Learning Experience #3

For my final learning experience the readings were “Moving Beyond the Classroom” by Stan Karp, “Q/A: As a new educator, why should I be concerned about school privatization?”, “School Funding Basics” by Stan Karp, “Why Teacher Unions Matter” by Bob Peterson, and “New Teachers Energize Their Union” by Gabriel Tanglao. My group went about this learning experience through a presentation, a fun game, and discussion questions. The readings focused on how school funding is distributed. A lot of the time it is distributed in an unfair way based on meaningless test results. Understanding school funding and money also ties into understanding what privatization is and how it affects the education system. There are readings that focus on activism, whether that be in teaching social justice or being a part of a union. Any way of incorporating activism in the classroom can teach students more than any lesson. Our learning goals for this current connection were for students to understand the process in which school funding is distributed, for students to understand the importance and the impact of teachers unions, and for students to understand school privatization. Overall, I wanted our classmates to understand that there is more for us to do in the teaching world when it comes to educating than just learning the curriculum. 

The first reading was “Moving Beyond the Classroom” by Stan Karp, which can be found on pages 249-253. This reading emphasizes the importance of teaching social justice within the classroom. However, social justice shouldn’t just be classroom teaching; it should be taking action and making a difference. This reading says that, “schools are social battlegrounds.” Meaning, to have true change, one needs to start with the education system. Karp says, “We need better, more cooperative relations with parents and communities, particularly across cultural and racial divides.” How can educators expect change without reaching out and taking action? Parents and the community are a great way to start that activism. This reading also discussed corporate educational reform which is “a specific set of proposals that have driven more than a decade of education policy at the state and federal level.” During the presentation, my group displayed some of the proposals to give our classmates ideas of how harmful these proposals are. Some of these proposals include chronic underfunding of public regulation and increased test-based evaluation of students, teachers, and schools. There is a lot of work to improve the education system, so it can feel daunting to some educators. However, if we keep taking action there can be change! 

The next section was a question and answer section titled, “As a new educator, why should I be concerned about school privatization?” which can be found on pages 254-255. This section discusses the importance of understanding school privatization. We started this section by asking the students what school privatization is. Some of the answers were “like private schools?” or “to pay for school”, however, a lot of my classmates weren’t sure. Privatization allows policymakers to alter public education funds and students into private districts. Meaning this weakens the public school system by taking away their funds. The reading explains what voucher and charter schools are. Voucher schools are schools that have students who receive public funded vouchers that pay either full tuition or half of it. They have little oversight and are usually affiliated with a religion. Charter schools are funded and sanctioned by state law but they are privately run. We then asked the class “Why should we be concerned about school privatization?” Personally, I feel that school privatization is detrimental to the public school system. It is taking away needed funding that can improve education. 

The third reading was “School Funding Basics” by Stan Karp”, which can be found on pages 257-259. This reading explains how school funding is distributed. Funding for schools is usually distributed based on standardized tests. When schools don’t perform well on these tests, they get less money. Personally, I believe if a school has low test scores and is clearly struggling they need more funding for resources and support. My group did an activity that showed how money distribution works in the education system. We split the room into two groups to represent two schools. The first school was a school in a wealthy area that performed well on their standardized tests. The second school was located in a low income area that performed poorly on their standardized tests. My group members passed out slips of paper that represented money from the federal and local government. The first school got significantly more. We then displayed on the board, needs that required money that they had to meet. While they were doing that, my group members took money from the second school and gave it to the first saying, “You did poorly on standardized tests.” When they had finished sorting where their money would go, the second school realized that they couldn’t afford everything. This activity was a great way to show how funding in the education system needs to change. 

The last two readings were “Why Teacher Unions Matter” by Bob Peterson, and “New Teachers Energize Their Union” by Gabriel Tanglao, which can be found on pages 260-272. These readings go hand in hand by explaining unions. Peterson explains how unions can be portrayed negatively in the media, that’s why I asked my classmates what they thought of unions. I got some mixed answers with some answering it reminded them of “the mob”, “a good resource for teachers”, and “support for workers”. Unions have been around since the 1800s and continue to grow and gain more support. Teachers unions are a great way for teachers to be involved with the education system. Unions protect teachers from unfair layoffs and false accusations. Unions offer conferences and workshops for teachers to work together. Unions give a chance for educators to be heard. It makes the process of dealing with educational issues more democratic. The two main teachers unions are NEA (National Education Association) and AFT (Americans Federation of Teachers). Peterson introduces social justice unionism which is an organizing model that calls for the expansion of internal union democracy and increased member participation. I then asked the class why it was important for teachers to be involved in social justice issues. Many of them responded how teachers’ activism sparks others to participate and how a lot of social justice issues involve educators. Unions aren’t just a way to protect educators and their workers rights, but it’s a way to change the education system for the better. 


Field Blog #3

This comic is based on an observation I did at Saint Kilian Parish School. The class I was observing was a 4th grade social studies class. They were learning about the culture in the South. The teacher was the same teacher I had in 4th grade and they used the same textbook that I used. When I listened to her talking about the music coming from the South, she mentioned how these styles of music came from African Americans in the South. She played examples of these different types of music and asked if the kids ever listen to these types of songs. The kids were so engaged saying things like, “Yeah, I hear jazz when someone plays a saxophone in the street” or “Yeah, my dad likes that music!” My teacher knew so much about these types of music, she said that this was her favorite section to talk about. She really embraced the lesson by saying how many different artists we know were influenced by African American music. 

When reading the sections in The New Teacher book like “Medial Apartheid” (pg. 84) and “Presidents and Slaves” (pg. 74) earlier in the semester, it made me question what kind of textbooks and education I received. These readings discuss how textbooks are not always accurate and certain parts of history aren’t taught in schools. I obviously couldn’t remember if the textbooks I had in grade school were “whitewashed”, so after reading these sections it really made me think about what I learned. Going to a predominately white school, I was worried that as a young child I wasn’t educated on these matters. However, after watching this social studies lesson, I couldn’t help but feel so much joy. It was so comforting to know that my old school was making an effort to educate kids on African American culture and all they contributed to.

Field Blog #2

This comic is based on a field observation that was done at Saint Kilian Parish School. The teacher I was observing was a middle school math teacher. The class that day was taking a quiz, so there wasn’t much to observe. However, this teacher went to John Carroll. It was so nice to have someone to talk to that had the same experience as me. 

She was very helpful to talk to. I asked her all kinds of questions about going to school at John Carroll, but getting a teaching license in Pennsylvania. We got to talk all about John Carroll like what she was involved in and what professors she had. It was comforting to know that JCU prepared her for teaching well. She gave me her number to text her if I had any questions about JCU’s Education Department or about being a teacher. I was really appreciative because now I have a resource and someone to talk to about my future profession.

This experience reminded me of the section in The New Teacher book titled “How do I Stay in a Profession that Is Trying to Push Me Out?” (pg. 165) by John Terry. John Terry emphasized how important it is to stay connected to the teachers in the workplace and in other schools. He says, “Through cultivating these bonds with like-minded colleagues I found new sources of inspiration for my practice” (pg. 165). Connecting with teachers is a great way to ask questions, bounce ideas off one another, and to build each other up.

Field Blog #1

St. Kilian Parish School

The school in this comic is Saint Kilian Parish School in Pittsburgh, PA. I graduated from this school five years ago and attended it from kindergarten to 8th grade. The school is relatively large for a Catholic School with about 500 students. The class sizes are no bigger than 25. This school holds a very special place in my heart because it inspired me to be a teacher. I had a great experience there and hope to teach there one day.

In this comic, I was in the classroom of my middle school teacher. She teaches math to fourth grade and middle students, as well as, history to middle school students. The activity we played was with the fourth grade class, she called it “Trashketball”. Once she announced to the class that they would be playing that, they all got super excited. It was great way to get the students excited about math, by turning the lesson into a game. The object of the game was to complete multiple papers of math questions. Each paper had to be checked for accuracy. If the paper was corrected you got to shoot it into the trash can. If you made it, you got bonus points.

The reason this activity stuck out to me is because in The New Teacher book, a reading titled, “12 Suggestions for New Teachers” (pg. 40) has all kinds of suggestions. A few of them had to do with the activity. One of the suggestions was “Keep lecturing short” (pg. 42). The teacher kept the lecture short that day in the math lesson and moved right into a fun activity. If a class is all lecturing, kids are going to lose focus more easily. Another suggestion was, “Have engaging activities” (pg. 42). This activity made the students get so excited about math. Earning bonus points was a good positive reinforcement to keep them engaged.

Overall, this experience was a highlight of my field observation. With this activity I got to talk to the kids and got to know them better. Of course, I can’t include all the conversations I had with them, but they all were super sweet. They were very curious about me saying things like “Are you are new teacher?”, “Will you be back tomorrow?”, and “I hope you are my teacher one day.” Interacting with the students made me want to become a teacher even more.

Current Connection #3

My current connection was based on the excerpt titled “14 Days SBAC Took Away. This was written by Moe Yonamine and can be found on pages 217 to 222. The other articles in the chapters of The New Teacher focus on the effects of standardized testing. These readings explore the effects of not only students taking the tests, but also teachers and the school district. The importance of these tests are burned into the mind of students, but this adds unnecessary stress. Many say that standardized tests do not accurately measure the intelligence of students. The connection made explores the current presidential administration’s choice of administering standardized tests. Many students, educators, and parents show disapproval of the decision to continue standardized tests during a pandemic. These readings and news articles are very relatable to students like me, in which I can speak from firsthand experience from taking these standardized tests during a pandemic. Standardized tests cause unnecessary stress that takes away from the classroom community, however, the government fails to see the inaccuracy stemming from the tests. 

The reading was written by a teacher who had to witness the cruel effects of standardized testing. Her 6th grade students were taking the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium). This test was used to determine funding to schools. For that reason, the schools put pressure on these kids to perform well. This school was already in a low- income area and depended on the students performing well. These kids were put in front of a computer and asked to complete questions. Many of them sat in front of the screen and stared. The teacher noticed this and encouraged the students to try to take the test. However, the teacher knew exactly where the kids were coming from. She opted her daughter out of testing. She described the tests as, “…an inaccurate and unfair test that assesses a child’s intelligence by how they perform on computerized questions while ignoring inequities in background knowledge, in hardships from neighborhood poverty…” (p 218). While the teacher knew the effects of standardized tests, she encouraged her students to take it. Many of them refused and some even got so upset that they began to cry. This story reflects the stress that these students experienced during testing. Since the school was located in a low-income area, many of these students experienced hardship in their home life that didn’t need to be added to by tests. Her students took 14 days to complete the SBAC. Many of her students were pulled out of her class to finish the test. Her class wasn’t a complete whole for 14 days. 14 days of end of the year activities were taken away. The class community that was built throughout the year was being tarnished. The students ended the year on a bad note. This story showed the effects of standardized testing and how detrimental it can be for students, which connects to our current state of education in the United States. 

The article I found was titled, “Backlash growing to Biden’s insistence that schools give standardized tests during the pandemic.” This article was from the Washington Post and written by Valerie Strauss. This article discusses the backlash against the current presidential administration and Department of Education about pushing standardized testing. The firsthand effects of standardized testing are discussed in The New Teacher reading, however, this article talks about an added factor to the stress; the pandemic. Parents are erging their children to opt out of testing because of the pandemic. Many children who learned online due to health concerns would have to take these tests in school. Many express how the pandemic has affected the learning environment in the classroom. Schools from around the country are asking for waivers from the Department of Education to opt them out of testing, however, their efforts have been unsuccessful. A quote from the article says, “the exams will ‘exacerbate inequality’ and ‘produce flawed data’ that won’t help direct resources to the neediest students.” With the results flawed, why should there be testing at all? These tests are the main source of where to send funding. A senator from North Carolina, Richard Burr, said that testing, “takes a lot of time away from classroom instruction and they are stressful for children and quite frankly for teachers.” The reading “14 Days SBAC Took Away” provides evidence toward Burr’s reasoning to stop standardized tests. This article shows how many people are against standardized testing and how they aren’t supported by their own government to stop tarnishing a child’s learning and classroom community. 

I can speak from firsthand experience as a fairly recently graduating pandemic high schooler. Testing during the pandemic was more stressful than ever. Trying to find a place to test was a hassle. A lot of colleges still required SAT/ACT test scores, but a lot of test locations were canceling due to the pandemic. The situation written in “14 Day SBAC Took Away” was accurate in reflecting the stress students face when taking these tests. It pains me to see that our government is blind to the disruption that standardized testing causes. Since the pandemic, we are entering a new age of learning. Hopefully, that new age is without standardized tests. 




Learning Experience #2

For the learning experience this week the readings were “How Do I Stay in a Profession that Is Trying to Push Me Out?”, “Dear White Teacher”, “Restorative Justice in the Classroom”, and “Girls Against Dress Codes”. My group went about this learning experience by presenting a google slide that included a writing prompt and discussion questions. Our learning goals were getting our classmates to understand how activism stems from the classroom, whether it be changing school policy such as dress codes or becoming politically active. We also wanted our classmates to understand the significance of relationships in the classroom which is integral for our next learning goal, restorative justice. The first reading discusses how to keep the inspiration as a teacher by going beyond the classroom and collaborating with fellow educators. The second and third reading discuss discipline with the classroom. Overall, these readings touch on creating a classroom environment that works for justice and the growth of students. 

The first reading is “How Do I Stay in a Profession that Is Trying to Push Me Out?” by John Terry, which can be found on pages 165-167. This reading touches on the subject on how to be an educator active in the community. John Terry first discusses how his teaching method worked. He explains “…the decision to step away from many of the canned teaching materials and to rely more heavily on my own knowledge, passions, and experience” (pg 165). He worked hard to incorporate human rights into the classroom. He felt that this was important to teach to the students. He found a way to overcome the obstacles of teaching by becoming involved in the community and meetings over teachers. At the end of the reading he gave helpful tools like trying to create a better society, reaching out to other teachers, and going beyond the classroom for activism. I believe that the downside of teaching is the policies and control of the curriculum over teachers. Terry fights this by being an activist and choosing to be an active member in the teaching community. The take away we wanted our classmates to get from this reading is to always strive to be a better educator even if it takes you outside the classroom.  

The second reading is titled “Dear White Teacher” by Chrysanthius Lathan which can be found on pages 168-175. The reading started explaining how white teachers come to her, a black woman, for help from disciplining black children. After not being told her own child was misbehaving, she decided to invite kids to her room to get an honest opinion. The students noticed this saying that she wasn’t scared like the other teachers. The other teachers were frightened because they didn’t want to be seen as “racist”. Lathan makes an excellent point when she says, “…many whites live in fear of their good faith actions being labeled as racist. Rather than facing that fear and seeing what they can learn about themselves from the process” (pg 172).  The teacher loses power when sending the student to someone else because the students lose respect for them. My learning circle asked questions like, “Have teachers cared about your success? How or how not?” This was done by handing out strips of paper before explaining the reading. A lot of the answers were similar saying that teachers helped by checking up on them like asking them how they were feeling. I am lucky to have had many teachers like this throughout my schooling. Knowing that I was in an environment where someone had my back made me feel safe and loved.

The third reading is called, “Restorative Justice in the Classroom” by Camila Arze Torres Goitia. This is found on pages 176-181. This teacher talks about how restorative justice became the center of her classroom. Her class started to stray away from their good behavior. A way to fix this was building a community and including restorative justice. They started sharing their values and what they thought about the legal system and government. This built a tight knit community. Our learning circle started this section by asking the students, “Imagine you are a teacher with a student who continuously interrupts class by talking, making inappropriate jokes, and not respecting you when you’re teaching. How would you approach the student and fix this issue?” Personally, I believe that the best way to discipline a child is not by punishing them. You need this child to respect you. As an educator you need to educate them why their disruption is harmful to the class environment. Punishing a child doesn’t give them an opportunity to grow.  Restorative justice allows room for that growth.

The last reading is titled, “Girls Against Dress Codes” written by Lyn Mikel Brown. This reading discusses the problems of dress codes within schools that pertain to women. A quote that caught my attention was “Dress codes are a stand-in for all the ways girls feel objectified, sexualized, unheard, treated as second-class citizens by adults in authority” (pg 185). Brown started a movement called the SPARK movement. This movement is described as  “an intergenerational girl-fueled activist project…” (p. 184). This spark movement had lead girls to become activist outside the classroom like starting feminist club, meeting with adminstrators, and haning up posters. Usually dress code conflicts were dealt with between administrators and parents. Brown wondered why teachers were not involved. Brown explains that teachers see how this can be a meaningful conversation within the class. The teachers experience the impacts of dress codes first hand. Brown asked girls what they would want to see in a dress code. They “Each dress code rule must have an explanation”, “A good dress code applies to everyone; there are no gender-specific rules, no double standards”, and “A good dress policy code addresses the realities of poverty and social class” (pg 186-187). For the discussion, I asked my classmates “Why do you think dress codes are in place? What dress code policies were in your school? Did you ever get in trouble?” This started a wonderful conversation about how dress codes impact girls. Many shared their experiences and related to one another. Many responded saying that dress codes are rooted in sexism and girls shouldn’t be a distraction. At the end I asked, “As future educators, how can we change dress codes in our schools?” Many of them said to talk to the administration or policy makers within the school. It is up to teachers to be the force of change in the school, the curriculum, and the student’s lives. 


Current Connection #2

My current connection was based on pages 119-120. This excerpt was called The-Read Around: A Reading and Writing Strategy by Linda Christensen. This article talked about ways to share writing while simultaneously building a positive classroom environment. I felt that this reading was unlike any I read so far in the New Teacher book. The reading was structured like a numbered list of steps. Each numbered step went through the process of The Read- Around. This led to students to build their writing skills while receiving praise from their peers. Similarly, the article I found was titled “The Compliments Project”, in which an 8th grade teacher instilled a way to enforce positive comments to brighten a student’s day. These classroom practices led to improving student’s confidence, as well as, building an accepting classroom community. 

The-Read Around: A Reading and Writing Strategy started on page 119. This reading was structured in a way that was unlike the previous readings. The introductory paragraph explained what the Read-Around’s purpose was, “the read-around in the classroom equivalent of quilt making or barn raising”. The teacher wanted to create a space of learning for the students, as well as a community that was accepting. Sometimes learning from one’s peers can be more helpful and engaging. Not only is it a way to bring the classroom together, but the teacher shares how it is a way to build students confidence. It builds their confidence not only in their writing, but as people as well. How the Read-Around works is the students are seated in a circle. Being seated in a circle allows everyone to see each other and hear each other with the attention focused on who is reading. Blank strips of paper are handed out to each student. With this paper, they are asked to write a compliment about the student reading. With these papers they are asked to write the names of the readers on them so that they can give it to them. Not only do they listen to give positive compliments, but they are encouraged to improve their own writing. They can get ideas and inspiration from their own classmate’s writing. This isn’t meant to be a way of plagiarism, but more working together and bouncing ideas off each other. After the reader is finished, they sign their names. A few students can share to the whole class their positive comments. After everyone shared their writing, the students gave their compliments to the readers. This sense of community that is built through this exercise allows students to feel comfortable sharing their work. Sharing in front of the class can make some students feel anxious, but building a community can make that easier for students. A quote that I liked from the reading was, “During the read-around, we socialize and create community, but we also teach and learn from each other.” This is only one of a myriad of ways a teacher can build an accepting and positive environment in the classroom. 

Finding an article for this connection was a little tricky, so I had to think outside the box. I eventually stumbled upon Jennifer Gonzales’s blog called Cult of Pedagogy. There I found an article published in 2019. This article discussed The Compliments Project. Gonzales was contacted by Stephanie MacArthur, an 8th grade teacher from New York. The Compliment Project worked very similar to The Read-Around. A student was seated in the “hot seat” that faced away from the whiteboard. The other students were instructed to write a compliment about the person in the “hot seat”. After everyone in the class had written a compliment, the student could turn around and see what they had written. MacArthur says “It created a safer classroom space; plain and simple. I realized that students were sharing and opening up more in the following units because most of them had been vulnerable during this activity.” This activity made the classroom a brighter place, as well as, building a community. 

Learning in the classroom is very important, but in order to create that space for learning a strong community needs to be built. Building a student’s confidence is important.This allows the student to try new things and take risks (safe risks of course). They don’t have to worry about what others think. Students need to feel comfortable in their environment to truly express themselves. Personally, I participate more in the classes I feel safe in. Meaning, when I don’t worry about other students judging me, I participate more. Having a community of people that care about you, makes all the difference in a classroom environment. These students may be going through tough times outside of school; why should school add to that? Knowing that these students are getting support from school can make their lives much easier. Creating that classroom environment is important for students to succeed academically, and it can be as simple as a compliment. 

Source: Gonzales, Jennifer, The compliments project. Cult of Pedagogy. (2019, July 26). Retrieved March 2, 2022, from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/compliments-project/

Learning Experience #1

For my learning experience the readings in The New Teab cher Book were from pages seventy-four to ninety-three. These readings include “Presidents and the People They Enslaved: Helping students find the truth” by Bob Peterson, “Medical Apartheid: Teaching the Tuskegee Syphilis Study” by Getchan Kraig, and “Q/A: I hate the textbooks I’ve been given to use. What can I do?” by Rita Tenorio, Rachel Cloues, and Bill Bigelow. The first two readings discuss the importance of teaching history from all perspectives and the way they go about teaching these lessons. The last article introduces the problem of textbooks. The author discusses ways teachers can find alternative ways to teach without using a textbook. These articles go hand and hand because a lot of the time our textbooks don’t include important lessons or topics that need to be taught. All the readings touch on the fact that the teacher is responsible for teaching social justice. Teaching about social justice leads to progression inside the classroom and outside the classroom. 

The first reading is “Presidents and the People They Enslaved: Helping students find the truth” by Bob Peterson which can be found on pages 74-83. This reading explains how a teacher and students explored the history of the presidents in the United States. Many students were unaware of well known presidents such as George Washington enslaving people. Even the teacher was unsure of how many presidents enslaved people. This topic brought the class together and allowed them to explore together to find the truth. During our learning experience, my group asked questions like this to our classmates: “Why is it so difficult to find the truth when it comes to certain things in history?” and “How many presidents do you think were slave owners?” For me, I believe it is difficult to find the truth in history because a lot of the time institutions try to cover up a part of history that they are ashamed of. The United States has contributed to unsavory actions in history, many of which we don’t learn about. Sometimes these topics can be sensitive and for that matter they are covered up. Other times, it is a matter of whitewashing history. When the class was asked about how many presidents enslaved people, many of them weren’t sure, I wasn’t even sure till I read this. This is a clear example of schools not teaching certain parts of history. 

The second reading is “Medical Apartheid: Teaching the Tuskegee Syphilis Study” by Gretchen Kraig-Turner. A teacher took it upon themselves to create a course called Research and Medicine. In this course the teacher taught about the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. This study was made up of African American men. They were brought into this study without their knowledge. They were tested for syphilis but were not told anything. They were not told if they had syphilis and were not about to get treated. They were intentionally denied care for this disease and were prevented from receiving it from anywhere else. We asked “In what ways are you in control of your health and in what ways are you not in control?” Many said that they are in control of what they eat and when they work out. Others said that the healthcare system does not allow them to be in control of their health. The healthcare system prohibits people having the care that they need. 

The third reading is “Q/A: I hate the textbook I’ve been given to use. What can I do?”. This reading discusses how teachers can be lost when using a textbook. Evidence from the first two readings show that textbooks don’t include integral parts of history. Textbooks aren’t always the best for keeping students engaged. A few ways to combat the textbook is to use online resources, current events, and the arts to connect what the students are learning to be more relevant. During the learning experiences we asked the class what they thought of this quote, “Part of the challenge in becoming a social justice teacher is finding materials to supplement the books you have available in your school. Then there is also the trick of finding the time and opportunities in the weekly schedule to use them. It is not easy, but it is worth the energy you expend.” We asked the students what they could do . Some of them said to interact with their co workers to see what’s working and what isn’t. Not having the right resources shouldn’t stop teachers from keeping their students engaged. There are so many resources that can be used in today’s age due to technology.

Current Connections #1

I had to find my current connection based on page 26- 49. That includes the stories Uncovering the Lessons of Classroom Furniture You are where you sit by Tom McKennan, Getting Your Classroom Together by Bob Peterson, 12 Suggestions for New Teachers by Larry Miller, and How I Survived My First Year by Bill Bigelow. Specifically, I chose to focus on Getting Your Classroom Together by Bob Peterson. I chose to focus on this story because I believe that classrooms students learn in can be very important to their education. A classroom environment needs to feel safe to all students from every background. Student representation in the classroom can provide a safe and comfortable environment for students to learn in. When students feel that they aren’t represented or heard in the classroom it discourages them from actively participating and learning. Representing students in the classroom also allows other students to learn about diversity and other cultures. This can expand their horizons for learning and growth as students. 

The article I found for my current connection is titled, “Teacher reinstated after parents complained about Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ posters”. This article was written by Tom Fitzsimons and published August 27th, 2020. This article introduces a high school English teacher, Taylor Lifka. Lifka decided to create a virtual classroom. Inside this classroom was her Bitmoji avatar, a desk, and some images of posters. These posters were from Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ community, and others. These posters sparked outrage in the school district. Lifka was getting a lot of heat from parents in the school district. The school eventually decided to put her on leave. However, putting Lifka on leave caused even more turmoil within the school district. A petition was started by The local LGBTQ rights group called South Texas Equality Project, within days thousands signed to reinstate Lifka. Lifka strived to create a welcoming environment by being inclusive to all students and her efforts were seen by students that need representation in the classroom. 

In Getting Your Classroom Together, there is a section titled, “The Politics of Bulletin Boards.” Peterson says he asks himself, “What messages were my bulletin boards sending? Whose history or point of view was I presenting?” This question was probably also asked by Lifka who strived to create an inclusive environment. Peterson decorated his board in February for Black History Month instead of Valentines day, and Women’s history instead of St. Patrick’s day. His bulletin board also started conversations within the classroom. For instance, in October he asked “Who benefited from Cloumbus’ arrival in America?” Small details like these can make all the difference. Not only do his bulletin boards represent students, but they are also engaging. His bulletin boards teach students about history and other cultures. “My students helped create bulletin board displays. Their enthusiasm demonstrated the importance of ‘student voice” being not only spoken in the classroom but also hung on the walls.” He made sure to surround his students with the history of the world as well as represent their voices so that they could be heard.

When I first read Peterson’s “The Politics of Bulletin Boards” my mind immediately went to Taylor Lifka. I remember hearing about her story in the fall of 2020. When I heard about what happened I was shocked. Can parents really have a say in what a classroom looks like? Turns out in Lifka’s case they can! I asked myself, “Could this happen to me?” After asking that question I began to brainstorm what kind of bulletin boards I would want in my own classroom. I was inspired by Peterson and his efforts to build an inclusive community with something as simple as classroom decor. I’m determined to have my classroom be the same way. I want to represent all cultures in my classroom whether students from that culture are in my class or not. In my own school experience there was a lack of diversity in the classroom. I felt like a lot of my classmates weren’t educated enough on other races and cultures. I believe it is important to educate students on races and ethnicities. A bulletin board idea I thought of would include both Christmas and Hanukkah during December. I feel that during December a lot of people forget that people celebrate different holidays besides Christmas. Also, I like the idea of engaging bulletin boards. Asking students about topics can really get their brain following. For example, a bulletin board that asks what students do to stop climate change and give them tips on how to help. Peterson and Lifka’s stories inspired me to strive harder to include student’s of all backgrounds and how important it is to do so.  

Fitzsimons, Tom.(2020, August 27). Teacher reinstated after parents complained about black lives matter, LGBTQ posters. NBCNews.com. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/teacher-reinstated-after-parents-complained-about-black-lives-matter-lgbtq-n1238498 

First Blog Post

Hey, my name is Julia! My pronouns are she/her. I’m from Pittsburgh, PA and have lived there all my life. Although I have not yet declared a major, I am very interested in becoming a teacher. I would love to teach middle school or high school students. I feel that with that age group I can form a close bond with the students and relate to them more. I have always loved history. Even as a kid I would love about a country’s history and culture. I used to have a toy globe that I played with for hours. I would also love to teach science, specifically biology. Science was my favorite subject growing up and I loved taking biology in high school. Part of me wanting to be a teacher is the social aspect. I consider myself a very social person. I like to go out with my friends a lot back in Pittsburgh. I also like to spend a lot of time outside. I go hiking a lot with my family. It the winter we like to go skiing together. Even though I like to spend a lot of time outside, I really enjoy watching movies and TV shows. I like to watch a lot of classic movies from when my grandma was young. This semester I plan to be involved with the school a lot more whether it be joining new clubs or going to more events. A chapter that interests me is “Creating Classrooms for Equity and Social Justice” (pg 53). I believe that it is very important for these issues to be taught in the classroom. Personally, my school never talked too much about social justice issues and I felt that my classmates and I would’ve benefitted from that.

A classroom has always been a relatively safe space for me. However, I do feel a lot safer when I know the people in my classes well. It’s more comfortable for me to have friends in my classes. I feel that a lot of the times I will hold back in discussions because I’m not totally comfortable sharing with people I don’t know too well. A memory that sticks out to me happened while I was a junior in high school. The school I attended, Vincentian Academy, announced that it would be closing permanently after the school year was over. All of the teachers and classmates were devastated. The school I attended was very small, so these people felt like my family. We felt as if part of our home was being taken away. Later that week my religion teacher Miss. Apple led our class into the gymnasium for some unexpected self-expression. She brought her CD player and cranked up David Bowie, Queen, and Bruce Springsteen. My friends and I started dancing to the music, as did Miss Apple! It was a moment that brought our class together and reassured us that everything was going to be fine. It’s moments like these that make me want to be a teacher.