All posts by Lauren Stuart

Mrs. Stuart Goes to Washington: The Last Word

Before I begin my tour of the museums here in DC, I want to take a minute to extend my utmost gratitude to a few people. First, the NCTE team in the DC office, Jenna Fournel and Lu Ann McNabb, for being gracious and welcoming. I will miss our little office camaraderie. Second, my family. I was only able to have this incredible experience only because of the support of my amazing mother-in-law, who came down to DC to watch the kids for three weeks, and my sweet parents, who flew out for grandparent duty for the remainder of the time. Finally, my darling husband, who has been alone at home with a screaming cat for over a month. My deepest thanks to you all.

It’s tough to explain to a twelve-year-old the sheer power of words. Ironically, words don’t do themselves justice. As I made my way around the sights in DC, I found myself constantly in awe of the words all around me and the way in which they have shaped, and continue to shape, our country. Below is a collection of my thoughts, lesson ideas, and reflections on five museums, in the order in which I viewed them.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

As a teacher of the Diary of a Young Girl, the Holocaust is a topic I discuss with eighth graders every year. The main exhibit experience begins with a large group of people packed into a steel elevator, that makes you instantly uncomfortable. When you exit, you are met with videos taken during concentration camp liberation, and a giant photograph of burnt corpses. The silence in the museum is overwhelming. Two areas in particular spoke to me. The first was the section on propaganda. This year I would like to have students analyze the rhetoric of Joseph Goebbels to answer a common question: Why were people angry at Jewish people? How did Goebbels use words to confuse and deceive? The second section I found interesting was about the League of German Girls. During our unit study, we cover Hitler Youth, but I didn’t know about its female counterpart. Finally, I have tried researching contemporary genocides in the past, but I would like to revisit that this year. The USHMM website has a rich library of educator resources, including a couple of interesting professional learning opportunities.

National Museum of American History

I uncovered a few neat ideas here. Most important is Wonderplace, a super awesome play space complete with a climbing structure, and kitchen with fake fruit, and the Spark!Lab where kids can be inventors and make stuff.  Kiddos were happy for hours. The exhibit Many Voices, One Nation made me think, How do the words of many people, across time, unite to form a country? I could have my students look at the works of the authors we study, Edgar Allen Poe, Richard Wright, Daniel Keyes, and whoever else gets tossed in there this year-to see how each of their unique voices became a part of the narrative of America.

Executive Order 9066 got me thinking about how words can used to strip people of their liberties.

I also saw Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt, which resulted in the removal of over 110,000 Japanese Americans from their West Coast homes. Another question to pose to students: How have people used words to deprive others of their freedoms? (Check out the Smithsonian’s History Explorer for educator resources. You can search by grade level, time period and/or subject you teach.)

Folger Shakespeare Library
Life imitating art. The exhibit had cute interactive elements.

I’ve been a fan of these guys since I met them at NCTE’s Annual Convention in 2014. I’ve used their incredible resources for teaching Shakespeare, and they also offer professional learning opportunities,  including a month-long stay here in DC to study Shakespeare in depth. Of course I had to visit! The current exhibit showcased paintings of Shakespeare, the man himself and the scenes from the plays. The library is home to the largest collection of Shakespeare works, as well as other rare Renaissance works. Since I took the tour, I got to peek in the reading room. Swoon. During the tour, our guide mentioned that Shakespeare was not wholly original and that he took many of his stories from other authors. How can words be refashioned into something new and exciting?  On an unrelated note, while at Folger I enjoyed learning about Project Dustbunny, dirt from the gutters of books analyzed for past readers’ DNA – wild.

First Folio! First Folio!
National Museum of African American History and Culture
The abolitionist paper, The North Star, was founded by Frederick Douglass. My kids will love seeing the actual paper.

This museum is the newest, opening in September 2016. I noticed a few different ways in which words were important, especially for someone who teaches Richard Wright’s, Black Boy. First, Nat Turner’s Bible and Harriet Tubman’s hymnal were on display. Both struck me, and I thought, How do people find strength and comfort in words during times of pain and turmoil? I look forward to examining this question with my students; it’s a topic that pairs nicely with Anne Frank finding solace in books.

Finding comfort in words can be a common thread throughout history.

Alongside the reading of Black Boy, my students and I read the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. A question for my students will be, How can we use words to fight for change? This question will be especially useful as we follow Wright on his journey of discovering how authors used words to fight against racism.

 

Newseum
The California paper posted outside the day I visited.

The Newseum “promotes, explains and defends free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.” Tons of great ideas here! Around the outside of the museum are front pages from each of the fifty states and around the world. What a great activity for teaching media literacy. I want to pull the day’s headlines from three papers and have students analyze the differences. How can we use the same words to paint a different picture? There was also a neat exhibit on each of the five freedoms. This might be interesting to explore as my students learn about the Bill of Rights in social studies. How are the words of the past relevant today? I want to explore the modern issues relating to each of the five freedoms.

This exhibit poses the question, what freedoms do students have at school?

There was also really cool display about the rights of students, which I know mine will enjoy talking about, especially the parts on dress code. A question I will ask is, How can you use words to fight for what you believe in?

And now I, NCTE’s 2017 Kent B. Williamson Policy Fellow, am signing off. I hope you enjoyed following along as much as I enjoyed the journey. Please contact me, I’d love to connect and chat. Peace.

Mrs. Stuart Goes to Washington: Policy Brief, Assessment and Back to School

Project: Policy Brief

Oh, the wonderful world of writing policy briefs. This week was spent working on a piece for the National Council of Teachers of English. We are trying to uncover who is teaching English and how these educators feel about a range of topics. There is data on teachers in general, but not a lot on teachers of English specifically. As an organization, we wanted to learn about this critical group of educators. Here are some questions that arose during my research:

  1. What might the race and gender of our teachers tell us about the ways we connect with our students?
  2. Why is it important to look at the levels of education a teacher has achieved?
  3. In a post–Common Core world, have levels of job satisfaction changed?
  4. What are the professional learning needs of teachers of English?

The most glaring fact so far has been the lack of current research on teachers. The U.S. Department of Education is set to release the next set of data end of summer/beginning of fall.

You know what they say about assessment …

I took a break from writing and research to meet with Miah Daughtery, the Director of English Language Arts and Literacy at Achieve. A fellow Wolverine, Miah and I discussed everything from ideas for getting kids to read—The Reading Minute by Kelly Gallagher—was new to me! to understanding why standardized assessments are so long (if you don’t know what a psychometrician is, then you probably don’t know the answer). One thing that was suggested in my district was that we write our own district-wide benchmarks. It was such a casual comment to our little department of 10 teachers that it seemed like a simple idea. Miah and I discussed how complicated writing assessment is, especially if it is assessment that you are going to use to make claims about student achievement. Miah has a presentation called “The Top 25 Ways a Test Item Can Be Flawed.” There are more than 25? The moral of the story is, folks, we need to revisit our benchmark plan. Miah suggested checking out the assessments from Achieve the Core, so I’m going to start there.

Oh and I’m back in the classroom on Monday

When my eyes got tired of looking at data, I turned my attention to my classroom. I have 6th and 8th graders reporting to me, excited yet sleepy, Monday. As most teachers do, I have grand plans for the year. These include, but are not limited to

  • infusing global education in all of my units, and building a website for my students to interact with me while I am on my study abroad, probably on Facebook or a page on my personal site
  • getting my kids to enjoy reading (also, getting them to actually read)—this means getting my classroom library in order, which terrifies me
  • doing daily read-alouds and maybe the Reading Minute
  • pairing contemporary texts with my mandated curriculum

I’m open to ideas!

 

Seriously, need to get it together! What a mess.

Mrs. Stuart Goes to Washington: Teacher Preparation, Global Education and CA Senators

Is there a better way to kick off the week than by spending time with pre-service teachers?The NCTE team (Jenna Fournel, Lu Ann McNabb and Felice Kaufmann) and I took a field trip to Capital City Public Charter School where Inspired Teaching hosts a summer program. Inspired Teaching is a “professional learning community of master teachers and teacher residents that  ensures that a diverse group of students achieves their potential as accomplished learners, thoughtful citizens, and imaginative and inquisitive problem solvers through a demanding, inquiry-based curriculum.”

Seated in a circle, teachers were doing an exercise that examined the different roles that students tend to play in the classroom, e.g., mean girl, class clown, etc. After the discussion, teachers used chart paper to write down both positives and negatives of each of the roles. Then we divided into teams and brainstormed ways to break students of these roles.I loved the insightfulness of the group, one teacher remarked that students can “go invisible” in some roles. Another pointed out these roles teach students that they as a person are static, and not dynamic. When chatting with Mara Duquette, Senior Manager, Strategic Engagement, she talked about the importance of these experiences- by saying, “We teach them to discover who I am as a learner, because I need to know that before I can become a teacher.” 

NCTE’s Felice Kaufmann and I discuss some of the strategies Inspired Teaching uses with their pre-service teachers. I loved the quotes about education, and I plan to use them as an opening activity to get my students thinking about why they are in school.

Global Education

I had no idea that the US Department of Education had an International Affairs Office. Since I am a Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow (see P&O below for more details), I was eager to learn more. Maureen McLaughlin, who is a senior advisor to Secretary DeVos and the Director of International Affairs, was gracious enough to meet with me to talk global education. She shared with me the department’s strategy, created under Arne Duncan, to succeed globally through international education and engagement. They have three objectives: increase global competencies, learn from other countries, and engage in education diplomacy. Recently, Maureen was on a team that created a Framework for Developing Global and Cultural Competencies to Advance Equity, Excellence and Economic Competence. This is a great tool for those looking to start embedding global competencies in their curriculum.

This framework is a great way to start thinking about ways to incorporate global education in the classroom.

California Delegation

Midweek I met with both of my California senators’ offices. Small world: Brett Rosenberg, the legislative aide in Senator Kamala Harris’s office, actually received an NCTE Achievement Award in Writing when she was in high school. I shared with Brett NCTE’s policy recommendations, and she shared with me the senator’s education passions (DACA, combating sexual assault on campus, gainful employment). At Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office I met with education legislative aide Crystal Martinez. She anticipates the Senate will preserve Title I funding at equal or increased levels, and that Title II and LEARN will be preserved in some fashion. That was good news! Check out last week’s post for a refresher on ESSA funding. Senator Feinstein’s interests are access to high-quality education for all students, ensuring California receives its due share of federal funding, and accountability and transparency for all schools.

My traditional selfies with the plaques.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Really Love Global Education

Never felt more secure in my life! I also enjoyed the alumni ribbon, as it got people chatting with me about my experience with Teachers for Global Classrooms.

Friday brought me to the Department of State for the Annual Global Teaching Dialogue to continue my learning on global education. As a Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow, it was exciting to hear all the phenomenal work that both the TGC and Fulbright Fellows are doing in their schools with global education. Mark Taplin, the acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, opened the dialogue, pointing out that investing in teachers is critical to our nation’s future.  Andy Rabens, the special advisor for global youth issues, wrapped up the evening by talking about the three areas of focus for youth issues: youth and economic opportunity (jobs of the future), youth and the political process (getting them involved, young women especially) and youth and violent extremism (understanding how and why youth are vulnerable). There is a great video he did on the Global Youth Issues website which can tell you more about why young people matter. I think I’ll use this video in my classroom to kick off the year to show my kids why they are important.

I don’t know why, but I get a kick out of branded water bottles, especially ones that say Department of State.

If you are interested in learning more about global education, check out the State Department’s programs for teachers and students (spoiler alert, there are a lot), The Diplomacy Center for educating students about diplomacy,  or reach out to me and I can help guide you. Also, follow #NCTEcitizen to join in the conversation on creating global citizens. This recent blog post entitled “Putting Citizenship in Global Perspective in the ELA Classroom” is a great place to get started. Being in DC during a tumultuous time in world news has only strengthened my resolve that if we want our students to be successful in college, career and beyond, it is our responsibility as educators to help them explore how they fit into a global society.

P&O (People and Opportunities) There were a lot this week, so I’ll keep this list to stuff I didn’t mention above.

Celeste Rodriguez, Teacher Liaison, Department of Education: Lu Ann and I had lunch with Celeste. Taco truck lunch, sitting outside, chatting teacher leadership – what more can a gal ask for? Just because there has been a change in administration, it doesn’t mean the department isn’t listening. Celeste is working hard, continuing to incorporate teacher voice at all levels. Big shout out to her and all she does for teachers and students. 

Felice Kaufmann, Publications Developer, NCTE: Felice, based at the NCTE office in Urbana, Illinois, was in DC this week. I was lucky enough to spend time with her and get to know her a bit. You can check out our membership magazine, The Council Chronicle, which Felice manages, and also follow her on Twitter. 

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, CHCI: I ran into this group while I was waiting in Senator Harris’s office. I encourage you to check out this program, which “places Latino youth on a new trajectory by inspiring high school and college completion, and then providing programs to explore public policy and leadership in our nation’s capital.” The group of kids I saw were giddy after meeting the senator, and I loved seeing students so inspired by our government.

Teachers for Global Classrooms: This is a great program for teachers to start or continue their global education journey. It consists of a graduate-level 10-week online course on global education, a symposium in DC, and it culminates in a 2-3 week study abroad. I am looking forward to doing my travel piece this spring!

 

Mrs. Stuart Goes to Washington: Week 2

This week kicked off with Senate meetings. We met with staffers from both Republican and Democratic offices to urge the Senate not to eliminate Title II funds (so you can still have access to professional development) and to protect the $189 million for LEARN (intervention support). Both sides were sympathetic to our concerns, but it’s clear that they are contending with budget cuts. There is a cap on non defense discretionary spending, and it has seen a significant drop. Staffers from both sides of the aisle said that if we want to protect these funds, then raising the cap is essential. What does that mean? At its essence, it is akin to giving me a budget of $20 to feed my family of four each month. It’s just not possible, and certainly not healthy. Food is a critical part of life. I need to raise the cap on my budget in order to prevent my kids from starving. The same goes for Title II and LEARN, two programs critical to quality education. We should not be forced to cut these necessary programs. NCTE issued a press release later in the week expressing deep concern about these proposed cuts in the House appropriations bill.

A shot from the outside of the hearing room before we were allowed in.

On Tuesday I went with NCTE’s Lu Ann McNabb to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on ESSA state plans. The Democrats were vocal about the lack of representation from the Department of Education, and wondered when Secretary DeVos would appear before the committee. The Republicans voiced concerns about the department’s recent feedback on state plans and felt it was overreaching. Chairwoman Foxx was clear in stating that the committee will watch to make sure DC “keeps its distance” in regards to ESSA implementation.

 

Wednesday I was invited by rock star teacher leader Anna Baldwin to attend the Convening on Systems of Support for Excellent Teaching and Leading at the US Department of Education. The Ambassador Fellows worked this year to create a framework that “allows states, districts, and schools to assess the alignment of their systems of support for teachers and leaders to a set of core principles.” Participants spent the day collaborating and providing feedback on the framework. Keep an eye out for the release of this tool. I know I am looking forward to sharing with my administration and strategizing ways we can improve our professional learning. Jason Botel, acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, offered closing remarks. He stated that he sees ESSA as an opportunity to tailor education programs to the students. He also recognized that the work is hard, and teaching is hard. I couldn’t agree more!

 

At the end of the week I was able to spend some time with my ASCD Teach to Lead team at L2L. This past year, Meghan Everette led a team which consisted of myself, Danielle Brown, Jason Flom, Kenny McKee and David Griffith to determine how educators view their role in advocacy and what can be done to better support potential advocates. The results of this research can be found at the Hurdles and Hopes website. The purpose of the L2L session was to engage with the results of the study. We discussed advocacy barriers and ideas for removing those barriers. I particularly enjoyed crowd-sourcing ideas for professional development modules around advocacy. The room was full of leaders who had strong ideas on how to improve educator advocacy.

Meghan Everette kicks off the L2L session by talking about the Teach to Lead process.

P&O (People and Opportunities)

Meghan Everette: If only there were words. Meghan is a Hope Street Group alum, ASCD Influence Leader, co-creator of the #EdAdvBecause chat, and an ASCD Emerging Leader class of 2014. She is also a Scholastic blogger (so check that out) and all-around super mom and amazing human.

Anna Baldwin, Amanda Barney, Monifa McKnight, Dana Nerenberg and the US Department of Education School Ambassador Fellowship: All of these magnificent ladies are ambassadors. It was great seeing fellow Hope Street Group alum Anna, and fellow EdReport’s crew Dana. Amanda was an excellent facilitator and sounding board, and I had an invigorating intellectual discussion with Monifa.

Jennifer Briones: I met Jen when she worked for Hope Street Group. Now she is a Policy and Advocacy Associate for Data Quality Campaign. She was kind enough to help me with my research project while I am here.

Angela Brizuela and the Library of Congress Summer Teacher Institutes: Teaching with Primary Sources: Angela is a STEM teacher at my school, El Rodeo Elementary. She was in town for the week at the Library of Congress for a teacher institute (check out the site, they have other options that cover all teachers.) This particular institute gathered a consortium of educational partners in an effort to develop curriculum using primary sources from the Library of Congress. Angela had high praise for the event: “I found the institute to be enriching in that I was able to develop science curriculum that was interdisciplinary and encourages critical thinking which is vital to developing responsible citizens.”