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Tools of the Trade: Local Libraries

by Kelly Virgin

LIbrary Post-2

Throughout the school year I have the ability to push my students across that threshold on a regular basis. We visit the school library at least monthly and since I line my classroom walls with bookshelves, they literally walk into a library every school day. However, as the end of the school year looms, I grow increasingly concerned for their literary lives over the summer. To ease my worries, and to nudge students to cross that magic threshold on their own, I take the time to introduce my students to their local library.

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Teacher to Teacher: Expectations and Commitments By Janice Ewing

On June 1st and 2nd, I had the opportunity to attend workshops facilitated by representatives of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. There were a few other PAWLPers in attendance for one or both days – Liz Mathews, Tricia Ebarvia , and Brian Kelley. A group of us at PAWLP are in the midst of organizing a Social Justice/Anti-Bias Study Group, and much of what we learned and experienced will help us to move forward with our shared inquiry. I also reconnected with former grad students and colleagues, and got to know many new people as well.

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Place-Based Education (PBE)*

by Mary Buckelew

“It’s not easy but everybody should be doing it.”
Demarest, A. (2016)

Open the classroom door . . .

Buckelew Taos

I’ve been exploring place-based education for 35 years. Whether taking my high school students in New Mexico on field trips to White Sands National Monument to examine flora and fauna, to write about our observations, and to have fun – Or Fast forward to West Chester University campus where my freshman students and I explore campus through the lens of sustainability, I’ve been fortunate to learn from my students as we explore places and their complexities.  A seemingly simple scavenger hunt on campus, reveals the kinds of health services available or not available to university students, a poem about the sighting of a hawk at the Gordon Natural Area (GNA) on campus inspired deep learning, engaged, and empowered beyond any packet, worksheet, or video.

However, reality means we cannot always open and walk out of the classroom or building, but we can investigate our building, the people, services, and environment in its immediate vicinity. We can invite the surrounding community into the classroom and if we are connected to the internet, we can research our communities and the world and engage and empower students with place-based learning.

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Mini-Conferences and 1-Day Workshops

By Jen Greene

Professional organizations like NCTE, ILA, PCTELA, and KSLA offer a yearly conference that takes place over several days and is usually packed with inspiring presentations and amazing authors. These conferences are tremendous opportunities to grow and learn in your teaching. I have attended many of these conferences and have been so awestruck by the presentations I’ve seen and people I’ve met.

There’s just one slight problem…..

They are expensive. And many districts cannot or will not provide funding to attend a national or state conference (particularly if it involves airfare).

Fear not! There is a solution…

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Teacher to Teacher: What You Do Away from Your Desk

By Lynne R. Dorfman

A writer spends a lot of time at her desk, or in my case, her kitchen table. Staring at the screen or at a page of notes, drumming the keys of a laptop or i-pad. There are deadlines to meet. All writers have deadlines. Some of these are personal goals, and others are set by editors. Either way, writers write with a deadline in mind.

DSC_9648Equally important is the time that writers spend away from their desks. Writers need to spend time with their loved ones – children, grandchildren, spouses, and pets, visit friends and new places, eat out at a new restaurant, take in a movie or drive to NYC for an opera performance. Make the trip to the seashore to take a long walk on the beach and hear the ocean’s song, listen to music, plan parties, walk through their neighborhood to notice the signs of spring. The list is endless.  DSC_4714

The point is, do stuff.  The twenty hours you spend away from your computer are important.  Take a summer writing course with PAWLP, go to a writers’ conference with SCBWI, take a workshop or unworkshop at Highlights Foundation in the Poconos. Join a local reading council or retired writers’ group.What about that painting or yoga class you’ve always wantedDSC_4239 to take?  Sign up for it today!

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Preparing Our Students to Be Better Citizens, More Thoughtful Scholars, More Empathetic Neighbors

By Matthew Kay

Over the past half-decade, our students have been bombarded with high-profile race conflicts; the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner decisions, the riots in Baltimore, the mass-shooting in Charleston, supremacist marches and murder in Charlottesville, a tangible spike in hate speech and a sharp decline in civility. The same media that delivers these issues to students tends to serve as a terrible model for how to discuss them. Fully siloed, 24-hour news networks turn important race conversations into macabre theatre.  Hosts ask unsubstantial questions, which split-screen “experts” answer with bloviation and shouted accusations – each segment an attempt to inspire a viral YouTube clip. It’s just as difficult for our students to find meaningful race conversation modeled over social media, with its equally siloed Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Here, meaningful discourse is often twisted into a competition for likes and retweets, one that ultimately rewards rapidity over introspection, snark over humility. Too often, our students’ conversational habits are only made worse by engaging this social media exchange. These habits don’t fix themselves. If we, as educators, do not provide a counter vision, show another way to engage race thoughtfully, energetically, and empathetically, many of our students will never see one. Furthermore, if we do not provide opportunities for our students to practice habits that lead to quality race conversations, any nascent skills will atrophy, especially with so many bad examples out there.


We know this. As educators, we know just how many people are invested in our students’ destructive conversational habits. When White, Black, Latino, and Asian students remain strangers to each other, so many walls remain intact. If our students do not seek complexity, leaving both Conservative and Liberal orthodoxies to go unchallenged, our political parties can settle into a deleterious status quo. Most importantly, if our students are not encouraged to engage race issues with empathy, so many unethical power structures can continue to thrive. Kindness in conversations, so often spoken about as a foundational American quality, has always been more elusive than we admit. While America’s current political discourse has aggressively devalued kindness, we have never, in history, been particularly good at being compassionate to “the other side” when talking race. It’s just so much easier to tease and belittle, to attack with the intention to destroy, to bury, to end each other. It seems so much more fun to be a troll, so much more entertaining to be a troll’s audience, so satisfying to see an “enemy” bewildered and publicly embarrassed. Many have grown so attached to this congenital meanness (in conversation) that it has become a key part of their cultural identity. So key, in fact, that many are invested in passing it to the next generation. They mislabel it “toughness.” They praise an ability to “keep it real.” They roll their eyes at “political correctness.” To them, any teacher who closely examines any of these terms has chosen to challenge entrenched value systems, which leaves us open to accusations of overreach.

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