In Wide Awake and Ready for Action: Part 1, I asked how teachers can stay awake and remain alert to our “brave new world” without getting overwhelmed. Here are some ideas.
First and foremost, we need to know what is going on in the world. As teachers we have many constraints on our time, so we must make the most of those moments we have to follow the news. We should find news sources we can trust and shortcuts to get the information we need as teacher citizen activists.
I find that I rely on certain on-line and in-print news sources I trust. Because of the controversies surrounding false information disseminated especially through social media, I have come to rely on resources like Snopes for fact checking.
I also depend on current, accurate blogs for news about education. I find, for instance, that Diane Ravitch’s blog serves as an aggregator of timely and reliable education news. Ravitch is a tireless and courageous advocate for teachers, teaching, and learning. Her blog leads me to many news stories in sources I otherwise would have missed. See the resource list provided below for useful and trustworthy blogs.
Because we live in unsettling times, we must be prepared to defend our decisions as educators without being defensive. This means being ready for challenges.
Do you have rationales for books, visuals, and materials you use in your classroom, and this includes books that reside in your classroom library? Can you defend the teaching methods you use? Do you have formal, written rationales for books, materials, and methods? Do these rationales contain information about the quality of the materials and methods and their relationship to course and curriculum objectives? Were they developed collaboratively with colleagues and school leaders?
Have all the materials you use been formally adopted as part of the curriculum with the approval of the board of education? If they have not, can you defend their use? NCTE , the American Library Association (ALA), and other organizations (see resource list) provide information and resources to help you develop rationales for the learning materials you use and suggestions for defending them. ALA publishes annual lists of banned and challenged books and hosts a Banned Book Week every October. NCTE has a CD with rationales for frequently banned books.
There’s more to what we can do to stay awake and remain alert to our “brave new world.” Stay tuned for Wide Awake and Ready for Action: Part 3!
Resources for Intellectual Freedom and Political Empowerment
NCTE provides abundant resources for intellectual freedom and political action. Check out NCTE’s position statements and support materials.
NCTE Intellectual Freedom Center http://www.ncte.org/action/anti-censorship
The American Library Association advocates for intellectual freedom and provides many quality resources. The host an Office of Intellectual Freedom that has a Twitter feed and blog. They track challenges to books and censorship cases and host Banned Book Week each year in October.
People for the American Way engages in political action to support human rights and traces censorship and challenges in the USA. They identify censor targets including books, materials curriculum, films, and pedagogy.
NEA and your state affiliate NJEA provide many resources to help teachers become more politically active and to advocate for their profession. NJEA offers advocacy training for members.
The Southern Poverty Law Center traces hate crimes and provides resources for teaching. They publish maps locating hate groups. Their journal, Teaching Tolerance, offers ideas for teaching social justice.
Newseum Institute and the First Amendment Center provide information, news, and support for freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition.
Daniel Katz’s Blog aims to “ be a place to discuss the current state of American public education and how to preserve its promise of opportunity for all children.” He is a former English teacher and current education professor at Seton Hall University.
Alan Singer’s Blog offers the views of a Hofstra University social studies educator with political commentary and humor.
Steven Singer’s Blog (Gadflyonthewallblog) who describes himself as “husband, father, teacher and education advocate” aims to “Sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth.”
Diane Ravitch’s Blog. This is an invaluable source for keeping track of issues affecting education throughout the country. Ravitch is a tireless supported of public education and social justice.
Written by Pat Schall, NJCTE Board Member
Posted by Audrey Fisch, blog editor for NJCTE
New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English