One year ago today I was with several of my colleagues in L.A. at one of our partnership network schools during the bombing of the Boston marathon. We were there to bring Cambodian Genocide survivor Arn Chorn Pond to share his story. Imagine over 100 9th graders sitting on the gym floor for nearly 90 minutes and focused on his every word. Thanks to their teacher Crystal Greene, the students that day were prepared to hear Arn's story, and trusted to grapple with the difficult questions that arise from this genocide and its legacies.
I love Los Angeles. I've lived here most of my life, and despite hearing all the complaints lodged against us - traffic, smog, superficiality - I don't buy it. What I love is the diversity of people. Stereotypes are challenged every day in LA if you let them be.
I write to know what I think." - Joan Didion
Joan Didion has something there. Writing can play an important part in processing difficult material, reflecting on our own beliefs, and finding ways to express in language what may only be a feeling or sense. Thanks to the National Writing Project and Educator Innovator, I had the opportunity to hear from some amazing Facing History educators how they see writing deepen students' thinking.
When I started teaching in South Central Los Angeles nearing 20 years ago, I discovered that the most important thing for my students to get from me was the understanding that they truly mattered. For many, they had had a revolving door of teachers and few expected me to stick around even a semester. Some had given up on school because they didn't think it mattered to them, or that they mattered in the world. Before any academic work would hold their attention, they needed to understand that they had a voice in their life and community--that their choices mattered.
A friend of mine recently sent me an interesting article on the philosophy of education. The article argued that the current pedagogy in schools is based more in process than teaching virtue. Sounds a little complicated, I know. But here is how the argument went.
Topics: A View from the Classroom
New Year's is a time to look back and look forward. The LA Network is one of three blogs started by Facing History in 2013, and we all had a great year! We've enjoyed your participation by sharing our blogs, commenting, and occasionally guest-writing for us. In 2014, we look forward to increased participation and visibility - find out more in the coming weeks. Today, we wanted to take a moment to look back at all three of our blogs and share some highlights.
“Why can’t we get back to the real learning?” It was another typical day in my Advanced Placement World History class. One of my students had asked his “philosophical question of the day.”
I knew my students were connecting what we were learning in Jewish History to their own lives, when during an end-of-unit discussion, one of my seventh-grade students spontaneously shared, “I realize now that I’ve been excluding someone at school. I’m going to stop.” For a seventh-grader to make that statement at all, and even more so, publicly, felt momentous. In a middle-school setting in which in-groups and out-groups are unfortunately all too common, I admired my student for acknowledging fault in front of her peers and publicly declaring that she would change. Whether such reflection occurs internally or overtly, this is the ultimate purpose of my history class – for students to see how lessons from history might directly impact their choices today.
We know, when we go into teaching, that the consequences of our work may not be entirely appreciated in the moment, that we are "planting seeds" as a teacher of mine told me when I was becoming a teacher. Yes, there are some days when we leave the classroom KNOWING that we made a difference. We saw the light bulb go on. We heard or watched as a student responded in a new way. But honestly, we do not always know the students who will be truly moved by our work or who will come back years later to tell us how the seed we planted eventually blossomed.