Follow AAE on:

Subscribe to RSS Feed:

Even in a Political Storm, I #LoveTeaching
posted by: Tamia | February 21, 2020, 03:41 PM   

Our guest blog today is by Becky Mitchell.

It’s been a week of highs and lows. In my home state of Idaho, our House Committee on Education repealed 301 pages of teacher certification standards without anything suggested to fill this void. The very next day, this same committee voted to reject all Idaho content standards in mathematics, English language arts, and science. This was after many educators testified for these standards, even though the date for these testimonies was changed several times. (For J.K. Rowling fans, much like when Cornelius Fudge moved Harry Potter’s trial so that Professor Dumbledore might miss defending him.)


I then made the serious mistake of reading comments on the articles covering these events. One parent, who put “educators” in ironic quote marks, stated that lawmakers were finally listening to parents instead of out-of-touch teachers. A few of these educators tried to bring reason and experience into the conversation but were immediately shot down by the general public. A comment by one of the lawmakers sums up the reasoning behind such actions, “the standards cause students to hate math, as evidenced by the fact that they no longer want to play the dice game Yahtzee.” The result was a week that made me feel professionally unappreciated and even scorned by both lawmakers and stakeholders.


So why can I say I still #loveteaching after such a challenging week? Because my classroom is where the joy of teaching has always resided. Last Wednesday, in my English 11 classes, students participated in the Ellis Island Experience. Inspired by my own visit to Ellis Island, students prepared their own passports, searching for an ancestor that might have come through Ellis Island in the year 1907. Using a randomized process, each student was designated as a first, second, and third-class traveler and whether or not they spoke English. If not, they had to use the correct words in their ancestor’s language for yes and no when answering questions from the inspector. They also created a map for their journey from their homeland to Ellis Island.  On Ellis Island Experience day, they had to bring baggage appropriate to their class:  suitcases for first and second class, boxes, and bags and sacks for third class. Students presented themselves to inspectors:  one asked yes and no questions, and one as “translator” asked questions that necessitated a longer answer. I distributed identification tags and deliberately spoke to students in gibberish while yelling and gesturing to move students from line to line.  Students who received a red X or skull stamp were deemed unfit for entrance into America.  Afterward, students reflected about the anxiety, confusion, frustration, fear, and trepidation that accompanied the experience. They felt more closely connected to their ancestors and the immigrants who choose to come to America today.


In my chemistry class, I used a case study that introduced students to Madam C.J. Walker, an African-American entrepreneur who was the wealthiest woman in the United States in the early 20th century. As students learned about the macromolecules that make-up hair strands and the covalent bonds holding their shape together, they were also exposed to the challenges of ethnic hair care and what that meant to African-American culture. While genetics determined the natural curl of any head of hair, women like Madam Walker were inventing products to straighten and smooth hair as fashion demanded. To a population of students who experience very little daily diversity, one lesson could generate empathy and a tactile memory as two of my female students both straightened and curled their male classmates’ hair.


So while the winds of change blow a storm around education at the state level, my classroom remains a consistent, enriching environment for both my students and their teacher. Every bit of my natural curiosity and creativity is stretched to bring important core curriculum and equally essential social and emotional learning to my students. I can’t imagine a more fulfilling way to spend my days or another population I’d rather be with.  And that’s why, regardless of political upheaval, I #loveteaching.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Submit a comment
 (not published)
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters