Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Week 2 #cyberPD: Creating Space for "Their News"

It's the second week for #cyberPD.  Our community is reflecting on chapters 3 and 4 of Sara K. Ahmed's, Being the Change.  You can stop by our #cyberPD Google Community to read reflections from other members.  Believe me, it's worth a click.  You can also follow the conversation on Twitter:  #cyberPD.

First of all, I have to say that I'm still working my way through posts from all of you.  Each stop, each new perspective, gives me more to think about.  This is a timely topic.  I suppose, in a sense, we are practicing what Sara talks about in her book as we read through each chapter using our identities as educators to synthesize information.  Where we are, the students we learn beside, the news that comes into our classroom, impacts our thinking as we read.  Here is our schedule:

Being the Change
For me, chapter 3 and 4 brought to mind the difference between my time alongside sixth graders and my time alongside first graders.  I appreciated the way chapter three addressed identifying our own biases and how the biases of others may impact us, and then chapter four moved into thinking through "news."  When I taught sixth grade, the news walked into our room every day.  Students were paying attention to what was happening in the world and beginning to shape their opinions.  The combination of my content, language arts and social studies, certainly kept the conversation flowing.  As a first grade teacher, the news that came into the room was often about the students.  "I lost my tooth last night."  "My grandma is coming."  "My friend is coming over today after school."  That's why I appreciated Sara's distinction of "their news" and "the news."  Even when my sixth graders walked into the classroom with "the news" it was always their version.

Three Take-Aways

  • Growing an awareness of personal bias can help us to think more about our words and actions.  "It is often the hidden, unintentional forms of bias that are really damaging to marginalized individuals (p. 74)," Sara Ahmed.  This statement is one that will stay with me.  Across my career, I've worked to understand the perspectives of others and be aware of my own bias, but I also know we don't always know what we don't know.  I think about the impact of reading blogs, news, nonfiction and fiction in helping me to understand different perspectives.  The same is true for our students (chapter 4 really speaks to these possibilities).  
  • This work is important in "making the implicit explicit (p.79)."  As a primary teacher, I learned a lot about making thinking more concrete for students.  These opportunities Sara shares across chapters allow students to make their thinking more concrete.  I've been thinking about the ways these opportunities might look different across grade levels.
  • There's power in conversations about "their news."  When I think about primary students especially, I think about how some students will hear more news than others.  By allowing students to work through "their news," it keeps the conversation about how it impacts them and allows them to determine the action they plan to take.  In classrooms with older students, this can help ease difficult conversations as students consider news from different perspectives.  Sara illustrates how, through listening, we can open doors for students to work through their news and come to their own conclusions (keeping our "personal crusader capes at the door [p. 109]").  At any level, I appreciate the reminder of the power of a pause.  

Two Questions

  • What literature might illustrate the way a character is impacted by "news" and takes some kind of action?  
  • How might this work look across grade levels?

One Important Next Step


  1. I haven't caught up with the reading yet since I was out of town last week. Thanks for setting me up for a new understanding. I sometimes feel I need to shield my students from the news. We did not have good conversations during the 2016 election, so I usually avoided them. So much of what our students think at a young age comes from their parents. At about 6th grade, kids are beginning to think of themselves as separate and have their own opinions. I feel it's an important job for me to help them through the questioning and give them a safe place for thinking it all through.

  2. Cathy - I appreciate the imagery of each person's newsfeed that Sara portrays. When I imagine it literally, it is easier to envision how these events are scrolling through students' minds in the moments I'm asking them to "stay focused" on a lesson, book, or activity. We often talk about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which indicated that students need to be rested, fed, and feel safe before they can really learn. But, the social-emotional goes beyond feeling safe.

    In Kansas, we have social/emotional/character standards, and one is "Developing skills that help students identify, understand and effectively manage their thoughts, feelings and behaviors". To be able to do this, teachers need to acknowledge the news and associated feelings that students bring into the classroom.

    Often teachers will have a "class meeting" time, but news happens all day long.

    I'm thinking through how I might do this with undergraduate students. I'm thinking about having an anonymous "news feed" available called "What's on Your Mind" as students come into the class where they can post words, phrases, and questions for all of us to see. I wonder how this might impact the building of community within the class.

    On another topic - I'm revisiting Opening Minds too, as I'm teaching a grad-level course this summer. I've asked my students to read and comment on the book through Voxer and I'm re-energized by their conversation.

  3. Thanks for your post Cathy! I teach grades 2 and 3, and "their news" is often a part of our discussions. But "the news" isn't. When big scary things happen, like weather events of hurricanes I am always willing to talk about it and try to lessen their fear by discussing the facts. But when something else scary happens, I just cross my fingers that nobody will bring it up. If they do, I try to talk about it privately because I am always worried about passing info on to kids who don't have it. For example, there was a giant bus crash here in Canada in April and 13 members of a hockey team were killed. It was very big news! But I did not want to talk to my class about it because they all ride a bus every day! If their parents hadn't brought it up to them, I didn't want to introduce the information. I'm still not sure if I did the right thing. We didn't talk about it at all, even on the day that lots of Canadians were wearing hockey jerseys to show support for the team. Our principal chose not to make this an official observation in our school, and I was really grateful for that because I didn't want to talk to my grade 1 daughter about it! But other classes, grade 1 even, did talk about it. Anyway...this is sort of a different topic now. I guess my questions is still "When do we talk about the news? At what age does it become OK?" and I kind of think there isn't a single answer to that.

  4. Cathy, I have been thinking about Opening Minds as well. In fact, I've started my week 2 response to Being the Change with part of my last post for Opening Minds. I love how my learning since 2012 connects and that I can see the learning that I have done!

    So exciting!

  5. To your question about news and taking action, I've been thinking about that one too. My students will write editorials next year, and I'd love for them to be encouraged to find their voice and use it for good!

    Click Clack Moo is one that came to mind as far as the power of engaging with a social issue. Others?

  6. As always, I love hearing your thoughts. It's like sitting down for a cup of coffee and chatting away, sharing ideas, and those questions. Thank you for linking your previous posts from Opening Minds. I have them opened and can't wait to reflect back on that study. I'm also thinking about literature that would lend itself to connecting a character's news and an action .... I'm sure there are many! Great question to pose! My biggest takeaway is about bias ... and as you said, sometimes we don't know what we don't know. There is truth to that, but I also believe we can't have beliefs without knowing and it's our duty as a citizen of this world to learn and find out when we need to, so that generalizations and bias are not formed and shared implicitly. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!