Thursday, December 23, 2021

Is Santa Burned? Are People of Color Represented in Your Classroom/School?

My teacher-friend hung a Black Santa in her room. One of her 4th graders asked her why Santa was burned. 

The other day, I received a presentation on the dangers inherent in social media. I scrolled through the slides, and then something made me scroll through the slides again.  There were 30 slides and there were no people of color. None. Are there no situations where people of color use social media?

Look around your classroom. Do your students of color see themselves? Do your other students see people of color?

I went into a classroom where the teacher's theme was superheroes. Superheroes were all over that room. Not one superhero of color.

And it doesn't matter what the population of your class is. People of color should be depicted in some way in order to acknowledge that they exist. That they matter. That their contributions to the world aren't only faces plastered as mug shots on the nightly news. And I'm not just talking about February. Every month, in every classroom, our children of color should see themselves or the students in your room should see people of color.

It is almost the end of 2021, and the fact that a Nigerian Medical student/artist went viral for drawing an illustration of a black baby in a womb is appalling. A black baby in a womb! He went viral. Why? People of color are not represented in textbooks and diagrams, and for many, this was the first time they had seen a black person in a medical illustration.

You might say, "It doesn't matter" or "What difference does it make?"

I remember growing up, watching television with nothing but white actors. Reading books with nothing but white characters. Learning history, from the majority of my teachers, that did not reflect the contributions of my ancestors. I remember taking a white sheet, twisting it on my head, and shaking it around, trying to mimic straight long, flowing hair. 

Because of this I am very deliberate about the images I use, the books I read aloud to my class, even the videos I show. I make sure that people of color are represented.

Be deliberate about what is hung in your room and around your school.

Be deliberate about the books you choose.

Be deliberate about the images you use in presentations or the videos you show.

Our children need to see representations of themselves, and other children need to see these as well.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Imagine the Impact:Productive, Positive, Post-Observation Meetings

My first year teaching in a NYC public school I sat down with what would now be considered a "student advisor" for my post-observation session. He asked me how I felt the lesson went. I told him I thought it went pretty well.

He replied snarkily, "You must think very highly of yourself."

Well actually, yeah, I did. I was 24 and confident as hell, I still am.I knew I had room for improvement, but I also knew my lesson went pretty well.

Was his comment helpful? Not at all.

I recently sat down for my post-observation with my current admin. How refreshing! It's not often that you get to sit down and have a productive, positive, discussion about what is observed in the allotted 45 minutes.

I was taken aback when my admin said, "Ok, let's look at this first standard. What would you give yourself?" 

I am usually very confident about my lessons and how they are perceived. However, after years of being observed, and fighting to get the score I believe I deserved, I guess my level of confidence has been slightly diminished.

After years of feeling like every observation was going to be turned into a "gotcha", which would then turn into me writing rebuttals, and evidence to support said rebuttal, I didn't know how to respond.

I always say I don't care about those numbers. 4 or a 3, who cares? As long as I am not given a 2 or a 1,it doesn't matter.  But when I know I am good, and I deserve a 4, whether I admit it or not, I want my 4.

So when I was asked, I felt I deserved a 4 for the standard. But instead of saying that, I stuttered, flustered, and floundered for words. But she pushed. 

"Tell me what you think you deserve, and tell me why." 

And I did. I told her I deserve a 4 because... And when I was done, she agreed. Not only did she agree, but she pointed out things that happened during my lesson that I didn't even realize I did to meet the criteria for a 4.

And we continued... It was such a positive encounter.

Understand, when I teach, or when I am being observed, those numbers are not in my head at all. I just do what I do. Engage my learners to the best of my ability, in any and every way I can, Make sure they are learning in a safe, warm, environment. 

But when I sit down for a post-observation meeting, I want it to be a discussion about what is happening in my classroom, where I can grow, and of course what positive things are happening. I hate those numbers that are applied to my teaching, but as of right now, it is what it is.

Oh, back to that "student advisor." circa 1984. After he made those comments,I heard nothing he said, so that post observation was useless. I was angry. I went back to my classroom and ranted to my colleague. Then I typed up a letter to my principal about what was said to me, and how I felt about it. I can't remember if we had a meeting, but the end result was that he was told he would never observe me again.

It's been so long since I had a productive post-observation meeting, I forgot what they can look and sound like. If only, they could all be this way. Imagine the impact. 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

What If All Educators Just Quit?

I have watched videos, read letters, and listened to testimonies from educators who have quit. Media outlets relentlessly lament the fact that teachers are quitting in droves.

I understand the "why" of quitting, except for the "no chance for advancement" part, as if being a classroom teacher is the bottom of the barrel and you have to work your way up from there. But let's leave that to another post, shall we?

Conditions are horrible for teachers. They were horrible before the pandemic, and they are horribler, even more horrible now. I read the stories and posts of educators in the field. I am fortunate to work in a district that pretty much treats us as human and professionals. Not saying there isn't work to be done, but the things I deal with pale in comparison to the stories I have heard or read.

Educators being forced to teach remotely from the building, (ridiculous!), little pay, long hours, (Yes, there is a choice, but then to stay sane, you kinda don't), disrespect from kids, parents, admin, the school board, the media, the list is endless. The idea that educators are ALL things, babysitters, pyschologists, custodians, mental health counselors, oh yeah, and teachers. There is no way this cannot weigh on a person. 

A daily parade of wants and needs, dumped on their shoulders. Educators are given instructions and platitudes, from people who have not been inside a classroom for years, or have never been in one. #SELFCARE, the buzzword that is carelessly tossed about, as educators flounder beneath the weight of all that is placed on them. 

Care for self? When? How? Where? There is a teacher shortage, substitutes can't be found, and colleagues "hate you" because you take a day. 

With all this, I truly understand the "why."

But what happens to our students if we all quit?

I know. That's their problem, right? They should have treated us right while we were there. Too bad,so sad.

But here's a thought. Let's not forget the educators who have not quit. The ones who have decided to stay.

Maybe they haven't quit because of their dedication to the profession. 

Maybe they haven't quit because they enjoy teaching.

Maybe they haven't quit because they worry about what would happen to their students without them.

Maybe they haven't quit because they need their job, their benefits, the summer months off. 

The majority of them are there, fighting the good fight, educating our youth. We need to work on doing better for those still in the trenches. How about we focus on those who are still in the classroom? 

We know every teacher, everywhere, is not going to quit en masse. But, the conditions under which they work have got to be improved! You want to keep them?

Think about all the reasons educators quit. Use those reasons to work on finding solutions that will keep the ones who are still there.

Because think about it. What if...we all quit?

Monday, June 28, 2021

My Year of Teaching Virtually

I hated virtual teaching.

I said it. I hated it.

You think it would have been easy because I am considered "tech-savvy." Integrating tech when I teach is second nature for me. So, this should have been easy. Right?

Except, I hated it.

We started our mornings with our 5 minute Waiting Room, then moved on to our Virtual Morning Meeting. We played games on Gimkit, Quizizz, 99Math, and all the new and improved sites that were meant to engage the students in the square boxes.

We created books on Book Creator, went on virtual field trips, (even made homemade ice cream), collaborated on Jamboard and in Breakout Rooms, and worked on assignments posted in Schoology

I worked hard to make sure the year was not a loss. (As so many seem to think. I beg to differ..)

But, something was missing.

The best tech in the world couldn't replace it.

The greeting at the door.

The buzz as students greeted friends and got ready for the day.

The gathering at the kidney table, for those who needed just a little more help.

Raised hands. "Real" ones.

Laughter. (These kids didn't laugh on ZOOM, no matter how corny my jokes were.)

The scrape of moving chairs.


Field trips. Outside. In buildings.

Walking down the hall.

Working. (Me seeing you working, or not.)

Social interactions. Aaaah yes, social interactions!

I have a few years of teaching left, and I hope I never have to teach virtually again. 

My year of teaching virtually. Hated it!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Courtesy of Canva: Classroom Yearbook

I wanted my virtual students to have a yearbook. As a 5th grade team, we created a 5th grade yearbook with Snapfish, but I wanted them to have a CLASS yearbook. It wouldn't be filled with pictures of all the wonderful things we did together, because...we were together on a computer, but I still wanted to put something together.

What did I put in a yearbook for a virtual class, you ask?

Page 1- Cover with image of the our school

Page 2- Message from the Teacher

Page 3- Messages they sent me during Teacher Appreciation Week. (Clipped Jamboard stickies.)

Page 4- Message from the Class President

Page 5 - Recognition/Awards

Page 6 - "Remember When...? I asked my students to name their favorite memories.

Page 7+ We placed a quote the students chose, or made up, and their favorite memory from elementary school,on our Celebration slides. I just copied and pasted them onto the Canva page. I gave thestudents access to, "A Quotation a Day", document. I also included 2 pictures, sent by their parents,one as an infant or toddler, and a recent picture.

Page 26 - A graphic about 6th grade and a box titled,"Personal Message from Mrs.Mims." I only had 18 students, so writing the messages didn't take too much time.

The yearbook is pretty basic, because I was short on time, but it really looked good. I used the color copier, and 32 lb paper. Check out the sample. I used my pics to demonstrate p.7, I wish I had thought to do that in their yearbook.:)

I worked on the yearbook for about a week. I chose a Canva template, and if you have ever used Canva,you know that it is pretty easy to use. If you are new to Canva, they have a tutorial to introduce you to the features.

Take advantage of the FREE CANVA Educator plan they offer.

I am looking forward to creating one next year when I am back with my students in "real life.":)