Posts Tagged 'teachers'

To My Teachers of the Past

As part of Dr. Melissa Gibson’s class Teaching Middle Secondary Social Science, students are asked to think about social studies in a new light — and throughout the course, their perceptions do shift. Through their blogging during the semester, we can see these changes in the students’ own words. Read on to learn along with our students!

Retrieved from The Ways, © 2019 Wisconsin Education Communications Board.

By Keanna Ross

Growing up, when my teachers or classmates found out my ethnicity, they treated me either as a foreign creature or as if they knew my entire life story: “You people still exist?” “Do you live in a teepee?” (I live in a sturdy house like the rest of my family and my ancestors actually lived in wigwams.) “You won’t have to work as hard for college because you get to go for free!” (If only they knew that my tribe is so poor, they avoid students’ emails and phone calls in order to avoid giving out an $800–$1,100 grant, which I have yet to receive in my fourth year of college.) Or, my personal favorite, “You’re lucky, you don’t have to ever pay taxes!” (Hahaha, I wish!) As you may be able to assume, I am Native American–well, half anyway. My dad is Ojibwe and Oneida, and our family is from the Bad River reservation in northern Wisconsin.

From childhood to adulthood, I have always been very involved in my culture. Though my mom is German, she was always much more enthusiastic about having my sisters and me know our Native half. She would sit with my grandma, my dad’s mother, and learn about all of the traditions; she took us to powwows religiously, learned how to bead, learned how to make regalia, allowed us to dance. When my mom passed away in the fall of 2015, she requested a traditional Ojibwe service at the Congregation of the Great Spirit, the Native American Catholic Church founded by my family years ago. Because of my mother and grandmother, my sisters and I have always been very involved in our culture and always will be. As you can see from this small backstory, my culture is very important to not only me but also to my entire family. I wear Native pride on my sleeve.

Due to this pride, I openly share my background with everyone. This is not a bad thing when people want to become educated. It is a bad thing when you’re a shy second grader, and your teacher puts you on the spot during November because we are talking about the pilgrims and the ‘Indians,’ and makes you the example ‘Indian’ to represent a whole nation. It is a bad thing when you are a senior in high school and you are told by a classmate, “You should be happy the Europeans came! They made this place better,” without having any knowledge of the cultural genocide that occurred.

Along with a HUGE majority of K-12 students, I have only ever been taught small fragments of the truth. We have been taught only one perspective. Imagine the knowledge being passed down as an animal exhibit at the zoo. As students, we have only been taught what we can see when we grab onto the binoculars. We have been focused on only one tiny part of a truth. If that is all we are taught, that is all we grow to know, because we are never taught to take the binoculars away from our eyes and see the rest of reality around us.

This cycle is still happening. Children are being taught a single perspective. This is not only a problem with Native American history being accurately represented but also African American history, Japanese American history (which I have yet to formally learn about), Mexican/American history… world history! As a sophomore in college I took an African history course, taught by an extremely knowledgeable and sweet man from Nigeria. You wouldn’t believe how many times he had to correct students when they referred to Africa as a COUNTRY, or implied that it was tiny, not modernized, or that they felt sorry for Africans. People do not know how huge the CONTINENT of Africa is; they do not know how many diverse countries are in Africa. This professor would always tell us stories about how people would ask– because he was from a country in Africa– if he knew their friend who was located on the opposite side of the continent! This is sad because this is all a result of inaccurate education.

In American schools, we are only taught about the slave trade and of Africans being “primitive;” we only learn about the dehumanizing of these people. When I learned about Egypt in sixth grade, I was never taught that it was a country in Africa; it was never even mentioned. When learning about Native American history, we were taught that the pilgrims and ‘Indians’ had Thanksgiving and that the stealing of homes was consensual. We were told that the Europeans helped the natives. We were taught about the Trail of Tears in high school, but this only consisted of a section of a chapter which was not its focal point. We were not taught that it was wrong of the Europeans; we did not mourn the deaths of millions of indigenous people (not only in what we call America, but also Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, what is now known as Mexico, and also Canada, along with South America, Hawaii, and many many more).


If I could suggest anything to my teachers of the past, it would be to take into account all of your students. Stop teaching the dominant narrative of colored people being less intelligent and less capable. It does not matter what your background is, you can teach history with a broader perspective. You can represent ALL of your students, truthfully. Be open to, not only, learning from your students, but also changing how you teach. Understand that history textbooks were made by white Americans who create them to appeal to a certain audience. Learn with your students, because what you were taught is not coming from a point of multiple perspectives. Becoming the difference in your students’ lives is educating them on different people. It is allowing yourself to stray from tradition. Be the one who helps develop humans who are knowledgeable about the world, instead of the one who contributes to stereotypes.

As an educator you should care about how you are shaping the future. Let’s take the binoculars off and see the entire reality and truth.


  We Better Listen to the Kids

Dreamer of Dreams, by Joe Brusky/Overpass Light Brigade. Retrieved from Flickr for Creative Commons use.

As part of Dr. Melissa Gibson’s class Teaching Middle Secondary Social Science, students are asked to think about social studies in a new light — and throughout the course, their perceptions do shift. Through their blogging during the semester, we can see these changes in the students’ own words. Read on to learn along with our students!By Cynthia Zuñiga

The goal for any teacher is to not only educate their students, but to make sure students are able to use the knowledge we share and apply it to their daily lives. Personally, I strive towards this goal, but I also hope what I teach my students will help them become great citizens and create a stronger society than the one I grew up in. I have only recently learned that the version of history I was taught when I was in elementary and high school was based on half-truths. A lot of the important information in social studies classrooms is sugar coated or swept completely under the rug. This is something that I do not want for my classroom. I want my students to know the real society that they live in, so that they may not be as shocked as I was once they get older.

Thankfully, some teachers are already striving for this social change. They are igniting a flame in their students to take action and create change. A great example of this is the Milwaukee organization called Y.E.S. (Youth Empowered in the Struggle) that was founded through Voces De La Frontera (Voices of the Border). This is an organization that has been connecting with various high schools around the Milwaukee area to create “chapters.” Students learn about the social issues that are occurring within their area and nationwide. They create plans to get the community together in order to help them face these issues that are effecting their families, neighbors, teachers, etc.

As many students realize over time, the society that they live in is not perfect. Through a variety of social studies lessons, they learn the message that nothing in society will change if effort isn’t given. One helpful lesson would be studying the Civil Rights Movement and how the marches on the streets ensured people that their voices were heard. Another example is when Cesar Chavez began a boycott to help the United Farmworkers to make sure that others would realize the difficulties society would have without farmers. History can never changed by just watching on the sidelines; this is what is being taught to the students that are involved in the Y.E.S. program. You can watch this video of the annual May Day march held in Milwaukee. On this day, May 1st, all Latinx, immigrants, and refugees are encouraged to not attend their school, job, or any other responsibility. It is a day to demonstrate what life would be like without these people. It is a day to bring awareness while also gathering the community together.

When students organize and actually “do” social studies, they are able to use their freedom of speech to stand up for their beliefs and make a change. It allows them to apply historical knowledge of how others before them were able to stand their ground and make an impact. In addition, by organizing and attending these marches, the students become aware of social issue events that are happening within their immediate community and nationwide. Their perspectives on different cultures also change because they become more aware that oppression is not only placed on the Latinx and Black communities, but on other groups as well.

* * *

Another example of students engaging in social studies on a national level is the National Walkout, when individual expressed their perspectives on gun laws and human rights. These students, like the Y.E.S. members, studied history and realized it had been repeated over and over, but that there had been little positive change. By participating in the National Walkout, these students took matters into their own hands to make sure that the government knew they were ready to fight for change. One quote that I heard repeatedly during the time of the walkout was “I think we better listen to the kids”; this quote is one hundred percent correct. Our students can change the world, and they are the ones who often have a clearer perspective than most adults.

The students, like those who participated in the walkout, are hungry for change, and they will not be satisfied until justice and reform have been accomplished. By participating activities such as the National Walkout, students are able to “do” social studies; by using their freedom of speech and applying their knowledge of human rights, they are able to learn and connect more about how the government works — specifically on the topic of guns. When students become politically active, they gain a variety of perspectives and then have the ability to branch out and stand up for many human rights issues.

* * *

It is clear that more students are standing up for their rights and using their voice to be heard by those in power. Examples such as these are needed in the classroom when teachers discuss civic and informed action. Students will come to realize that when they see something with which they do not agree, they have the opportunity to educate themselves and fight back. Once students are equipped with that knowledge, teachers can then focus on the Amendments and other laws that protect them when they decide to speak their mind.

Proactive teachers can also use these examples to teach students the reasons why, historically, these groups of people have fought back and demanded change. Engaging in modern day movements can help students reflect back to the civil rights movement, and it can help them understand how minorities are still being neglected and treated poorly. Ultimately, as educators, we must focus our students’ attention on the differences in the lives of those who are privileged and those who are not. We must help them realize that not everyone has the same social, economic and educational opportunities. When they have such understandings, they will be better equipped to enter the real word and make big things occur. The children are our future, and I am ready to listen to what they have to say.

Our Schools are Underfunded Because Our Cities are Voluntarily Impoverished

download (50).jpgBy Nick McDaniels – Teachers and teacher salaries are often the scapegoat for school systems not having any money.  To be sure, staff salaries and benefits are a major expense in big urban school districts. And big urban school districts struggle with funding because the cities in which they are situated struggle to generate revenue for schools, which are often based on property taxes.  When teachers want a raise, more resources, or better working conditions, school systems and their defenders can cry poverty and blame the teachers for trying to break an already broke system.  How convenient!

The story that is not told is that many of our cities, which could be giving more money to their school districts to provide better wages, more resources, and better working conditions, squander millions and millions of dollars in annual tax revenue every year to tax breaks for developers.  These developers, armed with the promises of jobs and redevelopment and dreams of conquering America’s urban frontier, enjoy years and years of tax-incentives, but often never deliver on the promises of jobs but rather on the hidden promise of gentrification. In the meantime, schools that could have used the revenue continue to struggle.

It’s hard to blame the developers for taking the hand out.  But, in my mind, it’s even harder to blame the teachers, many of whom do pay property taxes in the jurisdictions where they teach (as I do), for asking for increase wages, more resources, and better working conditions.  So who do we blame?

The corrupt city officials continue to underfund schools so as to provide financial incentives to the developers who donated heavily to their campaigns.  Voluntary impoverishment is never an adequate defense for not paying the bills.  So why do we continue to let cities who do not appropriately fund schools defend themselves; or worse, why do we defend them for passing the blame?

Not Fooled by the Chicago Teachers Union

By Bill Waychunas – It’s not that I’m anti-Union, I’m just against unreasonable people that take advantage of political situations. Trying to fool people into thinking that you’re fighting on behalf of kids when it’s really your own interests at the forefront, frankly, makes me sick.

On April Fool’s Day, the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) held a one-day strike, or walk-out as they’re calling it, to protest “unfair labor practices” at Chicago Public Schools (CPS). What I find unfair about CTU’s protest is their lack of consideration for CPS’s current situation and their actions’ negative impact on the teaching profession’s public perception.

The Chicago Public School district is so short of money that they have taken out massive loans and laid-off thousands of teachers and staff already this year. They’ve even announced that teachers will have to take unpaid furlough days to help make ends meet. This isn’t a new thing either; CPS hasn’t been able to make a payment to the teachers’ pension program in years.

This is all amid a state budget holdout that’s been going on for almost a year and extraordinary pension related debt in Chicago which led to a doubling of property taxes last year and general financial problems in the city.

Don’t get me wrong, the importance of education should cause people to rise up and demand better from their legislators and local leaders. Kids deserve to go to well-funded schools. And if this is what CTU is actually protesting about, then I’m all for it. Unfortunately, this isn’t really their end-goal.

The CTU and their leader, Karen Lewis, have had some very public battles with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, stemming from the teacher’s strike over the summer of 2012, where teachers and the mayor duked it out over teacher evaluations, salary, insurance benefits, and extending the school day and year. Both sides came out of the strike claiming some victories, but the real result was the creation of a political rivalry which is getting in the way of the city and state from finding real solutions to the very real financial problems.

Fast forwarding to the mayor’s race of 2015, and the only thing which prevented Karen Lewis from running against Rahm Emanuel was a bout with brain cancer. Instead, the CTU did the next best thing and anointed a hand-picked candidate for mayor, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and pumped in record amounts of cash into local elections for alderman and state representatives.

With the election of anti-Union Republican Governor Bruce Rauner in 2014, who is generally a moderate, the CTU have continuously criticized and demanded more from a state and city that are in financial ruin.

This brings us back to the walk-out or strike on April Fool’s Day. What were CTU members really striking about? Money? I’m not sure how their strike could make money appear out of nowhere from a state and city that are frighteningly broke, leaving the CTU looking like a bunch of childish whiners. Their continuous demands are even hurting the teaching professions image, by making CPS teachers seem unrealistic, greedy, and ignorant. Far from acting like the respectable and reasonable professionals which teachers constantly profess to become, they’re acting immaturely by making a thinly-veiled political move for their own personal benefits.

Knowing that there is actually no money currently available that is going to change the situation faced by the district, city, and state, the CTU concocted this event to further crystalize their political image as the anti-Rahm and anti-Rauner brand. This is a move to entrench their political strength with hopes to leverage it in future elections and their on-going contract negotiations with the city. This was not about children or education. It is about adults taking advantage of a political situation, at the expense of children, while offering no real solution or willingness to face financial realities like grown-ups or professionals.

The irony will be if the CTU does win this political battle, then is forced to see their own unreasonableness and deal with the financial woes in ways which they would have previously howled and complained about. With the current politics of the CTU, I hope that day never comes.

Maybe their plan will work and they fooled everybody with their April Fool’s Day strike, but Karen Lewis, you’re not fooling me.

3 Reasons Why You Should Want to Be a Teacher

6276586123_62b8be09c0_o (1).jpgBy Nick McDaniels – My last few posts have not been as positive as they could have been –  reflections, to be sure, of the American educational climate.  However, Spring Break is upon me, and I am better now.  Because after five straight days of sleeping in until 7:00am and getting dressed at…whenever I feel like it, I do love my job.

But it’s not the breaks that make it so great to be a teacher (though sometimes it is).  It’s these three things (among others):

  1. Despite that people bemoan the fact that “teachers aren’t respected,” we, in fact, are respected.  Granted, we are not doctors, nor lawyers.  We are not paid like them.  Nor did we have to go to school for as long as they did.  Nor likely, do we carry as much student loan debt.  Nor do we have to carry malpractice insurance.  And though we occasionally have to tolerate the always funny “those who can’t do…” joke, that is a lot better than what most people say about their doctor or lawyer.  I will tell you, when people find out I am a teacher, they respect what I do.  If being in a respected profession matters to you, despite what you hear some teachers say, teaching is a respected profession.
  2. The future is in your hands.  There are very few jobs where your work can have an impact for generations.  In fact, teachers are probably right up there with good financial planners and the guy who draws the lottery numbers on the evening news in terms of their ability to create watershed moments for families that will impact a generation.  If a single teacher can change a child’s life (read almost any “successful” person’s autobiography), then a single teacher has the capacity to impact a family for generations.  That’s a lot of responsibility.  What a reward, though!
  3. You have job security.  Machines have replaced most of us in what we used to do (…he types as a load of laundry spins in his washing machine).  13 men with a bunch of machines can now mine more coal than 130 men with shovels and picks used to.  GM’s robots churn out car after car after car faster than a team of autoworkers could. And while, I, as a good union man, will never endorse machination or outsourcing, I understand that “efficiency” is a primary driver of our capitalist economy.  Well, teaching is not — and never will be — a for-profit enterprise on a large scale (sorry to the venture capitalists who are treating it as such, as you will always be the exception to the rule). Despite Bill Gates’s best efforts, the human teacher will never go away.  It is, fundamentally, how we are designed as a species, for the younger generation to be taught (to fill in bubbles with a number two pencil?) by the ones who have been alive longer.  If you teach, take heart in the fact that your job can never be outsourced to a machine or to a drastically underpaid telephone operator around the world.

I still love what I do for a living.  And if you are a teacher, you should too.  And if you are not a teacher, maybe you should be.  It’s not all (root) beer and skittles, but darnnit, I’m pretty happy.

How I Came to Love Writing: A Thank You to Those Special English Teachers

4762384399_9f80ff4168_oBy Parker Lawson – Since I’ve been in college, I’ve found that I LOVE to write. How cool is it that we can put what’s in our heart into WORDS?! Like… uh that’s amazing!

Words are so COOL! Words can dictate our mood, they let us communicate, and they are an invitation to expressing ourselves (Wow, how nerdy did that sound?). Back in school, I never really understood the power of words. There is so much that we can gain from hearing others’ words and from expressing our own. I am no perfect writer, but I don’t think I became fully appreciative of the ability to write until this year, after reflecting back on my old English teachers.

My writing is better when I am able to write about what I find most passionate. Creative writing is something I’ve come to love, and I’ve found that when I write about what I want to write about, I become a better writer. The only way to become a better writer, is to sit and WRITE. I think so many people wonder why kids hate reading and writing, and I’ve realized that this is because kids aren’t learning how to LOVE writing or how to LOVE reading.

In order for any passion to be sparked in these kids, they should be reading and writing things related to what they love and with no restrictions. Now, I understand the importance of a class curriculum, but I do think that if more teachers integrated personal techniques that would engage students in writing, we could change kids’ mindsets on writing completely.

English teachers are so cool. The majority of my previous English teachers have been beyond amazing, and I will forever be grateful for their enthusiasm for English. Some of the most passionate teachers that I’ve ever had were the ones that taught English. For a while, I always wondered how on earth they got so excited for words… for heavens sake; it’s just a book! I used to think that in order to be an English teacher, a bubbly attitude, and obsession with books was an absolute requirement. Now, I completely understand their love and need to write.

I had my okay English classes, but then I had my AMAZING English classes. What separated the two was the teacher’s passion. The classes that I loved had teachers who wanted us to love writing too. I’ll never forget the first time I think I really learned that I had a love for writing. My 7th grade English teacher did an activity every so often that was beyond cool. She would turn off the lights, and play music. She then prompted us to write what we felt: a memory that reminded us of that track, specific words… anything that was in our hearts at that moment. I’ll be honest, that activity has stuck with me for years. THAT is how we learn to love writing. THAT is how we engage students in the art of words.

I love writing for ME. I think journaling is one of the best ways to become a better writer. Not only is it refreshing, but journaling is also a constant expression of imagination. This is what we need in our essays, and our assignments. One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever received was to put yourself into everything that you do. This absolutely applies to writing.

I struggled with this idea during those long nights of procrastination, when my King Lear essay had eaten me alive, but I’ve come to realize that even though we cannot submit our daily journal as our essay, we can use experiences in our lives to help us grow as writers. If there’s a particular part of a novel that spoke personally to you, write about that! If you’ve had experiences that have lead you to compare to that piece of writing, write about that! If there’s a certain format or style that you like to write in, practice that! By simply placing yourself into everything that you write, writing becomes enjoying. I heard that piece of advice from a previous English teacher whose love for writing was like no other, and whose contagious passion has forever stuck with me.

I am no brilliant writer, but what makes writing so exciting for me is the ability to express my ideas with creativity and passion. I am an awful speller and make multiple grammatical errors as I write, but the excitement and the joy is there. If it weren’t for those amazing English teachers that gave me this excitement for writing, I think I would still dread writing essays and would have never even thought about daily journaling.

To those rock star English teachers: Thank you for teaching with excitement and for teaching with passion because that is how I came to love writing, and I hope that one day I can show my students the value that words have in our hearts, the way that you have showed me that love. You ROCK.

A Thank You Note to My Teachers

Thank_you_001By Kelly Korek – As I am nearing the end of my student teaching experience, I can’t help but think back to all of the teachers I’ve had along the way who have helped me get to where I am today. I know that I would not be the kind of person or teacher I am without them, so it only seemed fitting to thank them.

 Dear Everyone,

You all entered the teaching profession with the intention of having an impact on the lives of your students. Well, I am here to tell you that you certainly did so with me. As I sit here, two weeks away from being finished with college, it becomes so clear how much you all have truly done to help me along the way. I’m not sure if I ever truly have before, so I want to take some time to thank you for all that you have done.

To my elementary school teachers – thank you for instilling in me a love of learning. You were the first people who I got to interact with in a school setting and you made it a place that I loved going to each and every day. Your classrooms were warm and inviting and your personalities were the same. On the days that I completely wiped out on the playground or fell down an entire flight of stairs, you were there with a hug and the reassurance that everything was going to be okay.

Because of all that you did, I was set on a path for academic success. I was able to learn my math facts through the countless timed tests we did in second grade and found my passion for math through my determination to get my paper on the board with a 100% each week. I gained even more confidence in math when you basically called me a human calculator in eighth grade, which made my day more than I think you could have ever imagined a side comment would have. I learned the value of immersive learning in fourth grade when we got to build our own rainforest and spend an entire school day living as they did back when Wisconsin became a state. All of you played a huge role in getting me ready to be successful in the coming years and beyond.

To my high school teachers – thank you for beginning to shape me into the young adult I am today. You had to deal with me during my teenage years, and while I tried my best to never be a problem, I know that you got to deal with one stressed out Kelly. I could always tell though that you knew and cared about this. Thank you for not being afraid to look at me and say, “Kelly you look terrible. What’s going on?” That showed that you saw me as more than just a student but as a person.

Thank you for giving me ideas for my own classroom. I can’t begin to count the number of times that I have stolen different tips or quirky ideas that I saw you all use for my own lessons. My students may think I’m crazy each time I do it, but I always have a smile on my face thinking back to my own days as a student watching these techniques. Thank you also for helping me to find my passions in life and discover who I really am. I am now excited to continue to share that passion with my students as I work with them in theatre productions or other extracurricular activities.

Finally to my college professors – thank you for being such strong mentors right as I was beginning to develop into the professional that I want to be. There were so many times that I would be sitting in a classroom and think to myself, “I want to be just like this person when I have my own class.” I knew that if I could find a way to bring what you brought into my own teaching, then I would be a successful teacher.

Thank you for being more than just a teacher. I truly cherish the conversations that we shared when I came to see you in your office or I stuck around after class for a minute. You gave me so much more than the academic help I may have been coming to see you for. You gave me insight into what the world will be like as a teacher and you gave me the excitement to experience that myself through the passion you showed.  I could also just tell that you cared, be it the hug and prayer you gave me at the end of the semester or the offer to buy me a cup of coffee to help me get through the long class I had coming up next. It was great knowing that you were always there for me as my teacher and just as a person.

To all of you – I hope you can understand how much of an impact you have truly had on my life. I can think back to each and every one of you and know that you have helped to shape me into the young teacher and person that I am today. I don’t think it is possible to thank you enough for all that you have done. I just hope that I can do the same for my students because if I can be like all of you, then I will know that I have succeeded as a teacher.

I love you all,

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