engaged with them and how he will no longer is worth the read.

Never in my 47 year life have I declined engaging with a conservative. Never before have I felt like engaging with a conservative was a futile effort. In 2019, I refuse to engage in debate with ANY of my conservative friends. I’m sure they will just proclaim me a snowflake, and put the blame on me, without any regard to the irreparable damage they’ve caused. The primary reason I won’t step up to the table anymore is that they do not deal in any facts anymore, but they’ve also blown out of the water any issue that I used to disagree with them on, but I respected their positioning and stance enough to discuss the issues with them—not anymore.


One reply

  1. dogtrax says:

    Thank you (again) for including a post of mine here, but also, thank you for guiding me to other posts and bloggers worth a read. I trust your recommendations. This curated work you are doing here — connecting people, and your own thinking — is a powerful example of sharing, and learning.

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