This Thanksgiving, I considered expressing my thankfulness for great teachers -- but I've got a Teacher Appreciation playlist already that says it all. Instead, I'd like to express some love for a few of the things that I am thankful for, and share some stories of generosity and kindness.
How often do you stop to think about color? We take it for granted, but it's ubiquitous in our everyday lives, and whether you're looking at it through the lens of art, science, or philosophy, color can be evocative. Full disclosure: I'm the mother of a toddler, and we're talking about color a lot in my house right now, as my daughter learns to identify and describe the world around her.
October is Bullying Prevention Month, and schools and families across the country are having frank discussions to raise awareness about bullying. It's a subject that's grown increasingly complex and troubling over the years: while in-person teasing and harassment has never flagged, new technologies have given rise to cyberbullying, which can be equally as damaging -- and even more public. And news of tragic consequences stemming from cases of both kinds spreads quickly through social media.
September 30th kicks off Banned Books Week, a celebration of the freedom to read all across the country. This year is the event's thirtieth anniversary, as the battle against censorship marches on. In this digital society, where we have access to most any kind of information at our fingertips, there are still those who would limit our rights when it comes to what we read. While book censorship is almost always born from the best of intentions -- most often to protect the innocents -- it's a threat to our first amendment rights and something we should all rally to fight off.
September 17th was National Constitution Day, and with the elections fast approaching, it's a great time to start conversations with your students about civics. Several reports in the last few years have surfaced concerns that civics education is getting the short end of the stick in the American education system (read "Why Civic Education Needs a Boost" by Suzie Boss and "Let's Bring Civic Education to the Front Burner" by Anne O'Brien for more thoughts on this). And I probably don't need to convince anyone reading this about the value -- no, the absolute necessity -- of teaching young people to become engaged and active citizens.
"Digital citizenship" is an umbrella term that covers a whole host of important issues. Broadly, it's the guidelines for responsible, appropriate behavior when one is using technology. But specifically, it can cover anything from "netiquette" to cyberbullying; technology access and the digital divide; online safety and privacy; copyright, plagiarism, and digital law, and more. In fact, some programs that teach digital citizenship have outlined no less than nine elements that intersect to inform a well-equipped digital citizen. It's an overwhelming array of skills to be taught and topics to explore.
These first few weeks of school are exhilarating and exhausting for teachers. Establishing a community, building relationships with students, setting up class guidelines, making a good space for learning, getting organized with all those tech tools -- these are the items at the top of the to-do list for most teachers I know. But how do you settle down all those kids who have been running free-range all summer, and make both yourself and your students ready to dig in again to the work of teaching and learning? How do you focus on your classroom's culture while juggling the piles of paperwork and the housekeeping tasks that inevitably accompany those first few critical weeks?