A Day of Conversation

Posted by Mary Hendra on February 26, 2015

  • How do you create a school culture that reads together, ponders big ideas, has a common language, and stands up for each other?
  • What does it mean for civic participation that our students are now "digital natives"?
  • How can teachers implement curriculum that is both rigorous and meaningful? ...that engages students in thinking about critical moments in history and their personal choices?

These were questions which drove the conversations at the third annual symposium for LA Facing History Partnership Schools on Wednesday, February 25, 2015.

IMG_0926Forty administrators and teachers from 15 of the schools Facing History works with most closely in Los Angeles gathered at the Japanese American National Museum for the day. The new President and CEO of Facing History and Ourselves, Roger Brooks, was on hand to welcome everybody. The educators shared with each other innovative work they are doing with service learning, all-school reads programs, advisory, interdisciplinary team planning, and student-led school events to foster a reflective and compassionate school culture. Here are a few highlights for me:

IMG_0927Elana Goldbaum at Gertz Ressler High School shared their campus-wide (with Richard Merkin Middle School) reading of the book Wonder. Every Thursday morning, the entire campus stops. They read together. They explore this story of a young man whose appearance makes him stand out as different, and the choices and perspectives of those around him. In turn, the students have opened up to their peers and teachers about the differences they experience and how it feels to be treated as "the other." (Click here for an upcoming workshop on Wonder.)

IMG_0925Nicole Solig at LA School of Global Studies shared the faculty's decision to bring Facing History and Ourselves in to the school's advisory program in order to support the teachers in creating a stronger community with their students. And Jon Lego at Animo Jackie Robinson shared a culminating class for seniors that caps off four years of Facing History with the opportunity for students to explore the current issues in their own community and identify what they personally can do.

IMG_0905We explored together new resources from Facing History and Ourselves for teaching To Kill a Mockingbird and the Nanjing Atrocities, and the exhibit, Common Ground, at the Japanese American National Museum which explores Japanese American internment during World War II. All of these provide rich primary resources to guide students in thinking more deeply about race, gender, class, and "difference." In exploring these critical moments, students can reflect on how broader societal and historical issues affect them, and how to see past societally-constructed division.

IMG_0907We were inspired to think forward to what civic engagement means in a digital world by Henry Jenkins (USC). As one of the first media scholars to chart the changing role of the audience in an environment of increasingly pervasive digital content, Jenkins has been at the forefront of understanding the effects of participatory media on society, politics and culture. Giving us much to think about, we look forward to sharing a blog dedicated solely to his talk in the next few weeks.

Throughout the day, teachers and administrators from all of our schools shared how they team together across discipline, how they involve students and engage parents, and the impact they see regularly from integrating Facing History into their curriculum. It was truly an inspiring day for all!

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Topics: Safe Schools, Los Angeles, Urban Education, Community Event, A View from the Classroom

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