World Cultures is…

After an activity where students practiced teaching each other key concepts for the first time, I had them debrief. Just for fun, I threw in a wild card. Here are a few of their responses to “World Cultures is…”

World Cultures is fun, confusing, and awesome!

World Cultures is one of my favorite classes, My world cultures teacher is my favorite, is a hard subject that I don’t fully understand.

World cultures is something that I look forward to in a day and I learn a a lot of new material.

World Cultures is tons of fun and I really like how she teaches and that she only gives homework if necessary.

A place were you further expand your knowledge of the word and use it in everyday problems. Plus you learn more about real things like the world. It is different from math I love math , but it is so different you use it everyday.

World cultures is a good way for me to learn about what our world is like, not just where things are, but that too.

World Cultures is challenging but I get AH HA moments sometimes when I actually get it.

World cultures is interesting because you get to discuss things instead of listening to the teacher all day.

World cultures is BALLER

World Cultures is fun and exciting. I learn something new everyday and Mrs. [Moxie] will help me understand things that are complicated for me.

World Cultures is really interesting and fun. It is very hard, and easy at the same time, I can rely on this subject for very little, or no homework at all. It is awesome, and very interactive, and you do not know what is going to happen next.

World Cultures is open-minding and brain-bending. It makes me think about things I wouldn’t think about.

Why the Communism?

Ever wished you could be back at school, but without the awkward lunch room/locker room/school bus situations? If so, you should check out the Khan Academy. Sal Khan has videos on pretty much everything (although lacking in the area of history a bit).

I found this one on communism. If you’ve never read Marx’s Communist Manifesto, this is a nice little crash course. Khan’s political leanings are clear, but he does a great job mapping out different types of government and how communism came about, how it works, and where several modern nations stand today.

Why the blog?

Today in a workshop we are discussing why we blog and should we have students blog? These are hard questions. Our facilitators have asked us to do a sample blog on any topic.

1. Why do I blog?

It started during grad school for me. There’s only so much discussion you can have in class, and learning about race/gender/class was new for me. I had a lot to say and a lot to process. Also filtering it through the gospel was essential. I found I needed an outlet. It seems there is some audience for it, but then again, maybe it IS just egocentric. I do wish that more people would respond and comment to encourage more of a dialogue. How can I adjust my writing to evoke thoughts from others? Some of my friends think that I am the expert on these issues, and maybe I need to do a better job expressing that I’m certainly not. I’m working all of this out bit by bit, and never fully or perfectly.

I also think it’s helpful to respond to what I’m reading/thinking/listening to instead of simply being a consumer of ideas. This is what I want from my students, so I need to model it.

2. Should students blog?

My gut reaction is an emphatic yes. But it’s complicated (much like race/gender/class). How do we organize them if all teachers want to have a blog? How can students create a digital portfolio that will track their progress and process throughout their classes and through the years. I think it can be so valuable, especially as we seek to integrate disciplines. Mostly I want kids to learn and share…over and over. Be participants in their learning. Be actively engaged. Be curious. Do research. Hear from each other…

I have a feeling it’s going to be a crazy exciting year.

Black Nationalism and Procrastination

There are lots of things I should be doing today.

1. Finishing writing my exams.

2. Grading students prezi projects about African nations.

3. Creating a check-list for Sunday set-up at church for our upcoming meeting.

4. Planning for my faculty fellow (student teacher) next semester.

5. Scheduling a dentist appointment.

6. Preparing for a Library Task Force Meeting.

But all I really want to do is be at Caribou with a mac writing about my experiences and thoughts over the last few weeks while I sip a holiday specialty drink from mug. I want space and time to think and process. I haven’t been making space for that recently. My reading chair has gotten cold.

sidebar: I feel stifled without a mac, really I do. They are so pretty, and I seem like the type of person who would have one I think.

Most present in my mind is a conversation I was asked to be a part of last week at school. A colleague and friend of mine invited me into a room with the 12 black male eighth grade students at our school. This colleague (G) may or may not be the only black male teacher in our division. It’s not surprising that we have become friends given my affinity for all things chocolate colored.

Here’s the issue:

A teacher overheard the boys calling each other the “n” word on the basketball court last week. The Dean asked G and another black male to address the boys and discuss their use of the word. He asked me to come because a) I’m female b) I’m white c) I’m on the diversity committee…and he thought I could add a different perspective.

The word n____, you see, sums up for us who are colored all the bitter years of insult and struggle in America.” –Langston Hughes

I appreciate the space and time our school gives to conversations  that need air. I like that we don’t brush past hard things. In general, we aim to face them head on. I feel like at another school, this would have been dealt with very differently. That being said, I would have dealt with it differently. Maybe this is a gender thing.I would have wanted to hear more from the kids. Put them in a circle and make them talk it out. And we did some of that. They said they use the word because it’s causal, they hear it on the radio, from kids in their neighborhoods, at church (at church!?).  G wanted to preach at them and tell them why it was wrong. He said some good things, such as “when you use that word, you have accepted the stereotype that comes along with it–slave, disadvantaged person, inferior race.” He asked the students “what would you do if a white person directed that word at you?” They responded in unison that they would get violent. G told them about his experiences, how he had to be different, how he had to move beyond settling disputes with his fists. G exposed their double standard.

Three boys in the group told us they don’t use it at all; their parents taught them not to; they think it is degrading. It’s more than the word though. To me, their use of it shows me their desperate need for affinity as they develop their racial identity. In these years, they are learning what it means to be “black” in a place dominated by “whiteness.”

How do we facilitate racial identity development in junior high and high school?

W.E.B DuBois came to mind as I listened to two educated black men tell these boys why they were different. Why going to this school called them to something higher. How they need to rise above and be better men. Are black independent school attendees the new Talented Tenth?

Action step:

Several of these boys were in my history class last year. They got fired up about fighting human trafficking, and we were close. I want to hear from them how things have or haven’t changed since this conversation.

How can we keep the conversation on the table?

Let’s get our hands dirty…talking about race

This is a 7th grade student’s submission for the Power over Prejudice Summit.  I’m getting excited…

“W” is a great school, but we are all guilty of sometimes thinking unkind thoughts about people who are different from us. We are not a racist school, but sometimes we don’t really take the time to learn about other people. Sometimes we just immediately judge them as weird, because of their race or family or social economic background. We are so privileged, and sometimes we get a little too focused in our iWhatevers and our designer clothes and the people who have them and the people who don’t that we don’t look at the person inside.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink there is a study where participants are given words such as good and trustworthy and are given two pictures, one of a white person and one of an African American person. Participants are asked to click on the picture they feel better represents the characteristic. They are just given a second to click on it. Malcolm Gladwell, who is half Jamaican, found he had a slight white preference. This study tells us that even if you think you aren’t racist, your subconscious might tell you otherwise. This is a result of all the conditioning we receive from the outside world that tells us so. I know the truth won’t always be easy, but I want to get my hands dirty talking about controversial issues.

If I get chosen for the conference, I like forward to meeting people who are different than me as well as bonding with the other girl. I also want to able to teach “W” people about what I learned. I want to become a better person, so I will be able to make the world a better place.

*school name omitted, emphasis added by Moxie

Things I never did as a student…

Ms. [Moxie],

Over the weekend, I participated in a series of educational contests including a geography bee. I have worked extremely hard to prepare for this and the school bee held earlier this year. Can I get extra credit for these competitions? I can bring the notes I have taken to school if you would like to see these also. Thank you for your consideration on this matter.


[Geography Enthusiast]

Dear [Geography Enthusiast],
I am so proud of all you have accomplished geographically and otherwise this year. Your passion for maps and places has been a vital asset to our class. I will certainly miss having you to tell us about the transference of national ownership between small South American islands next year.
That being said, I don’t think it would be fair to the other students to offer you extra credit for work you have done outside of class and on your own accord. Also, currently, your average is 96. You don’t need any extra credit!!!

I think all of the glory, honor, and enjoyment you have already gotten out of geography is sufficient!! I hope you understand.
See you tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to your project on the Himalayas.


Ms. [Moxie]

How’s Teaching? (#2)

No one would argue that we desperately need more qualified teachers. But how do you attract the best candidates? How do you teach teachers how to teach? This morning on NPR I heard THIS story about a program in Boston teaching teachers like med school teaches doctors. Of course you can’t just read about teaching or talk about teaching to know how to do it, you have to actually DO it. But what if you could discuss it with people who know how? What if you did this every day?

“why can’t schools be more like teaching hospitals with seasoned teachers, just like seasoned doctors, responsible for the induction and training of the next generation of teachers?”

This “medical rounds” idea is the hot new idea in public schools these days. At my independent school, there is a lot of emphasis on teachers meeting together to learn from each other. Apparently we are the only independent school in the nation doing this. We call it “PLCs” or Professional Learning Communities. Teachers of the same discipline meet to discuss “best practices” and “essential learnings” for the course. Today my group is writing a proposal for a possibility of becoming a formal PLC next year. We would get a reduced course load, and we would meet together 4 times a week with specific goals in mind. Some possible questions are…

“what should seventh graders KNOW about history?”

“how do we know if they’ve learned it?”

“what do we do if they don’t learn it?”

The idea is that this work is hard to do on our own, secluded in our respective classrooms. It’s so much better together, in a conversation, bringing in the best educators in the city together to think about these questions.

(Another interesting article about teaching is “What makes a teacher qualified?” a question everyone asks, but no one seems to be able to agree on the answer. Do advanced degrees really matter? What if the teacher is working on an online course during class time to complete the advanced degree?)