Odds & Ends

Sorry for not posting in a while. I've been savoring every single moment of summer. It's been wonderful! Here are a bunch of randomly associated thoughts that have been swimming around in my brain. . .

I'm officially on the countdown. Are you guys ready? Oh my, I don't feel ready at all. Union/BOE issues = me not being able to access my classroom until our first official contracted day back, whereas last year I was in my classroom for weeks ahead of time. I know everything will work out alright, but I'm a little apprehensive about getting everything done all the same. I just hope my order is in and correct.

In other news, our principal resigned over the summer and accepted an elementary school principal position about an hour away. I'm kind of bummed about this, as she was part of the reason that I accepted the position in this district. But I suppose there is the possibility that our next administrator and I pedagogically connect as well.

Moving right along, I truly feel energized to begin. I am making a serious commitment, as I've mentioned, to daily chunks of independent reading time. A healthy portion of my back to school night will be dedicated to the discussion of independent reading at school and at home. I want parents to not only know and understand that I value independent reading for their children, I want them to see the tangible research that demonstrates that there is no stronger predictor of student success, testing or otherwise, than the amount of reading for enjoyment in which the student is engaged.

One of my former professors offered an awesome session on Boy Meets Boy and issues in teaching LGBTQ lit last week. It was so very invigorating. Among other things, I learned that our state, New Jersey, is one of only two states to earn an "A" grade from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (or GLSEN). GLSEN issues a report card every two years; grades are determined by the presence, or lack thereof, of a host of laws that include specific language to protect the rights of LGBTQ individuals.

I took away some affirming ideas from our session. To start with, my professor discussed something I feel strongly about. To paraphrase, she discussed the idea that we often shy away from addressing conflict in schools. We avoid discussing topics in order to--so we believe--accommodate our students and save them from feeling uncomfortable or awkward. But, this truly is not the purpose of schooling. If we are to contribute to our students' abilities to think critically, creatively, and empathetically about any number of issues they will encounter as social, emotional, and, let's face it, political agents, we are amiss to not aid them in the process of not only feeling uncomfortable about their perceptions at times, but in seeing that there are ways to consider the perspectives of others in respectful ways. Addressing topics that can make students feel conflicted in the classroom is our duty. Helping them work through complex issues and see the world through the eyes of another, if only for a glimpse, is the second imperative at work her.

In terms of justifying, so to speak, the presence of LGBTQ literature in the event of a challenge, my professor introduced the powerful idea of citing that fact that educators are bound by law to create a safe environment for every child. I am lawfully responsible to make sure each student feels safe. One out of every 10 students is or will be LGBTQ. Two out of hundreds of the books in my library are LGBTQ lit. There is a problem with this picture. I'm going to remedy it.

If you're still reading, I hope your preparations for your classroom this year are going splendidly and I wish you a happy start!


SSCaldwell said...

I admire your courage! How do you plan to approach the GLBT issues? Will you start it, or provide the books and see where the kids take it? How will your community react? I had an old professor say that we feel validated when we see ourselves represented in the bigger world. Good job helping all students feel validated and good luck!

teach people not books said...

hi s.s.--late reply better than never?

one thing my students learn early on about me is that i don't tolerate any "that's so gay," "homo," etc. homophobic language in my classroom. i have some great posters one of my students made last year (while doing lunch detention for above noted language), and they are prominently displayed in my room.

my plan of action thus far regarding the LGBTQ YA lit has just been to put titles in my classroom library and let my kids browse and come to them as they will. this has proved successful so far. i've certainly had more female students interested in books like boy meets boy, but male students have also shown interest in lesser numbers.

how will the community react. . . good question. i'll get back to ya. my guess? it will vary widely depending on the kid. but this is by all means a conservative district.