My energy has returned over the past few weeks. Even with a few blips in the classroom that were tough to take, in general things are going much better.
It has taken me until late afternoon to get to this blog because I have been busy. A couple of weeks ago, I came across an idea that I think is a good foundation for a unit for the 7th graders, one I think will really speak to them. I have been eagerly waiting the day I can begin, which will be the day we return from break.
Most of today was spent organizing and adding to the unit. This is me at my creative best. I have struggled the last few years to really indulge in a deep unit — one driven by writing activities and texts of my choosing. One that includes all the things I love to teach. This unit is based on Linda Christensen’s “Can’t Buy Me Love: Clothing, Class, and Consumerism” in her book Teaching for Joy and Justice. Her unit slides into one on injustice — I’m connecting them together, and making a unit that will probably last well into third quarter.
So besides what Linda has in her unit, I’m pulling from all my favorite sources: classroom activities from Teaching Tolerance.org; writing activities from Writing Fix.com and Hip Hop Poetry and the Classics. I have videos, poetry, songs, short stories, art, quotes, the novel The Outsiders and the film Holes. Sylvia Plath to Common, Gwendolyn Brooks to Gary Soto. Langston Hughes to Sandra Cisneros.
At the heart of this is social emotional learning — what my 7th graders need the most. We will be doing many forms of writing — beyond just essays, but some of those as well. They will learn the importance of thinking through a plan before writing. My main goal is to improve their communication with each other. The heart of the unit is the Read Around (from Linda Christensen) and Disagreeing with Grace (from Teaching Tolerance). I plan on taking it slow and easy, because I know these kids: some of this will NOT be easy.
Even though I spent nearly the entire day planning, I feel energetic and alive. And it is because I am finally taking a stand for my students. In fact, I have two songs picked out from Sly and the Family Stone that go with the unit: “Everyday People” and “Stand.”
In the end you’ll still be you
One that’s done all the things you set out to do
For the things you know are right
It’s the truth that the truth makes them so uptight
You have you to complete and there is no deal
Stand stand stand
They will try to make you crawl
And they know what you’re saying makes sense and all
Don’t you know that you are free
Well at least in your mind if you want to be