A student made this for me today. How did she know this is exactly what I needed? ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/fbuqkRy8oc— Tricia Ebarvia (@triciaebarvia) January 3, 2019
Is anyone going to understand, aside from other teachers, how amazing what happened is? For all the ills of social media, there is so much good. Note to new and veteran teachers: find your PLN (professional learning network) via social media, and expand your thinking and horizons.
Here is what happened: my district uses packaged novel units based on another district’s work, or now a business, called EL or Expeditionary Learning. The program has many benefits, one of which each student (or scholar as they are known in the district) receives a copy of the central text. There are four modules, each with more lessons than is possible, and the intent is to provide some flexibility and professional judgment in the how to teach, but not the what, and the assessments are ironclad. We first taught Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, and I followed the pacing guide and time frame and came out of it three weeks ahead of my PLC colleagues. No matter–I forged ahead with more essay and creative writing until winter break began on December 21.
Well, break is over on Monday, January 7th, and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is our next Module of Study, titled “Taking a Stand.” Being a Grants/Wiggins fangirl, I am all about the concepts of Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions. But–
…but–To Kill A Mockingbird?
My relationship with the novel is probably typical of a little white southern girl with liberal, progressive parents–I loved it. I loved Scout. I loved the bravery, and the characters, the mystery, the strength, and the suspense. I can’t remember when I first read it if it was a choice or assigned, but I see a wavering fog of memory of some teacher and I connecting over my lightbulb moment of why Mrs. DuBose chose to go off her morphine toward the end of her life. The novel taught me so many things, and I am grateful to Harper Lee for this novel. And to this day, it holds a special place in my heart. However, we paradoxical humans can and should hold two or more truths at once, and over the past year or so (long before I knew I would switch districts and be mandated to teach the novel), many respected educators questioned and criticized this novel. I learned and listened to new perspectives and considerations, many of which hold important truths. Truths about race, racism, misogyny, and injustice masquerading as justice.
I had this amazing professor in college. He was Sri Lankan, teaching the required Brit Lit class from the POV of colonized people. He gave us “Heart of Darkness” and said:— Tom Rademacher (@MrTomRad) January 2, 2019
“This book is a racist piece of crap. I want you to read it because I want you to know what a racist piece of crap it is.” We read the book and had amazing discussions, using it as a central text to talk about white gaze and other things. So, teach, but teach context.— Tom Rademacher (@MrTomRad) January 2, 2019
I’m just listening in but I do think if you have to teach a problematic text, then you teach it as a vehicle to learn a critical reading process that allows kids to identify other problematic texts out in the world. Because they WILL encounter them.— Jess (@Jess5th) January 2, 2019When Jess@Jess5th tweeted this –I knew I found the center focus.
The responses received fill my heart. With the deepest of gratitude, I must acknowledge @MrTomRad, @Jess5th, @debreese, @Ebonyteach, @CrazyQuilts, @Caitteach, @ShanaVWhite, @JenniferBinis, @spencerideas, @TheJLV, @ValerieBrownEDU, @triciaebarvia and if I missed anyone, my apologies. You all came to the conversation, and this-this is what I’ll share with my scholars first — we are all learning together, and trying to do better, and ask the big, tough questions.
The plan, such as it is, when we come back on Monday, January 7, in the midst of adolescents who’ve been homebound for two weeks (most of them) caring for younger siblings and doing whatever it is kids do over rainy breaks when resources are limited, and the building expectations PowerPoints that must be shown, is to let them first take and get reoriented, but also–share what happened. How other teachers discussed their ideas, openly and freely. I intend to pair this text with my #projectlit collection, of course, and allow students to find their own relationship with To Kill A Mockingbird along with other paired texts and discussions. I want so much for them.
If you would like the resources and ideas shared, please go to Twitter and follow me, and click on the discussion thread: @mrskellylove
This is a draft–just trying to organize the scope and sequence: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1c4BmPo53CFhk3dFi6PuTQr9ln_OvJaeQzjWgzLzW5xI/edit?usp=sharing