New Resource: Quick Reference Guides to the 2017 English Language Arts Curriculum Framework
Welcome back! We hope you had a good summer and that your classes are off to a great start! Over the summer, we updated our website overall and with new resources, including four quick reference guides to the 2017 Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy. The first, "Massachusetts Anchor Standards for Reading", shows how the 10 anchor standards work together to define what and how students should read in school. Two additional quick reference guides, one tailored to the elementary grades and another for the secondary grades, describe the role of close reading in the standards and in the classroom. A fourth, "Text Complexity and the Growth of Reading Comprehension", provides guidelines and resources designed to help educators choose appropriately complex texts for their students. Each two-page quick reference guide is designed to be widely accessible and easy to distribute, and additional guides will be released on a rolling basis throughout the summer and school year.
The Buzz: Cambridge Teacher a Finalist for National History Teacher of the Year
Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year Kevin Dua, a teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, has been named one of 10 finalists for the 2017 National History Teacher of the Year Award from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History!
"It's humbling to be recognized for the work I try to do in educating students on how to explore history via critical, creative and diverse lenses," Mr. Dua said. "As much as I teach these children, I learn from them daily about new viewpoints and ideas that connect the past and present and that will help build a better and more inclusive future."
Mr. Dua, who was teaching at Somerville High School when he became Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year, is known for his use of innovative tools to make history come alive for his students. For example, to further his students' understanding of the origins of the feminist movement, he simulated a 19th-century factory with desks set up in an assembly line, "work contracts" using actual primary sources from a mill factory company, and put his students to work creating "shirts" under his direction as foreman. Other projects had students researching why Frederick Douglass' image has been incorrectly used for Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey (that project turned into a documentary posted on the Commonwealth Museum's website), and seminars that contrast historical events with current topics such as women's rights and immigration.
The winner of the National History Teacher of the Year award will receive a $10,000 prize, presented by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner at a ceremony in New York City on November 8, 2017.
Nominations for the 2018 History Teacher of the Year awards are now open. Students, parents, colleagues, and supervisors may nominate K-12 teachers for the award by visiting National History Teacher of the Year: Nominate a Teacher Today!. The deadline for 2018 nominations is March 30, 2018.
Teacher Reflection: Critical Pedagogy
Sylvia Rua has taught in the Boston Public Schools for 11 years. She is currently an English language arts teacher at the Curley K-8 school but has spent most of her career teaching high school history.
Critical pedagogy seeks to shift teaching away from a fixed dominant narrative shaped by wealthy and privileged people and toward the inclusion of perspectives that have been previously overlooked or excluded. When I began to use critical pedagogy, I found I needed to change both the content of what I was teaching and my approach to teaching it.
Paulo Freire, the educator credited with creating the concept, explained that eliminating embedded oppression must begin in the classroom. For those of us teaching so-called marginalized populations with the fraught language around the "achievement gap," it is particularly crucial to disabuse ourselves of what Freire called the "banking model," or deficit model. Discussions around the "achievement gap" often buttress notions that certain students who are behind in acquiring a certain set of academic skills are empty (or near empty) vessels that need filling from a determined educator. While well intentioned, adherence to this philosophy can sometimes lead educators to miss their students' inherent skill and intelligence. Critical pedagogy requires the teacher to see her students as skilled and intelligent, regardless of their academic achievement to date.
Critical pedagogy, in the history classroom, is at once essential and daunting. It requires us to go outside of the usual narrative to explore the uncomfortable place where our nation rests in its noble attempts to live up to its founding principles, explore whether the victors deserve the spoils, and consider whether the United States has always been a true meritocracy. Students must examine the many ways that the powerful have worked to cement their dominance while disempowered groups have experienced both victories and setbacks in wresting power from dominant groups. To this end, history teachers must encourage a "critical consciousness" that opens the minds both of students who benefit from current distributions of power and of students for whom the American dream has seemed just out of their grasp.
A few of the resources I have found helpful are:
Curriculum materials: The DBQ Project: "How Should History Remember Toussaint Louverture?" This is a primary source document analysis and essay assignment that examines the complicated history of Haiti.
Documentary: "Race: The Power of an Illusion." This documentary examines race and its enduring impact on American institutions, and the accompanying website provides teacher support and allows students to explore concepts independently.