How Stories Shape Our Lives – Part 1

Teaching in the Undertow

This story discusses how becoming a teacher is a process in which the learning is constant. You should find ways that the beliefs of your students and yourself are valued and heard. It is important to realize that you are not alone. Create allies who can provide you with practical ideas and who can act as a support system. These allies can be a great resource of advice when you are starting off as a teacher or in a new school setting. Attempt to make your teachings more meaningful by connecting topics to real world issues, and give students the chance to share their opinions. As a teacher you cannot do everything you want, but you can do something.

‘Brown Kids Can’t Be in Our Club’

Students in elementary schools already have racism and biases impacting their lives. As teachers, it is important to recognize that students learn biases in society at a young age. We also need to recognize that these biases impact our lives. By building a classroom environment that learns about each other’s lives and backgrounds, it can help to overcome the biases that are made. This classroom community can be an opportunity for students to feel more comfortable with their race and background, and give students more ways to think about and describe themselves. A great point made is “I want them to understand that they have the power to transform the society” (Tenorio, 91).

What can I do when a student makes a racist or sexist remark?

It is important to “remember that curriculum is ‘everything that happens’ at school” (Tenorio, 93). The hidden curriculum is something that is demonstrated and learned from surroundings. If a teacher hears a student make a racist or sexist remark and just ignores it, the student learns that it is an okay thing to say. However, if attention is brought to it in an educational matter, it can prevent this remark from being used again. Make the situation teachable by talking about how it could affect people, and what could be used instead.

 Framing the Family Tree

As the world changes, the definition of what makes up a family does too. The best, diverse friendly, definition of what a family is would be a unit of people who make someone feel safe and happy. This may not be a mom and a dad, biological parents and siblings, or even someone who is considered an adult. As a teacher, the phrases used and activities used in the classroom need to be educational and welcoming of all forms of diversity that may be present in the classroom or school. A great idea given in the story is rather than making “Mother’s Day” gifts, allow students to pick someone who is special to them to recognize. Offer options for all students when completing assignments that revolve around the topic of families.

Heather’s Moms Got Married

A common thought that people still have in this day of age is that parents consist of one mom and one dad. However, this is not always the case. Same sex marriage has become something that is present in parents of students in classrooms.  In the classroom, teachers should not be afraid to talk about this “controversial topic”. By accepting that parents could mean many things, children are less likely to be hurt, and more likely to share about their home life. It is not right to presume that students live in a home that has what is considered a “traditional family”. Give students the opportunity to share about and display their family.

 Out Front

When attempting to create a “homophobia free” environment, allies, role models, and anti-slur policies are excellent ways to start. By working together as an entire school, teachers can work collaboratively to find ways to incorporate queer and queer issues into the classroom curriculum. This not only demonstrates a welcoming environment of queer people, but also educates people on the topic which can prevent hate and biases. Not only will gay youth benefit from gay role models, but straight youth will too. This shows that being gay is a normal part of society, and that people should not be ashamed of who they are. Finally, anti-slur policies should be used to eliminate the use of hateful terms by educating students on how what is being said can be hurtful, and what appropriate language is.

 ‘Curriculum Is Everything That Happens’

Being a teacher means having an endless supply of learning. New teachers may think they know everything, but this isn’t the case. Being open and ready to learn new things is part of the job. It is the role of a teacher to not only prepare students to pass curriculum teachings. Teachers are responsible for making their students educated and active members of society. Building relationships is a key part of working with students. Building relationships, preparing students for society and making students feel valued is all part of the curriculum. All teachers should try to reach outside of their classroom and school. Find resources, organizations, and the community to support you so that it is not just your voice being heard.

 Working Effectively with English Language Learners

For students who are English language learners, it is the responsibility of the teacher to find ways to deliver instructions and information in a way that is understandable. Make services accessible for students by finding out what is available in your school, and sharing those services with the students. Some specific strategies that can be used in the classroom to help are: speaking slowly and clearly at all times, preparing students about lessons ahead of time, and using visual and active methods of teaching, rather than just verbal teachings. Do not create environments that make students who are English learns feel uncomfortable. Incorporate students’ cultures and languages.

Teaching Controversial Content

Teaching a topic that is considered controversial is not easy. Many teachers are scared of doing it, so do not include it. The teachers who do choose to bring the controversial topics into their classroom content can have a tough time starting out because they do not know if it is “okay” to do. One of the best ways to start is to develop an understanding on the school that you work in. Find out how the school and the community feel towards these topics. Inform the parents and principal about what is being done. People might be more accepting of these topics if they have been talked to about what is being taught, and why. Lastly, be prepared to have questioning or criticism made towards what is being done.  Reaching a goal might take a while, but you have to start somewhere.

Unwrapping the Holidays

The first year of teaching can be a rough year. It is common to want to do what you are told and fit in. While entering a new school, it can be hard for teachers to feel comfortable and supported enough to teach about their beliefs. Holidays can be a tricky area because of the diversity of celebrations that are present in schools these days. If you are a new teacher coming into a school, be prepared for people to be upset about requests you may have. Start slow; model beliefs in your own classroom and go from there. Do not force anyone to do something they do not believe in. Changing an environment is complex, so do not expect it to happen quickly and easily.

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