We recently announced the call for breakout session proposals for our 2018 conference taking place October 26-27th and I want to encourage you, yes YOU to submit a proposal to present during a breakout session.
Whether you are a teacher with decades of experience to your name or a pre-service teacher who is looking to become a larger part of the English teacher community – there is a need for you to share your knowledge, insight, and inquiry at the KATE conference.
The most meaningful and accessible professional development undoubtedly comes from those of us who live and breathe the teaching of English. Maybe you read a book that revolutionized your practice or read a blog or article about research that you applied to your assignment or unit development or perhaps you threw caution to the wind and tried something totally new that yielded amazing results; whatever the case is, there are other English teachers who will benefit from the sharing of your information and knowledge. Whether you teach elementary, middle, high or beyond – we have other teachers who are clamoring for your insight.
Presenting at a conference sounds like a daunting task. We all know that glossophobia (fear of public speaking) plagues many of us. I felt the same way and thanks to some positive pressure I have – happily – presented at KATE as a pre-service teacher and now a practicing teacher for several years running. Few experiences have been as fulfilling as having a professional conversation with other teachers from around Kansas. The KATE conference is peopled by some of the most welcoming, excited teachers in our state from a huge variety of backgrounds, a myriad of districts, and a wide swath of experience levels. You will be welcomed with open arms and the conversations that arise from your presentation will resonate with you and the attendees for months to come if not longer. Perhaps you’ll even get the bug to present annually or at larger regional or national conferences!
This year’s theme is “Heartfelt Writing to Engage the World” and I truly believe YOU have something valuable to share with all of your fellow English teachers and I encourage you (or you and another teacher or two) consider submitting a proposal to present. Be part of the larger conversation, whet your conference presentation chops and help us take professional development to the next level by submitting your proposal by August 30th.
I will look forward to seeing you all on October 26th and 27th for a great weekend of learning, sharing, and community.
We have all been there - those moments when our students take our well planned discussion or question and we are suddenly faced with how we handle situations where students are seeking to better understand difficult subjects. These conversations can degrade into chaos quickly, but student teacher Ms. McEwen found a way to forge ahead and both she and her students learned a lot rather than ending up in a heated argument or avoiding the topic all together. Often we are the ones students seek out when trying to understand difference and diversity. If we can keep our wits about us and find ways to have these tricky conversations, our students will leave our classroom all the wiser for it and maybe, just maybe, it will spread to their peers too. Thank you Ms. McEwen for not only your insight, but for sharing a glimpse into your classroom.
How do we prepare ourselves for the close-mindedness and lack of acceptance that our students bring to the classroom?
As I taught my first solo lesson this semester I felt the confidence and excitement that fills me up every time I stand in front of a group of students. My excitement swayed for a moment as we began our class discussion over the pros and cons of book banning in schools and whether or not they thought that banning books was needed.
"I wouldn't want to read a book about gays and I wouldn't want my son someday to read about gays either." Stated student A. I told him that while I valued his opinion, he needed to be respectful to others in voicing his concerns, but I barely finished responding to his comment when student B piped up in agreement.
"I don't want to become gay, so I wouldn't want to read about gays." I tilted my head in confusion as I stared at the room filled with diversity.
"You guys don't feel that books depicting gay and lesbian couples should be allowed at school because you are afraid they will somehow turn you gay?" I asked with what I'm sure was a humorous look of astonishment upon my face.
"Reading books about gays makes it seem like its ok and its not ok in Gods eyes." Student A asserted. I slowly nodded my head as I gathered up my thoughts, contemplating whether or not to continue on with the topic as it was starting to get some of the students wound up. I know what I would say had this conversation taken place in one of my College classes, but this was a completely different group that I was addressing and I needed to continue in a delicate, but firm way.
"Gay couples are around us every day, we see gay couples everywhere, they're apart of life." Student C chimed in. I looked up at her as if God himself had sent her down to rescue me. I smiled and politely encouraged her to continue. "Just because you see a gay couple on the street doesn't mean that you are somehow going to become gay, if you don't like it look away, but it's part of life." She finished. I had an overly excited moment and applauded Student C before I continued.
"I want you all to think of things you see and hear about on social media, in the news, in movies, radio, television and music." I began. "Now think of all the diversity that is attributed with these things, people of different religious backgrounds, racial backgrounds, social status, gender, age, and yes even sexual preference. Would these shows and movies and social media and music be as exciting to watch or listen to if it was all the same?" There was a quite murmur of no throughout the classroom. "Would you guys want to read a book about a character that you could relate to specifically?" I asked directing my attention to Students A and B. Student B nodded, but Student A pondered my question for a moment.
"What kind of character?" He asked.
"A young black boy, a student in high school." I offered.
"Yeah." He agreed reluctantly. I smiled.
"Well, don't you think that every student has the right to open up a book that may relate to them and things that they may be going through?" There was some productive discussion from a few of the students in response to this question. "Everyone has the right to feel accepted, to feel like they belong no matter what their differences are, we all just have to be open-minded and willing to accept those we may not understand." There was more productive conversation in which I called on a few more students to speak out.
"My thing is..." Student A interjected. "Is that most characters like me written in these books are not like me. I'm a good student and most black boys aren't good students in these books. We placed in a box." I nodded my head in understanding as this was something that I could relate to personally, black stereotypes.
"Have any of you ever read a book called All American Boys?" I asked with a small smile. None of them had. "All American Boys is a book geared towards young adults such as yourselves in which a young black man, such as yourself (I directed towards Student A), is attacked by a police officer after being wrongfully accused of stealing in a convenience store."
"That boy aint like me though, I'm a good student, I don't do all that stuff." Student A cut in.
"Well, this boy is a good student too, he gets good grades, plays on the basketball team, listens to his parents, he simply has brown skin."
"What color is the police officer?" Student B asked. I told him that he is white. "I wouldn't want to read that 'cos that would make me mad at the police. They always messing with a black person." Student B added. We got a little off topic at this point before I called attention.
"This is what I was talking about when I said we all need to be open-minded. Not all police officers are bad, not all black people are bad, there is good and bad everywhere, but we can't censor life. We cant ban an event or a person just because they are different." I pointed to the PowerPoint behind me and looked at the books that were listed by people who have requested that they be banned which consisted of Harry Potter, 13 Reasons Why and Captain Underpants. "You all are aware of the things that are in these books at this age, foul language, blood, alcohol, magic and hopefully underpants." (A few laughs). "Bottom line is, it's up to you whether or not you want to educate yourselves or not, but what does banning these books do for you all as the students?"
"Keeps us ignorant." Student D offered.
"It hides the reality of the world from you all." I nodded in agreement.
Now, what was my question?? Oh yes, there is no way to be completely prepared for how your students are going to respond to a certain topic, not every student is the same which is what makes teaching so exciting and difficult. Warren states that "When hot moments occur because of inter-student dynamics, in ways not related to the subject matter, it can still be important to address the issue and to ignore certain remarks has its own consequences."
This was a very necessary lesson for me to experience. When I am asked why I want to go into education, my answer is always the same. I want to help shape and encourage our youth to become intelligent, confident and respectful adults and although I may forget sometimes, if we're lucky we come across a group of students who help shape and encourage us to be the understanding, respectful and patient teachers that they deserve!
Warren, Lee. Managing Hot Moments In The Classroom. Derek Bok Center. 12 November2007. http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/resources/Teaching/CourseDesign/InstructionalStrategies/HotMomentsClassroom.pdf
Reblogged from: http://mcewenseducationalthoughts.blogspot.com/
Often it is from those newest to our profession that we are able to step back and see what we might need to adjust or reconsider in light of the events happening in the world around us. Here's an insightful post from student teacher Kimberly Kope that encourages us to find ways to broach these tricky subjects and tricky times with our students in ways that are meaningful and build connections. Enjoy!
Becoming the Teacher I Want to Be (Online Reflection #1)“Reading opened up the world” (Rose 21).
I just read that sentence in Lives on the Boundary by Mike Rose, a book assigned to me for one of my classes. I’ve done a lot of thinking about what kind of teacher I want to be and what kind of teacher I will be, and that sentence succinctly states a lot of what I want to convey.
I want to give kids an opportunity to better their lives through reading and writing. I want to expand their horizons. I want to teach them about our civic responsibilities, which Randy Bomer, author of Building Adolescent Literacy in Today’s English Classroom, agrees is important. He says, “It’s essential that [students] be ready to participate in democratic communities, which means not just reading to become informed about those issues that may require a vote but participation well beyond that” (8). I want to encourage that participation.
As I’ve grown older I’ve become more aware of the world around me, specifically what is happening with our government, situations other cultures deal with on a day to day basis that I couldn’t even imagine, and social issues I feel very passionately about. These three items (and many, many others!) are something that can be explored in English class through reading, writing, and research and are things I strongly believe will make my students better people and more prepared to go out into the “real world” and find their place.
But, how do I teach these things? (Me wearing my VOTE shirt will only go so far in teaching civic responsibilities, but I’ll still proudly wear it every November.) How do I promote inclusion and respect? What is the best way to approach topics when students have different stances than I do? How can I make my students understand that through reading they gain many important skills? Or even more simply (and probably the question I will need to focus on first as I embark on my journey of teaching), how will I motivate them to read at all?
Cult of Pedagogy has put together a lot of information teachers can use when teaching social justice in the classroom. Not only does this site give helpful ways to go about teaching some of the important things I listed above, but it helps answer how to discuss topics in class that not everyone will agree on. Cult of Pedagogy warns you to be aware of potential disagreements but “teaching students how to respectfully discuss an issue with people who don’t share their opinions is a lesson that will serve them for the rest of their lives” (Gonzalez). Literature (whether a novel, short story, play, or poem) is full of controversial topics, contains arguments for or against historical problems, and oftentimes tries to be didactic by nature. Being aware as a teacher that issues may arise because of the texts I’m teaching will be important, but teaching my students how to respectfully debate and intelligently cultivate arguments for those debates (or even papers they will be writing for class) will be even more important for my students.
Coincidentally enough, a student in my mentor teacher’s class gave me one answer (of many) to my question about how to convey reading as important and how to motivate the unmotivated. The class is reading A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, a harrowing story about Beah’s life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone and his rehabilitation process after he was taken out of the war. In the first set of reading questions the students were asked to write a reflection/reaction on the first five chapters of the book. This particular student wrote about how he didn’t intend to actually read the book because he never did, but once he picked it up out of curiosity, he saw himself in Beah and was inspired to keep reading. He realized if circumstances in our country were different, or if he was born in Africa, that could be him.
What that means is picking books that students can see themselves in (whether that’s because of a situation they’ve gone through or simply because the protagonist looks like them) is extremely important. Penny Kittle advises to “start where they are” (161), and that is advice I plan to follow. As a teacher I want to make sure my students are represented in the texts they read, and when they’re reading about someone who doesn’t represent them, then through discussion and research learning about new cultures and building empathy will be the goal. Bomer offers another answer to the motivation question by stating (what should be the obvious, but is probably often forgotten), “people generally get more excited about things they have chosen to do” (10). Offering my students choices throughout the year will also be something I strive to do.
There’s so much to think about when designing your curriculum to convey what you believe is important and in getting your students to believe those items are important as well, but being with my mentor teacher’s class for not even two weeks I’ve learned a lot from both her and the students. I can tell this semester will be eye-opening, not only in answering many of the questions I posed but in constantly creating new questions I plan to explore.
Bomer, Randy. Building Adolescent Literacy in Today’s English Classrooms.
Gonzalez, Jennifer. “A Collection of Resources for Teaching Social Justice.” Cult of
Pedagogy, 14 Feb. 2016, https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/social-justice-
Kittle, Penny. Book Love: Devloping Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent
Readers. Heinemann, 2013.
Rose, Mike. Lives on the Boundary. Penguin, 1989.
Posted by Kimberly Kope at 7:44 PM
As we get into the swing of a new school year, we re-blog a post from Taylor Ewy who reminds us that remaining coachable allows us to grow in our craft as teachers - a good reminder for teachers at all grade and experience levels.
My four days of leading a single class in my mentor teacher’s classroom have passed and with it a notebook with nine pages (front and back) filled with advice from my mentor teacher, a lengthy letter from my professor, a 50-minute video of my last day of teaching, and a two-page self-reflection over the process. Every day my mentor teacher gave me a few points to focus on for the next day:
Day 1: lesson pacing, total participation techniques
Day 2: attention signals, timers, transitions, total participation techniques, authority figure vs facilitator, andhaving humor (I should probably smile more…)
Day 3: transitions, sharing the “why” for each activity with students
Day 4: building student confidence, sharing the “why” for each activity with students
My mentor teacher is generous in her critique and praise of my teaching and lesson planning. I know I am incredibly lucky to have a mentor teacher who knows how to deliver advice, who offers any critique to be up for conversation, and who is so obviously delighted to see me succeed. David Cutler in “Why New Teachers Need Mentors” shares that new teachers need a confidant, observer, and confidence builder. From day one, my mentor teacher has done her part as a confidant, observer, and confidence builder for me, but I don’t believe even she could mentor well someone who does not want to be mentored.
My part in the relationship with my mentor teacher has been about being coachable. What does it mean to be coachable? It’s about how you react to feedback, whether you perceive it to be negative or positive, and it’s something I try to work on every day. I’ll admit, it’s easier to remain coachable when my mentor teacher is who she is, but being coachable isn’t about taking all the advice you hear and immediately applying it. I believe remaining coachable is being open to ideas, knowing that whatever you’re doing now is not the best it could be (and possibly knowing it never could be), but perhaps the best you could do in that moment. One way you can get better is to allow someone else show you a new tool, perhaps show you how to use it, and then let them put it in your toolbox. I hope you try out the tool, but even if you don’t use it immediately, you never know when it’ll come in handy.
Every day I received feedback from my mentor teacher, I tried to make her suggestions something I worked on the next day. Looking at my list above, I see that “total participation techniques” stayed on the list from day one to day two. Really, the only reason they aren’t on day three is because I remembered halfway through the lesson to try something different. By day 4, I was trying to find excuses to give the tool a try, and I think it went well. At first when I saw “total participation techniques” on the list for day one and I thought to myself, “Oh I got that, I just didn’t have a good opportunity to give a shot.” Seeing it on day two, I picked up that maybe I’m not remaining coachable and open to my mentor teacher’s critique. I’m so grateful I finally opened the chance for myself and my students to hear her out.
Having a mentor teacher who is a confidant, observer, and confidence builder has given me the opportunity to be coached well, but if I didn’t try to remain coachable throughout the process (and I do have to try), it would be wasted. I see myself trying to practice being coachable with my students one day, perhaps making it somewhat of a theme: remain open to possibility.
Find Taylor Ewy's original post here: http://mrsewyslittlewonders.blogspot.com/2016/11/r3-working-at-mentormentee-relationship.html
Today's blog post comes from preservice teacher Samantha Jessup. While originally posted in November, we at KATE Blog felt that the sentiments were worth sharing as we gear toward our end-of-year reflections.
Throughout this semester I have really come to appreciate the quality of the education program I am a part of through my university. Transitioning to thinking of myself as a student teacher, to an intern, to eventually becoming a teacher has been honestly traumatizing at times. I have struggled with having confidence in myself and my own abilities no matter how hard I have worked or how well I have prepared. In this it seems however, I am not alone. I have found many of my classmates sharing the same sentiment, and I think it is time we all took a look at ourselves and how far we have come.
One year ago, I would never have thought myself ready to start building a unit plan. One year ago, Smagorinsky's chapters on building meaningful unit plans, introductory activities, and designing "good individual lessons that are related to the unit's goals" (p. 184) would have seemed overwhelming to me. Randy Bomer's thoughts on teaching digital literacy, wouldn't have resonated with me the way it does not after witnessing my students' struggle to utilize the technologies accessible to them. Through learning and experience I, no we, have grown immensely. There has been another great teacher though, that we have often overlooked, or hidden away in the shadowed corners of our classrooms. We fear it and avoid it, fighting tooth and nail at times to keep it at bay.
Early this semester I made a trip to the bookstore, eager to make good on a clearance sale I had marked in my calendar months ago. Browsing the young adult literature section, I happened upon a pedagogical textbook entitled “Teacher Evaluation: To Enhance Professional Practice”. I was intrigued. I added the slim paperback book to my stack, and immediately tucked it away in my bookcase as soon as I made it home, never to be seen again, until earlier this week when I began working on my self-evaluation assignment for my lesson plan. I found my thoughts drifting back to the ominous book sitting loudly on my bookshelf and I couldn’t help a peek. What I found resonated with me. In the very first chapter I found that the professional and published professional practitioners that I was reading, addressed the fears I had over my own personal failures and the atmosphere that had brought them about, “Teachers are unlikely to be honest about any difficulties they may be experiencing if they fear that ‘problems’ will be described on the final evaluation document as ‘deficiencies’. Such an atmosphere is not a safe one for taking risks; the culture surrounding evaluation is not one of professional inquiry” (pg. 6). Now, this book was published in 2000, but I have found many of the same thoughts lingering in our school systems and our professional teaching programs.
Let’s just say it. Failure.
We as teachers, are many times terrified of failure, however I have come to realize that failure, as terribly often as it seems to happen, has been my greatest instructor and my greatest companion on this long journey to becoming a professional practitioner in the teaching arts. Often times as teachers, we are even required to fail in order to more fully understand our classrooms and improve upon our instructional practices. It’s time we stopped hiding our failures in the corner, and started sharing what we have learned from them with our colleagues and classmates. I for one am no exception as I have experiences some of the most painful failures in keeping up with the demands of life, work, and school, and have been a detriment in the past to both my colleagues and myself. This failure, thought I have learned much from it, is something I continue to struggle with even to this very day, but admitting that failure was the first step on a long road to overcoming it. Rather than criticize each other for it, we need to collectively gain from these experiences, making the most we can of these unpleasant events. I have come to think of teachers ironically as the “greatest” failures. Not because we fail greatly, but because we rise greatly.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy
This blog comes to us courtesy of preservice teacher Jentry McDaniel
Often, I think we underestimate parental and community interest in education. Because parents don’t show up to conferences or answer emails and phone calls, it is automatically assumed that they don’t want to be involved; we assume that they don’t want any responsibility over their children’s academic progress. During my years as a para at a middle school, I was exposed to home visits and their impact on student education. For example, I worked with a student my first year who really struggled academically and socially. Their teachers were frustrated because the student showed up to school late every morning, slept during class, and didn’t always have their homework completed. As direct support for the student, I was unbelievably frazzled as well because I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere with the student (and in hindsight focused way too much on how the student wasn’t serving ME instead of focusing on how I could be better serving THEM). Eventually the principal suggested that a couple of the student’s teachers attempt a home visit. During the home visit, the teachers learned that the student was living with almost a dozen other family members, so they didn’t have their own room and it made it difficult for them to sleep restfully. Also, the student’s mom didn’t have reliable transportation, so they had to walk a distance to get to school if no one was able to pick them up, which was often. Mom was deeply troubled by her inability to provide a peaceful environment or transportation for her children and didn’t know how to reach out. Fortunately, as a result of the home visit, Mom felt like (rightfully) the school was on her side as we were more accommodating of her sleepy child and did our best to facilitate her child’s timely arrival to school, which had a positive impact on their grades. In the time following, the mother also felt comfortable being more actively involved in what her child was doing, getting to know the teachers, what they were teaching, and their expectations better.
My experience proved that it’s not that parents don’t want to be involved in their children’s school lives; parents can easily feel excluded because schools and educators could do a little more work to ensure all types of families feel welcome in that space, especially English language learners. In their research, Samway and McKeon mention that for English language learners in particular, schools have implemented interactive parent-teacher conferences with mini-workshops for parents to participate in with their children, which provide demonstrations of the types of things their children are doing in class (167). Similar to our daily lives outside of school, as educators, it seems so easy to get into a pattern of frustration and complaining about things that aren’t working rather than trying to find solutions to those problems. Sure, it can be difficult to feel a lack of parental or community engagement, especially when we desperately want that participation and feel like resources aren’t readily available to make what we dream a reality. I guess what I have to remind myself is that I have to make do with what I do have. If there aren’t translators available to help me communicate with a parent, could I have the child or another family member serve as an intermediary? What about learning some conversational Spanish in order to bridge the gap myself?
Samway, Katharine Davies and Denise McKeon. Myths and Realities: Best Practices for English Language Learners. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007.
see original at http://msmcdanielsmusings.blogspot.com/2017/01/serving-parents-to-foster-community.html
Welcome to the the new face of the KATE BLOG!
Spring is a season of change, and we at KATE are embracing the wonderful weather and the fresh attitude it brings. The Board inducted some new members during the 2016 Conference, and this has brought new ideas to the table.
After much discussion, we are finally ready to let the KATE Update become something fresh and exciting. In the past, the update was a paper mailer full of insight and newsy items about our membership, but with our website being the primary place people visit to stay up-to-date, we’re going to focus on timely digital content that will be easy to access We still want to hear from our innovative members and from those new voices in teaching! So we’ll be sharing posts from the KATE community that reflect on teaching and best practices in order to better support and celebrate teachers of English across the state.
The KATE Blog team is comprised of new and experienced teachers. We’ll work hard to review submissions and to craft our own contributions. We want this to be a resource for teachers. Please consider lending your ‘voice’ to our new venture by submitting.
KATE Blog Submission Guidelines
We are excited that you are interested in submitting for the KATE Blog. Teachers are our greatest asset and resource, and we know that the expertise you have to offer should be shared with our community of teachers.
We are interested in a variety of topics:
If you are also a teacher-blogger, you may request re-publication of a post from your own site.
Submission preference is given to KATE members. Once submitted, our Blog committee will review your submission and get back to you as quickly as possible. Please bare with us as we are ALSO teachers - just like you - and volunteer our time.
The KATE Blog Team!
Editor's Note: Today's post comes from Jenni Bader
While it is true that teaching has been a dream of mine since I was a child, I did not originally enroll in college as an education major. After working for three years as a special education para at an elementary school, I didn't want any part of the bureaucratic red tape I had seen my teacher friends fight their way through day after day. My passion for helping people had grown stronger, but I was convinced there must be some other way to achieve that goal. I had ample opportunity as a para to see the baggage that so many children come to school carrying, and it made me angry that some of this was due to abuse or neglect on the part of parents. Yet, I also saw that most parents do love their children and want to see them succeed in school but that many do not have the resources or have needs and problems of their own that get in the way of helping their children.
With the desire to help both parents and children, I explored social work as an option before settling on psychology as my major. During my year in the psychology program, I took Community Psychology, which, along with some encouragement from my English 101 instructor, eventually led me back to teaching. Through that Community Psychology class, I realized a few things.
That's right, I'm gonna make my dreams come true--doin' it my way.
(Yes, I am old a returning adult student and I watched way too much TV as a child.)
So, imagine my delight upon completing my first reading assignment for my English Methods 2 class titled "Involving Parents and the Community," a chapter from Myths and Realities: Best Practices for English Language Learners by Samway and McKeon. Although the book appears to primarily deal with English language learners, this chapter brings to the forefront questions I had as a parent of children in public school, ideas that emerged from my observations as a para in a rural district with few minorities or ELL students, and issues faced regularly in my student teaching placements in an extremely diverse urban district. I believe the principles and strategies in this brief chapter can be successfully applied anywhere and the potential is tremendous. Uge, I say! Absolutely uge! Make our schools great again!
Too soon? Ah, well, something it is certainly not too soon for is parent and community involvement. In fact, this is a particularly timely topic with an incoming Secretary of Education who touts parent choice in education as reason to institute a voucher system that would take money away from public schools without ensuring increased quality for schools or greater academic gains for students. While it is not my aim to discuss Betsy DeVos' qualifications, further examine her proposed methods, or support in any way the ideas she has put forth, I would like to point to one fault I see in the majority of our public schools that may be helping forward the rhetoric of those who agree with DeVos.
The simple fact is that many schools have failed to use one of the best resources available to them: the very communities from which they draw their student populations and within whose boundaries they reside. While scrambling for government funding, we have forgotten that the best facilities, textbooks, and technology mean nothing unless our students make the best use of whatever resources and opportunities they have access to. In order to get students to the point where they are actively availing themselves of all that schools offer them, families and communities as a whole need to help reinforce the value and necessity of education. Yet schools often push away parents and other community members who should be their best allies rather than welcoming them and encouraging their involvement.
Perhaps educators' defensive stance and habit of presenting themselves as the sole experts and givers of knowledge1 is an understandable reaction to a public constantly questioning teachers' qualifications and effectiveness and too ready to cast the blame for society's ills upon schools.
Perhaps. But the cycle of blame and resentment must end somewhere if we are to work together toward that common goal that parents, educators, and all community members share: raising children to be happy, healthy, and successful individuals, engaged in the community.
As leaders within the community, educators must take the first steps to build bridges between home life and school life and open up the pathways for community involvement within the schools. "Involving Parents and the Community" cites four levels of cooperation first identified by Menacker, Hurwitz, and Weldon (1988) for school personnel to develop: parents as clients, parents as producers, parents as consumers, and parents as governors2. The first level, parents as clients, may be the most familiar to our thinking about schools, although it challenges the typical view of the student as the client with parents largely out of the equation. The next three levels, however, are where we can really expand community involvement and begin to tap the wealth of resources available within our communities.
With parents as producers, educators retain their role with a wider pool of resources as parents and other community members take on responsibilities that help the school function. The chapter lists some jobs that parents frequently volunteer for such as helping in the classroom or on the playground, but help with these tasks becomes less necessary in high schools. Parental involvement in middle schools and high schools can be tricky, too, as teens work to establish their independence, but roles for parent and community volunteers abound. The possibilities are only limited by imagination and the effort we are willing to put into seeking and establishing these opportunities.
Every community has members with knowledge and skills to share, and it is a human conceit that we tend to value those who take an interest in us. When school personnel show their faith in the ability of community members to add something valuable to the school and community, interest in doing so rises. Likewise, when the community shows it values students by investing time, effort, and resources, students see themselves as valuable and gain interest in contributing in turn to the community. Thus begins a virtuous cycle antipodal to the current cycle commonly seen.
The parents as consumers level brings parents and community members into the school on a regular basis for programs that aid or benefit them. This may involve classes that help community members with English language acquisition or teach parents strategies for helping their children succeed in school; support or focus groups for addressing individual, family, or community problems; or partnerships with health clinics and others interested in expanding service within the community to name only a few possibilities. For a number of years these ideas have been implemented with great success in several urban schools, but the idea has yet to catch on in most places.
At the level of parents as governors, parents and community members share in making decisions that affect their local schools. For most of us, this only happens when voting for school board members or on special issues or if a huge controversy is scheduled to be discussed at a school board meeting. Even at these times, community members do not turn out in large numbers to voice their concerns or influence policy. Viewing parents as governors, however, requires schools to actively seek greater participation from community members in setting and implementing policy--something educators and administrators generally balk at. The effort to keep the larger community out of this decision making process, however, has only helped to fuel the flames that people like Betsy DeVos and Sam Brownback try to throw on public education. The answer is not to tighten the ranks and further distance the public the school system is designed to serve but to welcome that public in and tap the wealth of resources it has to offer, and it begins with establishing the first three levels of parents as clients, parents as producers, and parents as consumers so that parents are then informed and capable to become parents as governors.
There are so many more things I would like to write on this topic and links and articles from that Community Psychology class I need to find. For now, I'll close with another cheesy inspirational moment from 1970s television for my fellow student teachers who can turn the world on with a smile.
(Tosses hat into the air) This is it! Only one more semester to go! You're gonna make it after all!
And one more:
Editor's Note: This blog was originally posted:
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Editor's Note: Today's Blog is written by Jen Coslett
Micro-Aggression. Really?! That’s a thing?! Aggression is aggression and size doesn’t matter, right?!
So. Much. Wrong.
I sat, awestruck (and admittedly “fangirling out”) as Bill Konigsberg gave his keynote address at the 2016 KATE Conference. When he delved into defining micro-aggression, my fangirl persona dissipated and my teacher/social worker/mama heart sunk. I’ve always considered myself an advocate and now facts that proved my failure were being spread out before me. I have been micro-aggressive. My family and friends have been micro-aggressive. I felt like such a hypocrite.
You see, I’m a coach’s wife. Not just a run of the mill coach’s wife, I’m a football coach’s wife. We are a football couple raising football kids in a football home. Faith, Family, Football. Rah, Rah, Rah. I have always loved this identity for my husband, myself, and my children.
That is, until Mr. Konigsberg’s words pierced my heart.
I was nauseous as the realization that everyone in my family---my husband, myself, my children, and our football family of fellow coaches, players, and parents---has perpetuated, and continues to perpetuate acts of micro-aggression. Every time our team punts, each one of us screams one five letter word that had always seemed so benign.
As the ball hits the turf, our players scatter avoiding any possible contact with that ball. All the while, everyone---players, coaches, parents, fans---all scream at the top of our lungs, “Peter! Peter! Peter!”
This isn’t simply an unfortunate choice for titling a play call. This isn’t an inadvertent use of a name that matches some poor kid named Peter. No. No. No. This is deliberate. And, now, thanks to Mr. Konigsberg I am able to recognize, this is unacceptable.
You see, as we all scream, “Peter! Peter! Peter!” we might as well be screaming, “Penis! Penis! Penis!” The whole point of this chant is to remind and encourage players to stay away. To get back. To avoid.
Steve Maack, in one of the breakout sessions during the conference, commented that micro-aggression is like a papercut. It cuts. It hurts. It’s annoying. It’s a constantreminder.
Thank you to Mr. Konigsberg, and the many other presenters, who selflessly provided a definition of and a framework to move beyond micro-aggression.
We all need to be better. I need to be better.
Editor's Note: Today's KATE Update is by Jenni Bader
On Thursday and Friday of this week I attended the Kansas Association of Teachers of English (KATE) Conference in Wichita. As excited as I was in the weeks leading up to it, the conference still managed to exceed my expectations. The mutual goal of educating and supporting young people served as the uniting bond, strengthened by a high level of professionalism. These, along with the warmth and openness of all present proved a refreshing tonic after months of slogging through the current social and political climate. This is what people can achieve when they set aside their differences and work together.
One big surprise of the weekend for me was how much I got out of the first keynote address. I have never read any of Bill Konigsburg’s books and doubted if I ever would. There are so many books and just so little time. From what I had heard about this author and his books, I didn’t think this keynote would benefit me much. Dear reader, it is a foolish and dangerous notion to judge that another person has nothing to contribute to your life. Such thinking goes against my core beliefs, yet I sometimes catch myself heading down that treacherous path, and I am thankful for the warning signs and reminders that put me back on track.
During his keynote address, Mr. Konigsburg spoke very honestly about the emotional turmoil he experienced while grappling with his identity as a young gay man. It takes a lot of guts to share such a personal story with a room full of strangers, and I am grateful for his willingness to do so. Although these are experiences I do not share, this perspective increases my ability to empathize with others who may be going through similar trials, and it informs my words and actions so that they can be imbued with greater kindness, gentleness, and care.
Toward the end of his keynote speech, Mr. Konigsburg said something that particularly struck me. He said that someday he hopes to meet a teacher who is “a Christian, a pro-lifer, and who believes being gay is a sin” and that this teacher will save just one kid who is going through what he did by showing that they care. I had hoped that I would have the opportunity to talk with Mr. Konigsburg later in the day and thank him personally for his speech and especially for saying this one thing, but I didn’t see him when there wasn’t a crowd around him. The description may not fit me precisely, but it’s close enough, and I am certain there are quite a few more Christian teachers and student teachers who feel the same way. It is possible to love and support people individually without agreeing with them on everything. I think the world has forgotten that. It’s time we remembered.
There are so many more things I learned this week. I am still trying to digest it all. Several of the breakout sessions as well as the Thursday lunch keynote speech and the Friday lunch panel dealt with diversity and inclusiveness. All of these fit very well with my own presentation on teaching social justice, and several others offered ideas I would like to incorporate into my teaching on this theme. Kevin Rabas’ Thursday presentation on ekphrastic poetry, poetry in response to art, gave me a specific way to use the art I had been thinking of pairing with some of the written texts I’m considering, and I added this idea to my own presentation on Friday.
Above all, the collegiality at this conference made it such a wonderful experience and really helped build my vision for teaching as a member of this community of teachers and also for working within our individual schools and communities. I am truly blessed to be part of such an amazing group of student teachers who add such depth and richness to my life and my understanding of it. The opportunity to glean from the experience of seasoned teachers already in the field has been priceless, too. My biggest take away from the conference was that together, with love, we can do great things.