Monday, February 13, 2017

Stay Out There

Long before I was a history teacher with a blog (that I even posted to sometimes), I was a history major. In order to graduate with a history degree, I had to write a thesis. My work for my thesis focused on the Vietnam War protests, specifically in Madison, WI where I grew up. My thesis looked at the impact of the bombing of the Army Math Research Center (AMRC) in Madison in  early 1970 on the anti-war movement.

As I was out for a walk this past week, I started thinking about my thesis. Particularly, I was thinking about the widespread protest that characterized the 1960s, from the Civil Rights Movement to the Vietnam War protests, and the number of people in the streets today protesting all manner of acts by President Agent Orange (thanks Busta Rhymes for that moniker).

It is always imperfect to draw comparisons across historical eras. However…

As the protests around the Vietnam War drew on, protesters became frustrated: their huge numbers and vocal dissent seemed to be doing nothing. The Vietnam War expanded into Cambodia and Laos while protests were widespread. President Nixon even said that he knew nothing about a quarter million person march in Washington DC because he was too busy watching football.

This frustration manifested itself in more aggressive and confrontational tactics by protesters. Whether it was the sporadic violence of the Weathercells or an enormous bombing like the explosion at the Army Math Research Center, protesters were upping the ante in their level of confrontation with the government. The AMRC bombing ended up killing a researcher, ruining the research of many, and crippling the anti-war movement in Madison and beyond as the public rejected the violence of the movement.

I am not here to cast judgment about whether protests that cross the line from nonviolent to violent are just. Others have written about this, and made me think deeply about systems of oppression and who is requesting protesters only exercise their rights nonviolently and in ways that aren’t inconvenient to the dominant groups in society.

My point is, though, that had protesters in the late 1960s knew the impact they were having, they would have been heartened. Nixon, despite his public lack of concern about the protesters, received multiple updates per day about protests. He made sure the FBI was using COINTELPRO to target anti-war groups. Protesters had an impact: the devastation that the Vietnam War had on American soldiers and families - to say nothing of the Vietnamese people - was muted by the protesters speaking their truth to the people in power. They just didn’t know that.

So stay active. Keep marching. Keep calling. The fight will be long. There will be losses - Sessions, DeVos, etc have already shown this. But the 2018 elections will be here soon. Keep the pressure on. Your actions have impacts on policy makers, whether they want to admit it or not.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Some Takeaways From #edcampsummitSD

I was lucky enough to attend my first Edcamp Leadership Summit this past weekend down in San Diego. It was a great weekend - get a bunch of edcamp peeps together and of course we'll have fun! Plus, sun and weather in the 60s and 70s was a welcome break from high 30s and rain in the Vancouver area :)

I learned a lot this weekend. In no particular order:
Meeting Eric Cross - an amazing science teacher in San Diego - and hearing him talk about how he structured the units in his middle school science class made me want to be a student in his class. It also made me want to talk to a bunch of different teachers about unit design cross-curricularly. We've got a lot we could learn from each other.
From a session on school climate
Hearing Jen Roberts talk about how her work teaching preservice teachers pushes her pedagogy was interesting. Jen talked about how working with these teachers keeps her trying new things she steals from them in her own class was a benefit that I hadn't thought about.
In a session about how to get a more diverse set of educational stakeholders at edcamps, Dena Glynn had some cool ideas about having student presentations during edcamps. In addition to showing off the host school and district it would bring more parents in as well - to see their kids present. Hopefully this would allow those parents to stay and participate in the edcamp. Really good idea, and we need more parent voices at edcamps!
I only overlapped briefly as a moderator of #caedchat with Kriscia Cabral and I had never gotten a chance to meet her. Her positivity and excitement throughout the weekend were amazing, and a great reminder that if you're excited about what you're doing that enthusiasm rubs off on the people around you.
Improv in the classroom? Need to start doing some learning here. Anthony Veneziale led a two hour improv session for attendees that was excellent: high energy, fun, and backed by the brain science showing the importance of improv. Anthony recommended Impro by Keith Johnstone as a good read with crossovers to improv in the classroom. Definitely adding that to my To Read list on Goodreads!
Scott Bedley shared how he is using sound prompts to get his class writing. Not photo prompts, which I had heard about, but sound clips he records while out living his life. These sound prompts force his elementary student to imagine then describe the scene that sound conjures for them. Super rad!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

In The Classroom

I’m not in the classroom this year. An American can’t just show up and teach in Canada: you need a work permit. You can’t get a work permit until you submit your permanent residence application. You can’t submit your permanent residence application until you get your official marriage certificate. Which doesn’t show up until a month after a wedding. But I digress…

There have been times I’ve really missed being in the classroom this year. It was weird to watch all my old friends post about going back to school in mid-August. Hearing from old students - now juniors - made me miss getting to talk to kids. Getting to show up to my old school’s fall play - I was in town for 30 hours and the schedules fit JUST RIGHT - and getting to see kids I knew and loved do amazing things, and getting to talk to them? That made me miss it.

Nothing like today though.

I turned 37 yesterday. All in all, it was a pretty cruddy birthday. But at some point last night, after I heard that Ron Johnson beat Russ Feingold in my old home state and that Trump was going to win Wisconsin and the presidency, I wanted to be able to be in a classroom today. My classroom. With my kids.

To listen. To hear. To make sure kids felt heard. Loved. That despite what was said publicly about them - immigrants, Muslim, female, LGBT, Latino, … - that kids could feel safe. Today was the day that I missed that.

Teachers I talked to today weren’t sure they were ready, but put on a brave face. They were there for their students, whether they felt ready internally or not.


Today, more than any other day this fall, I wished I had that opportunity.