Jon's Weekly Update 10-20-14

posted Oct 21, 2014, 11:33 AM by Cynthia Friedman
Wed, Oct. 22: Picture Re-takes
Wed., Nov. 5, 4:30pm: Grrlz Rock Performance at Ophelia's Place
Wed, Nov. 5 Laughing Planet Fundraiser
Fri, Nov. 7: Conferences & Clothing Exchange – NO SCHOOL
Mon, Nov. 10: Conferences & Clothing Exchange – NO SCHOOL
Tues, Nov. 11: Veterans Day – NO SCHOOL
Fri, Nov. 14: Whole Class Uke Performance at B&N Book Fair
Sat., Nov. 22, 6:30-7pm: Grrlz Rock Performance at Sam Bonds 

Dear Middle School Family, 

Second Cycle is when the work really begins. Systems and expectations are settling into place. I'm really grateful for the face to face meetings I've had with many of you to discuss and clarify what we're up to. Please don't hesitate to contact me with questions and concerns. You're going to get sick of me saying, "We're in this together." Carrie and I spend most of our waking hours with your children, and vice versa, for two years!   

Stop and think about that for a moment. 

This Monday, we wrapped up our US Humanities projects. The main goal of the projects (from a teacher perspective) was to set a baseline for project possibilities, to discuss the point of even doing a project! 

Who cares, right?   
Wrong. Learning matters. And Project-based learning is the way to go. (More on what Project-based learning really is later.) 

Wednesday, for the kickoff of our Africa exploration, I asked the kids to write down the first 5 words that came to mind when they thought of Africa. I wrote them on the board, as they shared. They were predictable: Ebola, Starving Children, War, Giraffes, Elephants, 'Lion King,' 'Madagascar,' ("The country?" "No. The movie."), Wild, Savanna, Dry, Dusty... It was hard to pull much out of them. I asked them to write them all down. I also asked them to write down 5 things they're pretty sure they Know for certain about Africa.

Thursday, I asked them to write down the first 5 words that came to mind when they thought of Europe. I wrote them down on the board as they shared. They were predictable: Fancy (was the first word), Science, Tea, Art, Pioneers, Eiffel Tower, Rome, Big Ben, Harry Potter, Culture, Trains, Technology, Cities, Cheese... I couldn't write fast enough to keep up with the raised hands; they were so excited to share about something they're very familiar with.

I asked them to turn back to their list about Africa. Then we had a pretty mind-blowing conversation about why the lists are so different. (Where do we learn what we know about the world? At school, on TV, from our families...) About what it must feel like to be an African American in school, in a community, in the United States, when the way Europe and Africa are represented in our education, in our lives, is so skewed. A conversation about what 'civilization' really is.

I asked them what they think their list about South and Central America would look like, and they agreed it would look a lot like their list for Africa.

"Why do you think that is?" I asked them.
Racism is manufactured. Ignorance is evil.

And so our Africa exploration begins. Our projects will evolve in impact and importance this year as we dig deeper into this important continent.

Jon and Carrie