Friday, April 14, 2017

The Activist Learner

First off, I was super excited by Stephanie’s choices for this week and the idea of reading about Social Justice writing. It’s something I absolutely want to try in my classroom because it is beyond important to turn our young students into activists, or to at least help them see themselves as ones. Unfortunately, I’ve been having difficulty locating the second article, but will continue my search!
The first article, titled “The Activist Learner” was written by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, Whitney Douglas, and Sara W. Fry. After reading the first section of the article, I felt a little insulted. The way the authors presented service learning and engaging students just seemed like common sense to me, that it seemed a bit ridiculous they were writing about it. I wanted to scream “DUH” at the screen, in fact I might have. I was definitely shaking my head. But instead of holding onto that judgement, I reminded myself that the first section was the introduction, which functions as a broad overview and that may be why it was so self explanatory.  
However, I was disappointed. I felt that the article took eight pages to say that service learning is when students are engaged in meaningful learning and teachers are collaborative. The article expressed experimenting with new ideas and using your resources, such as coworkers to collaborate and learn from.  Wilhelm mentions that when initiating a new curriculum,  you are “doomed to some level of success” which I think is very poetic. It’s true that when you try something new you learn and grow and there are many challenges you face. He recommends service learning as a thinking and collaborating approach to bounce ideas off others. I couldn’t agree more. However, there are only so many hours in a day. I have worked in schools where the district fully supports separate common planning time, and schools were it does not seem to be valued. I agree with the theory proposed in this article, however, putting this into action is not solely reliant on willing teachers.
I also got to thinking about the idea of mentor teachers. I had two mentors in the time of my career, that lasted a total of one year. I have unofficial mentors, sure, but I love the idea of a continuous mentor. Why do mentors stop when you are no longer considered “novice”? If we work in a profession where the curriculum and standards are continuously coming through a revolving door, why aren’t we always considered novice, since we are responsible for learning the new material.  
HERE WE GO! FINALLY we are at the social issue/activist part of this essay. Samantha Archibald Mora, high school English, Spanish and ELL teacher created a service learning project called Breaking Social Barriers to help expose her ELL students to authentic native English speakers and for the US born students to engage in real opportunities to learn about the world from their peers. It warmed my heart to hear about such open minded students along with the thank you note from one of the ELL students, expressing her fear and overall positive outcome of her experience. As I was reading this, I wanted to hear more about what the specific projects where that Mora implemented in her classroom. I run a social issues book club, and I’m thinking that I could revise it for next year to deal with breaking down social barriers and how the novels do this.

Angela states, “Be practical and start small. Students have to write and read something. They may as well write or create something that’s usable to themselves and to someone else.”  This is the goal. Always. Let’s start small to help create individuals who question the world and open their eyes to seeing the world in a new way.

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