Holocaust

The Holocaust and Big Questions For Our Children

We’re studying the Holocaust in my classroom right now. I knew it was coming….middle school kids are in that developmental phase where they mimic what they see in the media. They parrot their parents or family members, not always realizing what is coming out of their mouth.

Very often, that can be problematic at best.

At worst, it can show the hate that is simmering in our country. It can spew the language of division, and mimic the actions of those adults who should know better, but don’t.

I’m sure you know who I’m talking about.

In the last three weeks, it’s happened at my peaceful little school. Anti-LGBTQ language. Symbols of hate carved into bathroom stalls. Girls coming to me sharing stories of sexual harassment from male classmates…all this simmering beneath the surface of our children.

They look to us for guidance, but we don’t always know the right or appropriate thing to say. They look at the news, the media, and see people in their country showing hate, bringing guns to schools, using words to demean and disregard and dismiss behaviors. They want us to find the villain, to get back to ‘normal’. 

And so somehow, inside my tiny classroom, I need to shift course. I need to model more love and acceptance without showing my own anger or fear or disgust at the actions of people around me and in our government.

So I teach and weave in lessons of history, of courage, of love, and yes, of the power of hate. The power of hope, and helpers, and believing that deep down, people really are good at heart.

Holocaust

Teaching The Diary of Anne Frank at the end of the year always makes me a bit uneasy. It’s not a ‘light’ story by any means, and as we are heading towards celebrating a year of learning together, it often seems out of place in the May curriculum.

Until this year. I need my students to understand the power of hate.

I want them to know why the Nazi symbol holds such venom and what the Star of David, identifying Jews and ultimately bringing millions to a horrific death, teaches us about faith.

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judens...

I want them to know when they see these images that there is a backstory – and to understand why we must lock bathrooms and be vigilant and intolerant of hate and violence against each other.

Some of you might think that they’re just kids – they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re just mimicking what they see on social media, or repeating what they hear without processing.

And I’d say you’re right – and that’s precisely the problem. Why are they seeing these images and hearing language of hate and intolerance in 2018, decades after we should have learned this lesson? Why are they watching leaders and decision makers act with disregard for those that aren’t in the 1%? Why are they seeing images of citizens of the world herded into temporary shelters, or no shelter at all, simply because they seek a life without persecution for living their authentic selves?

I want them to ponder the big questions the Holocaust brings to mind – questions like “What do you gain when you stand up under adversity?” and “Who is worse – the attacker or the bystander?”

I want them to learn about the unknown heroes of the Holocaust – those folks who aren’t famous for their actions, except to those they helped.

I want my students to talk about why we sometimes feel superior to others. I want them to think about their legacy – even though they’re only 13.

This is our time to rise up, teachers. Don’t dismiss the last few weeks of the school year – leverage them. You’ve spent months developing relationships with your students. Take advantage of that. Use these days, weeks, or hours with your young people to explore what’s happening in their world – our world. Talk to them about what they see and hear. Ask them to think critically about local, national, and global issues. Guide them to meaningful media to learn about the world and then communicate their beliefs to an audience. Do a podcast. Write a blog. Shoot a video clip. Give them a voice.

We already know we’re not solving the problems. We already know that the hatred and gun violence and #metoo movements were formed on the backs of our inability to make change happen.

And we already know that we still have a chance, still have an obligation to our children.

So parents, teachers….do something. Teach someone. Talk to the young people in your life. And most importantly, LISTEN.

If you’d like a copy of my Diary of Anne Frank hyperdoc, including text sets about the Holocaust and Judaism, click here. Share it. You don’t have to be a teacher (or a student) to learn from it. You just need to have a desire to make change happen.

We are really better together. We really should be better.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Teacher Tips To Communicate With Parents – And Vice Versa

Teachers, how do you communicate with parents? Are you leveraging pro-active communication, or waiting until ‘something happens’ to make your first contact (definitely not ideal). I know a large part of the education workforce is comprised of ‘digital immigrants’, but with a little time and motivation, all teachers can (and should) utilize technology to increase communication with parents and students. It’s definitely not too late to start this school year. Here are my eight favorite ways for teachers to communicate with parents (and students) – let me know if I’ve missed one that you use, and which way is your favorite! And parents – what tools do you use to connect with your child’s teacher, and how do they reach out to you?

Still smiling after a long week of teaching!
Still smiling after a long week of teaching!

Teacher Tips To Communicate With Parents

  • Email – This is the easiest way to start communicating with parents. If your school doesn’t collect email info at registration, consider asking for it on a take-home handout, or better yet, create a Google Form (see below) and ask for it. I know teachers who send out weekly updates, communication when they start a new unit, or only email at grade reporting time. I personally like to send out proactive, positive emails at the start of the year to build my relationship with parents before anything challenging happens. Teachers can even keep documents with scripts they use on a regular basis as a template. Email is perfect for beginning digital immigrants!
  • Weekly progress reports – As an AVID teacher, I require my students to utilize a weekly progress report that they take to their teachers for information about their grades and citizenship. They also set goals and track their GPA. This year I’m going to experiment with using Google forms for students to enter their data and then share with their parents. I think a running record of grades, citizenship, GPA and goals would be a great conversation starter for dinner table conversations, and by sharing it with parents, we would ensure they have seen the most current information about their child.
  • School Data Systems – My school uses School Loop for grading and data, and I’ve found that updating the assignment calendar weekly and entering grades bi-weekly really has made grading conversations much more proactive and meaningful. For big assignments, I quickly enter a ‘0’ if not turned in on time; this reminder has really helped increase my turn in rate, and parents appreciate the timely feedback. I do educate my parents at BTSN about my turnaround rate for grading, and let them know that it’s not up to the minute. I remind parents to use School Loop as a conversation starter, and to have their child follow up with me (rather than the parent taking me on) so we can resolve any confusion.
  • Remind – Knowing that teens respond much more readily to texts than email, I began using the Remind.com system to send communicate reminders about assignments, due dates, or just to send encouraging messages or digitally share relevant materials I come across when I’m not teaching. I love that Remind doesn’t require the sharing of phone numbers – it’s a free service that allows subscribers to send/receive text messages. Set up and subscribing are easy – and teachers can set office hours, too!
  • Social Media Facebook/Instagram/Twitter – Since social media is such a part of our society in the 21st century, why not harness its reach and use to communicate what’s happening at school? I know many teachers and counselors who set up Facebook pages (separate from their personal page) to share relevant material for their students. Parents love to see what’s happening in the classroom – why not set up an Instagram account for your class and post snaps of lessons, activities, and field trips? Twitter is a fun way to showcase what’s going on at school, too.
  • Websites – Blogs are a fun and easy way to communicate both informational materials as well as showcase student work. WordPress and Blogspot offer free blog space, as does Google Sites. If your school site doesn’t offer you a website, try using a blog to start one for yourself. Kidblog is another fun tool for student blogging. Digital portfolios are gaining in popularity, and I’ve set them up with both Google Sites and by creating shared folders on Google Drive – quite a few of my teacher friends use Seesaw and love it. I’ve also used YouTube to post and share class videos – you can set your channel to private and just share links with parents, too.
  • Google Calendar – I love all things Google, and Google calendar is an awesome way to communicate with parents. I use it for scheduling conferences by creating a separate calendar and sharing it with families. Google calendar is also great for scheduling and communicating about field trips and special events, as well as for setting up guest speakers.
  • Skype, Google Hangout – Once you’re comfortable with utilizing tech for communicating with parents, you could rely on Skype or Google Hangout for virtual conferences – it’s a perfect (and free) tool that could help you meet with parents who have trouble making it to the classroom during the school day, or could help teachers with their own small children find a more convenient time to meet with parents. There’s nothing better than face-to-face time, even if it’s virtual!

I’d love to hear your ideas for communicating with parents and teachers in the 21st century – please leave your favorite methods in the comments below!

This post originally appeared on The Educator’s Room.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Being Different Is Being Beautiful: Speaking Out About Caitlyn Jenner

The photo jumped out of my Facebook feed during my lunch break today. The beautiful woman, not the headline, caught my eye; she looked like someone famous, but I couldn’t quite place her. Then I realized who I was looking at: Caitlin Jenner.

I quickly scanned my middle school classroom for someone to share it with, someone who would care. The 9th graders scarfing down their lunches and talking sports and summer? The 8th grader taking a vocabulary test? I settled on my 20-something intern, who casually replied, “Oh yeah – I saw that. She’s gorgeous. Wow.”

I smiled, and went back to my salad.

Within minutes, it was all over social media. SHE was all over social media, in all her courageous, vulnerable, breathtaking silk-bodysuit clad natural beauty.

caitlyn jenner

Scanning the news feeds, I was struck by my friend Loran Lewis Wyman’s Facebook posting – above the headline she wrote, “I’m wowed by the courage to do this. Awed by the transformation our world is making so that everyone can feel accepted. Inspired by an ongoing and deeper pursuit of realness. And invigorated by the always amazing flow of information – through the eyes of a brilliant photographer, an exclusive press article and cover, and via electrically charged digital media sharing the story across the globe like water running down a mountain in rivulets.”

Wow.

All I could add to that was “And hopeful that the children who have experienced ridicule and hate because they feel “different” will grow up in a world where being “different” is celebrated!”

Because that’s how I think. That’s my world – kids. That’s my barometer of life, how the world is changing and how I wish the rest of the world would catch up.

I look out at my students and marvel at their courage every day. I have kids who struggle with the everyday challenges of life: what to wear, how to style their hair, how to balance sports and school. They struggle with their parents and puberty, with grades and goals and getting into (and out of) relationships. They worry about being ‘different’ and about being alone or going along with the group.

And yes, they struggle with their gender identity and with their sexuality, sometimes before they even know what they’re struggling about.

So as I sat with my salad and thought about the kids in my room, I smiled. I didn’t have to show these kids her photo – they wouldn’t be phased by it. They’re growing up in a time where being different is no longer as taboo as it was in my generation. They’re growing up in a community that celebrates diversity, in a school that embraces children for how they treat each other, not how they look or who they love.

My heart filled with hope – hope that if one of those kids eating their lunch and playing with their Tech Decks – if one of them is growing up feeling “different”, that maybe our world is changing just fast enough that they won’t have to wait until they’re sixty-five years old and panicked that, in the words of Caitlyn Jenner, “If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life. You never dealt with yourself,’ and I don’t want that to happen.”

Congratulations, Caitlyn. Thanks for introducing yourself to the world. Thanks for living your true self. Thanks for showing us that being ‘different’ is beautiful.
Photo credit: Poppy – I am so different via photopin (license)

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Father’s Day Man Cave Giveaway and a Great Book About Blogging

Since I started blogging nearly two years ago, my life has changed in some pretty profound ways. I’ve made new friends-in general, bloggers are a very friendly and supportive lot. I’ve learned a lot about social media, and how it impacts our daily life. I’ve learned how to write some computer code (never saw that one coming), I’ve read more than one book about blogging, and I’ve written more than I ever imagined I would.

One of the friends I’ve met along the way is social media expert and writer, Lexie Lane. Lexie has given me so much help along the way-she’s a real blog goddess! Naturally, when she wrote her own book about blogging, The Bloggers Survival Guide, I asked if I could help her out. It was truly win-win; I got to read advice from an expert, and she gets to share her book with a new audience-YOU!

If you’re interested in learning the tips and tricks of blogging, social media, SEO, and all things associated with promoting your work on the internet, please pick up a copy of The Bloggers Survival Guide! To promote her new book, Lexie is running a special giveaway in honor of Father’s Day – it’s a Father’s Day Man Cave Filler! And this giveaway has a little twist; if you’re one of three winners, you’ll get to choose your own gift with your prize.

If you’re interested, click to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway – you’ll never win unless you try! Enter as many times as you like-it’s free!

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
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