All posts by Jenna Fournel

Teachers, Schools, and Civil Discourse

The following post is by NCTE member  Jonna Perrillo and originally ran in the El Paso Times.

jonnaperrilloLike many American parents, I was grateful to send my children to school on November 9. They attend schools where they feel happy and at home, and I hoped that their teachers would recognize and respond to children who felt confused by the end of a confounding election season. I was not disappointed.

In the face of this challenging day, some American teachers chose to do nothing, teaching as usual. But others, including my children’s, did a great deal, from reviewing the US governmental system of checks and balances to discussing tolerance to organizing events for families to attend together. In many places, educators had to address a sense of crisis and despair.

We should applaud the work of teachers and schools like this, those who can see that acknowledging and discussing politics does not equate to either advocacy or excoriation.

American schools have always been good at teaching some kinds of citizenship skills. We require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we teach them about how government works, we ask them to vote for class president as an exercise in campaigns and elections.

Since the introduction of multiculturalism in the 1920s, schools have also been teaching tolerance. This is a vaster project, but at the very least, most humanities teachers know to teach a more diverse set of readings and ideas than they once did.

Citizenship and tolerance are related to but different from civility. Civil discourse requires a person to express ideas in ways that are respectful and informed, expressive and reasonable at once. It includes but exceeds being polite. It is about responding rather than reacting, understanding more than arguing, listening as much as talking, and believing in the process even when one is unpersuaded by another’s ideas.

It is, in other words, a skill, not just a product of character, and one that improves immeasurably when we teach it rather than just expect that it will happen between good people.

Teachers understandably feel pressured to avoid politics in polarizing times, when it feels as though any revelation of how we think is equal to petitioning for one side or the other. Yet polarization is not new, and it has helped to create many teachers who lack the confidence and will to facilitate discussions about any of the kinds of issues that were central to this election.

Teacher educators like myself too often fail to prepare teachers for holding civic discussions, especially about moments that feel unpredictable. We are good at teaching teachers to simulate important acts of citizenship, like voting between one candidate or another. But we fail to teach them how or why to lead discussions about the day after. Or how to talk about ideas around which students may fundamentally disagree. Or how to use the classroom and curriculum to respond to the political fears students absorb. Instead, we treat all of this as extracurricular work. We need to do better.

Now, as much as at any time in our history, teachers across the nation, Democrat, Republican, and Independent, will need to serve as beacons and instructors of civic consciousness and behavior. As citizens who seek greater civility than we have seen, we need to support teachers in the cause, letting them know we value it and the larger goal at hand. And we need to thank those who are doing this difficult work well, however they do it. Our children’s classrooms may just become the best models of how to participate in respectful, productive, and civil discussion.


Jonna Perrillo is associate professor of English education at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of Uncivil Rights: Teachers, Unions, and the Battle for School Equity.

Native Education and the Pursuit of Happiness

The following post is the third in a series by Jonna Perrillo, NCTE’s Historian.

ExploringNCTEhistory“Indian people need to be doers, rather than objects to which things are done,” Rough Rock Demonstration School Director Dillon Platero proclaimed in 1970.[1] One of the longest lasting of the 1960s experiments in community control, Rough Rock, a Navajo-operated school in Chinle, Arizona, sought to combine local control of the school with a curriculum that served its population educationally, politically, and psychically. Students at Rough Rock studied (and continue to study today) in English and in Navajo, and they learned Navajo art and science traditions in addition to the standard curriculum. Through a deep, cross-disciplinary immersion in their own culture and history taught largely by Navajo teachers, Rough Rock students could better understand their people’s intellectual traditions and ideas and, by contrast, those of others, as well.

The Demonstration School (called thus because it demonstrated what Native schools could look like and accomplish) marked a break from the federalized public schools that otherwise dotted Indian reservations. Since the early 1900s, both boarding and on-reservation schools had sought to “kill the Indian and save the man” with differing levels of explicitness. Often, schools sought to divorce Native children from their home languages, customs, and dress. At Rough Rock, Platero explained, the aim was just the opposite, and “the child’s self-image and feeling of worthy personhood is not shattered so mercilessly, as often happens, when the difference between what is actual life and what it taught in school strikes the child at the age of six.”[2] Rough Rock sought to dismantle historical traditions in Native American schooling, starting with the psychic damage committed on children.

The NCTE archives hold an extensive collection of materials related to language instruction and literature designed for Native American students in the late 1960s and 1970s, including some focused on Rough Rock. In one of the most important of these documents, a report on the school from 1969, four Navajo external evaluators examined the school in its third year, tasked by the Rough Rock school board to determine how well the curriculum was working.

In so doing, the evaluators looked for the three things:

  1. Is the child happy?

  2. Is the child learning?

  3. Is the child interested?

The school received high scores in learning and interest, 83 and 86 percent, respectively. But in happiness, they found, the school truly excelled, with a score of 94 percent.[3] In asking these questions in this order, the evaluators understood what we often forget now—that happiness is both a political and an educational act, a precondition for individual autonomy and growth as well as community health and identification. People learn better when what they learn deepens and stretches their sense of self-worth and place in the world.

By contrast, school reform policies of the last twenty years have diminished the time and activities in which children are often most happy: physical education, recess, and the arts. We have cut into children’s independent reading time with computerized comprehension tests partnered with material incentives and rewards, as if these are ample replacement for the enjoyment of reading. Writing focused on test prep has taken over, and many students possess far less experience in developing real ideas of their own.

Altogether, the areas that have faced the greatest sacrifice in the past decades are school activities in which students feel most autonomous and free.

Each month, news articles appear applauding the quality of education in Finland; no small number of these articles point to the ways in which student happiness is part of education planning there. Yet it is important to remember that we have traditions of education happiness in our nation—traditions that teachers have been able to prioritize and maintain despite the restrictions and challenges that our schools face and that schools serving low-income populations face all the more acutely. We can learn from our own examples and from the unique perspectives that educators like Platero were able to embrace, often because historical circumstances pushed them to do so.

From its early days, Rough Rock demonstrated far more than what an Indian school looks like; it demonstrated what a school that pushes against history and puts students first looks like. It is not too late to pay attention.

[1] Dillon Platero, “The Rough Rock Demonstration School, Navajo Nation, 1970.” The School in the United States: A Documentary History, James W. Fraser (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2001): 312–18, 318.

[2] Platero, 314.

[3] John Y. Begay et al., “Navajo Evaluators Look at Rough Rock Demonstration School” (Washington, DC: Office of Economic Opportunity, 1969), 7. National Council of Teachers of English Archives, Record group 15/73/008, box 7.

#NCTEchat: Black Girls’ Literacies

There is a fantastic #nctechat coming up this Sunday at 8pm on “Black Girls’ Literacies.” It is inspired by the July issue of English Education that was guest edited by Marcelle Haddix and Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz.

Hosts for the event include authors from that journal article: 
Detra Price-Dennis, @detramichelle
Marcelle Haddix, @MarcelleHaddix
Gholdy Muhammad, and Sherell McArthur @bglcollective
Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, @RuizSealey

Questions the chat will explore: 

Q1: Why do Black girls’ literacies matter in today’s society?

Q2: How do you cultivate space in your classroom where Black girls’ literacy
practices can thrive?

Q3: What are some useful mentor texts that support Black girls’ literacies?

Q4: What are some useful professional resources for teachers?

Q5: What is one take away from tonight’s chat that will inform your practice?

An image you can help us share: 

#NCTEchat on Black Girls' LIteracies questions: Q1: Why do Black girls’ literacies matter in today’s society? Q2: How do you cultivate space in your classroom where Black girls’ literacy practices can thrive? Q3: What are some useful mentor texts that support Black girls’ literacies? Q4: What are some useful professional resources for teachers? Q5: What is one take away from tonight’s chat that will inform your practice?

Check out previous posts on this topic:

Writing to Make Sense of Who We Are

Black Girls Read: An African American Read-In Celebrating the African American Female Literary Legacies of the Past, Present, and Future

A World Where All People Are Safe And Valued

GSEA/CEE-SJ/LGBTQ Advisory Committee Response to Orlando

the palms of a young man put together patterned with a world map and a rainbow flag. Source: A World Where All People Are Safe And ValuedWe, the members of the CEE Commission on Social Justice in Teacher Education programs, the Genders and Sexualities Equality Alliance (GSEA), and the LGBTQ Issues in Academic Studies Advisory Committee stand in solidarity[1] with the broader LGBTQIA and Latinx communities and all those affected by the recent tragedy in Orlando.

Our parent organization, NCTE, has issued a statement affirming the need to stand with those who are grieving as well as resources to ground this supportive work. And, in order to contribute to the critical resources that NCTE has already shared, our GSEA offers the additional resources included in this link: Resource Repository NCTE GSEA. This is meant to be an evolving list, and we invite NCTE members to share additional resources.

As advocates, researchers, teacher educators, and teachers dedicated to equity in and through education, we take this moment to reaffirm our dedication to a safe and just world for all. We reaffirm our commitment to social justice in all spaces, especially in and through K-12 classrooms and teacher education.

“We believe that classrooms and other learning spaces are ideal sites to make sense of our social worlds and to promote democratic participation and understanding while resisting violence and hatred.” source: A World Where All People Are Safe And ValuedWe believe that classrooms and other learning spaces are ideal sites to make sense of our social worlds and to promote democratic participation and understanding while resisting violence and hatred. In the face of such violent hate crimes, we stand united in strength and resolve. To honor the lives lost in Orlando, we aim to move our mission forward collectively, working to reconstruct systems that build more equitable social arrangements for all people.

 

We pay tribute here to those critically injured, those mourning the loss of loved ones, and those whose lives were lost in Orlando:

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

“Social justice” is a term often used in our field, though what it refers to is, at times, amorphous. We in the Social Justice Commission, Genders and Sexualities Equality Alliance, and LGBTQ Issues in Academic Studies Advisory Committee agree with Moje (2007) that there is a distinction between socially-just pedagogies and social justice pedagogies. If a practice is socially-just, then all youth/people have equitable opportunities to learn. Socially-just practices, however, say little about the systems of power and oppression that privilege some at the expense of others. It is not enough to work for a more diverse representation of people privileged in current systems of power.

We must work for social justice–the questioning and eventual reconstructing of these systems. Though there is much we do not know about the tragedy in Orlando, it is clear that healing, understanding, acceptance, and dialogue are needed to create a society and world where all people are safe and valued.

Additionally, on the back of this tragedy in Orlando, which took place only one month ago, we again find ourselves mourning the loss of more innocent lives. The recent events in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas are painful reminders of the need for our commitment to dialogue, healing, and understanding, as well as substantial social change for justice, which is at the core of the work we all do. Our society broadly recognizes the tragedy that is the murder of Dallas officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarippa, Michael Kroll, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens, and we have much work to do in terms of valuing the lives of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.

I“We reaffirm our commitment to challenging educational practices that normalize violence, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other systems of privilege and oppression.” Source:A World Where All People Are Safe And Valued n this statement, we reaffirm our promise to work for changes in our society that emphasize the value of all human lives. We commit to being a part of community efforts that work for peace and changes that ensure the safety, respect, and inclusiveness of all LGBTQIA individuals, people of color, queer people of color, allies, law enforcement officials who stand on the right side of justice, and the many other intersectionalities and transectionalities that exist within our communities. We reaffirm our commitment to challenging educational practices that normalize violence, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other systems of privilege and oppression.

It is worthwhile to remember that this year our Annual Convention theme is advocacy. The meeting offers a number of resources and support systems, and on the program you will find many LGBT strand and social justice themed sessions that offer suggestions for advocacy inside and outside of our classrooms. We urge you to participate in these sessions and to attend our business meetings to obtain critical resources and continue these discussions.

As we look towards the future of our social justice work situated within NCTE and teacher education, we are drafting new resolutions. Currently, there is a resolution on strengthening teacher knowledge on LGBTQIA Issues, but we believe we can do more. We welcome feedback from members of the NCTE community as we draft, and we invite collaborators. We are here to support your work for social justice, and in our work together, we know we will emerge stronger, more resilient, and more visible in our goals of teaching for a safe and just world.

If you wish to contact us for support or additional information, please contact the following:

NCTE GSEA chair, Nicole Sieben (dr.nicolesieben@gmail.com)

CEE-SJ co-chair, Noah Golden, (ngolden@chapman.edu)

LGBTQ Advisory Committee chair, Toby Emert (temert@agnesscott.edu)


REFERENCES

Moje, E. B. (2007). Developing socially just subject-matter instruction: A review of the literature on disciplinary literacy teaching. Review of Research in Education, 31(1), 1-44.

[1] We stand in solidarity as a collective, from a wide range of individual identities that include being members of and allies with these broader communities.

Early Childhood Education Assembly Response to the Orlando Shootings and the Anniversary of the Mother Emmanuel Church Murders

Early Childhood Education Assembly Logo

The following post comes from NCTE’s Early Childhood Education Assembly and can be found in full at this link

Join Early Childhood Educators Across the Country To Effect Change in Schools Now!

On June 12, 2016, 49 people were murdered and over 50 wounded in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. One year earlier, on June 17, 2015, nine people were murdered in Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. One killer targeted members of the LGTBQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) community, many of them Latina/o. The other targeted African Americans. Both were acts of terrorism. Because the Orlando shooter was Muslim, much vitriol was directed toward the entire Muslim community. The Charleston shooter, a professed Christian, prompted no massive discrimination against Christians. Nurtured by anti-LGBTQIA bias and racism, these hate crimes are not anomalies. These acts and the Islamaphobic virtriol that followed the Orlando shooting represent a vivid history of violence and hatred directed against LGBTQIA, Latina/o, African American, and Muslim people within and beyond the United States.

The Early Childhood Education Assembly (ECEA) believes that it is long past time for schools to take a visible and vocal stand against the beliefs that breed these atrocities as well as the more insidious cruelties that occur in our schools every day:  the psychological anguish children experience when they feel they must hide their two moms or two dads, their sexual orientation, their explorations of gender identification, their faith, home culture, and languages. This anguish builds when children see no normalized validation of themselves or their families and heritage in school curriculum and materials and as they see their families and communities dismissed, degraded and dehumanized in hallway talk, playground slurs, and uninterrupted discriminatory practices. This is exacerbated when the curriculum has no foundation in teaching children to identify injustices and learn strategies for speaking back to them.

This is indeed a life and death matter. Children take their own lives or die emotionally and psychologically every day when they feel persecuted in these ways. As educators, we can choose to directly teach against such discrimination or be complicit in its continuance because of our apathy or deflection (“They are too young,” “But we DO teach about bullying,” “But parents won’t be on board.”). NO MORE EXCUSES. Either you’re teaching specifically against anti-LGBTQIA, Latino/a, Muslim Bias and Racism or you are condoning it through your silence, timidity, and fear. Remember, we are the people who help raise generations of future adults who will feel safe in who they are and know how to stand up for others and challenge injustices in their places of work, education, worship, neighborhoods, and communities – or not.

Toward this end, the ECEA urges teachers, family members, and community members TODAY to get on the phone or send an email to school leaders in your community – principals, superintendents, district curriculum leaders. Ask:

  • How will you plan for and directly teach children in your school to recognize and fight against LGBTQIA, racial and cultural bias when school begins this fall?
  •  How will you ensure that every child exploring gender identification or who has two moms or two dads or whose family is Muslim or Latino/a or African American feels safe, validated, and normalized in your classrooms and your curriculum? 
  • How will teachers, administrators, and families work systematically and regularly together to build the knowledge, strength, and courage to bring these changes about?

The ECEA offers RESOURCES* to support this effort. As you utilize these resources and generate transformative practices in your schools and teacher education programs, we invite you to post stories of your experiences on the ECEA’s Facebook site – https://www.facebook.com/eceassembly?fref=ts so we can share the work, GIVE COURAGE TO EACH OTHER, and engage in discussions.

In closing, the ECEA believes strongly that this is a responsibility we signed on for when we became teachers – to safeguard our students and teach them how to live, love, stand up for others, and effect change as they grow into the world around them. Others share this responsibility, but an enormous “buck” stops here.

– The Affirmative Action Committee of NCTE’s Early Childhood Education Assembly

* A few resources to get you started can be found at the end of the document at this link.

*Further resources and the ECEA consultants’ network can be found here

RESOURCES: http://www.earlychildhoodeducationassembly.com/resources-for-educators-focusing-on-anti-racist-learning-and-teaching.html

CONSULTANTS TO WORK WITH YOUR SCHOOL/CHILD CARE SETTING/COLLEGE: http://www.earlychildhoodeducationassembly.com/anti-racism-educational-consultants-network.html