Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Real Life- Schools in Pictures

I just discovered Through Your Lens: School Facilities across America. Adequate facilities are such a huge part of making welcoming, safe, and comfortable teaching and learning spaces.

School buildings must be part of nation's conversation about education. Quality education requires quality spaces, something that millions of students lack.
We know that millions of children, especially those living in low-wealth school districts, spend their school days in poor quality, unhealthy, and overcrowded buildings that cause health problems and limit educational opportunities. All students and teachers have the right to adequate, appropriate learning conditions that will allow them to strive for and achieve the goals being set for them. No single level of government can accomplish this alone. We must create a new federal, state, and local partnership to ensure that each and every single community has sufficient resources to provide high-quality school buildings to their students.

And Slate is hosting an awesome space for dialogue and contest about reinventing education. spaces.

Monday, October 4, 2010

settling in

It was a Bittersweet Back to School for me. See my latest post on GothamSchools. I'll be exploring the differences between working in Brownsville, Brooklyn and Park Slope as I blog for them over the next few months.
As the last two weeks of summer went by, I met with old and new teaching colleagues. I reminisced over dinner with a teacher who taught across the hall from me at the school I left last year. I laughed over lunch with a nurturing and seasoned paraprofessional from that school. And I sent back-to-school packages to students from last year’s class, piecing together some books, erasers, and pencils. What did I realize? It’s difficult to move on. Especially as a new teacher.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shifting administrative focus to teaching & learning

I thought this piece on Starting an Ed School was to the point. Rather than constantly reinventing structure and the things we do at school (ex. scheduling, grouping, incentives, etc.). Why not take the decent structures we have in place, get used to them, and take time and energy focusing on teaching and learning. Yeah?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bye bye Rhee?

Voters say goodbye to DC's Fenty, & likely, Michelle Rhee. (The Atlantic.)
There is pushback against the movement to treat public institutions and the precious people in them like factories. And when the impacted public is treated as an obstacle and not a partner to urban reform, it gives the whole effort colonial and paternalistic smell.

Cool Sites!

A few great websites I just discovered:

The Brain & Attention

Teachers at Risk has an interesting post on neurodevelopment and student behavior.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thank you, Pedro Noguera

Noguera's article in the Daily News, "Accept it: Poverty hurts learning: Schools matter, but they're not all that matters," pushes policy makers to face the truth. While schools are important, life and conditions beyond schools matter too. When policy makers argue that schools are enough, they validate the notion that some people deserve to live in impoverished, ugly, and unjust conditions.
There has been a fierce, ongoing debate among educational leaders about how to teach poor children: One side has argued that we must address the wide variety of social issues (like poor health and nutrition, mobility, inadequate preparation for school, etc.) that tend to be associated with poverty. The other side has argued that schools serving poor children must focus on education alone and stop making excuses.

For more than 20 years, I've been associated with the first camp - and I remain baffled about why we are still debating such an obvious point. We've long known that family income combined with parental education is the strongest predictor of how well a student will do on most standardized tests. There is abundant evidence that in schools in the poorest communities, achievement is considerably lower than in schools with more socioeconomic diversity.

Too Cute: Baby Baboons

I had to post this because it's just so cute. My classroom visited the Prospect Park Zoo last year and had a great time watching the baboons. The adults are so wise looking! The Zoo has a couple new babies.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Other America

A couple months ago, I read Valerie Polakow's Lives on the Edge: Single Mothers and Their Children in the Other America. It was eye opening to see the stigmatization of the mothers that carries into the classroom, and the way that many of the children are treated by their teachers. Polakow refers to one of the students she follows as "scarred before he has a chance to be otherwise.” She chronicles the overwhelming problems faced by these single mothers--obstacle after obstacle.

Recognizing the construction of disabilities is one way in which we can empathize with students. When we fail to consider the web of societal and environmental factors that contribute to the many interactions within the classroom walls, we risk labeling students as in need of fixing. Instead, we must continually consider the societal and environmental factors that are in great need of an enormous fix. Polakow argues, “confronting the silence, naming the classroom world with different forms of talk, shifting our ways of seeing, opening up spaces for possibility can shift the tenuous ground on which young children of poverty stand. It is the question of existential value that confronts the silence.”

When we fail to examine the bigger picture and confront the silence, we blindly accept the status quo and oppressive reality of our school system and society at large—a system that further marginalizes the marginalized, humiliates the most vulnerable, and segregates those who are poor or different from those in power. To place full responsibility and blame on a five-, seven-, or sixteen-year-old child and label him or her as deviant or deficient is to give up hope that the larger world can change. It will short-change students for many years and many classrooms to come.

Housing is a human right. I'm hoping to find out how to get involved with Picture the Homeless in NYC which is led by within the homeless community. They're beginning to take action to claim vacant city spaces.
Our Housing Not Warehousing campaign sees homelessness against the backdrop of this massive warehousing of otherwise habitable vacant spaces. We have been pushing city legislation that would require the city to conduct an annual census of all vacant buildings and lots, so that this information is always readily available to the public.

The Housing campaign is working to transform the use of vacant spaces through a range of tactics -- including direct action occupations and renovations, public education, and participatory research. Our goal is to facilitate the creation of safe, secure and TRULY AFFORDABLE housing for the lowest income residents of the city, through innovative community and housing development models.

The Housing campaign is concerned with the warehousing of all vacant property, regardless of ownership. The campaign is organizing to move owners of vacant property, public or private, to turn those properties over to a Land Trust, and permanently-affordable Mutual Housing Associations created out of them. The publicly-subsidized, privately-owned financial services firm JPMorgan Chase is one of our targets. We are also one of the founding participants of the national Take Back the Land initiative, because we are clear that challenging property rights is not a fight that we can win without civil disobedience and other forms of direct action.

You can share vacant buildings in NYC's five boroughs that you know of by texting the address to 917.412.3064 or send it via Twitter using #housingnotwarehousing or @pthny.

They post a weekly reading on their site that is discussed at their Homeless Organizing Academy. Here's one:

Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!
Finish the poem here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How'd I Miss This? Maxine Green Tribute

Journal of Educational Controversy has an issue devoted to Maxine Greene.


"My vision, in launching this Foundation, is to generate inquiry, imagination, and the creation of art works by diverse people. It has to do so with a sense of the deficiencies in our world and a desire to repair, wherever possible. Justice, equality, freedom - these are as important to us as the arts, and we believe they can infuse each other, perhaps making some difference at a troubled time."
Maxine Greene, Foundation for Social Imagination, the Arts and Education

An understanding of the role of public schools in sustaining the life of a democracy requires more than the occasional class in civic education. It requires the development of social imagination. Maxine Greene reminds us of the important role that the arts - visual art, music, performance art and literature - can play in such an education. We invite authors to explore the many dimensions of a vision for such an education within schools and colleges, or alternatively, outside these institutions. We also invite authors to contribute to a special section on Maxine Greene's lifetime work and writings on art, social imagination and education.
So much great reading to do. I began reading Chris Higgins' Working with Youth: In Search of the Natality of the Teacher.

With respect to sympathetic curiosity, unbiased responsiveness, and openness of mind, we may say that the adult should be growing in childlikeness.
- John Dewey (1916, p. 50)

A teacher in search of his/her own freedom may be the only kind of teacher who can arouse young persons to go in search of their own.
- Maxine Greene (1988, p. 14)


In teacher education, what one says about teaching is probably less important than how one addresses teachers. One of the things that make Maxine Greene's work singular and singularly important is her mode of address as a teacher educator. In her classes and her writings alike, she never forgets that she is speaking to teachers, and that in doing so she is speaking to human beings. This is not to say that others address teachers in an inhuman way. It is simply to point out that Greene reaches out to teachers, again and again, as fellow inhabitants of a set of typically human existential predicaments. Nor is this to suggest that she ignores the teacher qua teacher. To the contrary, she views teaching as a uniquely rich and important project, and personal projects are central to the ethical, existential terrain she is interested in.

From Teacher as Stranger (1973) to the latest posting on The Maxine Greene Foundation website (, Greene has been working to make visible the person in the role of teacher, and even “to make that person visible to himself” (1973, p. 271). Time and again, she has urged teachers to take an “interest in thinking about what it means to choose to be a teacher” (Greene, 1987, p. 181). She has offered us tireless and eloquent reminders that teaching is a transaction between selves in process, persons in need of meaningful projects and freedoms worth taking (see, e.g., Greene, 1986, pp. 76-79). She reminds us that the individual teacher, like any individual, needs some sort of studio space—some opportunity for retreat, reflection, and recreation—if she is to cultivate herself through her work (1973, p. 290). She reminds us that teachers also must fear the isolation that vitiates genuine action, which requires the catalysis and witnessing of others. And she reminds us that we are beginners, beings capable of breaking with the taken for granted, the routine and the mechanical (see, e.g., Greene, 1978, pp. 26-27; 1979). Greene's path-breaking work on these questions is the inspiration for the essay that follows. I explore the existential meanings, risks, and rewards of teaching through a close reading of two writers with whom she has frequently been in dialogue: Rainer Maria Rilke and Hannah Arendt.

Teaching and Natality: Recovery of an Untimely Question

Why teach? What draws us to this daunting practice and what sustains us there in the face of its inevitable difficulties? What sort of love does this labor express? Why might the practice of teaching be worth putting at the center of one's life?

One of the most stirring answers ever given to such questions appears in the last paragraph of Hannah Arendt's (1977) essay, “The Crisis of Education”:

Education is the point at which we decide if we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from that ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, not to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world. (p. 196)

Cool Site

I just came across The Voice via the Teachers College Record. Videos share tidbits of scholarly research. Here's one with Bree Picower discussing her paper from TC Record called “Resisting Compliance: Learning to Teach for Social Justice in a Neo-Liberal Environment.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Finding the Light in their Eyes: Ideas

PBS shares its Innovation Awards winners. One teacher's ELL kindergarteners publish digital stories that can be shared with relatives abroad and the wider world. Another connects the arts and poetry with her upper elementary students. In the midwest, elementary art students created the Young Sloppy Brush. There are many stories worth checking out. It's so much more fun and enriching to read these stories as opposed to those that feature which teachers raise test scores and which don't. While test scores can offer one window into teacher and student learning, it's certainly a small picture. Rather than forcing teacher test score data to be made public, what about encouraging teachers to publicly share what's happening in their classroom - what projects their students are doing and how they find the light in their students' eyes?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cuddly reading buddies and more

  • Reading to dogs can help kids boost their reading skills. (Good Morning America)
  • Wealthier special education parents are more likely to ask the DOE to pay for their child's private schooling. (WSJ)
  • My opinion on this article? Don't leave arts education up to principals! (Observer)
  • Texas Special Ed students are twice as likely to be suspended. (Texas Tribune)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tom Sawyer, Diagnoses, and More

  • Kids on the younger side of their grade are diagnosed with ADHD more often. (USA Today)
  • Where would Tom Sawyer be in today's school system? ADHD? Oppositional Defiance Disorder? Conduct Disorder? Emotional Disturbance? (WashingtonPost)
  • Surfing can be therapeutic for kids with autism. (LI Herald)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chancellor Gilbert

The Failure to Desegregate

Susan Eaton and Steven Rivkin ask: Is Desegregation Dead? in their article in Education Next.

Hard to believe we still have separate and unequal schools. Schools with a high percentage of students of color often have a high percentage of low-income students. When the needs of many of these families and students are not met outside of school, the problems become a part of the school. In a school where almost all students and families face these same challenges, the burden is much heavier. I've certainly seen this first hand. It becomes a never-ending and impossible triage.

Eaton makes two important points:
1. Diverse schools committed to equal opportunity hold vast, often untapped potential, but it is up to teachers, parents, administrators, and other sectors of society to harness it. When diverse schools institute rigid academic tracking that places students of color in low-level classes or employ harsh discipline policies that exclude students rather than providing support, they are not truly integrated. The success of today’s diversity movement hinges on our ability to move diverse schools closer to true integration.

Increasing linguistic and cultural diversity enriches our society. A modern integration movement must incorporate immigrant students and English language learners. The sharp segregation of these groups from mainstream opportunity limits their chances for social mobility and encourages prejudice against them.

2. Educators have long testified and research has long demonstrated that schools with large shares of economically disadvantaged children become overwhelmed with challenges that interfere with education. Racially segregated high-poverty schools tend to be overrun with social problems, have a hard time finding and retaining good teachers, are associated with high dropout rates, and are less effective than diverse schools at intervening in problems outside of school that undermine learning. In a longitudinal study of dropout rates, researcher Argun Saatcioglu concluded, “desegregated schools likely played a more effective role in counterbalancing student-level nonschool problems than did segregated ones.” Generally, racially and economically diverse schools have been far more successful than segregated ones in improving achievement, graduating students of color, and sending kids to college. There are some successful high-poverty schools, certainly, but hardly enough to make “separate but equal” our education policy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oh Arizona...

Via Truthout:
For the next few months, the world will be focusing on Arizona's SB 1070 - the state's new racial profiling law - as it works its way through the appeals process. However, in this insane asylum known as Arizona, where conservatives have concocted one reactionary scheme after another, another law in particular stands out for its embrace of Dark Ages-era censorship - the 2010 anti-ethnic studies HB 2281 - a law that seeks to codify the "triumph" of Western Civilization with its emphasis on Greco-Roman culture.

Unless it is blocked, HB 2281 - which creates an inquisitorial mechanism that will determine which books and curricula are acceptable in the state - will go into effect on January 1, 2011. Books such as "Occupied America" by Rodolfo Acuña and "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by Paulo Freire, have already been singled out as being un-American and preaching the violent overthrow of the US government.

Talking about Empathy

Eric Weltman's piece, Empathy and Our Nation's Future, on Truthout cites out a possible decline in the empathy of college students today. He points out what empathy means in public policy practice:
Policies to foster residential integration include effective enforcement of fair housing and lending laws and providing more housing vouchers to low-income families that break up concentrated poverty and enable greater mobility. The use of inclusionary zoning should be broadened, requiring new developments to contain low- and moderate-income units. In education, we should create additional magnet schools for students across district lines and increase programs allowing urban students to attend suburban schools. And, perhaps most significantly, urban and suburban municipalities and school districts should be merged, breaking down barriers to sharing resources, broadening access to opportunity and helping students navigate our changing nation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recommended Reading: Random Family

A friend passed along Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx to me. I can't believe I hadn't read it until now. Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, along with the individuals and families she follows, share a shocking, real, gritty, eye-opening, and thorough story. I want to read more of LeBlanc's work.

USA Today: 'Random Family': Intentionally Shocking
Random Family, Leblanc's first book, is a seminal work of journalism, a brand of deep reporting rarely attempted anymore. It's written like a documentary, and LeBlanc makes no judgments about the lives she presents. Political spin, statistical analyses, blame and solutions are absent.
Instead, the author lets Coco, Jessica and assorted characters use their own voices to tell their stories. The reader is a witness. Nothing is glamorized or sanitized, not the rats, roaches, bad parenting or faulty reasoning.
NPR: Random Family

NY Times: In the Other Country
Most often when the lives of the urban poor are chronicled, it's within the confines of a few familiar genres: policy reports, sociological studies, newspaper stories about the impact of welfare reform or drug laws. It is rare to read about those lives as, for instance, family sagas, in which character and temperament and circumstance all jostle for our attention, and detail accretes into textured portraits of individuals. So it is partly, but only partly, the novelty of Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's approach to the subject -- she spent 10 years hanging out with one hard-pressed, loosely defined family in the Bronx while she tracked its fate -- that makes this such an extraordinary book.

Planning Pyramid

I'll be co-teaching a first-grade inclusion class next year. As I was researching techniques, I came across the Planning Pyramid Unit by Schumm, Vaughri & Harris, 1997. It is an interesting way of capturing what all students should know and enrichment and extension concepts during a unit.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Finding the Light in their Eyes

Sir Ken Robinson's TED Talk, in the previous post, reminded me of Sonia Nieto's introduction from her book "The light in their eyes: Creating multicultural learning communities."

She says:
In thinking about why learning needs to be more centrally connected with multicultural education, an image came to me: the light in students' eyes when they become excited about learning. There is nothing quite as dazzling as this sight. Once we have seen the look of discovery and learning in students' eyes, we can no longer maintain that some young people--because of their social class, race, ethnicity, gender, native language, or other difference--are simply unmotivated, ignorant, or undeserving. The light in their eyes is eloquent testimony to their capacity and hence their right to learn.
When we subject many populations of "at risk" students to skill and drill curricula, test prep, low-level thinking skills, and scripted curricula, we don't have a chance to see this light in students' eyes. We take this away from the very beginning. We fail them from the start. I have felt like I have to sneak in the activities that give students a chance to love learning. A creative curriculum often must be enacted behind the closed classroom door. It's assumed that it's not what struggling or "at-risk" students need.

I agree with SpEdChange's post about the current Obama reforms and Race to the Top:
The winners of the "innovation" grant program: Teach for America - which provides untrained teachers for America's most vulnerable minority students while pumping up the resumes of rich kids; KIPP Schools - today's recreation of the US "Indian School" program for the "retraining" of minority children; and Success for All - a scripted reading program devoted to teaching reading as a skill, not a life function; all have a few things in common, from campaign contributions to rich folks behind them, but especially, that they are all emblematic of the Obama Administration's belief "that African-American and Latino kids are ineducable."

If Obama thought differently he would not be pouring education funds into reductionist programs that no middle class or wealthy parent would accept for their child. If Obama thought differently he would be pouring funding into...dreaming about how to give all of our kids all that they need.
His request?
All of our children, even if they are poor, are black, are latino, are "disabled," even if they have "disinterested" or incompetent parents, deserve our very best. So please, let's stop "racing" - and let's stop dividing - and let's start creating opportunity.

College does NOT begin in Kindergarten

Thank you Ken Robinson.

He also says, "a three year old is not half a six-year-old. "Do we want our education system to be "fast food" or "customized dining?"

I came across this talk late. It's from May, but definitely worth watching if you haven't yet seen it.

He closes with this poem by William Butler Yeats:

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Special Ed Discrimination Lawsuit in New Orleans

Although the New Orleans district has been upheld as an innovative space for education since Katrina, special education students are not receiving the differentiated, high quality instruction that they deserve. The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed suit.

Friday, July 23, 2010

In the mean time...

I haven't been posting for a while. I did just finish a little piece that is published on GothamSchools. Click the link within for my piece.

Happy summer!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rethinking Schools Poetry issue is FREE!

Yay! I love poetry. My students wrote some amazing poems this year that we are publishing into a little book. I'll share some of them on here soon- they are beautiful.

Check out Rethinking Schools current issue for free online - it's devoted to poetry:
The U.S. poet Robert Frost said, “A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a love sickness. It finds the thought and the thought finds the words.” Our cover section focuses on three teachers who guide students to find their voice through poetry, to take the lump in their throat and transform it into poetry that gives them a sense of their own power. At the same time, Tom McKenna, Renée Watson, and Elizabeth Schlessman show us how to use poetry to help students think critically about their personal experience and connect it to a larger social reality.
In my favorite piece, an elementary school teachers explores what it means to leave one country and move to another: Aquí y Allá • Exploring Our Lives Through Poetry — Here and There. One of the poems she used is very accessible to students:

Wonders of the City
Here in the city there are
wonders everywhere

Here mangoes
come in cans

In El Salvador
they grew on trees

Here chickens come
in plastic bags

Over there
they slept beside me

—Jorge Argueta

Teaching the Oil Spill

Looking for resources to teach about the oil spill? I am too. Here's what I've found. My students are putting a news broadcast together about the spill that we'll show to the rest of the school (hopefully). I allowed them to explore a variety of websites. We did an experiment to see how water interacts with oil. They especially were into looking at the photos of animals affected by the spill--it really made them want to help.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Silent Students: How can I work with a child with selective mutism?

Selective mutism can be puzzling for classroom teachers, counselors, and a student's peers. What's the best approach? I did a little research.

I have an 8-year-old female student in my class (who I'll call Jessica), who is classified as having a Learning Disability. She entered the class in November, fresh out of her initial special education evaluation. There was little information on the IEP because the evaluator was unable to get the student to verbally or otherwise engage in the testing. When asked questions, she would look away and put her finger in her mouth. She is recommended for a 12:1:1 bilingual setting, but she currently is in a mono-lingual English speaking classroom and receives no English language instruction, as it is not available in our school. She has Selective Mutism.

Selective Mutism is a low incidence anxiety disorder in which a child does not speak in one or more social settings. It occurs in less than 1% of the population and is more common in girls than in boys. Because children typically speak in the home setting, teachers play an important role in identifying and finding appropriate treatment for students with selective mutism. When asked to speak, they may blush, fidget, avoid eye contact and become increasingly rigid. They may even avoid asking to go to the bathroom. My student places her index finger in her mouth when she is nervous. She does this less now, and it is my assumption that this is in part because she is more comfortable and in part because we have reminded her not to put her finger in her mouth. It's difficult to believe has never asked to use the bathroom during class.

Some claim that the child will naturally grow out of their silence. Many claim that my student will. But researchers contend that this isn't neccessarily the case. Even if the student does begin to speak, she will likely suffer from anxiety in new situations. Even worse, if her anxiety is left untreated she may never speak in the school setting or speak to the degree that is typical of other students. It is important that students are treated for the condition because it decreases opportunities for social interaction and may increase instances of bullying.

Additionally, a student’s silence slows down the progress on word attack skills and oral reading. I noticed that as a teacher, I did not spend as much time working with my student on reading and oral activities because I assumed she would not speak. However, once I realized this, I made the conscious effort to work with her as much as I work with other students.

Students’ silence reduces opportunities for academic assessment from the teacher, especially because the elementary setting relies heavily on verbal assessment. However, students do not typically have academic deficiencies, even though teachers may rate reading skills lower, objective measures show that students with selective mutism perform on level with their peers. Jessica often surprises me with her reading and the amount of words that she can read. However, because of her status as an English language learner, it appears as though she does not have a large English vocabulary and does not know the meaning of many words. Even when she is able to decode the sounds in the word, she is unlikely to blend the sounds together. I do not know if she is anxious and this prohibits her from taking an educated guess or her limited English causes her not to recognize that the word is a true word.

It is important for teachers who work with students with selective mutism to understand that the students’ silence is a symptom of anxiety and not a show of defiance. Pressure to speak from adults and peers may only make the student more anxious. However, no pressure to speak may reinforce the students’ silence. It is important that a teacher’s relationship with a student who has selective mutism has a careful balance of safety and challenge to progress, if even in very small steps. The student must not begin to see his or her own identity as a selective mute, or one who does not speak.

While these students do not speak, they do wish to communicate. In the month of March, I made a conscious effort to engage more with Jessica. I noticed that because she did not speak and did not cause “problems” in the classroom, I did not take much time to give her attention in a social way. I would help her with her work, but didn’t have much of a relationship with her. During a week in March, the class went on two field trips. I sat with Jessica on the bus. We took pictures of ourselves with my camera and looked at them. We laughed. She began pointing to things out the bus window that she wanted me to look at. Since then, we continue to communicate more. Now, Jessica will tap me on the shoulder now when she needs something, as opposed to doing nothing. She will act silly with me, touching my hair or making faces at me. When I say thank you to her, she will respond with “you’re welcome.” Even though these are small steps, I recognize that she is making progress and communicating more.

There are a variety of therapies that are appropriate for students with selective mutism, including behavioral therapy, family therapy, and psychopharmacological therapy. SSRI’s (anxiety treating medicines) have been shown to be helpful to decrease anxiety and effective in getting children to speak in as little as weeks. These treatments have been used with students as young as four years old and the medicine does not typically need to be used for a long duration of time, perhaps a few months or a year. Still, communication between home and school and an intervention plan can make progress even without the therapist.

What should the teacher mindset be? The teacher, first and foremost, should show empathy to the child. The teacher might ask the student if they would like to speak at school in the future and give an open invitation to do so. If the student does say that they would like to try, the teacher can say they will help however they can. In the classroom, the teacher should provide a safe and welcoming environment, observing and paying close attention to the situations in which the student appears the most anxious. The teacher may ask the student (who can answer in writing or drawing): How can I help you participate more in school? When the student does speak, it is wise to refrain from calling attention to the child because this may cause more anxiety.

The teacher may consider, when possible, making a home visit to the child to observe and perhaps interact with the student in the home setting and play with the student using puppets or dolls to encourage speech. In terms of the student-teacher or student-peer relationships, teacher should watch carefully for behavior that becomes too dependent. I am planning to visit Jessica’s home in two weeks. It is late in the school year, but I hope to make as much progress as we can in the little time that is left.

To treat selective mutism in the school, school staff should develop an intervention plan. Crundwell recommends involving individuals with whom the student speaks in “conversational visits." The student may work with the individual with whom he or she is comfortable, for example a parent, in a separate room in the school building, practicing reading or math. The purpose of this visit is to allow the student to become comfortable speaking within the walls of the school setting, and no more. After a while, speech can then be transferred to another setting. The conversational visits then move closer to the classroom and peers.

Jessica’s mother has visited our classroom a few times. However, because she is in the classroom with Jessica and her peers, Jessica is still anxious. If I am able to plan for the visit, I will set up space and a time for Jessica and her mother to interact on their own in a place in the building. I wish I could communicate these strategies more to the parents, but our communication is difficult because Jessica’s mother speaks Spanish and I do not.

From my research, I’ve recognized that it is critical that the steps be small in order for the child to feel safe. After several conversational visits take place, more opportunities can be provided for conversations and interactions with peers. When the student does speak, it is wise to refrain from calling attention to the child because this may cause more anxiety. Teachers should pay close attention to the activities and seating arrangements in the classroom when planning for social interaction. In the classroom, pupils that the student engages with should be used for support. One young boy in my class has taken a liking to Jessica and looks out for her. He interacts with her and tries to get her to speak with him. Sometimes I wonder if he is putting to much pressure on her, but I don’t think he is making her too anxious, from my observations. They seem to interact as typical friends would. When we work in partners, I have Jessica and the student work together.

As the school year comes to an end, teachers and school staff should also plan with parents and the student to think about what can be done over summer break and the next school year to maintain and continue progress. I need to think more about this and gather more resources for the family.

When Jessica first arrived, she did not speak at all. When questions were directed toward her, she would look away and put her finger in her mouth. Because we did not yet have the IEP, Jessica’s history of silence in the school setting was not available. I was told that she was Spanish speaking and the school was puzzled as to why she was placed in my class. As a couple months passed on, Jessica’s speech progressed little by little. When prompted and given choices she would respond with nods. Then, she would respond with a one word answer after being prompted. Now, she speaks in a more audible whisper and will respond to questions without delay and with 2-3 word answers.

During the first week of May, a bilingual paraprofessional came to work with Jessica. She met Jessica and began speaking with her in English, and Jessica did not respond. Then, the paraprofessional started showing Jessica pictures of her dog on her cell phone and speaking in Spanish. Jessica began responding in Spanish in an audible whisper. Throughout the day, the paraprofessional encouraged Jessica to participate and spoke to her in both Spanish and English. When I arrived to pick Jessica up from lunch (at which her para was present), I had never seen her smile so big (and she smiles a lot!) I walked down the hall with Jessica, holding hands. Jessica was so excited that she was bubbling with energy, skipping and squeezing my hand. We returned to the classroom and she continued to talk in a loud whisper when prompted. At the end of the day, another student said, “Wow, I’ve never heard Jessica talk so much before!” The entire class was proud , including Jessica!

Monday, April 26, 2010

good job or no?

As soon as I finish reading Diane Ravitch's new book (just a few pages away), I've got Alfie Kohn's Punished By Rewards waiting for me on my nightstand.

I was perusing today through "Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!" At first, I was skeptical. First, Kohn brings up his thoughts on unconditionality, which I first read in his article "Unconditional Teaching." It's a gem:
Imagine that your students are invited to respond to a questionnaire several years after leaving the school. They’re asked to indicate whether they agree or disagree – and how strongly – with statements such as: “Even when I wasn’t proud of how I acted, even when I didn’t do the homework, even when I got low test scores or didn’t seem interested in what was being taught, I knew that [insert your name here] still cared about me.”

This is something that hit home with me when I first read this article a while ago, and I try to keep this in mind as I teach. I think it's especially important with students with special learning and behavioral needs.

Instead of saying "Good Job," Kohn recommends:
* Say what you saw. A simple, evaluation-free statement ("You put your shoes on by yourself" or even just "You did it") tells your child that you noticed. It also lets her take pride in what she did. In other cases, a more elaborate description may make sense. If your child draws a picture, you might provide feedback – not judgment – about what you noticed: "This mountain is huge!" "Boy, you sure used a lot of purple today!"

If a child does something caring or generous, you might gently draw his attention to the effect of his action on the other person: "Look at Abigail’s face! She seems pretty happy now that you gave her some of your snack." This is completely different from praise, where the emphasis is on how you feel about her sharing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

beautiful to love the world with eyes that have not yet been born

Before the Scales, Tomorrow

And when the enthusiastic
story of our time
is told,
who are yet to be born
but announce themselves
with more generous face,
we will come out ahead
--those who have suffered most from it.

And that
being ahead of your time
means much suffering from it.
But it's beautiful to love the world
with eyes
that have not yet
been born.

And splendid
to know yourself victorious
when all around you
it's all still so cold,
so dark.

Otto Rene Castillo

Friday, April 9, 2010

I heart Deborah Meier

Ugh. I so do!

There are two pieces of her's I just read that really are meaningful.

Free Market Schooling

"This is a perilous moment. The individualist, greed-driven free-market ideology that both our major parties have pursued is at odds with what most Americans really care about....Working families and poor communities need and deserve help because the free market has failed to generate shared prosperity — its famous unseen hand has become a closed fist." Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, and I, agree. But the public seems just as suspicious—if not more so—about public institutions as the private ones. Thus the relative lack of alarm over the extraordinary shift in "ownership" of our public schools. We are witnessing more federal intervention at virtually all levels of schooling, more power in the hands of private wealth, and more "market-driven" decisions — at the same time! And there is almost no well-funded opposition, except for teacher unions who are then villainized as being anti-reform, self-interested, too protective of their bad apples.
The second, Until We Take Democracy Seriously, is similar.
Here's an essential question: When trying to get at the truth of things, what role do data play? Most of the time our "habits" take over before we can exercise any form of reflective judgment (which is why John Dewey focused on "habits of mind" as the goal of good schools). Habits are slow growing so slowing things down could help. It takes a "leisure class" to rule well. Leisure has a democratic purpose because "data" rarely speak for themselves. That's true whether the data are numbers or observations. Sometimes, highly structured and standardized "observations"—standardized tests—work. Sometimes, highly structured debates or formal proofs work—with the rules of the game and the judges chosen by those viewed as most expert or representative. Often, we decide on the sheer logic of the argument, calling upon the data life itself has brought us.
I'm also reading a couple books. Diane Ravitch's new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. I've never totally agreed with Ravitch's views, but find her to be a fascinating individual and as I read this book about her changing views on how education to look, I continue to respect her. And it looks like we agree on more "stuff."

I'm also reading Alfie Kohn's Punished By Rewards.

Our basic strategy for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: Do this and you'll get that. We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way that we train the family pet.

In this groundbreaking book, Alfie Kohn shows that while manipulating people with incentives seems to work in the short run, it is a strategy that ultimately fails and even does lasting harm. Our workplaces and classrooms will continue to decline, he argues, until we begin to question our reliance on a theory of motivation derived from laboratory animals.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"Doing" Critical Pedagogy in the K-12 Space

Came across an interesting post on The Freire Project, "Everyday Critical Pedagogies Do Exist" that was a response to a comment about whether or not critical pedagogy should be promoted within the K-12 space, or best used/pushed at higher education institutions and community groups, etc. Which makes more sense?

This is something that I've pondered as an elementary school teacher and critical pedagogue. It is easier to envision or make concrete my own critical pedagogy outside of the K-12 space-- in applied theatre, in my writing, in my political thinking and action. Certainly, these beliefs and philosophies inform my practice as a second grade special education teacher, and prior as a K-8 theatre and movement teaching artist. However, I grapple with the question: Do I have an everyday critical pedagogy?

I'm not sure. I try to. I'm figuring out exactly what that means. I first thought that my beliefs about critical pedagogy would influence mostly the content I teach and how I teach it (and it certainly does); I am learning more and more that perhaps it influences my views of my special needs students and the way I interact with them more than the aforementioned.

Building a community in which my special needs learners have agency and are viewed as whole human beings rather than disabled or deficient children veers me away from using certain behavior modification and token economy techniques that are so often pushed in classrooms. As a critical pedagogue I am always trying to reevaluate my own assumptions and make and remake myself as an educator and a student. I try to observe, listen, and understand my students more and more. I attempt to create a circle of learning, instead of what a traditional classroom usually becomes. At times, I fail. I know that I talk more than my students. I know that I do not yet give them enough opportunities to be heard and to use their language, to inquire and reflect on the world. I don't think I'm patient enough for that to happen as much as it should. I'm working on it.

The thought just popped into my mind about one of my favorite quotes: If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." I think I do feel that way within my classroom. We are bound, and teaching and learning has become much more than helping. I can't explain much more than that right now, but I am continuing to learn what it means to be a critical pedagogue with my second grade wonders.

Hello Poetry!

April is Poetry Month. I love poems.
  • Teachers and Writers Collaborative always has awesome articles on teaching poetry. I'm hoping to put something together with poetry and comics for my second graders.
  • Wishes, Lies, and Dreams is an awesome, fabulous, and beautiful book about writing poetry with children. It has simple but awesome ideas!
  • has curricula and lesson plans that are cool.

deb meier on testing

Like this analogy she makes on Bridging Differences:

If only everyone stopped using the word "achievement" as a synonym for scores on tests. It's a sleight of hand that justifies so much that's gone wrong. We've meanwhile discounted the work of real live children as "soft" data.

Having "normal" temperature may be an indicator of health, but when we think it's the definition of health, beware. We wouldn't be so stupid, would we? A high score on a multiple-choice driving test means something different than a road test driving a car. So we prefer the latter if we value safety. Do we value intellectual achievement less?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

on teaching

"…Teaching is an interactive practice that begins and ends with seeing the student. This is more complicated than it seems, for it is something that is ongoing and never completely finished. The student grows and changes, the situation shifts, and seeing becomes an evolving challenge. As layers of mystification and obfuscation are peeled away, as a student becomes more fully present to the teacher, experiences and ways of thinking and knowing that were initially obscure become the ground on which an authentic and vital teaching practice can be constructed.”

From: To Teach: The Journey Of A Teacher By William Ayers, Teachers College Press, 2001

Monday, March 22, 2010

books on my nightstand

I'm reading a lot of books at once. All are great. Especially Lost at School. Can't say enough about Collaborative Problem Solving!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Without the right conditions, nothing grows

Thank you Ken Robinson. I very much agree that teachers must create conditions that allow students to flourish. Not conditions that stifle students or scare students into compliance.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

By Heart: This book sounds good...

By Heart

Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives
Judith Tannenbaum, Spoon Jackson

"A boy with no one to listen becomes a man in prison for life and discovers his mind can be free. A woman enters prison to teach and becomes his first listener. And so begins a twenty-five year friendship between two gifted writers and poets. The result is By Heart — a book that will anger you, give you hope, and break your heart."
— Gloria Steinem

Judith Tannenbaum and Spoon Jackson met at San Quentin State Prison in 1985. For over two decades they have conferred, corresponded and sometimes collaborated, producing very different bodies of work resting on the same understanding: that human beings have one foot in darkness, the other in light.

In this beautifully crafted exploration – part memoir, part essay – Tannenbaum and Jackson consider art, education, prison, possibility, and which children our world nurtures and which it shuns. At the book's core are two stories that speak for human imagination, spirit, and expression.

Resources for evaluating power, privilege, values, and status

In Good Work: Ethics and Community Cultural Development with Children and Youth, Stephani Etheridge Woodson examines what it means to do "good work" with kids. I found the below resources valuable. I've done status mapping and value mapping, but I thought the matchstick autobiography was cool.

A few activities I use to tackle this ethical responsibility include:

  1. Status mapping

    Social Indentity Membership Status
    Primary Cultural affiliation
    Physical Ability/Disability
    Sexual Orientation

  2. Field work observing the performance of power and status

    Observe diverse sites, for example, the ASU gym and pool, a preschool playground, or a high-school basketball game. In each location, look for how social identities are performed and maintained. Look for status as related to those membership categories.

  3. Writing your own obituary

    Write your own obituary, putting into it all of your life‘s accomplishments, and include why you are proud of these accomplishments

  4. Matchstick autobiography

    In the space of time provided by one lit match (before you burn your fingers) give your autobiography to the class. What is most important that we know about you?

  5. Value mapping activities

    1. Design a crest and motto for yourself.
    2. Create digital “I am” poems.
    3. As I read each of the below statements, vote with your body, ranking your values on a continuum of “agree” on one side of the room and “disagree” on the other.
      • Spending time with my family is important.
      • It is more important to save money than it is to buy things I want, but don’t necessarily need.
      • Being physically fit is an important part of my life.
      • Creative time is important to me.
      • It is more important to be honest than to spare someone’s feelings.

Becoming competent culturally is a process of self-reflexive pondering, questioning and awareness of how power dynamics operate. I believe that CCD youth-focused practitioners have an ethical responsibility to acknowledge power, to understand how their own status operates in any given situation, and to be able to honestly address difference with children and youth.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ruby Bridges to Today

In my second grade special ed classroom, we've been studying school integration. The texts we've been using include The Story of Ruby Bridges, Through My Eyes, and Remember.

The kids get it. One of my students said, "I think I know why there were laws that made life for white people better. I think it is because all of the people in the court were white."

My kids see our school as integrated because there are many shades of black and brown. But we're still not there at all. Here's a great story from Village Voice, Inside a Divided Upper East Side School.

If you're a white student and you arrive at the public elementary school building on 95th Street and Third Avenue, you'll probably walk through the front door. If you're a black student, you'll probably come in through the back.

Friday, February 19, 2010

pre-school paralysis

Just got around to reading The Junior Meritocracy piece in a recent NY Mag. Love what the head of The Calhoun School has to say:
I want a school full of kids who day dream. I want kids who are fun to be with. I want kids who don't want to answer the questions on those tests in the way the adult wants them to be answered, because that kid is already seeing the world differently. In fact, I want kids who are cynical enough at age 4 to know that there's really something wrong with someone asking them these theings and think, 'I'm going to screw with them in the process!'"
Aren't these many of our special education students? He also says:
You have to play with blocks. You have to make up stories. You have to muck around. Arithmetic and decoding language aren't life---they're symbolic representations of other things. And education is being diverted into focusing on these symbolic representations of the very experiences kids are being denied.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Love, Love, Love: Part 6

Thanks to ATA Blog for making me remember that I haven't finished sharing on this topic.

This post is about Facilitating Challenging Dialogue in the applied theatre, with love.

Here's the background: To explore the concept of radical love in the applied theatre space, I reached out to other practitioners and continued to review applicable literature in the field of education and theatre. I have organized these thoughts into four that struck me:
  • Courage, Envisioning and Imagining Change
  • Community Work
  • Facilitating Challenging Dialogue
  • Representation of the Other
Find the links to the previous posts here.

Here's my bit on Facilitating Challenging Dialogue...

To engage in true openness, listening, and dialogue to represent love in action, we must risk spaces of discomfort. In examining power and privilege, oppression, marginalization, abuse, violence and other topics, applied theatre work often ventures to places that are uncomfortable for facilitators and participants. As practitioners, we must embrace this space, but maintain its safety.

In “Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness,” bell hooks identifies the margin as a space for resistance. She notes that the margin is “much more than a site of deprivation…it is also the site of radical possibility.” Yet, embracing marginality may be a space of uneasiness for some—but discomfort can be the most radical place for learning. Dr. Christina Marin of NYU's Educational Theatre Program challenges participants to acknowledge that through discomfort, amazing possibilities can be uncovered:
If you are willing to be uncomfortable, which I believe is one of the best places in which to explore, if you’re willing to, and you don’t try and put the band-aid on it, you don’t try to cover it up, you don’t try and dismiss it and negate it, you don’t try and get past it to get to the comfortable part too quickly. Sometimes we have to sit in that zone of discomfort because that’s where we can examine how we can find the road together.
Michael Rhod (of Sojourn Theatre) points out that it is the facilitator’s responsibility to maintain a safe space throughout discomfort, to “be aware and fiercely observant, proactive, porous, and at the same time recognize that there are some moments that you have to let tumble forward…” When the facilitator is a part of the circle, rather than outside of it, the facilitator demonstrates risk alongside participants. With this courage to risk, facilitators and participants engage in the vulnerable and courageous act of love that McLaren (1997) and Antonia Darder characterize as radical love.

Throughout the applied theatre experience, the facilitator is responsible for creating and maintaining a safe space in concert with participants. The artists’ responsibilities amplify when applied theatre work results in performance where there exist implications with the way we represent the other.

Looking Closely at Harlem Children's Zone

City Limits' March issue takes a little bit more of a critical look at HCZ.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Maxine Greene, my love

via ATA Blog:
An excerpt from How Do We Think About Our Craft?, an essay by Maxine Greene published by Teachers College, Columbia University.
"Gradually becoming aware of all this, we are beginning to recognize that every young person must be encountered as a center of consciousness, even as he or she is understood to be a participant in an identifiable social world. Each one may be encountered as a being who is at once a distinctive individual and someone whose consciousness opens out to the common, an intersubjective world in which he or she is inextricably involved."

Learning Love

Thanks to Michael Wiggins of the ATA Blog for sharing this quote about love!
In his book, The Art of Loving, philosopher Erich Fromm writes:
"The first step is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.

Could it be that only those things are considered worthy of being learned with which one can earn money or prestige, and that love, which "only" profits the soul, but is profitless in the modern sense, is a luxury we have no right to spend much energy on?"

Emotions, Memory, and Learning

I was recently skimming a book on what teachers should know about how the brain works. (I need to find the title--I know I wrote it down somewhere.) The part that really stood out to me (even though it makes total sense) is that we are more likely to remember something/put it into our memory if there is emotion tied to it. We are likely to remember that with which we have an emotional connection. Duh.

Still, this makes me think about how the arts can be so crucial in learning. Experiencing a process drama about Ruby Bridges' and school integration vs. reading about it. Listening to or learning music from the Civil Rights area. Problem solving using Forum Theatre. All of these evoke emotions as a tool and a way of learning, and an avenue to remembering.

Here's a quick read on Educational Leadership: Brain-Friendly Learning for Teachers.

Our brain pays more attention to stimuli and events that are accompanied by emotions. We remember the best and worst things that happen to us while forgetting emotionally neutral events. Do you remember what you ate for lunch two weeks ago last Thursday? Probably not, unless it was a special occasion or the food made you sick. In either case, the accompanying emotions enabled you to remember it.

How we feel about a learning situation often affects attention and memory more quickly than what we think about it. In most adolescents, the brain region that processes emotions (the limbic area) is fully operational, whereas the regions responsible for thinking, reflecting, and controlling emotional reactions (located in the prefrontal cortex) are still developing. This is why middle school students overtly display emotions inappropriately in the classroom (through pained sighs, rolling eyes, and blank looks).

And another: The Role of Emotions in Learning. This one talks mainly about the way that fear/joy can affect our ability to learn and open up avenues to learning.

Here's an article on Memory, Music and Emotion in Learning.


Great, great, great Susan Engel & NY Times.

So important to recognize that what we teach and the way we teach is not aligned to what we know about child development.
Our current educational approach — and the testing that is driving it — is completely at odds with what scientists understand about how children develop during the elementary school years and has led to a curriculum that is strangling children and teachers alike.

In order to design a curriculum that teaches what truly matters, educators should remember a basic precept of modern developmental science: developmental precursors don’t always resemble the skill to which they are leading. For example, saying the alphabet does not particularly help children learn to read. But having extended and complex conversations during toddlerhood does. Simply put, what children need to do in elementary school is not to cram for high school or college, but to develop ways of thinking and behaving that will lead to valuable knowledge and skills later on.

So what should children be able to do by age 12, or the time they leave elementary school? They should be able to read a chapter book, write a story and a compelling essay; know how to add, subtract, divide and multiply numbers; detect patterns in complex phenomena; use evidence to support an opinion; be part of a group of people who are not their family; and engage in an exchange of ideas in conversation. If all elementary school students mastered these abilities, they would be prepared to learn almost anything in high school and college.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Discovering Race Relations

Here are some resources that could be applicable during Black History Month. RaceBridges offers a spectrum of lesson ideas from looking at Obama's speech on race to looking at the history of discrimination against Native Americans in Alaska.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I hate this article.

Is that mean of me to say?

I just don't think Flanagan gets the point of experiential education.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Applied Theatre Blog

A doctoral student from NYU's educational theatre program blogs about what is happening in the applied theatre course in Puerto Rico. Very informative.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Collaborating with Kids with Behavioral Challenges

Been reading a little of this book: Love it. Great website, too.

Check out Lincoln Center Institute

I was reading a bit about LCI's summer workshops-- The LCI International Educator Workshop.

I want to go!

Discover how to unlock imaginative learning through engaging with works of art. Find new excitement in your teaching practice. Share the insights of professional artists. Lay down paint, move to a beat, try on a stage character, invent your own music, improvise in a group or solo, and enjoy research. Immerse yourself in a sustained encounter with works of dance, music, theater, or visual art.

This workshop will help you to discover how to elicit new ideas in your students, and how to stimulate creative, conceptual thinkers prepared for the world beyond the classroom. Just imagine…

The Lincoln Center Institute International Educator Workshops will be held in New York City and at host sites in the United States and other countries. The New York City International Educator Workshop at Lincoln Center Institute will be held May 17–21; June 28–July 2; and July 12–16.

Introductory-Level Workshops are offered to any educator, artist, school or arts administrator, curriculum developer, and college and university professor from any national or international location. View the 2009 Introductory-Level brochure (PDF) for more information and as a preview of the 2010 Workshop.

Also, while reading, checked out their newest publication-

Such a Maxine Greene title. Visit the book's website for more. Here's a bit:

Know your enemy; it is you, scared.

Fear kills imagination. And fear is always with us. Pretending it doesn’t exist might work in a pinch, but eventually it returns. Learning to name, face, grapple with our fears: this is the start of the art of everything.

Because imagination is related to images, and images are related to the brain, it is logical to think of imagination as a purely cognitive capacity. But imagination is equally about emotion. It is about the animal instincts of fight or flight. It originates in the gut, in the chemical explosions that precede conscious thought. When you can overcome fear, you earn a chance to exercise your imagination. When you can’t, you don’t...

bell hooks for kids = wonderful stuffs

Recently read this book with my students. How could I pass up a bell hooks children's book on love?

I asked the students to write a response to the prompt, "Homemade Love is..."

One student said:
Love is made of family and friends. My family is a caregiver.
My family is so funny!
This [is] how love is made. Is made of so many wonderful stuffs.