Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

September 11 was a week ago yesterday and like most people around the country, I remembered that day, fifteen years ago.  Where I was.  How I felt.  But, see, that day is remembered every day by those first responders, families, and children who were directly affected by it. While I wanted to share this on the 15th anniversary of September 11th, or perhaps even leading up to the anniversary, I did not. Partly, because I didn’t get my act together in time, and partly because I think we should remember every day.   So, I share today.

nine-ten-a-september-11-story-9781442485068_hrOver the summer, I read Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin and I was brought back to that day.  I posted a note to Nora on Facebook and mentioned that the characters in her story were “my kids.”  Between our exchange and her exchange with other teachers around the country, Nora realized that we, teachers in the classroom on September 11th, had an enormous challenge in front of us that day.  In many cases, we had to carry on as “normal,” for our kids.   We had to put aside our personal concerns or contact with family members in order to put on a brave face for the good of our students.  This is what teaching is every day.  We are the caring and kindness that students look for when they walk into the classroom.  We are their safe haven.  We are their security and comfort for 7 hours a day. And so, that is what we do.  We set aside whatever we need to in order to to be that emotional stability for our children.

My own children were not born yet in 2001.  They have no understanding of the events of that day.  They have no idea what a pre-September 11th world was like.  But, it’s books like Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story that can help this generation of children begin to understand.  Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves the stories of four middle school students together with the backdrop of September 11, 2001.  Through this book, children will learn kindness and empathy, while building their background knowledge about the day that our world changed forever.

To help teachers share their stories, and to offer a bit of catharsis, Nora created a blog on her website for teachers to share.  Here is my story:

It began as any other fall day; that gorgeous blue sky and beautiful temperatures. In Montgomery County, MD, just outside the nation’s capital, we were already into our third week of school in my 5th grade class. It was my student Shannon’s birthday, so as students filed in right around 9 am, we wished her a happy birthday and got started on our morning routines. . .  Continue reading

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Crenshaw was released in 2015 and many of my book friends highly recommended it out of the gate.  My (then) fourth grader read it last fall and loved it.  So much so that she wrote a review for me to share (last year!).

Crenshaw is a very touching book about when you may need an imaginary friend.  This story all begins with 5th grader Jackson, who loves facts and his imaginary friend Crenshaw. Crenshaw is a giant cat who walks on his hind legs, has black and white fur, and is very crazy. . . does one handed push ups, stands on his head and hangs out in sometimes, unfamiliar places.  Jackson’s family is having money problems AGAIN. Will Jackson’s mom, dad, and little sister Robin have to live in a terrible life again- in  an unexpected place again? Find out in the book Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate!   

I finally read it this past summer and am so glad that I finally did!    In Crenshaw, Katherine Applegate masterfully touches on the emotional topic of homelessness.  Crenshaw is a wonderful book to read aloud to students to build empathy.

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Every Child Deserves. . .

Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.

   ~Rita F. Pierson

Yesterday, marked the first day back to school for many students and teachers around the country. Here, we have a week under our belt with our students.  And so I reflect.  I reflect on summer memories and new beginnings.  I realized that I have been in education for 36 years now.  First as a student, then as a teacher, and finally, simultaneously, as a student and teacher.  As I reflect on my years in education, I keep coming back to one word – relationships.

When I was in 5th grade, my parents separated.  That year, my life preserver were my two teachers.  We built a relationship that still exists today.  They took me strawberry picking (an experience I probably would not have had in my life at that time), they celebrated my effort in school in spite of my home life, they invited me into their own families and lives.  At ten years old, I did not realize that they were saving me.  It was only as an adult that I recognized the value of my relationship with them. But, they knew.  They knew that it was important to build relationships with students.  They knew that in order for me to learn, I had to be in a place emotionally to be open to learning.  So, while my life may have been chaotic at home, they provided me that safe haven at school every day.

Back in the mid-80’s, teachers had to worry about social-emotional issues such as divorce.  Today, our students come to school so they can be fed, have a warm place to spend the day, and yes, to be cared for by their teachers.  Today, children have so many more obstacles placed before them before they are even ready to learn.  We have students who are immigrants, who walked into the country with the clothes on their back and little else.  We have students who live in homeless shelters or hotels; who don’t have a bed to call their own or have to share a bed with siblings.  We have students who don’t have food at home and come to school hungry.  Every single day.   Our students are not available to learn until some of their basic needs, the needs adults take for granted, are met.

I think back to my 5th grade year and to that pivotal moment when my teachers took an interest in me. Showed that they cared about me.  Made sure that while I was in school, that I was taken care of; that I was available to learn.  I hope that during my years in the classroom, I was that life preserver for my students.

I believe that  every child that walks into our school  and classroom deserves to be cared for, deserves to know that they have an adult in their corner cheering them on, deserves to feel safe and secure and have their needs met every day.   

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

I am reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander as part of an online book club.  This is an opportunity for me to learn and grow.  As I read, I will share my reflections on each chapter and how it relates to me as an educator.

“Proponents of racial hierarchy found they could install a new racial caste system without violating the law or the new limits of acceptable political discourse, by demanding “law and order” rather than “segregation forever.”

This quote ended the section in chapter 1 titled, “The Death of Jim Crow.”  Unfortunately, I don’t have a page number to reference because I am reading this on my Kindle.

Wow! This made so much sense to me.  As I look back on our country’s history of racial hierarchy beginning with slavery and moving into the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights Movement, I can say oh my gosh, I see it now.  I see how the powerful in our country (read: white elite) continue to try to keep “black people in their place.”  I certainly did not learn this perspective in high school.  Instead, I learned about the major events in our country related to race– slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow Laws, and the Civil Rights Movement.  Wasn’t racism supposed to stop there?  According to our history books, yes.  Everything was supposed to be wrapped up in a neat little bow and forgotten about.  If we no longer had segregation, we weren’t racist, right?  Wrong.

In chapter 1, Alexander clearly outlines how we have gotten to where we are today – mass incarceration of our Black and Latino men.  She argues that Jim Crow, and the subsequent mistreatment of African Americans did not end.  It simply changed its appearance.  But appearances can certainly be deceiving.  While it may appear to the people of my generation (born after the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s, after segregation and the Jim Crow laws were seemingly dismantled) that we grew up in a country “where all men were created equal,” we simply did not.  We actually grew up in a country where the white elite were doing everything they could to continue to have a racial hierarchy, but without making it seem so blatant, hence the demand of “law and order” during the “War on Drugs” in the 80’s.  That demand for “law and order” continues today.  Our country has not evolved and changed over time when it comes to race relations.  Instead, we continue to change the appearance of what racism looks like.  We live in a country of systemic racism.  Since slavery, we have lived in a country of systemic racism.  Sure, we don’t have segregation laws anymore, but instead we have created systems that consistently keep black men and women from having the same privileges that we as white people have.  That is racism.

For me, this reflection is all about awareness.  In order for me to successfully engage in conversations with colleagues about race and equity for our students of color, I must be aware.  Aware of my own biases, aware of how my experiences with race have shaped me, and aware of the history of the racism that still permeates our country.  So, I will continue to read and learn more about our country’s history. I will continue to have conversations with colleagues and friends who have different experiences than my own. I will continue to learn from other perspectives. I will continue to push myself outside of my comfort zone.  I have to.  We have to.  Our future depends on it.

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Connecting Students to Books

I’m participating in the Book Love Foundation Podcast Summer Study Session and week 1 (which was last week, mind you!) was about connecting students to books.  I’m also participating in an online book club where a group of us are reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.   In order to organize my thinking for both, I’m going to write more here at My Learning Life.  As you can see I’ve been a bit remiss in creating content consistently.  I hope to take some time every day to reflect on my learning life and share a little bit of it with you all.

Connecting Students to Books – Reflection on Week 1

In order to connect as humans, we need literature.  Literature helps us think, reflect, empathize, and see others’ perspectives.  So as educators, it is so important for us to share quality literature with our students; to immerse them in quality reading experiences.  I worked hard tokids reading do that when I was in the classroom.  The classroom library was the heart of our classroom.  I read aloud to students every day, we discussed books in small teacher facilitated groups every day, students participated in student facilitated literature circles every day, and students had an opportunity for choice, independent reading every day, though at that time (late 90’s) I did not confer with them about their reading, nor did I realize the importance of doing so.

Flash forward to my current position, Staff Development Teacher.  All of those books now have a home in my office.  I still have a classroom library, only this time the books are to connect with teachers (so that ultimately they connect them with students).  I am passionate about developing a passion within teachers and ultimately students.  I provide book talks at monthly staff meetings; when teachers are planning in my office, I suggest mentor texts they might want to consider.  Just the other day, we were working on our action steps for our School Improvement Plan in our Leadership meeting, and I suggested that one way we might monitor progress is by sitting side-by-side with our students as they read.

We have to make reading the center of every classroom.  This is where my work is still in progress.  What are some other ways I might be able to connect teachers with books so that they connect them with students?  While, it was the center of my classroom and I passionately believe that it should be the center of every classroom in a school, it is now my job to model and coach teachers around this idea.  So, as we embark on a new school year in a few weeks, I plan to make that one of my goals for the school year.

My core belief. . .

I believe that students need access to high quality literature every day, so I will coach and model the importance of a classroom library, the importance of the read aloud, and the importance of connecting students with books. 

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: April 12, 2016

The incomparable Kate DiCamillo has written a deeply personal story of love, loss, and friendship in Raymie Nightingale.  Raymie Clarke comes to the realization that everything depends on her.  Her father has left the family, but she has a plan.  She is going to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition and when her picture is in the paper, her father will realize what he is missing and come home.

I fell in the love with the character of Raymie.  She is sweet, determined, and just a little bit broken (reminding me a little of me when I was her age).  Her unlikely friendship with Lousiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski develops over time, and through unusual and semi-traumatic situations.   In the end, the Three Rancheros come to each other’s rescue in the most unexpected ways.

Here is a video of Kate explaining how Raymie came to be:

 

 

 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

 

A Bandit’s Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket by Deborah Hopkinson #BanditBlogTour

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A Bandit’s Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket  is a historical fiction story of survival, crime, adventure, and horses in the streets of 19th century New York City.  I’m delighted to welcome author, Deborah Hopkinson back to My Learning Life as part of the #BanditBlogTour today.

 

A Bandit’s Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket 

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (April 5, 2016)

Bandit Final JacketWith a group of fourth and fifth graders gathered around me in a school library, I show  the cover of my new historical fiction title, A Bandit’s Tale, The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket. Switching to the next slide, I tell them I was inspired to write the book because of this picture. The students gasp as they see the famous photograph entitled “The Close of a Career in New York,” which shows several ragged looking boys next to the carcass of a horse on a cobblestoned street.

“What happened to the horse?” I ask.

Guesses abound – everything from the notion that the kids in the photo killed the horse, to the idea that it got run over by a car. “Any guess is good,” I tell them. By looking closely and making deductions, students are able to decipher the context, and imagine what it might have been like to live in a time when horses who died on the street from overwork were part of the world of children who lived then.

Visual thinking is an important component of my author visits, and students and I often look closely at artifacts such as historic photographs (or in the case of my novel The Great Trouble, an actual 1854 death certificate). That’s one reason why we used this photograph and others as design elements in A Bandit’s Tale. This is a story about the burgeoning social justice movements of the 19th century which features appearances by real-life activists Jacob Riis, author of How the Other Half Lives, and Henry Bergh, who founded the ASPCA 150 years ago, in 1866.

Although the themes may be serious, this is also a picaresque adventure tale of an unlikely hero – a pickpocket named Rocco. My research for this book took me to the archives of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and into the Henry Bergh manuscript collection at the Museum of the City of New York. I also roamed the streets of New York, and found the horseshoe design still adorning the building where Michael Hallanan, known as the Greenwich Village blacksmith, had his stables. His fictional daughter Mary, whose favorite book is Black Beauty, is a main character in the story and a model of a young “meddler,” devoted to helping Mr. Bergh improve conditions for the city’s horses.

A Bandit’s Tale has extensive back matter, which I hope will be of interest to young readers as well as to parents, teachers, and librarians. Most of all, I hope kids will enjoy reading this story as much as I did writing it.

Thanks again to Deborah Hopkinson for appearing.  For other stops on the Bandit Blog Tour please check deborahhopkinson.com.  Be sure to use this hashtag: #BanditBlogTour.

 

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Deborah Hopkinson is the author of nearly 50 books for young readers.  Visit Deborah Hopkinson at www.deborahhopkinson.com or follow her on Twitter @deborahopkinson.

 

 

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.