Here are my basic summaries of the ten readings in The New Teacher Book. Take with it what you will…
1. Teaching in the Undertow
It is one thing for a person to have beliefs and guiding principles. However, putting these principles into practice is another. When a teacher wants to teach about important issues, there are a few things that they can do to make sure that you they able to proceed effectively. These can include seeking out friends or colleagues to help out, starting small (for example, making a statement on a classroom bulletin board) and figuring out how these principles can fit into the content area. Much like a riptide, it’s important not to head into these obstacles head-on.
2. Brown Kids Can’t Be In Our Club
In today’s society, many adults live with racist ideas. These attitudes tend to reflect on the children of today as well. It is important to have conversations with children about these issues, even when they are fairly young. We can discuss issues of social justice while making the discussions age appropriate. By learning about each other’s lives and families, hopefully we can lessen the ideas of racism & negative difference. Some sample activities to promote this can include ‘me pocket’, partner questions, let’s talk about skin, etc.
3. What can I do when a student makes a racist or sexist remark?
If remarks like this come up, there are several ways to deal with the situation. Simply saying “that kind of talk is not allowed here” or assuming that the kids are too young to know what they’re saying is not right. In responding, it is important to realize that the hidden curriculum in a classroom can help to deal with issues such as this. Students need to learn respect and how to deal with situations when racist or sexist remarks come up.
4. Framing the Family Tree
Families can be defined in many different ways. Often, to children, families are described as a unit that makes them feel safe and happy. Families can include parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, foster parents, guardians, and many more. It is important that school settings offer this type of comfort and validate every family structure. There should be a constant communication between teachers and families in the community.
5. Heather’s Moms Got Married
Often teachers ask how they can incorporate LGBT issues into the classroom and get away with it. Teacher censorship remains the status quo in many schools and this makes it tough to challenge social issues such as this. By defining family as a group of people who love you, classrooms can begin to discuss these diverse types of family. Teachers need to approach same sex marriage in the same openness as the grade two students did in this reading.
6. Out Front
Homophobia is still a common part of society today. There is backlash against the LGBT community. However, positive action is growing at a quick rate as well. Although school staffs are becoming more trained on creating positive environments for LGBT youth, there are still other steps that can be taken. This may include inviting positive role models in to speak with students and incorporating gay issues into the classroom.
7. ‘Curriculum Is Everything That Happens’
Pre-service teachers and interns learn a lot while at college in the educational field. However, there is still a lot that can be learned in the classroom and through experience. In fact, schools are often impacted by a larger social focus and that we need to bring these issues into the classroom. We need to get to know students on a personal level and make them feel welcomed and valued for making a contribution in the classroom. Students learn from everything around them (hidden curriculum), not just specific facts and content.
8. Working Effectively with English Language Learners
In schools, there are four types of language learning programs. These include English as an Additional Language, Transitional Bilingual Education, Developmental Bilingual Education, and Dual Language Education. We need to make these students feel involved and part of the classroom. This can include teaching in a way that is understandable. For example, speaking slowly & clearly, using visual clues, being prepared to spend additional work with students. A teacher can do this, all the while encouraging them to maintain and develop their first language as well.
9. Teaching Controversial Content
There are several controversial issues that teachers are interested in teaching but express doubt in doing so. Some of these fears can include getting fired, feeling isolated, having parents challenge your intentions, and having the principal retaliate against your ideas. However, teaching provides educators with great authority and autonomy. Specifically, in this reading, there is a part in which the author asks who has the authority to decide what to teach, to which one response is “you do”. With this, teachers should let parents and the principal know about content beforehand to ensure that these controversial issues run smoothly.
10. Unwrapping the Holidays
In this reading, examples revolved around the idea of Christmas and how it is important to celebrate several holiday traditions and customs in a school setting. Regardless of what the topic is (in this case, holidays), it is important to realize that colleagues will have different worldviews. Many teachers will be used to traditional teachings and belief systems that are already in place. In one’s first year of teaching, it is important to speak up and be open to change. But it is also important to use caution and wisdom when questioning or challenging these foundations that are already instilled in a school environment.
The New Teacher Book: Finding Purpose, Balance, and Hope During Your First Years in the Classroom. Eds. Terry Burant, Linda Christensen, Kelley Dawson Salas, and Stephanie Walters. Rethinking Schools Ltd. 2010.