Be the Helper in the Light

Our school year is starting in two weeks.  Turn on the television, open social media, pick up the newspaper and we are reminded that our world is in unrest.  Neighbor is lashing out at neighbor,  others are ridiculing our iniquities and differences with malice and hatred instead of celebrating or embracing them with with love and compassion. Children turn to the adults in their lives to help them make sense of this world.  As an educators in today’s society, we definitely have our hands full.

A childhood influence of mine, in addition to my teachers, was Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  He reminds us that in the dark times, there will always be light. We need to look for the helpers.  

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Well my fellow colleagues, we are the helpers. We are the ones on the sidelines.  Like it or not, teachers ARE involved. We do it by doing what we do best.  Educating, guiding, advocating, and most of all  loving our students.  Our students know that we are going to be there each and everyday. We are that constant in their lives.  We are that loving adult in their lives.  We are the ones who stand up for those who do not have a voice of their own.

Our students know that we will try our best to answer what questions they may have. We will create the safest environment that we possibly can for them.  We will care for them as if they are our very own children.

School needs to be the place where bias and racism are nonexistent. In order for that to occur there will need to be some awareness lessons in personal biases, compassion & empathy training, and community & team building.

Celebrate Differences

There are a multitude of ways that we, the helpers, the chosen ones who are with the “future of our nation” can be the necessary “beacon of light.”  A light that shines dimly or brightly through the hate that seems to be casting an encompassing shadow upon our society at this time.

Teachers have been actively working to build strong communities in their classrooms. Many classrooms in my district use morning meetings. These meeting help start each day with a positive message as well as to build a connected structural format where students can share socially and academically. Children’s picture books are a fabulous avenue to address any and almost all social issues.  They can be used independently, in small group or as a whole class read aloud. Students tend to openly discuss opinions more easily when they are are talking about a character in a story as compared to someone who resides next door.  Once rapport, comfort level and trust is built, students have been known to feel less intimidated when discussing real-life issues or current events.

Accept learn diference

It takes more than just talking, discussing and sharing.  Students need to build trusting relationships with one another.  They need to become a unified team. Team Building exercises, games and activities allow opportunities to spotlight various strengths in members. The planning of these activities can be worked into students’ pre-existing curriculum or teachers can be innovative and set aside a small block of time weekly to continue strengthening the classes’ community.

In the mass chaos, civil unrest and foreboding shadow of hate that is being shown, our children are preparing to come to school.  Some will be eager and ready to learn; others will be wishing for more vacation time. Regardless, educators are the endless beams of light flickering in the darkness. Our students look to us for guidance as we direct them towards a path of hope filled with acceptance, compassion, and love.

Resources:
Morning Meeting:  https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/what-is-morning-meeting

Picture Book Ideas:
https://pernillesripp.com/2017/08/12/great-picture-books-to-create-hope-in-the-world/
https://www.weareteachers.com/15-great-childrens-books-that-celebrate-diversity/
http://www.courtneywestlake.com/10-great-childrens-books-that-celebrate/
https://www.romper.com/p/13-childrens-books-that-break-racial-stereotypes-13088

Older Students Book Ideas:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/22/books/23racebooks.html
https://www.bustle.com/p/11-diverse-young-adult-books-that-are-tackling-serious-issues-in-2017-36033

Team Building Activities:
http://www.ventureteambuilding.co.uk/team-building-activities/
http://www.buzzle.com/articles/listening-games-for-adults.html
http://www.teampedia.net/wiki/index.php?title=Category:Icebreakers/Warmups

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The Value of Awareness

Build relationships.
Relationships are essential.
Establish rapport.
Home connections are key.

Open up Twitter, Facebook, and almost any educational text and you will read something regarding the importance of building and maintaining relationships; relationships with students, colleagues, parents, community members etc.  Relationships are the lifeline to a school. Please don’t get me wrong, but I think there are many times where we as the adults take charge. We, myself included, may need to step back and re-educate ourselves on the communities with which we are working.  Then we may be able to build even stronger and more productive relationships- ones where the children will benefit much more than they do today.

Let me explain.

Last week I visited my hometown in western Pennsylvania. While I was there, I read JD Vance’s, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. This novel hit home for several reasons.  I grew up and then later taught in areas similar to ones the author depicted in his memoir.  He was sharing the story of my classmates and students.  It was eye opening. He shared what he knew because he lived it.  Then at the same time….I knew these children, oh my gosh.  JD Vance was completely describing them to a”T”. Individuals who have never experienced this area, these conditions, or have limited understanding of  the accepted “norms” would be appalled.

How is this important? What does this mean to me as an educator?

Teachers need to be aware of the “norms” of socio-economic classes. It is estimated that approximately 43% of our children in the USA live in low income homes. This will enable us to be able to emphasize and in turn, truly build bonds with the families with whom we work. I believe that we really do a nice job of being conscientious of ethnic, racial and religious differences.  We celebrate these in our classrooms.  We bring lessons of diversity, compassion and empathy regarding these cultural differences into our classes. Teachers have a knowledge of what is deemed appropriate and not appropriate in regards to interaction with the various groups they come in contact.  Yet, when it comes to working with families that are of a different socio-economic class educators may not be aware of the cultural norms accepted by that group.

Blog 2

When we think of our students who may come from the lower end of the socio-economic scale, we immediately begin gathering physical resources & supplies.  Unfortunately, we seem to miss the real connection with them as a group- what their values are, what they really need, what is truly wanted.  Misunderstandings, miscommunications, misconceptions, and lack of trust can be created.  As an educator, I know this is not, nor is it ever our intention. Which is why I strongly feel that we all should be aware of the differences in the socio-economic culture. Yes, there are differences.  Many of these values are just understood.  As a teacher, I need to continually step back and remind myself to look at others’ perspective.  

There are several who have written articles, books and offer workshops to share information about poverty. I have been fortunate enough to have had workshops offered through the districts in which I have worked, such as Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty. I know everyone has not had that opportunity.  I do urge you to build your awareness of the socio-economic difference.  I do believe it will make an impact, a positive one on your future relationships within your schools and communities

Resources:                                

Poverty Resources

http://www.nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html