Boston Teachers Union Parent 2 Parent: Literacy Materials for Families

I was asked by the Boston Teachers Union to create this list of literacy resources for Boston Public Schools families attending the BTU’s Parent 2 Parent Conference tomorrow at Madison Park High School. Please click here to download a printable PDF of this list.

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1,000 Books Before Kindergarten (Age 0-5)

http://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org

This website helps you to accomplish a goal of reading 1,000 books before your child begins Kindergarten. This is only 1 book per night for a little less than three years! Your child will gain vocabulary and sit and focus ability, not to mention a love of books and a special bond with family members over book sharing.

*Parent 2 Parent Tip: I have three children under age 2, and we share our books when my children are in high chairs for meals or when they are in their cribs before naptime and bedtime.

AdLit.Org:Ready for College Resources – Books for the College Bound (Grades 4-12)

http://www.adlit.org/ready_for_college/

AdLit stands for Adolescent Literacy. This website has a wealth of information about teaching and learning for students in gr. 4-12. The “Books for the College Bound” booklists are wonderful for finding challenging books that will prepare your child for college-level reading in various subject areas.

Boston Public Library

http://www.bpl.org

Visit the local branch of your public library to browse for books with your children (and yourself!). Ask the librarians for recommendations. Each branch has a bulletin board with a list of events for children and families.

*Parent 2 Parent Tip: When it is especially hot weather, I go to my local branch with my children to hang out in the FREE air conditioning.

MobyMax.Com (Grades K-8)

http://www.mobymax.com

This website allows for students to practice skills in many subject areas – including reading! A free trial is available. Please contact me at jdines@bostonpublicschools.org if you need assistance with this site or would like a full membership.

Reading Is Fundamental Monthly Activity Calendars (Age 0-5, Age 6-15)

http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/activities/monthly-activity-calendars.htm

These printable calendars contain suggestions for daily seasonal activities and books. The calendars available in English and Spanish.

*Parent 2 Parent Tip: When I print out the monthly calendar, I visit bpl.org to reserve the picture books for the month and pick them up at my local library branch.

TechGoesHome.org

http://www.techgoeshome.org

Visit the Early Childhood section to find an annotated list of free and inexpensive apps for ages 3-6. Visit the Courses section to find a list of free technology classes (with the option to purchase a netbook computer for $50) available for children and adults at schools and community centers throughout Boston.

Be The Light: My Personal Anti-Racism Action Plan

On the evening of Wednesday, September 16th, I will be walking in Be the Light, a candlelight walk of solidarity and support in response to racism and racial violence in America. I encourage you to walk with me alongside adults, children, families, students, and all Boston-area residents to who choose to act against racism.

I must admit – I feel nervous to participate in this event. I am not one for crowds or demonstrations; I prefer quiet to noise. And who do I think I am anyway? I am a white woman; my face may be considered the profile of an oppressor. Yet, as an educator, parent, and friend who works, raises children, and maintains relationships in a multi-cultural setting, it is my responsibility to take this public stand against racism.

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 While considering my participation in this event, however, I felt the need to clarify my own commitment to racial justice. Yes, I can walk alongside member of my community for two hours; this act is bold and powerful on its own, but I wondered: how can I be deliberate in serving the cause of standing up to racism and racial violence in the long-term?

While large events are far outside of my comfort zone, I feel quite at home in front of a notebook, organizing words into sentences and molding sentences into discourse. Guided by the Action Planning Worksheet in Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, I decided to craft a personal plan of action that enumerates three specific ways in which I will work to combat racism in my life as an educator, as a parent, and as a friend.

Below, you can find my action plan, and I strongly encourage you to create your own. Your action plan may use words in sentences, like mine, or it may use lists, poetry, images, movement, or music.It can take any form that expresses your personal commitment to racial justice.You may want to keep this action plan to yourself, or you may find it powerful to share this action plan via social media.

If you would like support to craft or to publish your personal action plan, please contact me at jenniferdines@gmail.com. I am happy to publish and publicize your work on http://www.literacychange.org or to help you publish and publicize your anti-racism pledge in another online format. You may wish use the hashtag #BeTheLight in sharing your plan online.

Jennifer Dines: My Anti-Racism Action Plan (PDF Download)

As an educator, I commit to combating racism by keeping children, including children of color, engaged in the classroom because I know that each move to the hallway or to a school disciplinarian is one step that a child moves closer towards the streets. In order to achieve this goal, I must take the time to collaborate with my colleagues in the Boston Public Schools in creating and implementing curriculum that engages the students in our classrooms in meaningful and relevant ways. I must also maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit in order to have the energy to sustain myself and my colleagues as we must engage in deep and thoughtful problem solving. I will measure my success when I witness children sharing personal pride in scholarly acts – reading, writing, speaking, researching, creating.

As a mother, I commit to teaching my three daughters how to recognize and respond to racism. I will begin conversations with my children that center around issues of race in books, media, and real-life situations. I will continue to seek out children’s books that portray diversity to share with my children, and I will continue to encourage, maintain, and respect the friendships that my daughters have made with children of other races and cultures. I will be deliberate about teaching my children about discrimination. In order to achieve this goal, I will revisit it as my very young children grow and develop. I will discuss this goal with my husband and engage his support in following through on this goal. I will measure my success when I witness my daughters engaging with my husband and I in dialogue about race.

As a friend, I commit to being my true and authentic self when engaging with people of other races. I used to maintain more neutrality in expressing my opinions and beliefs when in discussions with people of other races for fear that disagreement may be considered racist. However, as I have developed long-term professional and personal relationships with people of other races, I have realized that authenticity is not only possible, but preferable in my interactions with other races because it gives them a chance to know me and understand me for who I am, not as simply a guarded version of myself. In sharing my true self with others, I believe I invite them to share their true selves with me. Taking the risk of being real is worthwhile because there is the possibility of developing an authentic and deep connection across racial boundaries. In order to achieve this goal, I will recognize and reflect upon how race impacts my words and actions when engaging in relationships. I will discuss my reflections with my close and most trusted friends. I will measure my success when I witness the engagement of my authentic self, through words and deeds, in cross-racial communication.

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We Always Say “Los Bori”: Grove Hall Library Features Summer Spot Poets

Boston Public Library‘s Grove Hall branch is air-conditioned, but that wasn’t why I headed over there on a 90-degree late July afternoon. I went to visit the branch’s teen center in order to see the brand-new display of work from my Writing Is Thinking teammate Alice Laramore’s students from the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School/Alliance for Inclusion and Prevention Summer Spot program.

As part of our Writing Is Thinking collaboration, Alice and I had read Linda Christiansen‘s  influential article “Move Over, Sisyphus!” from Rethinking Schools at one of our team meetings this past spring. It was exciting to see how the seed ideas that Christiansen planted had blossomed into meaningful pedagogy, and, ultimately, poetry written by our Boston middle schoolers that pops with the rhythms of Caribbean music, the splashes of tropical colors, and the intense heat of summer sports.

Below are photos of the display and a few of the poems. There are many more to read in Grove Hall’s teen area.

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My Standards for My Childrens’ Education

My daughters are 8 months old, and I am expecting another baby in August. And yet, so many days, I spend worrying about how I will send them to school. They attend nursery school now (at Smart Start Academy in Grove Hall, Dorchester), and I love it. Their teachers know me, my family; they know my daughters’ interests, personalities; nothing is high stakes – YET.

High stakes education, the kind found in today’s public schools and charter schools, means testing, stress, and conformity are too often prioritized. This means that what most parents hold dear about their families – identity and values – may not be.

Today as I cleaned the house, I began to photograph objects (mostly books) that symbolize my hopes for my daughters’ education. I also thought deeply about my daughters’ emerging identities.

Why are parents often the missing voice in deciding WHAT we teach? Shouldn’t schooling reflect the values of families and communities or at least connections to the important learning that families and communities provide? I think so. I would really like to hear from parents (either as a comment, post on another blog, or via email: jenniferdines@gmail.com) about their hopes and dreams for the children’s educations. The education articles I read frequently discuss what parents are protesting or (in a majority of cases) do not discuss parents at all.  I am interested in what parents have to say. I would really like to write an article that features PARENTS’ VOICES.

My Children and Their Identities So Far

Francine

Francine is my “older” daughter; she is fourteen minutes older than her sister. She cannot stop moving. I think she would do well in a school that incorporates a lot of movement into the classroom or where the activities change frequently. I know she doesn’t have ADHD, but I worry that her future teachers might think so. She is very social, so, in that sense, I do not worry at all about her fitting into any social situation as she has a big personality. She does not sit with a book, but she likes to look at books, flip the pages, and climb up to stacks of books.

Mover FrancineFrancine climbs up to books

Sofia

Sofia is very quiet and observant. She will play with one toy or book for five to ten minutes and then she will move on to something else. She loves textures; for example, she loves to touch all different types of fabric, touch people’s hair, and pull on tags. I worry that she will be pushed to socialize, but I know she is content to play by herself for long stretches of time. I can see her excelling in art or science.

Sofia and BookSofia and Rattle

What I Want Francine and Sofia to Learn at School

1. Character: I want my children’s school to teach them right and wrong. I would like my children to attend a school that discusses social justice as well as good values. I also want the school to tell me straightforward when my children misbehave, so I can help them to correct their misdeeds.

whatdoyoustandfor

2. Love of Picture Books and Understanding of Life Around the World: I picked up this book right before the girls were born. I want my daughters to experience the beauty of having an adult present story time on the rug. I like this book Nasreen’s Secret School because it teaches children about the privilege of getting an education and how people have taken risks to gain that knowledge. Other good books on this topic are Running the Road to ABC and Through My Eyes: Ruby Bridges. My daughters are young for all these books, but they will know them in time.

picturebooks

3. Traditional Literature: There is a reason why people have told particular stories over hundreds and thousands of years. Universal messages and values are embedded in traditional literature. I don’t want my daughters to live in a here-and-now world. I want them to have an understanding of the societies who shaped the world as we know it. We have many books of traditional stories in the house, but these are a few of my favorites. It scares me that history is now minimized in school to make room for the tested subjects of Language Arts and Mathematics. Of course, all subjects are very important, but not just to take tests.

Traditional Literature

4. Arts History and Artistic Expression: I want my daughters to understand that reading and writing aren’t the only ways that humans capture history, ideas, and emotions. The arts allow us to tell our hidden stories – the ones that may be unsuited to words or the ones that need for us to transform into someone else in order to endure their telling.

art

instrument

5. How to Build and Repair Things: I so wish that I knew how to build and repair things. I am terrible at it, but yet it is such a practical skill – to change a tire on a car, to fix something that is broken instead of throwing it away. I have many former students who struggled with learning disabilities go on to be super successful in our school system’s vocational program in areas such as cosmetology, auto repair, and woodworking. But shouldn’t everyone know some of these skills? Imagine the stress it would save if we could all fix basic problems with our cars!

thewaythingswork

9. Español: Los latinos han llegado. Para preparar por el futuro en los EEUU, es esencial que todos conocen inglés y español.

Spanish

10. The Stories of MY Heroes: I don’t prioritize being rich and famous. I wouldn’t want my children looking up to Hollywood or the NFL. I want my children to learn about MY heroes: Mother Theresa, The Mirabal Sisters, Malala Yousafzai, and the many unsung heroes who are just normal people who stand for justice everyday.

womenaroundtheworld

Resisting the Rush, Supporting Our Children: Talking Back to the Common Core, Mandated Testing, and the Silence of our Impoverished American Families

In American public schools today, we are not only fighting a “War on Poverty”, but we teachers who care so deeply about our students are often passive participants in a War on the Children of the Impoverished. So many of the mandates of our public schools today (which are attended mainly by impoverished children) are directly turning children off to schooling and deepening the ever-widening disconnect between school and reality, which is readily documented in any volume of the history of American public education.

Reading David Elkind’s best selling book The Hurried Child triggered my sense of urgency over the reform that we need in our schools today. It has little to do with the insane Common Core expectation of all children knowing how to read by the first day of first grade, as Elkind points out – this does nothing to support lifelong habits of reading.

The reform we need is the reform that makes school less of a “pressure cooker” for our impoverished public school students and more of a place that fosters love, learning, and a love of learning. I don’t have all the answers, but reading The Hurried Child is encouraging me to make a commitment to talk back to the incredible stresses that my students face.

I'm talking back to robbing children of a childhood for my own two children (above) as well as the children of my neighbors and friends in the City of Boston, the United States of America, and across the world.

I’m talking back to robbing children of their self-worth, not only for my own two children (above) but also the children of my neighbors and friends in the City of Boston, the United States of America, and all across the world.

What are the stresses of schooling that our students face? (pp. 176-181)

  • There are increasing amounts of theft and violence in schools. Here is an article about a school I used to work in that had unlocked side doors and a community center that led into the school. When I worked there, which was prior to the shameful crime documented in the article, the school was broken into multiple times, and many laptops and projectors were stolen. Furthermore, I was working at another school building when a drive-by shooting occurred on the main road and a bullet damaged the window of the school library. 
  • Schooling places false expectations on students. One I’ve seen frequently is students placed in Algebra I classes who do not have a basic mastery of their multiplication tables. Another is the Common Core expectation that children are reading by first grade. Not to mention the non-stop testing which is fully inclusive – our special education and beginning ELL students take the same tests as students without disabilities and language learning needs. 
  • Children are labeled quickly and early for behavior and learning disorders and disabilities. This is getting better in my district with more careful processes for identification and Response to Intervention , but still – often the only way for children to receive interventions is to state that they have a disability. And sometimes those interventions aren’t even available. For example, not one school I’ve worked in has had a dedicated reading specialist to serve children with dyslexia nor dedicated ESL teachers for advanced ELLs (WIDA level 4 and 5).
  • Schools push children into adult busywork that includes routines of boredom and stress. I would love to see a vocational program offered for our middle school students  who love to work with their hands. Many of my former students are succeeding at our district’s vocational high school in areas such as cosmetology (barbershop), culinary, and auto body, but that opportunity came along for them after years of feeling inferior.

Keeping an Eye Out for the Signs of School Burnout 

“When children have to drag themselves to school day after day to face repeated failure, they sometimes develop chronic symptoms, which can be physical or psychological.” (p. 193)

These symptoms include:

  • dissatisfaction with school
  • fatigue
  • poor work habits
  • sleep disturbance
  • allergies
  • headaches
  • ulcers
  • colitis
  • agressive bullying
  • quiet withdrawal
  • chronic cheating
  • excessive drug and alcohol use (pp. 192-194)

So what if what we the educators are doing in schools is literally making children sick? Is our obedience to higher ups (including the federal government) actually harming our children?

How Can We Support Our Students?

Elkind provides two interesting assessment tools, a Stress Test for Children and a Contract Evaluation form, which parents and educators can use to reflect on children’s stress levels as well as the expectations placed upon and support given to students. However, it is clear that it is our responsibility as educators, parents, and concerned citizens to talk back to school stressors through writing, discussion, and political action.

Please Vote for My Idea: Writing Across the Curriculum for ELLs with Disabilities

Update: Thank you for your votes! Voting is now closed, and my idea ranked #1! I am looking forward to the Boston Teach to Lead Summit in February, and I hope to see some of you there!

Dear Readers: Teach to Lead is holding a Teacher Leadership Summit in Boston in early February. I have submitted an idea titled “Writing Across the Curriculum for ELLs with Disabilities“. The text of the idea is below. I would like you to please take a moment to create a profile, log in, and vote if you like my idea! You can click here to view my submission and vote. Again, thank you so much for supporting English Language Learners with Disabilities! Happy New Year, Jennifer Dines Logo

Writing Across the Curriculum for ELLs with Disabilities

The Boston Public Schools has a significant population of English Language Learners with Disabilities (ELLSWD). ELLSWD often face a significant challenge in producing writing in all areas of the curriculum. Yet, the ability to write is essential for both functional literacy as well as college preparation. Additionally, the ability to write enhances the experience of learning as it offers the opportunity to create sophisticated records of thoughts and ideas. For this project, teachers across the district will explore the strengths of and challenges for ELLSWD in creating quality writing, and they will research and implement best practices to enhance their abilities in teaching written expression. Educators will begin by reflecting upon their experiences in working with students of all ability levels in writing. Educators will then create a list of questions specific to ELLSWD, and they will investigate those questions in their classrooms. Students will benefit from being better able to explain their thinking in writing by creating and reflecting upon permanent records of their learning, allowing teachers to better assess student cognition. Teachers will publish their findings and reflections on a public blog or website, so that educators around the world may access the findings of the work.

Receiving the #Pages4Progress Education Activist Award at World Education’s Annual Dinner

Last Friday evening, I had the honor of attending World Education‘s Annual Dinner at the Artists for Humanity Epicenter in South Boston, where I was the proud recipient of the #Pages4Progress Education Activist Award. It was an incredibly energizing feeling to be a part of an event full of humanitarians dedicated to global education, not to mention the abundance of food and drinks, the futuristic gallery atmosphere, and the rhythmic live music.

I was really stunned when I visited the World Education offices a few weeks ago, and Erin Doheny and Danielle Klainberg presented me with an invitation to the Annual Dinner and asked to recognize me for my #Pages4Progress Summer Reading. Reading is an absolute pleasure for me, and it was not at all difficult to log my pages. However, receiving this award certainly made me feel validated that writing about my love for literacy on this site is, in fact, making an impact. I also think that, in my work with K-8 students, it sets a great example to show them that, just because of reading and writing, I was able to connect with people and attend an incredible celebration. Thank you to World Education for making me feel so proud!

Here are some of my favorite photos and even a video from the event!

My Husband, David

Thank you so much to my husband, David, who always picks up my books from the library. I would not get all this reading done without him.

Literacy Selfie: David Dines and Jennifer Dines (me!) – We were so happy to be out on a Friday night!

Artists for Humanity

Artists for Humanity is a Boston-based organization that provides underserved youth with arts-based employment. Their LEEDS-certified Epicenter felt modern, spacious, and airy – and absolutely full of life!

artists for humanity

Proudly Holding Up the Program at The Artists for Humanity Epicenter

Group Saloum

Afro-Pop band Group Saloum provided the evening’s soundtrack.

Table Eight

David and I were seated at Table Eight with some wonderful company.

I was so happy to see a familiar face – Pamela Civins, Executive Director of Boston Partners in Education. I have had Boston Partners tutor volunteers  in my classroom. They always treat my students like gold, and the students always look forward to the day when their special tutor comes ! My students and I have also been fortunate enough to participate in The Big Cheese Reads.

PamelaCivins

Pamela Civins (left) and I (right)

We also made some new friends!

tim winters

Me and Dr. Thomas Winters of the Occupational and Environmental Health Network

lori and nanette brey magnani

Me, Lori Winters, and Nanette Brey Magnani

World Education Award: Mr. Abdou Sarr

The evening’s primary honoree was Mr. Abdou Sarr, Country Director of World Education Senegal. The audience was disappointed to learn that Mr. Sarr was unable to personally attend the event because his visa had been denied due to concerns regarding Ebola. Moussa Sidibe, Honorary Consul of Senegal, accepted the award on Mr. Sarr’s behalf. Although Mr. Sarr has established and developed an array of social and economic programs in Senegal, I found it most interesting to learn about his work in supporting women in radio production, journalism, and community discussion.

Abdou Sarr video

A video of Mr. Sarr was presented in lieu of a personal appearance.

Burchfield and Moussa Sidibe

Moussa Sidibe, Honorary Consul of Senegal, accepts the World Education Award from Shirley Burchfield, Vice President of World Education’s Africa division.

EmpowermentThroughMedia Women as Reporters Community Listening#Pages4Progress Education Activist Award

I was so nervous to go up on stage in front of all of the extremely accomplished in the room. However, I just put on my biggest smile, and I tried to stand up as straight as possible. I felt so inspired by the incredible accomplishments of Mr. Sarr. As I accepted the award, I thought: “There is so much more work I need to do!”

It was especially humbling to meet World Education President Joel Lamstein, an incredibly accomplished humanitarian who was in fact present at John F. Kennedy’s announcement of the creation of the Peace Corps in 1960.

Here I am, standing tall, and accepting the award from  World Education President Joel Lamstein.

Here I am, standing tall, and accepting the award from World Education President Joel Lamstein.

It was so exciting to see my name in the program.

It was so exciting to see my name in the program.

There’s No Place Like Home

After the big event, David and I returned home to find our little girls sleeping! Before going to bed ourselves, Dave had me pose once more with my award. We plan to hang it in our home next weekend. Thank you, World Education, for giving us such special memories.

Standing Proud Next to the Piano

Standing Proud Next to the Piano