I still remember the first time I saw the materials from Teaching Tolerance, the magazine by the organization of the same name. This group seeks to promote tolerance, and it offers free, high-quality curricular materials for all grade levels.
I found it all so wonderfully positive and teacher friendly. Not only were the ideas right but the organization had also enveloped them in completely replicable content; anyone could use this content to improve the level of respect in the classroom community. And respect, or a lack of it, can cause a classroom community to flourish or to fail.
The organization describes itself this way on its Web site: "Founded in 1991 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations, and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation's children." Now, what teacher would not like some help in improving those "intergroup relations," either in their classroom or in their school?
So, I was stacking wood in the shed at my home in Maine last week, and in the spirit of integrating ideas such as preparing for winter and improving education, I got to thinking about integrated curriculum. It is so important for all of us to help kids cross the curricular boundaries and increase their depth of understanding of the complex issues they will face as they move on through postsecondary education and into the future.
And because teacher behavior drives student behavior in the classroom, it hit me: What if we applied Teaching Tolerance's Mix It Up at Lunch Day model (in which students move to new seats during lunch to meet different kids) in the teachers' room? And what if it went beyond just sitting together at lunch? What if those teachers were willing to look at the other teachers' subject areas and mix them up with theirs?
What if history teachers asked their math colleagues to help students more effectively analyze demographic information? What if science educators sat with art instructors and discussed how students could use various artistic media to create two- and three-dimensional artwork that would stand as clear evidence of their understanding? For this to happen, of course, the art instructors would need to better understand science, and the science educators would need to become familiar with what students can accomplish in the art room.
So, let me ask you a couple of things: Have you used materials from Teaching Tolerance with kids? Have you used its Mix It Up curriculum materials, and have you held a Mix It Up at Lunch Day? Please share your impressions and your results.
And, what's even more important, after looking at the materials for Mix It Up, would you be willing to mix it up with your colleagues at different grade levels or in different curriculum areas?
In the end, the big question is, do you think it would make a difference for kids?