As I uttered the last syllable of the searing Holocaust passage in Night by Elie Wiesel, where Yuliek plays his violin amidst a sea of dead and dying men, and Beethoven's concerto concluded on my laptop, a sigh sounded from one of my sophomores. Basie was a tiny figure shrouded in a hoodie, sleeves pulled over his minuscule hands. He never said much before, but now pushed his hoodie slightly off his eyes and mused about how art infuses beauty into even the most depraved situations.
Editor's note:Mary MartinezSmith, an eighth grader at Axtell Park Middle School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, co-authored this post.
Not very many people really know what it's like to do something that affects not only hundreds, but thousands. Some would say those with big dreams, simply put, are just dreamers. Others might say teenagers who dream big are trying to do something beyond their power. Many people would like to say they not only had that dream, but they accomplished it. Yet few actually can. We, Mary MartinezSmith and Damian Marlow, are proud to say we are two of those few people. The catch? We did it just by putting sticky notes with positive messages on every locker in our school.
I'm going to close my grade book now. I'm taking it to the top of a snowy hill. I'll sit upon it and go sliding down the hill. It's the only good use for that book, now that December is here.
Christmas is coming, and my students can't think about schoolwork. They're too busy wiggling in their seats, tapping out Christmas carols with their toes, giving each other reindeer names, and Googling this year's "Santa's Bad List."
As we near the one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, my first thoughts are of that awful day -- how I felt sick to my stomach learning about the tragedy and, as a teacher, how I worried. These could be my students; this could be me. What would I have done? What would I have told my students to do? Would they have been prepared? My second thoughts are of today -- what have we done to make schools safer? What I have I done as a teacher to make my school and my students safer?
I had been trying to start class for several minutes. Our normal post-weekend check-in had failed. Instead of hearing updates from each other, students were having side conversations about the school dance. Once I regained everyone's attention, two girls walked in late and the whole class stopped to watch as they gave each other a consoling hug before they moved toward their seats.
I was losing patience. This was not the strong start I had envisioned for the first in-class workday of our project. "Who is ready to share the main question for their project?" I asked in an attempt to refocus everyone and manage the energy emanating from 33 frenetic 15- and 16-year-olds.
Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for reflecting on the things you're grateful for, and it's a known fact that practicing gratitude is a valuable tool for building character. Some say the other key to the pursuit of happiness is gratitude's counterpart, generosity. So I thought I'd kick off the season of giving by shining a little spotlight on simple acts of kindness that can have a huge impact: I've gathered ten videos about people giving back, paying it forward, and helping others -- to inspire us all to do the same this holiday season and all year long.
Jake's hands were clenched and he had a weak smile on his face when he told me the joke his friends were laughing about. "I laughed, too," he said, "but inside I was filled with fear, fear that they might find out." Jake, a tall, slender high school junior, was referring to a gay joke that while not malicious, was a degrading word play. Jake is not alone.
The recent decision by Glendale Unified School District in Southern California to hire a private firm, Geo Listening, that will troll through the digital lives of teenagers has sparked widespread concern and reaction. Schools and parents, increasingly at a loss for how to ensure teens' online safety with the proliferation of social media and bullying, are beginning to outsource the work of monitoring.
What if instruction could actually engage students and get them excited about learning? What if school could foster student creativity and support their expanding imaginations? What if educators around the world had the tools to provide students with the 21st century skills to imagine and create their own futures in our ever-changing global society?
I was recently in a third grade classroom and was struck by the presence of rules that were posted for how to have a conversation. The poster said, "Each person must contribute to the discussion but take turns talking. Ask each other, 'Would you like to add to my idea?' or 'Can you tell us what you are thinking?' Ask questions so that you understand each other's ideas. Say, 'Can you tell me more about that?' or 'Can you say that in another way?'"
Having visited many middle and high schools, I think these same rules could -- and probably should -- be posted there as well.