Teaching the Transatlantic Slave Trade to Fourth Graders

I spent much of last week with my colleagues and administrators examining our teaching of this difficult topic. The work was challenging, uncomfortable at times, but also exciting. I am so grateful to my IPOC colleagues who pushed us to think hard and helped us to change what we were doing for the betterment of our students. I also so appreciate my white colleagues who were open and willing to change even when it meant dropping beloved pieces of curriculum. I look forward to our teaching this coming year and working closely to assess what works and what doesn’t and how to keep doing better.

 

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Remembering Harry: A Comic Experience

It being the twenty year anniversary of the Harry Potter books, I’ve been invited to be part of a panel at ALA featuring Brian Selznick (Sunday at 12 at the Pop Stage). This made me look back at my many HP posts. Here’s a favorite (click on the images to see better versions of them) done shortly before the final book came out:

educating alice

I just got a new computer and spent the last week at school playing with some software I hadn’t tried before including the very fun Comic Life. Of course, I’m still playing! (Pardon the cut-off lines and at least one very awkward line — too hard to edit these once they’ve been exported.)

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Latest Amazon Review of Africa is My Home

While I did love the reviewer who seemed to think my book was a knife (which amazon seems to have finally removed), this person also has a perspective I haven’t seen before.

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Hard Listening

I’ve been doing a lot of in-person and social media listening these days. I have for years, but recent conversations have made me do some serious reflecting on systemic racism and my part in it.  Say by supporting it by smugly thinking I’m better than certain of my fellow good white folk. Instead of this wasted and wrong-headed thinking, I need to do the work with them, take responsibility for it as a fellow white person of privilege. I need to push myself harder to get past my own limitations due to introversion and personal background, to figure out how to speak up more no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel. Most of all, I need to never stop listening and learning, especially from those who challenge me, who push me to reconsider, to change, to do better. Fellow privileged white people: we’ve got a lot of work to do.

 

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That Disney Christopher Robin Film?

Surprisingly (at least for me who hates the Disney Pooh cartoons), the trailer is pretty darn charming.

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About That Royal Wedding

Until yesterday morning I had just about no interest in the wedding. To be honest, not following it closely, I wondered why so many were so engaged. What, I wondered, made this British monarchy so compelling still? Especially for us in the United States? I was aware that the bride was American and bi-racial, divorced, and not exactly “typical” for the British royal family. Nonetheless, when people wrote of getting up early to watch the event, to have parties, etc I smiled bemused and went on with my work.

However, it so happened that I am a very early riser and so, yesterday,  happened upon a report that the service was starting and thought — why not check in? So I did, with mild curiosity, and was blow away. For I came in just as Bishop Michael Curry began, and that was that — I was solidly in.

I’ve been working intensely on a new project featuring the slave trade and much of my research has been about the British involvement. And so seeing the descendants of perpetrators and the enslaved marrying, being part of the celebration, in that ancient tradition was incredible, for me tear-inducing.  FWIW, here are my tweets (first are at the bottom) as I watched:

  • No one should allow the  to make them think it proves things are okay. They are not. It does show that the world has changed for the good in this one small case. (Small for all the wedding is big.)
  • Listening to “This Little Light of Mine” and watching those horses and carriages that were long ago the exclusive traveling method of slave owners, my goodness.
  • More gospel!!!!!
  • Doesn’t change the horrors of today, but I’m so moved by  all the same. For just an hour we can see that the world has changed.
  • Watching such prominent descendants of those who perpetuated and suffered during the eons of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, is surprisingly moving.
  • Been so deep into Britain and slave trade so seeing this happening … is tear-provoking.
  • Ben. E King’s Stand By Me now being sung by a gospel choir.
  • Don’t care about dresses and celebs much, but this ceremony is amazing. Reverend Michael Curry
  • “Dr. King was right. We must discover love.” Reverend Michael Curry
  • Okay, changed my mind. I tuned into the  in time to hear Bishop Michael Curry preaching and it is extraordinary.

I do hope this pushes the Royal Family to make some big statements about their family’s complicity in the slave trade. It is overdue.

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Appreciating Teachers

Yesterday was Teacher Appreciation Day in the United States. I’m going to be blunt here — as a teacher in her fifth decade in the classroom, I find the celebration simplistic and annoying. In this country, teachers are generally not appreciated, but hectored at, scolded, disrespected, and generally seen as problematic in endless ways. I wrote yesterday on facebook:

On this Teacher Appreciation Day, I’d like to wish that teacher colleagues receive respect (not scorn) every week of the year not just one, income that is commensurate with their work and education, to be given what they asked for in terms of resources, to be listened to seriously when decisions are being made, and…did I say given respect? Look to Finland if you want to know how to do it.

Those who appreciate teachers, please help us in these areas. Show us respect by giving us what we need to be effective, to feel honored, to matter. I’m so fortunate I landed where I did so long ago, in a private school. This only happened because there were no public school jobs in the mid-1970s when I was on the job hunt. (New York was in a fiscal mess at the time.) After all, I’d gone to public school and wanted to teach in one. But that isn’t the career trajectory that happened for me. And good thing too as my age-peers in public schools have largely taken early retirement due to the reductive and negative nature of their jobs today. I am so lucky in not being curtailed by endless testing and other outside controls on my teaching. I’m able and encouraged to develop curriculum, to think, to reflect, to learn, and do better. I so wish that was true for all teachers in the United States. Make it so all of you teacher appreciators!

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