Teacher-to-Teacher: Back to School: Beyond Pocket Folders
By Janice Ewing
Do you think of August as a transitional month? For many teachers, June and July have provided time and opportunities to pursue professional learning and have the collegial conversations that broaden their thinking and inspire new avenues of inquiry. Now, the weather and the calendar tell us that it’s still summer, with the possibilities of travel, family time, and more professional learning, but it’s also a time when many teachers begin thinking more directly about their return to their classrooms.
The TV, print, and online ads tell us that it’s time to start gathering coupons and looking for those great deals on pocket folders and notebooks. (Raise your hand if you’ve gone Staples-hopping to take advantage of ten-per-customer pocket folder bargains!) More importantly, it’s time to start the transition from summer renewal to fall implementation, regardless of one’s grade level or subject area.
For educators at all levels, returning to school this year might have a different feel from previous years. In addition to new ideas for things like grouping structures, assessment, or authentic writing practices, we are also grappling with questions of how to address issues that are not pedagogical in nature, but directly affect our lives as teachers and students. Issues such as ever-present outbreaks of violence around the world, political campaign rhetoric, police and community relationships, our society’s growing understanding of diversity (and instances of pushback in response). We have always faced serious issues in our classrooms, communities and the larger world. Now, more than ever, the rapid pace of events and reactions to those events, shared as they’re happening on multiple news and social media sites, seem to change the very wiring of our brains. Many teachers are wondering about difficult conversations that might arise in the classroom, and how they’ll address them. Should we initiate discussion of timely events, no matter how controversial? Should we avoid them? Should we only address them if they come up among our students, or are directly linked to the curriculum? Where can we look for guidance in navigating these waters — our colleagues, school policy, professional organization such as National Writing Project (nwp.org), National Council of Teachers of English (ncte.org), International Literacy Association (literacyworldwide.org)? What is the role of children’s and young adult literature in helping us to navigate difficult subjects?
Here are some resources that might be of interest and assistance as we think through these issues together. Please share your thoughts, concerns, and resources for facing challenging questions and discussions as the new school year approaches.
“Continuing to Study Issues of Race and Diversity,” http://readingyear.blogspot.com/2016/07/continuing-to-study-issues-of-race-and.html?spref=tw
Handling Tough Conversations Through YA Lit http://teresagross2015.blogspot.com/2016/07/tough-conversations.html … @ncte @ILAToday
Resources for Discussing Police Violence, Race, and Racism With Students http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rulesforengagement/2016/07/resources_for_discussing_police_violence_and_addressing_trauma_with_students.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-twitter … via @educationweek #educolor
Janice Ewing is an adjunct professor for Cabrini University and a Co-director for PAWLP. She is actively involved with the Philadelphia Reading Council and serves as an editor of PAReads Journal of the Keystone State Reading Association. Janice is a co-facilitator for the PAWLP Continuity Days throughout the school year and a member of the PAWLPBLOG team.