Last week’s post included four things I highlighted that I learned in 2017. Trust me when I say, I learned far more than the few lessons showcased in the blog post.
I think by far the most important 2017 moment was the renewed passion I found for tweaking the curriculum so that students in our learning community on campus see people, events and fictional stories that are an integral part of their cultural and ethnic identity. Geneva Gay has challenged and inspired:
Years ago as a kindergarten teacher, I was annoyed at the idea that in the U.S. we set aside one month a year to celebrate Black history. So, we began to enjoy lots of books each month that honored Black people and events.
There were also students in our kindergarten classroom whose families were from Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Pakistan, and Mexico. There were not many books at that time available that could act as mirrors for my students. I searched far and wide for books, songs, poetry, and visual images that I was able to share with my class. The librarian on our campus became the most valuable resource in finding materials to support the diverse needs of our class.
I’m still getting to weigh in on resources to supplement the curriculum in my current job as an instructional coach. There is hardly anything that makes me happier than hunting for great pictures books or using excerpts from texts to use in instruction.
Before winter break, sixth grade teacher Ms. P and I worked together to plan an upcoming unit. The curriculum suggested using Eleven by Sandra Cisneros as a text to teach required standards. We talked at length about poetry, song lyrics and chapter book excerpts that we could use along with the Cisneros piece.
Today I was able to see those plans in action. I sat at a table with a group of sixth graders who discussed Kendrick Lamar’s few lines included on the album’s very last track, “Mortal Man”.
Ms. P then asked students to read Tupac’s poem.
The final class discussion centered around possible ways in which Cisneros, Lamar and Tupac’s works might contain similar themes.
Supplementing curriculum with additional texts, visual images and media is a teacher obsession of mine, but I also see it as a moral responsibility. Over the next few weeks, I intend to share other classroom examples of teachers’ creative, intentional use of texts that elevate the “ethnic and cultural groups and their contributions.”