Anti-Racism, history, K-12, Motivation, Websites

The Legacy Project

The Legacy Project is a virtual museum from Microsoft that celebrates the Black and African-American people who have made positive contributions to our world historically and through the present. It is an immersive “360 degree” experience with different virtual exhibit halls and multimedia presentations. Here is a brief introductory video:

Of course, I immediately chose to visit the “Young, Gifted, and Black” exhibit because there is nothing that makes me smile more than seeing students who are making a difference.

Sign in Young, Gifted and Black Hall in Microsoft’s Legacy Project

I immediately gravitated toward Bellen Woodard’s portrait. Bellen is titled, “World’s First Crayon Activist” because of the work she did to help people to recognize that “flesh color” is not just one color. You can read more about Bellen and view a video of her explaining how she began her “More Than Peach Project” which includes a book she authored and a new line of crayons that will be for sale later this year.

Bellen Woodard, one of the many inspiring students featured in the Young, Gifted and Black Exhibit

There is a lot more to explore in Microsoft’s virtual museum, and it appears to be an ongoing project. I’ll be adding this to my Anti-Racism Wakelet, where you can now find 70 free resources.

Have a great weekend!

black chess pieces on chess board
3-12, Motivation, Videos

Journeys in Film: Queen of Katwe

I have been eyeing the Journeys in Film website as a potential blog post for a couple of months. You can join the site for free, and it has an extensive library of curriculum to accompany different movies. The only downside, of course, is that you need to be able to somehow access the movies — something that can be quite cumbersome in schools. Though Journeys in Film does not solve that problem, the site does have a nice link for each film that offers suggestions for all of the ways to stream or purchase each film.

The latest resource I’ve noticed from Journeys in Film is for a Disney film called Queen of Katwe. This movie is based on a true story about a Ugandan girl who meets a mentor who teaches her how to play chess. I thought it was a fitting resource to share today, when we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. with a Day of Service, as the discussion guide highlights the incredible value of mentors in the lives of young people. I have personally seen students’ lives changed by mentors and Queen of Katwe is a shining example of the difference mentors can make.

The curriculum/discussion guides on this site are extremely thorough and of high quality. Though I think full-length movies should rarely be shown during a school day (try Class Hook for short clips that support your curriculum), there are definitely exceptions to this rule. If you want to inspire your students, apply some of the lessons of chess to everyday life, or motivate a new generation of mentors, Queen of Katwe may be worth a couple of hours of class or after-school time.

black girl playing chess at table in room
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com
man people woman girl
K-12, Motivation, Videos

Inspiration for Graduates

This is actually a reblog of a reblog! No matter what happens, graduation season rolls around every year. I always liked to send my students off by loading them up with as many memories and inspirational motivation as possible, so here are some of my favorites.

As graduation season rolls around once again, I thought I would compile a list of videos that I’ve found over the years that eloquently describe the hopes and dreams I have for my students in the future. I’ve placed the length of each video beside it.  Not all of these are graduation speeches, but they all give one or more of the following messages: Be Kind, Work Hard, and Make the Most of Your Time and Abilities.  Most of these videos (and many more) can be found on my “Inspirational Videos for Students” Pinterest Board.  As always, please preview any video before you show it to your students.

graduation

Making It from StoryCorps (2:43)

If You’ve Never Failed, You’ve Never Lived (1:16)

Ashton Kutcher’s Teen Choice Award Speech (4:40), Ashton Kutcher on his Teen Choice Speech (3:15) – better for older students

The Time You Have in Jellybeans (2:44)

212: The Extra Degree Inspirational Movie (2:59)

Kid President Graduation Speech (4:12)

The Real Purpose of Your Life (2:18)

These last two are my all-time favorite videos to show departing students:

Jeff Bezos at Princeton (18:44 – his part starts around 6:27)

Mark Bezos: A Life Lesson from a Volunteer Firefighter (4:40)

For more resources, Amy Borovoy curated a wonderful list last May for Edutopia. You can find it here.

Motivation

The “Short” Guide to Life

Like many of you, I took a pseudo-break from work last week. Though I retired from the classroom a year ago, my mind constantly revolves around education. That’s really not surprising, since I’m still writing about it and consulting in the private sector. In addition, I’ve always looked for ways to connect everything “out in the world” to my teaching, so my brain has learned to default to that mode after 30 years.

Before I sat down at my computer today, I walked my dogs while listening to a podcast. Things were going pretty well as I laughed along with Martin Short and the hosts of Smartless (Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes) and I focused on not letting my Great Dane Karate Kid me in the knee with her head again. But then Martin Short compared his stint on Saturday Night Live to preparing for final exams on a weekly basis. That set my mind off on grading controversies and school reform… Hayes redirected me when he asked Martin Short about advice he had once given Sean about life, and Short replied, “Oh, you mean the nine categories?”

Short reminisced about a tough period he was going through in his late twenties when he first asked himself, “What if your career was one of nine courses you took?” He explained that you could still get a “good GPA” even if you didn’t do well in one of the categories. You can read about the categories in this article by Ben Carlson. The comedian/actor reflects on his performance in each category about once a year.

As I listened to Martin Short reflect on how his categories had shaped his life, I reflected on my decision to retire in 2019 – which had been predicated on the fact that I was flunking eight out of nine of those categories. I thought about the teachers and many others out there returning to work today, some of whom are feeling the tremendous pressure not unlike taking final exams every single day. And I wondered what it would be like if we lived in a society that did not define success as making lots of money or having a job around which everything else must revolve.

I like to take my metaphors to the extreme, so I began to question if some of Short’s categories would be considered “Core Curriculum” while others are electives. Would I get extra points if I took the Honors or AP version? Where can I get a syllabus for Creativity?

Then I remembered that I was planning to get back to work today and plopped by behind down on my chair to write this blog post.

I didn’t want to retire a year ago. But I was flunking the Martin Short School of Life big time. I’ve spent the last twelve months working on my skill gaps so that in 2020, I may have earned an “F” in Career, but everything else was a passing grade.

And that’s okay.

Dominick D, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

K-12, Motivation, Videos

Give a Little Love

This year’s holiday ad from John Lewis is just as creative and inspiring as usual. It’s about celebrating kindness, and gosh, it’s like a salve for the soul to watch it and see something that isn’t inflammatory or scare-mongering. As they did last year, John Lewis and Waitrose partnered to produce the ad, “Give a Little Love,” and they are hoping to raise money for two charities in the United Kingdom: FareShare and Home-Start. You can visit this page to go behind the scenes of the video and purchase some “Give a Little Love” merch.

The plot of “Give a Little Love” reminds me of a video I’ve recommended many times on this blog, “Kindness Boomerang.” For other videos about kindness, here are 7 more. You can also see some of the past John Lewis videos I’ve used in class here and here. And, don’t forget that I have a huge collection of Inspirational Videos for Students on Pinterest here.

3-12, Motivation, Videos

Forest Man

I don’t know about you, but I needed a bit of inspiration today. Regardless of the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, there is much evidence that our country has many people who condone and take part in activities that perpetuate hatred – and I woke up this morning feeling defeated by the sheer magnitude of those numbers. Like many, I have fleetingly considered moving somewhere else – though I’m quite sure the places I would go are not amenable to accepting a bunch of disgruntled Americans at the moment.

So, I searched through my Wakelet collection of inspiration in order to take my mind off current events. I ran across a short video I had saved from Twitter, shared by @MikeHudema, about a man who grew his own forest by planting one tree every day for over 37 years. While I was hunting for sources and a YouTube link, I found several more videos about this remarkable man, Jadav Payeng. This one is a good summary (only a minute long) of the story – how Payeng transformed a desolate, eroding piece of a river island into a lush forest that is now home to multiple elephants, tigers, and other animals.

But then I found a longer, award-winning video by William D McMaster, Forest Man, and I realized that I was meant to watch it. Today. At this moment. I was meant to be reminded by Jadav Payeng that we cannot despair, and we cannot abandon what seems to be an overwhelming task. We need to take a breath and do what we can, and even though it appears that we are doing very little, those tiny achievements will grow and multiply.

As Payeng’s forest has grown to be over twice the size of New York’s Central Park, he has had to defend it from those who want to cut it down for economic gain. “There are no monsters in nature except for humans,” he says. He knows what it’s like to protect something valuable from people who care only about their own benefits.

The narrator of Forest Man says, “Sometimes I wonder what 10, 100, or 1000 Payengs could do.”

Payeng inspires me to stand my ground and keep on doing what little I can, each day, to combat the monsters.

(My friend, the awesome Joelle Trayers, just told me that there is a children’s book, The Boy Who Grew A Forest, about this amazing story! Be sure to share it with your students along with the video!)

I will be adding Forest Man to my Inspirational Videos for Students Pinterest Board, as well as my Inspirational Videos for Teachers. For a similar theme of an ordinary man doing ordinary things making a difference, I also recommend the animated video, King of the Island.