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Teacher To Teacher: Classroom Reform Starts With “The Talk”

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You are a very special person & teacher. So happy to hear you will be back with us! :-)

Thank you, Linda!

It raises pertinent questions which if unaddressed can lead to an ever-widening gap between the educators' objectives of raising individuals who live fulfilling lives or those who may never discover the richness of having lived fully.

Would you be willing to share any more information on the journaling, community inquiry, and inspiration assignments you wrote about? I teach sixth grade and have started the talk, and would love ideas for more real-world connection for my sixth grade language arts students.

Hi, Jenny. Thanks for your comment! I define "journaling" as any informal, semi/un-structured writing assignment whose central purpose is self-reflection. It can be based on text or other content, but it requires the student to reflect on personal experience, perspective, reaction, etc. My students have written stress journals, independent reading journals, and news journals, for example. For me, the important distinction between journal writing and any other academic writing is that there is room for voice and conjecture; students can say what they want, how they want to, and they can go out on a limb, if they wish. Community inquiry is about sending kids out into the community to investigate a question (ideally their own). Students have a lot of questions about life that school doesn’t always address. They can learn a lot about topics of interests by interviewing people, connecting with community businesses and organizations, and even simply observing and documenting phenomena they notice. Pushing them to pursue questions in a personal, maybe not-so-linear way can also help them develop interpersonal skills, creativity, and resourcefulness. Inspiration assignments are ongoing in my classroom. I ask my students to think about what inspires them—to work hard, to improve themselves, to defy the odds and push their limits. At the beginning of the year I ask them to create and present a visual representation of their source of inspiration; these are displayed prominently in the classroom so that students can see them all year. Students continue to look for inspiration (in their real lives, in the media, etc.), and have an open invitation to present throughout the year. I hope this answers some of your questions. Feel free to ask more!

I would like to second Jenny's comment. I teach high school language arts and would also love to hear more about the journaling, community inquiry, and inspiration assignments you referred to. Thank you for your post. "The talk" seems to be a great example of culturally responsive and student-centered teaching.

Thanks for your comment, Al! Please see the response to Jenny's comment above :)

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