Posted by Mary Hendra on September 30, 2014

Have you ever taken a "selfie"? We all get a good laugh these days about selfies - the candid taken with a celebrity or in a striked pose - but could taking selfies help students dive deeper into the complexity of their own and others' identities?

A few months ago I saw the short film, "Selfie" produced by Dove, and I still think about it. It examines the way taking and posting selfies on social media can change our definition of beauty and transform our sense of our own beauty. (Click here for an article on the film, or watch it below.)

I don't know about you, but when I was a teenager, the LAST thing I wanted was a picture of myself. I hated how I looked in pictures. My parents had a plethora of photos of the back of my head as a result of my quick reaction to a camera being raised around me.

So, "Selfie" got me questioning:

  • How many times, if ever, did a young woman in one of my classes put "beautiful" on her identity chart? (It was rare if ever!)
  • Does our self-identification as beautiful or not impact our sense of belonging?
  • If others' description of us as beautiful contributes to being accepted, can redefining "beauty" also expand group acceptance?
  • The quick blame for almost unattainable standards of beauty often goes to corporations (Barbie, cosmetics, clothing, plastic surgery), but to what extent do mothers pass it on to their daughters, sisters to sisters, peers to peers, and so forth?
  • After so many generations of female beauty being defined by professional photographers. magazines, and cosmetic companies, is it truly possible that the democratic nature of social media and self-taken, impromptu photographs can redefine our standards of beauty? If so, "choosing to participate" could be as simple as... taking a selfie?
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Topics: Identity, Teaching Strategy, Using Technology

FLIPPED! The Small Steps of Democracy in a Flipped Classroom

Posted by Mary Hendra on September 10, 2014

It is easy to think of "democracy" only in terms of the big things: a political system, all of our government officials, an enormous bureaucracy which often seems removed and slow-moving. But, it is also the small steps. Democracy is a reflection of the choices we each make daily about how we will interact with each other.

For years, Facing History teachers have used a reading which shows this - an essay originally written by Jesus Colon as he reflected on a small moment in his own life, when stereotypes and societal expectations played a large role in the choice he made about interacting with others. His reflection provides an opportunity for all of us to think about the small opportunities for interaction presented by living in a democracy.

We now have a high tech version of this lesson, thanks to a collaboration with Zaption.

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Topics: Choosing to Participate, Critical Thinking, Teaching Strategy, Tech Innovation

I'm a Bear! Aren't I?

Posted by Elana Goldbaum on August 13, 2014

Working with students, in my case high school, "Who am I?" is not usually a question that you hear teenagers say aloud, but you can see them going through this on a daily basis: clothes they wear, makeup color choices, different hairstyles, questions they ask about religion or politics. I see my students working to find themselves in myriad of ways and I feel very privileged to be a part of that process. My challenge as a teacher is to take the concept of identity, as my students see it personally, and challenge them to relate it to people in history.
One of the most successful and fun ways I've been able to do this is by tailoring discussion around an old cartoon. This clip is a video adaptation of the illustrated book, The Bear That Wasn’t.


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Topics: Critical Thinking, Social and Emotional Learning, Teaching Strategy

Five Ways to Create a Safe Classroom Space

Posted by Stephanie Carrillo on August 6, 2014

No matter how long I've been in teaching, there's always this to look forward to with the start of the school year: the promise of a new beginning. After spending a year outside of the classroom, I'll be returning to teaching at a different school this fall and I'm excited to re-establish the pattern of rewarding teacher-student relationships that I've built over two decades. At the start of the school year, whether the students know me or not, the classroom dynamics have not been set and the patterns of interaction are yet to be established. I am given anew the chance to create the classroom environment which will both nurture and challenge my students. I can intentionally and purposely create a safe space where every person is allowed to bring his or her authentic self to the classroom and express the thoughts and opinions that he or she holds. How do I do that? Well...

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Topics: Safe Schools, Teaching, Social and Emotional Learning, Teaching Strategy, A View from the Classroom

The Great Wall of Los Angeles: a Window into Our Past

Posted by Stephanie Carrillo on July 10, 2014

If you mention the Great Wall, most people automatically think of a brick fortification built in the seventh century that remains symbolic of Chinese culture and history. Did you know, however, that there is a "Great Wall" right here in town? If you have never seen or heard of the Great Wall of Los Angeles, allow me to introduce you to an amazing cultural and artistic wonder of our city - one that could easily be adapted as a teaching tool for your classroom.

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Topics: Teaching, Los Angeles, Teaching Strategy

Teaching Kitty Genovese: The Importance of Complexity and the Perils of the Single Narrative

Posted by Brian Gibbs on May 21, 2014

I’d taught the story of Kitty Genovese for years and thought I’d read all there was to read on it. I was convinced that I knew the story. It had touched me deeply, shocked me, and moved me. Perhaps that was the problem, I had become far too comfortable with an uncomfortable story, and stopped exploring, asking, questioning. For an old man it was a rookie mistake and one that I’d unfortunately made every year for 16 years.

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Topics: Choosing to Participate, Teaching, Critical Thinking, Bystander, Upstander, Teaching Strategy, A View from the Classroom

Interdisciplinary Planning: Connected Content

Posted by Dan Alba on April 30, 2014

We all know our experience in the world is not detached or separated into departments or subject matters. In fact, depending where we are and what we are doing, we often see the connections and intersections between historical knowledge, human behavior, psychology, literature, science, math and technology. This realization often brings into question why many of our schools are designed and structured around separate departments with separate curriculum where teachers meet within their disciplines to discuss or plan subject matter lessons.

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Topics: Critical Thinking, Teaching Strategy

What Happens When Young People Take Action? A Webinar on Freedom Riders

Posted by Mary Hendra on April 10, 2014

The young people who took part in Freedom Summer and the Freedom Rides took brave and decided actions to dismantle the structures of discrimination through nonviolence.

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Topics: Civil Rights Movement, Teaching Strategy

"I Write to Know What I Think"

Posted by Mary Hendra on February 12, 2014

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.

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Topics: Common Core, Critical Thinking, Teaching Strategy, A View from the Classroom

Best of the Blogs from 2013

Posted by Mary Hendra on January 2, 2014

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.

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Topics: Teaching Strategy, A View from the Classroom

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This blog helps Southern California teachers connect directly with each other, share ideas, and learn about new resources and opportunities for those interested in or already implementing Facing History.

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