This week we read a series of articles about new teachers and the challenges we face. These stories were both informative and inspiring. As a new teacher, mistakes are inevitable, but it is how we learn from those mistakes that impact the teacher we become. I would invite all new teachers to read these short articles, they certainly give a new perspective and help ease the fears and anxieties of our new journey. The following are my summaries of each of the articles:
Articles taken from The New Teacher Book edited by Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walter.
Curriculum as Narrative and Community
‘Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of School as the Usual’- p. 43
This article is about the “undertow” or negative influences new teachers face and can be hindered by. The author uses this ocean metaphor to explain the challenges of staying positive and fighting for your students to have the best education possible. Additionally, it is important that new teachers do not feel like they are the only ones fighting for social justice, and that there is support if you seek it out. While some battles we face such as negative co-workers are battles we should not choose, it is important for us to keep our ultimate goal and teaching pedagogy always in sight.
‘The Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club’- p. 83
This article is about a teacher’s journey to help her students combat racism and understand the forces and impact of race. It discusses that even at a very young age children are greatly influenced by race and that consequentially affects how they treat others and how they view the world. Lessons like Me Pocket and Skin Colour and Science helped students developed a different perspective on race and helps form equality and awareness.
‘What Can I Do When a Student makes a Sexist or Racist Comment?’ p. 93
When a student makes a sexist or racist comment in your classroom it can be very uncomfortable and it may be your first reaction to simply shut down the comment or act like it did not happen. However, by doing or saying something, or even by saying nothing, we are still conveying a message to our students. Since curriculum is everything that goes on in the classroom we as teachers need to be very aware of how we respond to this type of behaviour. The most important thing is to address the issue and how it made you feel as a teacher and who it may hurt.
‘Framing the Family Tree: How Teachers can be Sensitive to Students’ Family Situations’ p. 95
This article explores the issues of sensitivity when it comes to classroom projects that are personal and centred on family. Because our students are so diversified, many projects can make our students feel embarrassed or shameful or their family. We need to be sensitive to the fact that like the narrative at the beginning of the article, some students may have lost a parent or only have one parent in their lives. Likewise, students with two moms or dads are also excluded in some traditional projects. We as teachers need to be aware of these oppressive projects and aware of the sensitivity and privacy of home life for our students. By exploring different project options and being aware and informed we can create a safe and welcoming classroom for all of our students.
‘Heather’s Moms got Married’- p. 103
Family diversity is a very important topic in our world today. Because our students come from all walks of life, our classroom needs to be a place of acceptance and kindness. This article discusses one teacher’s experience teaching in Northampton and the diversified families she encountered. Gay marriages became a hot topic within her grade two classroom when one the student’s moms got married. This teacher chose to use this to expand her student’s knowledge and respect of their classmates and those around them. She allowed them to have open discussions as well as ask questions they had. This school focused on the positives of family diversity, and because of that, the students and parents enjoyed positive learning experiences and environment.
‘Out Front’- p. 111
This article is about the LGBT issues which our can hinder our schools and students. From the point of view of a gay teacher who is open about her sexuality, this article has a deep sense of hope within it. This teacher not only supports her students fully, but also hosts the group support meetings every week in her classroom. The personal stories of students coming to her looking for help emphasize the need for change in the school systems. As the article points out, this begins with an anti-homophobic school and classroom, as well as teachers who are open and welcoming of all students and sexual orientations. In addition, the curriculum needs to change and evolve as well to include and incorporate more LGBT content and lessen the oppression of the common sense teaching. This includes gay literature, representing different family structures, as well as discussing from an early age gay people and issues. By creating an open and diversified space and classroom, students are more willing and able to be themselves and learn acceptance and compassion for all people.
‘Curriculum is Everything that Happens’-p. 163
This article is an interview of Rita Tenorio, an experienced teacher who lends some advice to new teachers. In her interview she discusses that new teachers may view their classrooms through rose tinted lenses and that this may not be the case. A classroom may not be as safe and welcoming as we imagined, and instead the impact of race and class can deeply impact it. If we are not aware of how our own biases and the oppression of society can affect our students and classroom, then we are not equipped to combat it. By networking with other professionals and colleagues, we can discover many tools and assets to creating multi-cultural and anti-racist classrooms.
‘Working Effectively with English Language Learners’- p. 183
This article is about embracing multilingualism and not oppressing students whose second language is English. We as teachers need to be aware of the extra struggles and challenges they may face on a daily basis and keep these challenges in mind as we plan our lessons. In addition, we need to educate ourselves on the services available to our English Language Learners and allow our students to have access to all the help available. By learning the language and the culture, even if it is just a small portion, we create a better learning environment for all our students. Another important thing to keep in mind is that eliminating their first language is a negative step in their learning journey, so we must continue to keep their language and culture present and prevalent. There are many different delivery methods of lesson plans that are beneficial to English Language Learners and these must be implemented on a regular basis.
‘Teaching Controversial Content’-p. 199
This article describes one new teacher’s brave journey to teaching social justice within her classroom and the fears that come with that. The questions she poses and the very real fears she has about teaching controversial topics such as slavery, homophobia and sexism are fears that many new teachers have. But as the article points out, we as teachers have the authority to choose what we teach and how we teach it. As long as we are able to back up our teaching, and answer questions, we need to brave as we set out in our teaching journey. By communicating with staff and parents the content we wish to explore and being confident in its purpose in our classroom, social justice teaching is possible and worth it.
‘Unwrapping the Holidays: Reflections on a Difficult First Year’-p. 317
This article is about the balance of wisdom and caution as a first year teacher. There are many emotional and controversial topics and situations that arise in the school that we must handle in the best possible way. As this particular teacher struggled to make a change in their school, we too may have issues implementing change in our own school. This article points out the very relevant social issue of religion and holidays which are celebrated in the school system. The diversity of our students needs to be met with a diverse curriculum. While teachers may want to see change overnight, this change of traditions can be very upsetting to many people. If we do not consider everyone’s feelings and beliefs, people get upset and solidarity can be lost. Teachers should keep fighting for diversity and social justice, but the moral of this article is that we must go about this in a cautious and sensitive way.