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Character Education

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Digital Learning

13 Reasons Why Teachers Need to Watch

In the weeks since the TV series "13 Reasons Why" has aired, many have added their online voices to the debate on whether this show should have ever been made, and whether kids, parents, or teachers should watch. Here's my list. Just adding my voice.

Teachers need to watch "Thirteen Reasons Why" because:

1. We need to be aware of what goes on outside our classroom doors.
     Many of your kids might be watching it, already have watched it, or have heard of it and are
     thinking of watching it.

2. We need to be aware of what goes on right under our noses.
    Kids (and often adults) can hurt each other in a thousand low-key ways that fly under our radar  
    every day. 

3. We need to watch for signals of stress and distress.
     Make yourself a kid watcher every day.Watch every child, not just the ones who are
    screaming loudly for attention, but those who may be hurting others or hurting inside themselves
     every day.

4. An early cry for help can be very hard to hear. very soft.
     Signals are often not easy to see or hear at first. Getting to know your students really well right
     from the beginning is your best way of improving your ability to pick up on cries for help.

5. A quiet student isn't always just a pleasure to have in class.
    Some bullies masquerade very successfully as that quiet and obedient successful student.

6. Kids don't look at each other the way you look at them.
    Many issues, often inside of the beholder, make kids view other kids much differently from the
    way we see them.

7. Souls are more important than data.
    This is just another plea to really study the whole child, not just their grades and test scores.

8. Looking away won't make anything stop.
    If you decide to ignore the issues and prefer to use rose-colored glasses as you view your
    classroom and your learning community, issues will still fester and possibly explode. Choosing to
    travel on the river of denial changes nothing.

9. Things that are revered in our learning institutions can be setting kids up to fail.
    Best athlete, most successful test taker, best writer, student council leaders, etc. Although the
    reverence for athletes disturbs me the most, any labels and pedestals can be debilitating to students
    with other, less-recognized gifts as they travel on their educational journey.

10. Our society creates rankings and situations that can be impossible to escape.
      I was reading The Hate U Give at the same time as I viewed the episodes of 13 Reasons and was
      struck by the meaning of THUG LIFE (Tupac Shakur) as it was described in the book. "The Hate
      U Give Little Infants F***s Everybody" Children who grow up experiencing hatred and lack of
      acceptance grow up to give it right back to everyone. This is next to impossible to change once
      the child has grown. As teachers, we have an amazing opportunity to change lives.

11. You can't just order a kid to "talk" to you when in a crisis situation. Channels of communication
      that a kid can trust must be in place long before the crisis raises its ugly head. Watching 13
      Reasons, my jaw dropped over and over at parents and school staff who suddenly wanted to talk
      and expected answers.

12. As teachers, we have the power to teach REAL life skills. (That life skills teacher in 13 Reasons.    
      Please.) Make your life skills lessons meaningful. Base them on what your students are
      experiencing. Don't just plod ahead with the lesson you planned so carefully. Look at your own
      students and their needs. Adapt and adjust.

13. Kids can start to feel valued, respected, and supported from their earliest school experiences on.
     They need to be able to take small and then increasingly bigger risks with their learning and with
     reaching out to friends as they progress through the stages of school.  "Hey, I'm here for you"
     means nothing if it hasn't been demonstrated all along.

From The Hate U Give:
Momma (after an encounter with a police stop): "See, baby, everything's fine."
"Her words used to have power. If she said it was fine, it was fine. But after you've held two people as they took their last breaths, words like that don't mean shit anymore." (p. 165)

Teachers, our words have power. Our actions have power. Please force yourselves to watch "13 Reasons Why", if you haven't watched already. Read The Hate U Give, if you haven't yet. Let the messages sink in as you plan for the upcoming school year. You will never know the many ways in you will personally touch the future. Make it count.

A gift for you to use in your classroom:

For more from the 3 E's Blogging Collaborative:


Where We're From

Where are you from? 
There could be many answers to that: the city you born in, where you grew up, what career path you've chosen, what your interests are, the people you surround yourself with, the values you hold. At the heart of all the places, things, and ideas we are from though is our mother. Your mother (birth or adopted) is at the center all that you are today. As we celebrate Mother's Day this week, I can't help thinking of my own mother and all that she gave to me. I hope you will find some similarities here in recalling some of what your mother has given to you.

She gave me life and a particular way of looking at the world.
My mom married very young and gave birth to me after just fifteen months of married life. In many ways, she was a child raising a child. She often had a childlike way of looking at things. She convinced me that God was everywhere and watching all the time, but not making choices for me. I was in charge of that.

She told my stories.
ALL my stories. The ones I was proud of, the ones that made us laugh, the embarrassing ones. My children, husband, and grandchildren know my stories. They add them to their stories, and so it goes.
On the way to the hospital after I had tried to remove my sister's arms and legs (as I had previously tested out on my baby dolls). "How did you even get her out of the crib?" "I fwipped her over my shoulder."

She made me laugh.
My mom had a unique outlook on life, and was often funny without even trying. You can't be both mean and ugly. Pick one. (Translation: Being mean makes you ugly. So stop it.) The hill is too icy to go to school? Sit down at the top, and before you know it, you'll be at the bottom. (Translation: Get your butt to school. Now.) (As I cleared the table too fast after dinner.) Got a date? (Translation: Dinner isn't over. Please remain seated.) Look at how cute your sister looks! (Translation: Your little sister will be accompanying you on your shopping trip with friends.)

She taught me skills for life.
It took courage to put knitting needles in the hands of a three year old, but that's how old I was when my mom taught me to knit. As knitting is an interest, actually a passion, that I have maintained to this day, I still think of her when I pick up those needles. I knit in the European or continental way, holding the yarn at the ready looped around my left pointer finger. Whenever a fellow knitter observes this, they always ask where I learned to do it that way rather than picking up the yarn with my right hand and throwing it over the needle. Precious memories come flooding back when I tell the story about my mother teaching me to knit when I was so small.

My mother was in a serious car accident when she was pregnant with my sister and needed to find a way to keep me near her and out of trouble while she healed. Knitting kept me busy for long stretches of time and was one way that we formed a lasting bond.
Never completely recovering from that accident when she was so young, my mother also taught me the importance of showing up. Often ignoring excruciating pain, my mother showed up for work in my dad's deli restaurant every day, lifting heavy pots of chicken soup, and mixing gargantuan pans of chopped liver and potato salad. She still managed to get back in time to welcome her kids home for lunch and then again again after school. She showed up.

I learned to cook and to be pretty good at laundry too. My skills here insured that our family would be fed and have clean clothes if my mother was in the hospital or recovering from multiple surgeries on her back (following that early car accident). Those skills have served me well so far! I'm working now on a cookbook for my family based on the recipes I learned in my mom's kitchen. None of them were ever written down, so I guess you might also conclude that Mom taught me to face a challenge!

She taught me that I am important.
Home is where we first build our sense of self. When I left for school each day, I felt smart and capable. When I left home for a party or date, I felt smart and beautiful. When I left for dancing school, I felt clumsy (Ha! No one is perfect! And dancing school just didn't do it for me!) My mom said that was ok, and I could go to the library instead if I wanted to. I really felt smart there!

Roots and wings. My mom sent me off into the world each day, telling me it was going to be a great day. My dad always reminded me that I could just come back home and start over if it wasn't such a great day. They were a great team!

She made me appreciate the time I have with loved ones now.
Our house was always overflowing with relatives. Barbecues by the pool in the backyard all summer long, front patio and lawn with standing room only all spring and fall and for a great view of our city's July 4 fireworks, and tiny living room packed with people all winter long.

I live far away from where I grew up, and my children are grown with families of their own. Sometimes I look around my empty house and remember wall to wall relatives. We tried to recreate that feeling with a family reunion over Thanksgiving last year. It was amazing, and we will probably do it again!

Where I'm From
I'm from my mother. From all the memories, from all that she gave me and all that she taught me. Inspired by an amazing picture book, I  have enjoyed this little poetry experience with my students for many years. The book is Momma, Where Are You From? by Marie Bradby. You can find it here.

Here's my version of the "Where I'm From" poem:

Retta, where are you from?
Where are you from, Retta?
I’m from pushing across a snowy field to get to school all winter long.
I’m from fun summer barbecues around our pool.
I’m from family and friends who care about me and respect who I am.
Where is this place?
Where is this place, Retta?
It’s where Mom is stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce,
Where there's always room for one more at the table.
It’s where kindness counts and everyone matters,
Retta, can we go there?
Can we go there, Retta?
Yes! we can!
Anytime I remember my mom.
Because I am that
Library going,
Dancing school dropout,
Family and friends all around

What's yours? Where are you from?

For more poetry ideas and templates (in both PDF and Google Drive versions) you might enjoy finishing your year with this resource from Rainbow City Learning.

Happy Mother's Day!

For more spring ideas, please visit these great posts from our Teacher Talk blogging group!