This April, students at the Thomas Street Middle School (TSMS) in Peel took a stand against bullying and homophobia and what they did will amaze you. Watch this video then read on to learn more:
As elementary schools have just passed the mid-point of the school year, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the first half of the year. Schools are part of a larger educational system. However, our classrooms are also a microcosm of society; a community of members with jobs to do, and rules, norms and expectations, which members are expected to follow. But, as we are too well aware, within the larger society, we encounter issues of unfairness and injustice. I’ve been questioning my practice and asking myself: Does my classroom parallel the oppressions of our society? Am I reinforcing and reproducing what is happening in the larger society in my classroom?
Topics: Choosing to Participate, Facing History Resources, Identity, History, Memorial, current events, Middle School, Lesson Ideas, In the news, Holocaust and Human Behaviour, English Classroom, Social Justice, LGBTQ, Personal history
As a middle school teacher I was often asked why I was giving up a week of my summer to attend the Facing History and Ourselves’ Holocaust and Human Behaviour seminar. “You don’t teach that time period,” being the most frequent comment. They were right. But there was something about Facing History and how they approached teaching that piqued my interest and so I went.
We know that it's not easy to teach about the Holocaust and genocide. For many the topic is very difficult and many students cannot wrap their heads around the scope and magnitude of how these mass murders could occur, particularly about the idea of how an entire nation could allow horrific events like this to happen. Creating that safe, caring classroom is essential in being able to have these difficult lessons. In a middle school classroom, these are essential conversations, as students at this age care and have a strong sense of fairness and justice.
As educators, we want the answers as to why our students aren't learning. Do they have special education needs such as a learning disability? Are they lacking motivation? Did they get enough sleep the night before? Did they have breakfast? But how many of us ever ask: do my students feel safe? Overwhelming brain based research indicates the importance of students feeling safe in schools in order for them to be able to learn.
One of the challenges many teachers experience is trying to meet the needs of their diverse student population in their respective classes. Differentiated instructions strategies (D.I.) enables teachers to better meet these varied needs and in turn enables students to be successful because their needs are met at their level of readiness, interests and learning styles.
In my last post I noted how saturated our students are by visual media. What a sharp contrast their lives are with mine at their age. In my high school history classes, the walls were adorned with old men, mostly with mutton chop whiskers and beards, staring down at me. Each of them had their name, dates of birth and death, and a sour stare that intimidated me when I glanced at them. My teachers reverently cited these old mens' careers and quoted them to the point of endless boredom.
My Grade 8 students love their smartphones and computers. One of the most important jobs I have is to teach my students how to "curate" what's out there. My 20 year old son who takes Advertising at OCAD taught me the new meaning of this old word. "Curate" conjures up visions of dusty museum cases and stuffed animals--right? Well, these have gone the way of the dodo, as have the old style museum exhibitions. You've seen the exciting new ways in which curators present information today, especially with the Royal Ontario Museum so close at hand. The new curators' challenge is to choose and organize what is out there to make the maximum impression on viewers bombarded by visual media. For us, that means teaching our students how not to drown in Google hits, how to separate the wheat from the chaff, and what sites are actually useful to them.