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  • What Do You Think: Should Students Wear School Uniforms?

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Are you in favor of mandating students to wear polo shirts and khaki pants?

    Wearing school uniforms in public schools is becoming more common. The thought behind this decision is varied—some feel that students should be dressed for success and school isn’t about the latest fashion style. There is also the idea that gang associations couldn’t be expressed through clothing. Plus, inappropriate attire (such as spaghetti straps and low-riding pants) would no longer be on the table.

    On the one hand, if every student dressed alike, the playing field would be leveled and bullying over one's clothes would be hindered. Such a change may also help children with body image issues by lowering their anxiety. Plus, the economic difference among students might be better shielded.

    On the other hand, if a bully is going to bully they will probably find a way—he or she may pick on the hairstyle, the shoes, or the book bag. And children usually don’t spend every minute in their school clothes, so body image issues can still apply. Implementing the school uniform rule does take away the child’s personal expression and the freedom to choose what they want to wear. And parents have to be able to afford the uniforms. However, the idea of having different outfits for different seasons is negated—that could be a cost saver.

    I spoke with one mom of a first grader who is all in favor of the policy. “I think school uniforms bring a sense of equality and community," she says. "In my case, my son feels really proud to wear his school’s logo on his shirt.”

    I also spoke with an 11-year-old sixth grader and here is what she had to say: “I like to have my own style. Uniforms are just so ‘blah.'” Expected, right?

    If she was required to wear a uniform then it might take away a fundamental part of growing up and making her own decisions. She might get bored instead of enjoying the task of laying out her clothes the night before or waking up to choose what outfit she will get to wear.

    See how one school is planning for the transition to school uniforms.

    Is this an issue that is debated in your school district? Let us know what you think.


  • How to Use Pinterest in Your Classroom

    Thursday, September 26, 2013

    We’ve hopped aboard the Pinterest train! Although we love pinning inspirational quotes about education and graphics that are all about reading, one of our favorite parts about the where-did-the-last-hour-go platform is seeing how educators are using it to share lesson plans, crafts, and printables.

    But there are plenty of other creative ways to use Pinterest as a teacher. Here are some ideas:

    Start group project boards for your students: From historical figures to interesting places around the world, there are so many opportunities for students to participate in aggregated boards on your designated classroom account.

    Create your aspirational classroom: We know Pinterest is often used to make boards for weddings and dream homes, but what about making a board for your dream classroom? Find ways to organize your supplies, or unique ways to set up your chairs for classroom presentations and discussions.

    Show off your students' work: Pin pictures of the best projects from your students. Seeing their work broadcasted will give them a sense of pride and motivation, not to mention giving other teachers lesson ideas for their own students!

    Discover science experiments: Pinterest is chock-full of hands-on projects you can use to teach science or math. If you teach these subjects and haven't yet explored this resource, get to it!

    Build a community with teachers at your school: Create a board for your school, and invite other educators to pin along with you.

    How do you use Pinterest in your classroom? Share your boards with us in the comments so we can follow along.

    And don't forget to follow Triumph Learning on Pinterest and Twitter, and to "Like" us on Facebook!


  • Engaging Students' Culture in Your Classroom

    Thursday, September 19, 2013

    In June and July, I began exploring with you the strategies students are helping me share with teachers to address culturally proficient teaching. To review, the first 3 strategies are:

     1. Visibility: Making every student feel acknowledged and included in the classroom.

     2. Proximity: Using physical space to engage students and reduce perceived threat.

     3. Connecting to Students’ Lives: Making linkages between classroom content and student experiences perspective.

    The next strategy on this list developed by students is:

     4. Engaging Students’ Culture: Incorporating positive elements of students’ culture into classroom learning and community building.

    In order to address this strategy, we have to understand the word “culture." Often we use race and culture interchangeably when they are two very different concepts. Race is a social construct. We will discuss race in November. (Stay tuned!)

    What is culture? I like the way my colleague Bonnie Davis defines it in her book How to Teach Students Who Don’t Look Like You. She defines culture as “the total of everything an individual learns by growing up in a particular context and results in a set of expectations for appropriate behavior in seemingly similar contexts” (p.7).

    So our culture is our family, our neighborhood, our gender, racial identity, age, nationality and on and on. Take a moment and think about your own culture. My culture is a product of being raised a white, southern young lady who traveled around the country as part of a military family. “Southern hospitality," colloquial language, and a deep sense of honor and duty were part of the conversation and expectations in my household. It shapes how I think and react.

    I often drive my husband crazy with my “door is always open” policy and willingness to cook and donate for any occasion. My own boys laugh at their mom’s colorful sayings (yes, they do move slower than molasses going uphill on a hot day in June, at times). And my students benefit from a fierce teacher who will not give up on teaching them, on changing the world.

    How would you describe your culture? What has shaped who you are and how you respond and live in the world?

    In order to effectively incorporate elements of our students’ cultures into the classroom, we must know and understand our students.

    How can we learn about our students in a way that deepens our understanding of their culture?

    1. Show and Tell: If you teach middle or high school, you may want to call it something else. But this primary-aged strategy is rooted in something deeply fundamental—sharing about ourselves helps us understand each other a little better. Think about ways you might connect this activity to your content area.

    2. Phone Calls Home: Call each student’s home before school or at the beginning of the year. Ask parents/guardians what three things are they think you should know about this wonderful student enrolled in your class.

    3. Student Personal Narratives: There is no one more qualified to help us learn about our students than the students themselves. If you are not an English teacher, there are ways you could connect this to your curriculum. Have students write an equation about themselves or a formula to create the perfect “them." Be creative. You will be amazed by what you learn about who your students are and what has shaped them into the wonderful people entering your room.

    Once we know our students, then we have to take that knowledge and allow it to inform our practice. Often times, what is construed as a misbehavior in a classroom is a disconnect in cultures between student and teacher.

    Our classroom management, our lesson design, and our choices of text can and should all take into account the cultural diversity of our learners.

    What do you know about your students’ cultures? What strategies and activities will you use to help you learn about the cultures of the students in your classroom?


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