DigiLit Sunday: Do Something

Today, I’m linking up with Margaret Simon’s DigiLit Sunday Reflections on the Teche on the topic of advocacy.

Living in Los Angeles, I’ve learned to deal with traffic by finding something good to listen to. Years ago I was limited to my local NPR station and books on tape. Now, I’m addicted to podcasts. There is always something to not just get me through the drive but hold me in a parking lot, listening. The power of story lifts me out of myself to other worlds and leads me into thoughts.

Yesterday, I found myself being lifted by this podcast from Cornelius Minor.  He spoke of his student, “Earl” who felt he was hated by his parents. A staggering thought but Earl thought it. And because Cornelius is Cornelius, Earl felt he could tell him. And Cornelius being Cornelius, listened. And then did something.

Like so many of the kids who walk into our classrooms, Earl needs a champion, an advocate. And, that’s where it gets sticky. Uncomfortable. Too often, when that happens, I don’t know how or I’m afraid. To mess up. And there are times I don’t do as much as I should. There are big problems like the one Earl is facing. And big problems that all kids face daily. And it’s time I face it overtly. It is my job to be the advocate, to take action or as Cornelius says, “do something.”

Listening and watching, becoming and being that person who can be approached matters. Students need to see it in you. Noticing, asking, listening helps. But there is more that should be done.

No matter how many books I read, or stories I tell on kindness, I see kids being unkind. Where it starts and why it starts is a tangled mess. And, we all know how it feels to be the recipient of unkind. It appalls us. Being with kids all day, teachers have the opportunity and the responsibility to do something. Not just walk away shaking our heads.

So here I sit looking to create a classroom of kindness in a sea of kids who are fighting to survive unkind acts. And what astounds me is the lack of my professional development and energy given to explicitly teach fairness and kindness. It needs to be taught directly not as a subtle tuck into a mini lesson on literacy.  Fairness and Kindness should be content areas. I want my students to become literate humans but more importantly (yes, more importantly), I want them to become kind humans. This is my job.

Today, I dug into the Teaching Tolerance website and found this link. All I can say is why haven’t I looked here before.

Today, I encourage you to listen to the podcast above and dig into the resources and lessons like this. It’s our job and if we don’t know how we need to find out how.


Slice of Life: Foreign and Familiar

One of the benefits of being a Cotsen Art of Teaching alumni is being invited to ongoing professional development opportunities.  The lovely people at Cotsen believe in supporting teachers all along our teaching journey.

Last Saturday, I ventured to the first “Cotsen Playground Challenge.” I arrived to find tables full of wires and toys. Legos, drones, balls and even playdough.

My first station held what appeared to be a Lego vehicle. Familiar yet foreign. A young woman, light years ahead of me in knowledge, started programming her EV3 Lego.  Soon she’d made several trips around the challenge course and had calculated the perimeter of the area.  I sat puzzling through the program and she was off to the next challenge. I tried and failed. Eventually, I got the hang of it or at least the idea of it. The kind teacher who set up the activity assured me she was equally clumsy when she started using these devices.

The next learning space used a HyperDuino maker kit. All new to me.  This project wired lights and a circuit board to a Chrome book to create touch activated virtual tours of the National Parks.

The last station I visited held a maker project that spoke to my writing self. A student created book wired to a computer program.  With a touch, the graphite-colored image activated the MakeyMakey alligator clip that started a Scratch video made by the student author bringing the story to life. Now that is cool.

My first jobs out of college involved programming with a dial-up connection and computers that opened up to reveal a circuit board. Back in the day, we saw the insides of computers and made them run.

Today, our computers are sealed, phones process as computers in the pockets of many ten-year-olds, and Wifi is close to being as essential as clean drinking water. At the same time, teachers and young students are entering the world of STEM through simple circuit boards and programming moves.  What was old is new.  Familiar and foreign.

Thank you, Cotsen. The learning experiences you continue to provide are gifts to teachers and their students. And thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays, a place to share and reflection on our teaching and writing lives. Find more slices here.