Shifting the Story: Getting the Metaphorical Rock Up the Hill

Shifting the Story: Getting the Metaphorical Rock Up the Hill

Just three days after the presidential election, with raw nerves and a lingering feeling of aftershock, I gave a presentation at the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) national conference in Cleveland. My presentation partner, Dr. Shari Saunders (Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Teacher Education at the University of Michigan School of Education), and I were not sure what to expect. The NAME 2016 national conference theme focused on amplifying “the voices of those who suffer marginalization in various forms; and in doing so expose inequities that are ignored and silenced.”  To address this, Dr. Saunders and I focused our session on teaching institutional discrimination in secondary classrooms, and offered clear and effective instructional methods to move beyond posters, holidays, and “diversity days.” Our core objectives were to: Illustrate methods for connecting multicultural education to required standards (Common Core). Demonstrate how this can support curriculum depth and educational equity in an era when schools are narrowing curriculum due to testing. Demonstrate methods for sequencing in-depth instruction on race that gradually and effectively builds students’ understanding of institutional discrimination. We were blown away by the high-caliber of educators who awaited us. Their eagerness to apply what we offered was validation that our work is not just about bringing diversity lessons into the classroom, but to ultimately change the story of the educational system. We are inspired by our colleagues and allies working in K20 classrooms across the country. Keeping the Momentum The timing of the conference —  just days after a divisive, controversial candidate was elected to the highest political role in the world — was a powerful opportunity to...
Great Summer Reading on Curriculum & Equity

Great Summer Reading on Curriculum & Equity

Back to school: It’s a terrific time to soak up new ideas. Our recent guest blogs for Getting Smart, the Green Schools National Network and Corwin offer inspiration for the upcoming year.   Teachers are seeking strategies to support a ‘Growth Mindset.’ Find out how your curriculum can make it happen. See how an Ancient history course makeover helped kids plan for the future based on lessons from the past. A Catholic nun, a gay musician, and a Black Muslim walk into a classroom . . . Have you heard this one? If not, check out guest blog on Corwin Connect.  ...
Keeping Kids Away From the Deadliest Weapon of All

Keeping Kids Away From the Deadliest Weapon of All

Sandy Hook. Charleston. Columbine. Orlando. With each tragedy, we mourn, then wring our hands. How and why did this happen . . . again? Inevitably, the discussion focuses on access to guns. But there’s another, far more dangerous weapon at play: hatred born of ignorance and fear. It’s the weapon that drives violence, whether with guns, bombs, fists, or words. So when we talk about access to the tools of death and destruction, we need to ask ourselves, “How can we prevent the proliferation of hatred? How can we lock it away from kids?” Educators have the ethical obligation to answer this. This means that we prioritize intercultural communication and collaboration. But too often, the policymakers who champion these 21st century skills seem less concerned about global understanding than “global competitiveness” (US Department of Education mission statement). Competitive individualism requires sorting winners from losers. It’s a game of me vs. you and us vs. them—not all of us together. In this climate, tests are the screening device and focus of accountability. Educators are responsible for Johnny’s scores, not his ability to understand others. Assessments ask him to identify a country on a map, not demonstrate respect for its people. Accountability certainly matters, but what knowledge and skills actually “count”? We see answers—and the consequences—in how we spend each day: For every moment we obsess over data, we lose time to cultivate wisdom. For every test that assesses only facts, we fail to reward civic action. For every minute we spend dehumanizing Muslim, black, LGBT (or any) student, we feed ignorance. In big and small ways, schools have the ability...
The Economics Curriculum To Kids: Crime Pays

The Economics Curriculum To Kids: Crime Pays

Crime is good. So are accidents, lawsuits, illness and divorce. Sound crazy? This is the logic of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—and the message kids are getting from most economics curriculum. The GDP is the total market value of goods and services produced and consumed. The GDP rises every time money is spent, regardless of the social or environmental impacts. For example, in 2014, prostitution added about £4.3billion to the United Kingdom’s economy, while illegal drugs added £6.7billion. The GDP is revered as perhaps the indicator of progress. Economic growth means things are getting better . . . right? Not quite. That’s because the GPD also ignores the value of non-monetized activities such as volunteering or parenting. The GDP also ignore the value of the vital services provided by the environment, including pollination by bees or the production of oxygen by plants. Granted, the GDP was never designed to measure overall wellbeing. But that means we need to stop blindly worshipping growth. We need to prioritize more holistic indicators that consider society and the environment. The good news is that world leaders are doing just that. Consider the European Union’s Beyond GDP initiative, or the Gross National Happiness Index. These measures give a clearer picture of ‘progress’ and challenge the assumption that economic growth is unequivocally beneficial. We need a new generation of citizens and leaders who can shift the economic narrative. And this takes committed educators who can shift the economics curriculum. When we teach kids that increasing GPD is the priority, we’re saying that what it measures (even crime) is valuable. Instead, we need to focus on...
Curriculum and the Power of Story: Empowering students to write a positive future

Curriculum and the Power of Story: Empowering students to write a positive future

This post builds on earlier articles about the curriculum I believe students need to thrive into the future. There is simply not enough room here to describe the stunning units teacher colleagues are designing, so please contact me if you’d like to learn more about this inspiring work and the achievement results. Or, check out our case studies.   To thrive in the 21st (and 22nd) Century, students will need to solve many “grand challenges” ranging from global climate change to local food security. Turning these complex topics into effective learning experiences is daunting at best. How can educators design units and courses that make content accessible and relevant–while also meeting standards? Creative Change has developed a method that uses the concept of story as a powerful metaphor for designing instruction. In this approach (which we call “Inquiry as Narrative”), learning unfolds as a story about real world issues. In the narrative, learners (and other stakeholders) are characters, communities are the setting, and interdisciplinary topics form multiple plot lines. Learners move through the story through a process of engagement, inquiry, decision-making, and action. Through this process, students discover what’s at stake and gain the skills to become “authors” of positive solutions. Here’s how an upper elementary unit on food and health might unfold: Stage 1: The story begins Opening lessons situate learners in the plot and setting. Sample lessons: Through interviews and journaling, students identify foods they eat, like, and have access to. (This opens up questions about food security and social justice.) Students assess the foods they eat based on health and nutritional value. Students use poetry and creative writing to express the food traditions important to their families and cultures. The writing, discussion,...

Shifting Demographics: How schools should respond

This post continues our #NewTeacherVoices series featuring pre-service teachers. Today’s guest blogger is Chandler Lach, a junior at Eastern Michigan University studying Secondary Education English and TESOL. There are a number of factors that are contributing to a change in demographics within K-12 schools. Professionals have noticed a trend where changing patterns of fertility and immigration have diversified the United States population. Though the implications of this trend may vary from region to region, they are universalized through our education system because each individual child is required to go to public school. This means that a diverse population in society means that our school populations become increasingly diverse. Schools must respond to these demographic changes accordingly. The Center for Public Education (CPE) released a document which addresses these issues and the appropriate responses in 2012. The research was founded by Ron Crouch and he interprets demographic changes along with their implications, especially in their application to ELL students. The CPE recommends that when demographic shifts, the need for highly qualified bilingual/ESL teachers will increase dramatically. Issues of equity have always been problematic within the education system, but with increased diversity, race will continue to cause conflict among schools. Crouch identified that we are growing older, we are growing more diverse, and the effects of the two is having an effect on school demographics. One of the primary issues that educators face in communities of diverse populations is the “achievement gap.” It is considered the cause of many social problems and it boils down to this: schools are built for white, middle-class, students. Public education and standardized testing is responsible...