The Curriculum Shuffle

The landscape of education is ever changing. We live in a dynamic world, and education is one of the many industries in a constant whirlpool. When is change too much?  The education system is plagued with failing schools, failing students, charter schools and reform, reform, reform!  Despite all the changes, many things still remain the same. The Education Gap is widening, Charter Schools are growing exponentially, and Public Education is constantly the topic of political debate.

Curriculum is always the target of reform.  Every two or three years curriculum takes center stage. How well curriculum is performing comes into question. The answer more often than not is change in some form. Either changes in the structure, the structure of the content, or the content itself. Change in itself, is not a bad thing.  The content and structure of curriculum should shift to adjust to our every changing world. With all the constant shuffling, one has to question the sufficient inquiry, that should precede such dramatic alterations. Adequate time needs to be allotted for educators to explore and define their learning of new methods and techniques. Without the proper inquiry and training, frustration can and often does occur.

With the constant changes, many questions go unanswered. What is the learning curve for students? Have students been given time to have meaningful learning experiences? When does one question effectiveness? Maybe Curriculum in itself should not be the only changes that occur. Maybe they are other factors to explore.

Keep Black History Month Alive!

As a child attending elementary school in NYC, Black History Month involved school assemblies with guest speakers, dressing up as famous performers, and singing and dancing. We would learn about Langston Hughes, and other great poets of The Harlem Renaissance. We learned about Dr. Charles Drew and Madame C.J. Walker, inventors who overcame obstacles to change the trojectory of modern society.  The celebrations provided a cultural kaleidoscope, and filled me with optimism, and a sense of pride and accomplishment.  As a result, I realized that there are options in my future and that I can achieve anything.  In recent years, as an educator I have noticed a shift in the focus of Black History Month.  Celebrations have been reduced to classroom discussions about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. The explorations of the various contributions African-Americans have made to modern society has ceased.  Many have limited their exposure to a single story! African-Americans have made countless contributions to all aspects of human society.  There are many pioneers in the Arts, Medicine, Science, and Education that can serve as great examples of cultural pride. Let’s broaden the landscape of learning. Celebrating Black History Month can also have a unifying effect. Exploring the contributions of cultures outside of your own can demonstrate the commonalities among  us.  It may even answers questions that may seem to awkward to share. Let’s keep Black History Month alive. Let’s celebrate together!

Click link for free African-American  Inventors Activity!

Share your celebrations on Instagram using the hashtag : #educators4BHM.


Multicultural Books, are they in your library?

As a child I loved to read books set in exotic locations. The books were a vehicle, transporting me to locales outside of the inner city neighborhoods of my youth. Reading about cultures outside of my own demonstrated the similarities of life we all share. I remember the first time I read, The Diary of Anne Frank.  I was awed by the similarities between The Holocaust and Slavery. It solidified my understanding that we all possess the same human emotions.  I remember reading, Esperanza Rising in a book club with a group of 10 year old girls. It is a coming of age tale set in Mexico. The family of the main character flees a life of wealth, for migrant farming in California. During the course of the book the girls discussed the pride and respect they developed for the main character.  They respected her ability to adapt to a new situation while learning about her inner strengths. Multicultural Books can dispel stereotypes and build respect. There were a couple of girls in the book club who were of Hispanic heritage. It was a prideful moment to see someone in their image over come obstacles and persevere.  Are there Multicultural Books in your library?  Be wary of Multicultural Books that tell a single story. We want to be sure the books show every aspect of the human condition.

Click link below for a list of over 200 Multicultural Books to include in your library.

Does Differentiation Work?

As a classroom teacher I’ve had my fair share of students with different learning styles and abilities. My classrooms have been a mix of struggling readers, English Language Learners, and students that have been retained. Diffentiation in recent years, has been seen as the cure all to all the challenges faced by students today. As a teacher, I’m often confused as to what am I really differentiating. Is it the instruction, the curriculum, the assessment?  There are so many expectations and mix message that it makes my head spin. A teacher is expected to differentiate for several learning abilities and styles. I can definitely understand the rationale for differentiating, but I question the quality and consistency. Not that I question the teacher’s integrity. I question the time available to prepare and the constant juggle of meeting with this student and that. I had my annual observation with my principal observing a few weeks ago. At our post observation meeting he shared his pleasure with my transitions,management and timing. His final question for me was, How do I differentiate for the advanced learner? The one sub group I had not differentiate for. My question to the administrators, coaches, coordinators, book publishers and everyone else rallying for more differentiation. Does Differentiation work?

Number Talks

As a math teacher I always encounter students who struggle with computation fluency. Number talks are a great way to increase automaticity. Number Talks are short equations that students are asked to solve mentally. They should be done daily and done alongside the current curriculum. Teacher should spend between 5 and 10 minutes on each session. My students love doing them. My number Talks precede the daily lesson and it helps with transition. Students are eager and are focused right away. Give it a try !!!

Clink links below for an article on Number Talks.

Clink link for a list of number talk for daily use.

Profanity in literature read by elementary students

In most elementary schools around the country the use of profanity in school is usually prohibited. Often resulting in disciplinary action if used!  As an educator, and parent I understand this measure. The use of profanity can spark ridicule and may trigger retaliation by the recipient! Young Adult literature often credits authenticity with its use of profanity. Young Adult literature is targeted to 13-19 year old. What happens is the books are sometimes read by 5th and 6th grade elementary school students. A very popular book in my classroom Spy School, by Stuart Gibbs , the central character uses profanity throughout the novel. There are 4 occurrences of the use of profanity. One”damn” and three uses of the word “ass”.  One may argue the use demonstrates authenticity and the words are harmless. You tell me, Is it acceptable for books containing profanity continue to be made available to elementary school students? 

Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.

The Danger of a Single Story

I love to travel and learn the history and culture of others. As an educator my travel experiences has provided my students with first hand knowledge of cultures outside of their own. Every time I prepare to leave the country, a colleague of mine has to remind me of the dangers of kidnapping. I then have to listen to a story of abduction, that she has shared with me countless times. Her “Single Story” of kidnapping, and abduction has shaped her view point of foreign travel.  I must admit that I myself have been guilty of the “Single Story” perception. As a child my perception of Africa was that it was a place where everyone walked around naked. I thought the children were all malnourished with protruding torsos. As I got older,of course I realized that this was not the case. This is the danger of the “Single Story” stereotype. Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her powerful TED talk, discusses her own experiences with a “Single Story”! She talks about the dangers, and the impact it has on shaping the minds of children. 

Click link to view her TED talk presentation: