Science Education in the Urban Classroom
(I first wrote this post over a week ago, but just publishing it now.)
I bought Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston online for an amazing $4, a little over 6 months ago. It is a reproduction of her personal scrapbook and photos curated by her niece, Lucy Anne Hurston, presented almost in picture book form. I first saw it at some rare bookshop, selling for $80 or something like that, and my pockets weren’t having that even though my heart needed to be having it. So, alas, I found it for a whopping $4 plus $3.95 shipping. I’ve become quite skilled in the art of pinching rare books right before they skyrocket in price, so I suggest you purchase this book as soon as you’re done reading this fantastic post.
I’m so attached to this renditioned scrapbook book of Zora’s life. It connects me to my great grandmother, whom I know only through her scrapbooks, in my possession. I’ve been wanting to make a remake of my grandmother’s scrap books, letters, and photographs for archival purposes. So when I came across Speak, So You Can Speak Again: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston I knew I had to have it. Not only does Zora give me crafted memories of my great grandmother, but she also is a biographical figure I wanted to share with my Kindergarten students. I steep heavy in history in the K2 classroom. It’s the genre I’ve observed to be the most engaging to the students. They gravitate towards truth, perhaps from the deprivation of it in our mainstream cultures that engulf their precious lives.
I kept this book on a high shelf in the classroom, far enough away to keep safe from sticky crayon-holding hands, yet close enough to be in eye’s view as to contribute to the visual ambience of our classroom.
However, I have left the classroom this past week, for reasons that I won’t get into on a public blog post; but I will tell you this: I’ve quoted Zora at least three times over the past two weeks, when rationalizing my radical reasons for departing from my oppressive work environment. Even the title of her remade scrapbook, Speak, So You Can Speak Again, embodies all my reasons for demonstrating a moratorium from the classroom. And earlier this evening, while I was finishing cleaning out my belongings from the learning space, I saw this precious book. My heart sunk for a breve sec knowing that I never got to share it with my students. So, to suffice my softened heart, I blog about it now.
Here, I will share with you, in photos, why I associate Zora Neale Hurston with Gladys Golden Weaver.
Both Zora Neale Hurston and Gladys Golden Weaver were born in the 1890’s and raised in the south (Hurston Florida, Weaver Virginia), and both moved to New York for the Harlem Renaissance, but both not before spending time in D.C. and Maryland. Both also spent time living with other relatives during the first decade of the 20th century. “Zora spent the following years in the homes of first one sibling, then another…She was hungry for books to read, ideas to explore, and creative expression. She was young, female, and dependent, but failed to display the humility necessary to make those who provided for her feel that she was sufficiently grateful.” – Lucy Anne Hurston, Speak, So You Can Speak Again. Pg. 12. The above quote conveys the same character of Gladys’ letter to her mother, whom she wrote while residing with some relatives in Richmond, Virginia, 1907.
Both the famous Zora and the personal Gladys taught me about American culture, politics, and history; neither less of a historic-informative than the other. If you have the honor of teaching children, this year, guide them heavily in their learning of history. Not just the published histories, but their familial histories as well.
Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher.
School week of: October 14 – October 18.
I introduce the concept of ‘Confrontation’ to Kindergarteners, lovingly and mindfully, with intention to: embrace truth, construct discourse, and build resiliency – in that order. The overall goal is to educate and empower my students.
(This is a late post. It’s been sitting in ‘Drafts’, due to minor edits being needed that I did not edit until now.)
Nationally recognized holiday. No school. Ironically public libraries are closed this day also. No schools. No libraries. What does this American custom say about our values exactly?
I was going to read Encounter by Jane Yolen. Illustrated by David Shannon.
Well-established children’s author, Jane Yolen, wrote outside her usual genres with the making of Encounter. It is meant to be historical fiction. It is meant to be told from the view point of a young Taino boy who is from the Taino tribe who were the first to suffer an encounter with spaniard, Christopher Columbus. When I first read this story, a couple years back, I fell in love with it. I actually recommended it in an earlier blog post, from a year ago.
However, as I’ve matured as an educator and picture book connoisseur, I’ve been inclined to doubt the book’s authenticity. My own inclinations turned out to be true – the book is not as authentic as it portrays to be.
I was puzzled that the author seemed to have absolutely no connection to the people whom she wrote about in Encounter. So I did what I do with all children’s books that are written about native peoples by non-native people – I researched their research. Usually, in the first few pages of a book, an author will include their resources, and tribal affiliated validators. I affirmed my suspicions thrice. Once, via this online article. Second, from author Jane Yolen’s actual bio regarding her reasons for writing Encounter; her reasons didn’t impress me. Then, there is this quite controversial youtube clip of it, in which the maker of the Youtube book trailer, states that the Taino people are extinct. Which is not true. All the comments are filled with people asking her to not ad-lib Jane Yolen’s words by stating that the Taino people are extinct. However, she keeps it up for the advertising benefit, which she states in one of the comments. I’m not adding the link here. That same video is actually recommended on author Jane Yolen’s website. Yeah, so no. I’m not reading it to my students. I’ll figure out another way to educate my students from a native perspective. I discovered a great blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, by University of Illinois professor of American Indian Studies, Debbie Reese. She even wrote a post that discredits Yolen’s Encounter, as an inaccurate account of the Taino.
Instead, I read Dr. Seuss’ Fox in Socks. This classic is chalk full of teachable moments relating to conflict resolution.
Wednesday and Thursday
Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger. Illustrated by Michael Hays.
Vocabulary: ‘ostracized’. Class discussion: ‘How to believe in yourself and your community even when they don’t believe in you.’
Abiyoyo was also available in the Listening Center for students to enjoy on CD.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman. Illustrated by Caroline Binch.
I do have to ad lib here and there, in Amazing Grace, in order for it to be as loving and mindful a book as my students need it to be. Yet, there are many many children’s books that I ad lib, so this book is not unlike most in it’s need for adliberature. Usually, my ad libbing is centered around adjectives. There’s just never enough adjectives, or the right adjectives, in a story.
Thank you for reading The Picture Book Pusher.
Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi is manly enough for Duane de Four, an anti-sexist male activist who is a highly sought out public speaker – nationally known and Boston-based. Duane de Four is also the founder of the humorous and thoughtful website Howmanly.com, a virtual space that views “Masculinity under the microscope”. I snagged a minute of his time for a quick but mindful interview to find out what his favorite picture book is. And this is the book he chose.
Everyone Poops was first published in Japan in 1977.
Howmanly.com launched in 2013.
Thanks for watching, and reading, The Picture Book Pusher.
As we embark on the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s delivery of his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and march again to Washington, on August 24th, 2013, I like to think my young students will be having discussions about these events in their homes, with their families, during these last weeks of summer before the school year. Goodness knows they’ll be having them with me in the classroom, come September.
The 50th anniversary of ‘I Have A Dream’ provides me with a perfect “excuse” to begin our American history lessons in September (through June), rather than the too-easily-embraced-custom of teaching it only from February 1st – 28th. Who can object to my lessons beginning in September? After all, I am a Dreamkeeper, and tomorrow’s march on Washington makes The Civil Rights Movement a current event. The Civil Rights Movement is now.
Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher
The Race, Education and Democracy Lecture and Book Series is an annual event held at Simmons College, organized by Professor Theresa Perry for Beacon Press Books. The lecture series, held in the spring, brings distinguished movers and shakers in the field of education, to discuss their latest book, published through Beacon Press. I first attended the series back in ’07 while an undergraduate at Simmons College. Patricia Hill Collins and Imani Perry were the speakers. The event was life changing.
The Series proceeds on the assumption that public education is at the center of American public life and that discussions about critical educational issues need to occur in the public domain and engage Americans from many different backgrounds in thoughtful and complicated conversations.
– http://www.raceandeducation.com Home page, paragraph 4
This year’s event brought us Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, discussing the themes: Standing Up For Justice/Creating Opportunity: From the Birmingham Children’s Crusade to Creating Excellence in Math, Science and Technology.
Every year the event is sure to have prominent scholars, passionate educators, and Beacon Press Books for sale, specifically if not solely, books written by the speaker. However, this year’s lecture series had something extra special: PICTURE BOOKS! We have Prof. Perry to thank for that. Most of the picture books sold out. I was able to snag two.
Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison
Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison, uses photographs and text to tell its story. Morrison elicits mindfulness in the young reader, by writing through the voice of children and adolescents from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. So important, and time saving is this book. As a teacher of young children, it takes much time to craft the right words to speak to children, regarding painful truths in our history. If I am not mindful in my word choice, then my truths may oppress, rather than empower, their young spirits. I want to convey not only what happened, but also a perspective that can empower them and promote resilience. Morrison takes the guess-work out of choosing the right discourse.
John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson. Illustrated by Benny Andrews
This book is so important. Its a nonfiction tale with a message that, ‘young people can be game changers too’. At least that’s the message that I took from the book. John Lewis began his life as an organizer at a young age. The reader follows the life of John from his elementary years through adult hood. The illustrations portray the simplicity of John Lewis’ home and school. In contrast the authors’ words portray the protagonist as a child with layers of cognitive substance. This mesh of simplicity and substance provides young readers the opportunity to conclude that great ideas and great people can come from limited means.
Aunt Seneva started to cry, and the children began to sob too. Then Aunt Seneva gathered her courage. “Everybody hold hands!” she called, and the frightened children did as they were told…The storm didn’t last long, but John never forgot that day. – Haskins and Benson pg. 3
John realized that segregation was keeping his family from having a better life. This made him angry…One day when he was fifteen, John heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio…It was time to turn things upside down in order to set them right side up. – Haskins and Benson pg. 7
Inspired by Dr. King, John took his first steps to protest segregation. He asked for a library card at his county public library, knowing that black people were not allowed to have cards. John was not surprised that the librarian said the library was for whites only. then he went home and wrote the library a letter of protest. – Haskin and Benson pg. 10
A time line, of John Lewis’ significant life events, is provided at the end of the book, along with photographs. Every elementary classroom should have this book. You can order it through Lee & Low, here.
While I have your attention, I’d like to share something Dr. Hrabowski and Dean of Students at Brookline Public Schools, Dr. Adrian Mims spoke on, at the lecture: Doing math in numbers. What’s that mean you ask? It means that if you are a teacher of students from diverse backgrounds, then be mindful of how you group your students. If students of color are the minority, then don’t just deploy them evenly into the rest of the groups, by default. Just because they are the minority within a peer group of students, doesn’t mean that their ideas have to be the minority within their work groups as well. Let them think together. Thinking together provides affirmation, respect, and a sustainable voice. Thus, when making math groups for students, make sure that students can work in numbers, not just as the sole minority within the group. Dr. Mims actually wrote on the benefits of grouping students together in his dissertation, “Improving African American Achievement in Geometry Honors”.
Overall this year’s lecture gave me lots to think about. Lots to live for.
Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher.
p.s. during the question and answer period, someone asked Dr. Hrabowski what his favorite picture book was (it wasn’t me, really!). His answer: The Velveteen Rabbit. He said that the book’s message is deep and profound.