OF NOTE: Inclusive Classroom > Divided World

    Teaching While the World Is on Fire by Lisa Delpit (editor)
    The New Press, September 17, 2019

    Educators have long considered how to approach conversations about current events with students. These discussions become particularly complicated when public officials exhibit behavior that we would not permit in our own classrooms. In Teaching While the World Is on Fire, Lisa Delpit brings together both established and emerging voices in the field to try to provide guidance for teachers as they attempt to navigate discussions around race, gender, immigration, and a host of other topics that present themselves in classrooms today. Each of the essays presented here shares practical suggestions for supporting students’ intellectual growth while also ensuring that all students, especially those from marginalized communities, experience our classrooms as safe harbors. From Justin Christensen’s helpful tips to guide teaching government in the age of Trump to Pedro A. Noguera’s discussion of the importance of centering care when thinking about the real threat of school shootings to Deborah Almontaser’s suggestions for supporting Muslim students, Teaching While the World Is on Fire is essential reading for anyone contemplating how to shape an inclusive classroom in an increasingly divided world.

    Submitted By Kathleen Minahan, The Ethel Walker School, Simsbury, CT


    Safe from Surveillance

    Facial Recognition Moves Into a New Front: Schools by Davey Alba
    The New York Times, February 6, 2020

    Public schools in Lockport, NY, are among the first in the nation to begin using facial recognition software as a safety measure. This New York Times article tells the story of how a concerned parent, Jim Schultz, attempted to stop the district’s plans. The story highlights the tension for schools between the competing goods of safety and privacy. Proponents of facial recognition software argue that schools should use all available tools to keep students safe, noting that cameras can alert school personnel if an expelled student, terminated employee, or registered sex offender comes to campus. The same software can also pick up the presence of weapons and automatically alert law enforcement to concerns. Opponents of the use of this technology in schools, such as the father profiled here, argue a counterpoint: that children should not be subjected to a massive experiment in surveillance. Those quoted in the article cite questions of data privacy, especially for minors, and point to proven racial bias in facial recognition tools. As independent school leaders grapple with how to prioritize safety while keeping school culture intact and healthy, this article points to a dilemma likely coming our way.

    Submitted By Liz Perry, St. Luke's School, New Canaan, CT


    Perceiving Misperception

    Study shows race, gender affect teachers’ perceptions of students’ ability by Mike Cummings
    Yale News, February 12, 2020

    This article summarizes recent research published in the Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race that examines the effects of race and gender on teachers’ perceptions of students’ abilities. The study showed that educators penalize or advantage students depending on their racial, ethnic, or gender identity. Sobering and eye-opening, the research offers much to reflect upon for educators working with students from diverse backgrounds. The study showed “a variety of racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in the association between first-grade students’ non-cognitive skills and their assessed ability in math and reading.” The researchers “sought to determine whether teachers’ ratings ‘penalized’ or ‘advantaged’ certain groups through an unequal relationship between children’s non-cognitive skills and teachers’ perceptions of their academic ability” and found that they did. For example, the study found that “teachers penalize black girls and black boys differently in math” and that teachers “penalized white and black girls, relative to white boys, in their ratings of math ability, but did not disadvantage Asian and Latino girls in the same manner.” Teachers and schools have certainly made progress in understanding how teachers’ perceptions shape their assessments of students’ abilities, but these findings suggest that there is more work to be done – and offers much to consider for schools aiming to be more equitable towards all students.

    Submitted By Jonathan Gold, Moses Brown School, Providence, RI


    Open to Kindness

    The War for Kindness:  Building Empathy in a Fractured World by Jamil Zaki
    Crown, June 1, 2019

    Jamil Zaki comes to his study of empathy from a growth-mindset point of reference. His persuasive premise – that empathy can be taught and that nothing can get better without it – is ably and amply supported with data, real life experiences, and evidence of change over time. Additionally, he cites sources as diverse as politics, schools, intensive care units, police services and the U.N. Zaki, Director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory, makes a distinction between “fixist” thinking about empathy and “mobilist” views, which see it as something that can be encouraged, strengthened, and applied effectively, even in those who do not present with apparent predispositions for kindness. He takes on the how-to’s of increasing the disposition for empathy and also demonstrates how it can be lost due to stress, anxiety, fear, overexposure, and past failures. The latter is the war to which he refers in his title: the struggle for hearts and minds that will open to kindness, to listening, to acting on behalf of, and to understanding others in an increasingly unsubtle, wanting, fractured world. Zaki is an optimist, and he is also a scientist who adds gravitas to inspiring stories. What’s more, he lends in his strongest writing not only encouragement to try harder, but also proven tools to achieve a better and more caring world.

    Submitted By Elizabeth Morley, Kobe Shinwa University, Japan


    Vision of and for the Future

    The Looming Enrollment Crisis by Eric Kelderman and Lee Gardner
    The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 1, 2019

    The Looming Enrollment Crisis outlines the existential challenges faced by all levels of higher education. Though aimed at a post-secondary school audience, the demographic, financial, and programmatic challenges faced by higher education is absolutely relevant to independent school leaders and faculty. In fact, the demographic crisis that colleges anticipate in 2025 has already hit many independent schools across the country. The report is highly useful in that it provides granular detail about where the demographic rates of decline are geographically most dramatic (among others, the Northeast and Midwest) and what kinds of population birth rates are declining most precipitously (white and college educated). The report also includes deep dives into the various strategies used by enrollment managers (tuition discounting, lowering or freezing tuition across the board, targeting new markets, among other endeavors). Finally, there are ten case studies that outline examples of dramatic leadership on the part of college presidents to completely revamp or re-envision programmatic offerings. These leaders embody a growth mindset, and they are listening carefully to what students, parents, and business leaders are demanding in terms of what “work readiness” might mean, all without losing their focus on the liberal arts. Independent school leaders will not only glean lessons for their own schools from this report, but they will also educate themselves about the new landscape their students are entering as they choose among myriad undergraduate options.

    Submitted By Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM


    Institutions of Learning and Places of Healing

    Sing a Rhythm Dance a Blues by Monique Morris
    The New Press, January 1, 2019

    In her book and accompanying movie, Pushout, Monique Morris explores the experiences of black and brown girls in schools across the country, sharing how challenging school environments and lack of support lead many of these girls to be pushed out of school – sometimes into the criminal justice system. Her follow up book, Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues, shares recommendations for pedagogy, curriculum, and the overall school environment to support, nurture, and lead girls of color to success in schools. Drawing on the influence of the Blues music and poetry which is interspersed throughout the book, Morris notes that schools can be both institutions of learning and places of healing for these girls. She addresses the disciplinary practices that best support girls through difficult times, explores how trauma, both personal and systemic, may impact students and their behaviors, and notes that overpolicing in schools negatively impacts black girls the most. Through a commitment to restorative disciplinary practices and intentional community building among students and throughout the school, Morris highlights experienced educators and schools where “Black and Brown girls are encouraged to sing a rhythm and dance a blues towards their own liberation, where caring adults alongside them create conditions for healing."

    Submitted By Beth Reaves, Washington School for Girls, Washington DC


    To the Margins and Back

    In Search of Deeper Learning by Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine
    Harvard University Press, April 9, 2019

    Harvard researchers Sarah Fine and Jal Mehta had hoped to uncover practices of deep learning at the best-regarded high schools in the United States, but instead they found that most classroom instruction was rote, lacking rigor, or boring. By shifting their focus outside of classrooms, they discovered vibrant pockets of deep learning in extracurricular activities. There, Mehta and Fine observed a new “grammar of schooling” that gave rise to their imperative to “make the periphery the core.” Their book, In Search of Deeper Learning, offers crucial guidance for all educators seeking to improve teaching and learning. We already know how to provide deep learning experiences for children, Fine and Mehta posit; we’re just doing it in the wrong places. Additionally, while they found many schools and classrooms to be outdated and uninspiring, they affirm that many teachers have created environments that are full of energy, hope, and “intellectual vibrancy.” The common thread between these vastly diverse classroom settings is that there is no singular model or design that inspires deep, interconnected learning. Examples of deep learning are found in progressive and traditional schools, in project-based classrooms and in direct-instruction settings, in thriving, wealthy communities and in struggling and under-served neighborhoods. According to the authors, then, the future of high school education lies in the concepts of mastery, identity, and creativity. The wonderful profiles detailed in their book suggest great ways to move classrooms in the direction of deeper learning for all students.

    Submitted By Chris Buonamia, The Town School, New York, NY and Rebecca Hammerman, Ed.M. Candidate, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    Fighting for Our Emotional Lives

    Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society to Thrive by Marc Brackett
    Celadon Books, September 3, 2019


    In Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society to Thrive, Marc Brackett couples personal narrative with recent worrying trends of stress in adults and children. From there, he begins to make the case that we need to explore and value our emotional lives. To stem the crisis, he argues, emotional skills should be taught and supported throughout life, beginning in early childhood and extending into the workplace. The book goes on to explain RULER, the emotional learning system developed at the Yale Child Study Center, where Brackett is the founding director. Brackett nods toward the need for social emotional learning to be more culturally responsive, but he continues to use the language of “our” without naming the community to which he is referring. Permission to Feel’s conversational tone is geared toward a non-academic audience, one that understands the power of emotions and can relate to his experience of feeling emotionally stifled by external pressures. For teachers and advisors who have explored the RULER Method, Brackett’s book is the most comprehensive explanation of the system to date.

    Submitted By Caitlin Hickerson, Horace Mann School, Bronx, NY

KlingensteinCenter Teachers College Columbia University

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