I have loved The Nerdy Book Club for many years. How can you not? To find a community online of such amazing people is not something that happens often. So I am honored to share part of the guest post that they featured yesterday, a day that marked marches all over the world standing up for our rights. Please make sure you go to the site to see the rest, subscribe to the blog (it gets delivered right in my mailbox) and then sign up to be a guest blogger. They are always looking for stories…
I don’t remember the first time someone told me I should be fired as a teacher in response to work my students had done. I know it was several years ago. I remember the fear though, how it felt like a bucket of water was thrown in my face. Here I thought we were doing good work, and yet others vehemently disagreed. I was not fit to be a teacher, couldn’t my district see that?
I do remember the most recent time I was told I should be fired. The internet has a way of bringing hate into our lives, whether we ask for it or not. It was in response to a video that Microsoft had produced surrounding an exploration we had done as a class. For several weeks we had investigated the refugee crisis all in an attempt to come up with our own opinion on what the role of the United States should be in it if any. My 7th graders had dug in with gusto, using the skills that we incorporate on a regular basis to disseminate the information they were uncovering. They used all of those skills we teach our students when we ask them to read closely, to questions, to clarify, and to create opinions all of their own. Microsoft created a short two minute video about our work and highlighted how we had reached out to a refugee, an amazing woman named Rusul Alrubail, who is an Iranian refugee living in Canada and changing the world herself. She had graciously shared her story with us via Skype, the students had had so many questions. She happens to be Muslim, as are many of the refugees from Syria, a fact that many commenters could not get past.
As the video was posted I saw the comments roll in. Some were grateful to the learning opportunity my students had had, but some were not. I was an example of everything that is wrong with our society. I was indoctrinating. I should be fired. How dare I expose them to Islam? I felt fear for the first time in a long time; even though the logical part of me knew I had done nothing wrong, but what if “they” came to my school? What if “they” came to my house? When people hate they do it to hurt, they do it to make others afraid, and for a brief moment in time, they succeeded. I was afraid for my job, for my family, for myself. But then I scrolled further down and a comment caught my eye. It was from one of my students telling someone that they had no idea what they were talking about. That they would know if they were in our classroom that I do not tell my students what to think, but instead just ask them to think, to have an opinion, to figure out the world because this is the world they will inherit. In that moment, I stopped being afraid, because if my 7th grader could have that courage. If my 7th grader could find the words to push back. If my 7th grader felt that they had the right to educate, then I certainly did too.
If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge. I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 . Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.