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6-12, Anti-Racism, Education, history, Language Arts

Free New York Times Webinar for Discussing Race and Racism in the Classroom

The New York Times is offering an on-demand webinar for teachers to learn about ways to use the NYT resources to discuss race and racism in the classroom. This is a free webinar, but you will need to register in order to access it. You will be able to download a certificate as evidence of professional development hours. In addition, there are comprehensive resources available here. Nationwide attempts to discourage and even outlaw discussions like these make it more important than ever for these conversations to happen. I will be adding this resource to my Anti-Racism Wakelet. You can find more links to free materials to help you actively stand up against racism there.

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Anti-Racism, Education

CRT Breakdown from Sylvia Duckworth

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article that collected some thoughts on Critical Race Theory as part of my weekly anti-racism series of posts (which you can find in this Wakelet collection). Since then, I found this excellent CRT Breakdown that Sylvia Duckworth posted on Instagram. You can also access a Google Doc with the information here. I will be adding this to my original post, but want to bring attention to it for those of you who don’t happen to go back and read that one. Sylvia’s document is definitely a great place to start if you are confused about Critical Race Theory, which is often explained in complex academic language or inadequate click-bait headlines. Learn more about why teaching with this lens will help our students to analyze the past in ways that will help them to create a better future.

Courtesy of Sylvia Duckworth, Dr. Angel Jones, and Dr. Kate Slater

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Education, Teaching Tools

TEA Survey

I apologize to anyone who is not a reader of this blog in Texas, but I feel that this is so important I need to share it on all of my social media. The Texas Education Agency has put out a survey asking stakeholders for their opinion as to how the remaining 4 billion dollars of the American Rescue Plan money set aside for education in our state should be spent. The state has to submit a plan to the US Department of Education by June 7th, and has set a deadline of May 21st for people to fill out this survey. I don’t know about you, but as a retired teacher who is still very much invested in the education of our students and the plight of educators in Texas, I have been feeling that more politicians and bureaucrats have been making decisions about schools than the people with boots on the ground. This survey could be for show, especially since the turnaround from the deadline to June 7th is so quick, but I think it behooves any of us who have opinions about how this money should be spent to speak up. For the record, this was my response in the final box asking if I had any other comments, “A lot of great teachers are about to leave the profession because they have not felt supported this year. Some work in schools that are falling apart, teaching large classes, dealing with students who are carrying a lot of emotional baggage, and the teachers feel alone and disposable. They need more personal days, more qualified substitutes, more campus staff to work with students who have emotional issues and safer working environments. They need to know their opinions matter and that they have a voice.”

I urge you to please fill out this survey by 5 PM on May 21st in order to record your own views on how this money should be allocated in Texas. If you are in a different state, please research the plans your own state has for spending the American Rescue Plan money set aside for education. This is a lot of money that could do a lot of good if it isn’t eaten up by political pet projects and selfish lobbyists.

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Books, Education

Think Again

I know that it’s hard to imagine doing anything “extra” after this crazy school year, but some schools like to do book studies over the summer – and some teachers, like me, get reinvigorated by reading professional books. I’d like to toss this one out there as an idea for those of you searching for a book for one of those purposes or even as just as a non-fiction book to read for enjoyment.

Think Again is by Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and professor at Wharton. I received this book as one of three that arrived in this quarter’s Next Big Idea Book Club subscription box. When I read the intro on the book jacket, I thought this book was ideal to read given the current state of our world. “The bestselling author of Give and Take and Originals examines the critical art of rethinking: learning to question your opinions and open other people’s minds, which can position you for excellence at work and wisdom in life.”

Before you read, you may want to take the free quiz to find out which type of thinker you most resemble: Preacher, Prosecutor, Politician, or Scientist. This tends to influence the methods you use to open the minds of others when you disagree.

If you have never read a book by Adam Grant, I can assure you that he is a talented writer who engages the reader with anecdotes sprinkled with relevant facts. I was prepared to find some good nuggets of advice in Think Again, but didn’t realize I would use up all of the ink in one of my highlighters as I turned each page to discover more and more guidance that would be helpful in my everyday life.

Even though the entire book is valuable, I want to summarize some takeaways from one specific chapter because it addresses “teaching students to question knowledge.” As this is primarily an education blog, “Rewriting the Textbook” is probably the most pertinent to you, the educators who read this blog.

Grant discusses the importance of questioning information no matter the source, being willing to take risks and accept being wrong some of the time, and students taking ownership of their learning – all precepts that I have also encouraged in my classroom and on this blog. He, of course gives evidence to support why these are vital skills and interesting examples of teachers (including himself) using student-centered techniques that encourage this type of thinking. One of the observations he makes from a collaborative lesson he taught in his college classroom is that the Straight-A students often struggled on the open-ended project, quite possibly because the obsession with being “right” was interfering with any inclination to take creative risks.

Among the teachers Grant showcases in the chapter, he mentions Ron Berger who worked summers as a carpenter and during the school year as a public elementary school teacher who “devoted his life to teaching students an ethic of excellence,” which includes “constantly revising our thinking.” I liked reading about Berger’s habit of posing “grapples” to his students that were multi-phase problems rather than beginning every lesson by presenting information. As Grant described more of Berger’s unconventional methods, I was impressed by the iterative mindset he instilled in his students, prioritizing revision and increased mastery rather than racing to completion. It should not have surprised me (but it did) that Berger became the chief academic officer of EL Education, one of the schools in which the famous video, Austin’s Butterfly, was filmed.

From the Black musician who confronts members of the KKK to an epilogue that analyzes the communication of leaders during the pandemic, Think Again is a book that parents, educators, leaders, and followers in all walks of life would find meaningful and timely. I plan to thumb through those pages often to remind myself of the power of re-thinking.

Think Again, by Adam Grant

Education, K-12, Teaching Tools

Interactive Google Slides Templates

UPDATE 8/10/2021: For more ideas on ways to design your slide decks, check out my new post here.

With many schools beginning the 2020-2021 school year virtually, a lot of generous educators have been sharing interactive templates to use with Google Slides.  I have been bookmarking sites as I find them on Twitter, and I thought it would be nice to have a curated list here.  I am also sharing this link, which I think is a huge game changer, on how to update student Google Slide Decks after you’ve already shared them in Google Classroom.  (Video by Jessica Wilding)  Remember that you will need to make a copy of each presentation in order to use it and edit it.  Since there are a lot, I tried to put some examples next to each one to give you some idea of what is included in each set.

  • Peel the Fruit Slides Activity includes a template for this Visual Thinking Routine, along with a link to some other Visual Thinking Routine templates.
  • Templates and Games created and shared by @EtownScience (Each slide in this original presentation can be clicked on to access a presentation you can copy and use.) Includes Scrabble, a Netflix template, and many more!
  • Templates created and shared by @KrissyVenosdale. Includes Fridge Poetry and Post-It Notes with a few others.
  • Interactive Slides for any Content Area created and shared by @TheresaWills.  Includes SO MUCH, like collaborative math manipulatives and Would You Rather.
  • Open Middle Problems slides by @DanShuster, adapted from the Open Middle math site created by @RobertKaplinsky.
  • Graphic Organizer Templates created and shared by @DrCDMendoza. Includes Venn Diagram, Cause & Effect, and others.
  • Depth and Complexity Slides adapted from the work of Bette Gould and Sandra Kaplan, slides created by @Venezia_Megan. Includes the icons and thinking prompts with areas to enter responses.
  • Google Slides Templates curated by @HistorySandoval. Includes Hyperslides, a TED Talk viewing guide, and more from various contributors.
  • Notebooks, Manipulatives, Choice Boards and Games created and shared by the incredible @SlidesMania.
  • Free Templates from Mrs. Park (@MrsParkShine) Includes several types of Check-In templates and Learning Stations Menus.

Let me know if you have any other collections that I should add!  Also, remember you can quickly make your own slides interactive by using one of my favorite tools, PearDeck!

“Peel the Fruit” Slides activity adapted from Project Zero Visible Thinking Routines

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Education, Parenting

How Lazy Is Your Child’s Teacher?

Usually my posts are not about anything that most people would consider controversial.  I try not to sound “preachy” because I’ve been in the trenches, and I know that the majority of the educators are doing the best we can – but we all make mistakes, and we can certainly disagree on what is “best.”

I’m about to bring some hate down on me, and I know this because of a recent Twitter interaction, which definitely resulted in mixed responses.  But I want to clear the air of some misconceptions that I’ve been hearing lately, and this is the only way that I can think to do it.

I was listening to a podcast called, “Reasonable Doubt,” while walking my dog on Monday.  The show is hosted by Adam Carolla and Mark Geragos, and they discuss different current legal issues.  I find their comments intriguing, and they often open up my perspective on topics.  There are times that I don’t agree with what they have to say, but I enjoy hearing a variety of views, and they sometimes change my mind.

During the 3/28/2020 episode, the two hosts made a few comments about how teachers would be more willing for schools to open back up if they weren’t getting paid right now.  They suggested that teachers are not currently working, and that they are enjoying this paid vacation.  This was completely contrary to what I have been hearing from the teachers I know, so I decided to disagree with them in a Tweet:

Surprisingly, @adamcarolla responded with, “got it,” which is a nice way for him to say that I was heard, without necessarily agreeing with me.  Not a problem.

As one person replied, and rightly so, “You know most teachers?!  That’s a lot of people!”

I responded, “You are correct.  I should have said that as an educator of 29 years I know a lot of teachers, and many of them have shared with me the stress of switching their courses to remote learning, and that they miss face2face with their students.”

A few people have supported my response, with specific examples.  A few people have said they know teachers who are useless or are just playing video games.  One person – so far – has used an obscenity.

I’m a big Devil’s Advocate kind of person, so I often look at my own arguments and think, “What if I’m wrong?”  So, here’s the thing:  I understand that I’m in a bubble of educators who will, of course, claim they are working hard.  It’s probably not going to change anyone’s mind if we barrage social media with teachers protesting that they are working long hours, many of them also having to take care of young children simultaneously.  What I would like is for you to share this, and for anyone who parents a child currently involved in remote learning (or for any child who is old enough to respond) to tell us your perception of how hard (or not) teachers are working.  Let me know in the comments below, or let @adamcarolla and @markgeragos know (politely!) the level of effort you think teachers are making right now. 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash