As a child, in between born into an interracial family, Poet Michele Reese knew she wanted to write about the Black experience with works that delved into African American history, from very early on.
She bared the words from her soul in front of a room full of young writers with her son sitting in the front row as she read from her first published book of poems, Following Phia, which indirectly focuses on her journey through life, sexuality, race, motherhood, and other topics.
“My home sits in sandy soil, where once indigo was caked in lye, I’ve painted my children’s walls haint blue to keep them safe from mosquitoes and restless spirits,” she said. “They have been fed from my breasts, bathed in tepid water to bring down fevers, inoculated, taught to swim… I have done all the things that mothers do to tether their children,” Reese read at Xavier University’s Fall Literary Reading series on Oct. 4th.
Reese started her writing journey very similarly to other writers. It was one of her own teachers in middle school that inspired her to pick up the pen and write what she was feeling, whether it was about what she ate that morning, or how she was feeling about rainy mornings in West Virginia. All she knew was that she had to write.
“It was my own English teacher in seventh grade that made me write a poem,” she said, “I’m pretty sure it was for an assignment, but I haven’t stopped writing ever since. I had no clue it would be paying my bills today,” Reese said.
As the daughter of a Jamaican Immigrant, Reese began to tell stories through her poetry that dealt with race, intersection, gender, sexuality, slavery, and much more. These very stories were things not just about slaves and their struggles, but also about her own Jamaican family heritage.
Although she grew up in West Virginia, a mostly White-populated state, Reese never lost sight of her Jamaican roots. She was determined to begin writing poetry that dealt with African-American history, symbolism, and culture. It helped her to connect with the Black experience.
“I am tired of being beneath him. I cannot wait to escape,” Reese read from one of her poems, discussing the rapes of African-American enslaved women.
Although these topics were not always so easy to discuss, read, or write about, that did not stop her from writing about them. These were messages she believed needed to be talked about, especially ones about race and gender. She felt drawn to these topics because of the Jamaican blood running through her veins.
As a way to branch out and get away from West Virginia, the poet went to the University of Southern California where she earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing/poetry and print journalism in 1994. She then went on to graduate school and then earned her doctorate in 2000. The poet’s latest work, Following Phia, was published earlier this year and focuses on the journey of her life, both spiritually and intellectually. Reese discusses her travels, her love of being a mother, her heritage, and much more throughout the book.
“As the child of an immigrant, a Jamaican Immigrant at that, race was something I really wanted to tackle in my writing,” Reese said. She often wished she had poems that were light-hearted, and a little less serious, but she never stopped writing them because she knew the Black experience is never an easy subject. She wanted her readers to really connect with the struggles and the joys of being Black.
“I wish I had some more funny poems,” Reese said. “But a poet named Pat Parker wrote a powerful piece titled, “Where Would I Be,” and that kind of made me realize we have to have the courage to stand up for what we believe in and as a writer I think that’s very important,” she said.
Some of Reese’s poems have been published in several journals like The Oklahoma Review, Poetry Midwest, The Tulane Review, and Hand in Hand: Poets among others. She also is a former writer for The Watering Hole. The organization, founded by Candace G. Wiley, a Clemson University Professor in 2009, first started off as a small Facebook group. Since then, it has attracted dozens of members and their writers have earned numerous awards.
As a writer, there is a very slim chance your work will get published, Reese said, because someone must find it and fall in love with it. “If you are a writer, even if you just started, do not give up. Believe in yourself and in your writing, even if no one else does,” Reese said. “Continue telling those stories that people are afraid to tell because they deserve to be heard. Just like news reporters, poets tell stories,” she added.
Young writers like David Evans, a Xavier student, said that as a frequent writer himself, he couldn’t help but feel touched not only by Reese’s work, but by her sincerity as a writer.
“You can tell her writing comes from a place of realness,” Evans said. “As a writer, I felt the urge to pick my pencil up and start writing those things I’m so scared to write about because we all have a voice, even through ink and paper.”
He said he is grateful that Reese took the time to inspire another generation of writers with her story. “Writing has no limits. It is all about what you feel and sometimes even about what you have been through,” he said. Young Black writers don’t always get to see themselves in poetry, according to Biljana Obradovic, the English Department Head at Xavier. She wanted her students to have more knowledge on how to publish their work and to be exposed to different types of work. Not only did Reese come and just share her work, she gave aspiring writers an even greater message to leave with: To believe in themselves, their voice, and in their writing, “She is an amazing writer because her writing is sincere,” said Obramovic who met Reese six years ago during a teaching trip to Italy.
“Her writing speaks to the soul, and her writing speaks for a lot of minorities with similar views, similar heritage and those who have faced similar adversities. I am able to teach students that come from all over the world, and at an HBCU, I think it is so important for students in general to use their voice,” Obradovic said.
Civics education is popular again. As our democracy itself sits on a historic precipice, people from around the country are calling for a national renewal of civics education. However, more civics education by itself is not sufficient. This new political moment requires a new civics: one in which a quest for racial equity is front and center.
When it is taught at all, civics is predominantly presented as a stale and monotonous topic, in which democracy feels irrelevant to the majority of students’ lives. Conventional civics focuses primarily on how government works and does not acknowledge the lived experiences of many of today’s students.
That approach can harm our very politics. By definition, an effective democracy requires equal representation from all segments of the population. It demands the robust political participation from all voices and communities—a goal that we can only achieve through a shared commitment to racial equity. That promise does not yet ring true in our country.
A new civics education, which centers racial equity as a cornerstone of American democracy, must explicitly address the political and social marginalization of communities that have traditionally been excluded from the formal democratic process. In doing so, we can begin to dismantle the barriers to civic identity and participation faced by so many young people in this country, particularly by young people of color. In this equity-focused civics education, students can develop an understanding of democracy’s relevance to their own lives.
Unfortunately, the word “equity” itself is now widely understood as a partisan ideal. In consequence, many education leaders and civics educators choose to approach the subject from a broad perspective, believing that a rising tide in civics will lift all boats. Without an explicit focus on educating for the promise of racial equity, however, there is a danger in perpetuating a democracy led by a privileged, often white minority, instead of a diverse, inclusive majority.
“Civics education should reflect the needs and demographics of the nation’s public school children…”
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It’s indisputable that most students perform better academically when they have parents or adults to help with homework and to be advocates with teachers and principals.
But in many communities, parents who juggle multiple jobs, don’t speak much English, or have low levels of education often don’t have the time or resources to make meaningful connections to their child’s schooling experience.
That’s why some leading-edge districts have made it their job to reach out to families and create more welcoming and accessible ways for parents to be part of their children’s schooling.
In Washoe County, Nev., for example, the school district’s family-engagement work includes organizing home visits by teachers—and training those teachers to make the most of those face-to-face encounters in students’ homes.
In Federal Way, Wash., the leader of family-engagement efforts taps a diverse array of parents to serve on committees or task forces that inform major decision making in the district, including high-level hires.
Still, the specialized field of parent and family engagement has mostly been driven by ambitious leaders at the district level. And even in districts with robust programming, resources to support the work are often tight.
But new and potentially bigger forces are building around the need for schools and educators to forge deeper connections with parents and community members.
Philanthropists—in particular the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation of New York—are championing the flow of more money into family-engagement initiatives, including research to identify what efforts are effective.
And the federal budget has set aside $10 million to help fund efforts by several state education agencies and outside partners to develop strong parent and community programming.
The Every Student Succeeds Act also directs states and districts to develop plans to work with families and surrounding communities—a requirement that has spawned a multistate endeavor to create guidelines and exemplars for schools and districts to follow.
Advocates for building strong ties between schools and families say it’s a major opportunity for a proven, yet underutilized strategy to make schools better.
“There is a lot of excitement, and more of an evolution in where both policymakers and funders feel like they want to increasingly put their money,” said Vito Borrello, the executive director for the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement…
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Is it possible to test how creative someone is? There are quite a few tests on the internet that claim to do so. Of course, there are also “tests” on the internet than can tell you which Star Wars character you are. We know the people designing those tests are creative, but what about your regular American student?
This week’s Deeper Learning Digest covers a new creativity test designed for U.S. fifteen-year-olds and their international peers. It will also explain why fifteen-year-olds and other adolescents are hard-wired to adopt social media and take up extreme sports such as skateboarding and snowboarding. Finally, it will examine the common, the controversial, and why March—and not December—could be the most wonderful time of the year.
Are U.S. Students More Creative than Their International Peers?
Through the years, U.S. fifteen-year-olds have not fared well on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international test given every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (See more in “How Does the United States Stack Up? International Comparisons of Academic Achievement.”)
Still, some education advocates tend to brush off poor PISA results by saying that U.S. students are much more creative than their international peers and THAT is the skill that really matters. As evidence, they point to the booming tech industry and the many successful start-ups that begin in the United States. Those examples are more anecdotal than empirical, but what if there was a test that could measure creativity?
Writing for Education Week, superstar reporter—and Alliance for Excellent Education fav—Catherine Gewertz notes that such a test is in the works:
“When teenagers all over the world take the PISA exam in 2021, they could face a new kind of test: one that aims to measure their creativity. And the maker of a major U.S. college-admissions exam—ACT—will build it,” Gewertz writes.
“A fundamental role of education is to equip students with the skills they need in the future,” said Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills and special advisor on education policy to the Secretary-General at OECD, in a September 19 ACT press release. “Creative thinking is a necessary competence for today’s young people to develop, as societies increasingly depend on innovation to address emerging challenges. PISA 2021 will take international assessments into a new phase by gathering data on young people’s creative thinking skills.”
Citing Mario Piacentini, the OECD scientist leading the project, Gewertz writes that the creativity component is not a sure thing, but that the plan is to “present the exam’s framework, and ideas for possible test questions, to the OECD countries in November, and gauge their level of interest in participating.”
If the test happens, we’ll finally know for sure whether American students are as creative as we all think they are. Or maybe we’ll just have something else to argue about.
[/media-credit] Participants in the DanceLogic program. (Facebook)
Shanel Edwards, co-instructor of danceLogic, stated that “danceLogic is helping these girls have access to the arts realm and science world as possible career paths, it is allowing them to stretch their own boundaries of what success looks like for them. ”DanceLogic, a unique S.T.E.A.M. program that combines dance and computer coding leading to the development of original choreography and performance, is continuing onto its second year. Girls ranging from the ages of 13 through 18 years participate in the program held at West Park Cultural Center in Philadelphia and learn the value of focus, dedication, and teamwork, as well as industry standard coding language.
During the dance class, led by instructors Edwards of D2D The Company and Annie Fortenberry, a performer with Ballet 180, the girls learn dance skills and movement techniques. This is followed by an hour of learning industry standard coding language under the direction of coding instructor Franklyn Athias, senior vice president of Network and Communications Engineering at Comcast. “I’m helping the kids see that someone, just like them, was able to use Science and Technology to find a very successful career,” Athias expressed in a press release.
The girls use coding to create their own choreography. “The combinations of dance and logic have good synergies. Learning something like dance requires practice, just like coding,” said Athias. “The dance is more physical, but it requires the students to try, fail, and try again. Before long, the muscle memory kicks in and the student forgets how hard it was before. Coding is really the same thing. Learning the syntax of coding is not a natural thing. Repetition is what makes you become good at it. After learning the first programming language, the students can learn other programming languages because it becomes much easier.”
“My favorite thing about the program is that the students can explore leadership roles. By building their own choreography and supporting each other in coding class, they navigate creating and sharing those creations, as well as resolving conflict to make one cohesive dance. There’s a lot of beauty and bravery in that process,” stated Fortenberry.
]The very first session of danceLogic culminated with the girls performing choreography and sharing what they learned through coding and how it has impacted their lives.
Mobile apps have become “must have” classroom tools, and students are naturally drawn to their interactivity. Whether you’re looking for an app to help with classroom management, exploring different languages, or figuring out tricky geometry problems, there’s an app for anything and everything.
With hundreds of thouands of apps out there, finding the right ones to use can be a challenge. To help you navigate the waters, NEA Member Benefits asked your fellow NEA members for information about apps they find useful in their classrooms. Below are their picks along with some helpful advice.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, expressed concerns about the virtual charters’ student-teacher ratios, students’ performance compared to their peers in traditional public schools, and their transparency when it comes to issues like executive pay and advertising.
“Accountability models, funding formulas, and attendance policies were created for brick-and-mortar schools, and yet, state funding and accountability policies have not kept pace with the growth of virtual charter schools,” Brown and Murray wrote to the agency.
Virtual charters have been going through a very difficult stretch. There’s intense skepticism about their performance and management practices. In Brown’s own state of Ohio, for example, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow disintegrated after a lengthy court battle over its claims about student enrollment. (Brown and Murray mentioned the ECOT fallout in their letter). Cyber charters in states like Georgia and New Mexico have also struggled to stay open.
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Over the course of last spring I had the opportunity to sit down with dozens of parents to hear their take on the promise of a personalized learning environment for their child. What I heard were two very different visions of what personalization could look like. As the lower school head at a progressive independent school in Silicon Valley, I conducted the final parent interview before admissions decisions were made. I asked every set of parents to tell me what about our school model resonated with them. Parents invariably responded: “Personalized learning!” I was struck by how they each described their vision of a personalized learning classroom so differently. I realized that as a school we would need to provide clarity on what personalization meant to us.
The ways in which schools personalize learning are far from universal, and the available options require compromises that few educators have started talking about. As teachers and principals around the country ponder how to leverage technology to provide a more personalized learning experience for students this school year, they, too, will need to decide what they value.
The term “personalized learning” has been on the rise over the last decade. According to Google Trends, use of the term really started taking off in 2013. But for all that searching, the phrase seems to mean anything or nothing. The visions and values that fall under the brand of “personalized learning” are as different as the beliefs people have about “healthy eating,” from Keto to Atkins diets.
“Personalization” is not a set of common tactics. There are schools that personalize by having 90 kids sit in a gymnasium working on adaptive software. Some schools personalize by turning over to students all decisions about how, when, and where to work. Some schools provide one-on-one teaching throughout the day. Others personalize by giving students “flex time.” There are also schools that characterize personalization as tracking, differentiation, and individualized education programs.
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Nationwide, there more than 6 million job openings according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Far too often, businesses say that there are not enough qualified applicants to fill their openings. Now, thanks to the nation’s main education law, there’s something that business can do to change that.
By requiring states and school districts to engage a variety of stakeholders, including business, as they develop plans to educate their students, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides an excellent opportunity for the business community. By working with states and school districts, the business community can help to shape policy to ensure that more students graduate from high school with the skills they need. In today’s economy, students need content knowledge, but they must also understand how to apply that knowledge across a variety of challenging tasks. They also need critical thinking, communications, collaboration, and other deeper learning competencies.
To help business leaders understand the key role they can play in helping students develop these skills, the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives have developed a new fact sheet identifying three key areas within ESSA implementation where business can get involved.
First, business leaders can encourage states to include measures of college and career readiness as one of their indicators of school quality or student success. Examples include the percentage of students who enroll and perform in advanced coursework such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate or the percentage of students who enroll, persist, and complete postsecondary education. Louisiana’s ESSA plan includes a “strength of diploma” indicator that measures the quality of a student’s diploma while Tennessee uses a “ready graduate” indicator that incentivizes students to pursue postsecondary experiences while still in high school…