Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Supporting LGBT Students

Here is what I learned from the book "LGBT Youth in America's Schools" by Sean Cahill and Jason Cianciotto so far:

Chapter 1 LGBT Youth: A Critical Population

It is difficult to get figures on LGBT students. A lot of conservative states won’t ask about gender identity and same-sex attraction in surveys. The numbers seem to indicate between like 4 to 6% for LGB students. That may be conservative though because some students may not know their orientation or may be embarrassed to admit it on a survey.

The word Transgender encompasses a few different things

Transsexual: Gender Identity is different than gender assigned at birth; may seek medical treatments such as hormones or reassignment surgery.


Gender non-conforming youth: have looks stereotypically associated with opposite gender assigned at birth,

Also, there are people who don’t identify with either of the traditional genders. Androgynous would be one category.

53% of Transgender students report bullying and harassment (20% more than LGB students). They also can have trouble reconciling their gender identity with family, cultural and religious expectations.

Intersex students have a medical condition that makes their anatomy ambiguous. They can be any sexual orientation or gender identity. In the past, doctors have often performed a surgery and assigned gender. It’s recommended now that you wait and let the kids decide if they want surgery. There needs to be more education about intersex individuals. Many of them live with a sense of shame about their status and fear of people knowing.

A lot of discrimination happens based on going against the stereotypes of your perceived gender. This is something that happens to boys and girls who end up being heterosexual (examples given: An athletic high school girl with a short haircut being called a “dyke” by their peers or a boy who is artistic being called a “sissy”).

What I’ve really taken away from this chapter is that activities should never be related to gender. Even a fairly common term like “tomboy” (something I remember my parents saying about my sister) can be damaging to the psyche of a child, whether they are transgendered, a lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual.

The Tricultural experience:
Things are especially difficult for LGBT youth who are also members of a minority group. They can deal with homophobia or transphobia from their culture, racism from the majority culture and a combination of both from society at large. Minorities may even face discrimination in LGBT communities and organizations that are dominated by white people. Or they may choose not to even go, perceiving them as too “white” or not understanding of their community. But basically, more studies are needed to better understand issues for LGBT youth of color.

Also covered are studies that show same-sex parents raise children equal or better to their heterosexual counterparts. It does discuss how children are sometimes bullied for having two moms or two dads. It also showed that surveyed students felt their teachers would react to discriminatory comments about skin color, religion and other things, but not to homophobic remarks. I’d be interested in talking to elementary teachers and see what kinds of insults they are hearing at their level.

LGBT youth are overrepresented in foster homes and in the teenage homeless community. However, they are very resilient, and many transgender students have sparked change in their school or community with protests or court cases. The more supportive a school is, the easier the life of these students become.

Policies like letting same-sex couples attend a dance together can make a big difference. Studies show that LGBT youth score higher on multiple scales of resilience when their school has the following:
 1. Specific anti-harassment policies
2     2. Teachers who intervene when they hear slurs 
       3. A Gay-Straight Alliance or similar club (Is that doable here at ACS?)   
       4. Information and support related to sexual and gender identity.

Chapter 2: A Grave Picture of violence and harassment in schools

This chapter begins with a 6 year old boy being called “faggot” and other terrible stories of children using slurs and equating being gay with something negative. This book does cover all of the country, and I wonder how much of this is going on in our elementary, or if the Bay Area bubble of tolerance that I’m used to extends to kids we teach. I know there’s always going to name-calling but are kids still using insults like that? I haven’t heard anyone say “that’s so gay” in a while, so I’m wondering if kids didn’t grow up hearing things like that as much now. The studies they are basing it off of are also from 2007. I think it’d be important to have discussions about this at all age levels. I remember being happy that last year when we did our mock Congress only two or three kids out of 48 thought that same-sex marriage was wrong. When I first started here, it was much closer to 50/50.

Apparently violence perpetrated against LGBT youth is highest in Middle School.

While Cyber bullying is a problem for all kids, it seems to be used against LGBT students even more.

LGBT students often don’t report what happens to them and when they do, they feel that school officials do nothing to help them.

Sexual harassment is another common occurrence where students are groped, blocked or cornered in a sexual way or otherwise sexually assaulted.

The cost of all of this is frequent truancy and dropping out of school by LGBT youth.  Because of truancy, some LGBT youth have lower grades and test scores etc. They were also less likely to go to college or grad school if they had suffered daily harassment. They are also sometimes drawn to binge drinking or drug use. Suicide is also more common (not from being LGB or T; from the harassment), with about 5% of LGBT youth attempting suicide vs. 1.6% of the heterosexual community. However, they do mention that there might be some problems with these studies.

The conclusion is that this kind of violence, verbal and sexual harassment is a national tragedy that affects students of all gender identities and sexual orientations. It needs to be addressed and teachers and administrators need to not turn a blind eye to this anymore.

PLC - Middle School Math and Study Skills

We discussed a few middle school students and brainstormed some ideas to help them. This included discussion about best practices for time management. Lastly, we talked about a sixth/eighth grade "conflict" during lunch that the homeroom teachers are currently keeping an eye on.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Integrating Technology in PreK

Using the time to continue working on our Blog.  We are pulling information to address on the blog based on questions parents have regarding Pre-K from our feedback from Back to School Night.  We have uploaded parent contact information into Three Ring so we can start testing it out with our families soon.  The Blog using Three Ring home/school connection and authentic assessment will go live later this month. 


1. Watched
    - Video describing the gold standard of PBL and how it changed since 2010
2. Started PBL google doc so we can start to share resources easily.
3. Lisa discussed how her PBL lesson is working in her classroom.
4. Other people discussed what project(s) they will be trying in their classroom.

PLC: K-1

Debbie touched base with Theresa from Meals on Wheels to coordinate a time to visit (possibly during DEAR day around 10:00). Brainstormed ideas for the first grade project. Kindergarten will still be doing the placements.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Common Sense Media
Common Sense Education/Common Sense Graphite

Common Sense Education posted a list of the best PD/PLC sites at the link below.

Common Sense Graphite posts reviews of video games, movies, music and websites that are advertised as appropriate for children and teens. Check it out if you are looking for solid information about a video game, website or any other media for your students or your family.

New Movies in Theaters This Weekend

In the mood for a book-based sci-fi thriller, a gravity-defying drama, or an inspiring documentary? Read our reviews to find out which film is best for your family.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mission Skills

Although my one person PLC may be coming to an end, I'll share my original goals and hypothesis,

Hypothesis:  Mission Skills can be taught/nurtured in a school setting.
Goals: Find empirical data that could be emulated as best practice by other schools hoping to improve a Mission Skill component.

Anecdotally, there are clearly activities like Robotics and Forensics that lend themselves to developing a mission skill.  In this case resilience....the success/failure cycle would seem to intuitively build that skill.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Entry Event for PBL

On Monday, September 14, I delivered my "entry event" for a PBL unit I am trying out on immigration.  The project is linked to the novel we read, which is about a Jewish family fleeing Russia in 1919. The entry event is supposed to get the students interested/excited/engaged in the project, but also should introduce the driving question that will push the project forward. During the session the students listened to the poem from the base of the Statue of Liberty, looked at different documents related to immigration, studied photographs of different immigrant groups across the years, and analyzed a graph showing numbers of immigrants coming to the US by year. At the end of the class, they were given a boat ticket to travel to America. (A blank ticket, that they will later fill out with the fictional details of an immigrant from a country of their choice!) 

The driving question is: "Why do people leave everything they know to move to a new country?" 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences

This year, I've decided to take another approach to Vocabulary homework in Seventh grade. Students were given exams to identify their learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic). They were also given a multiple intelligence test to help them understand that an I.Q. number doesn't necessarily define a person's intelligence.
With this information, students will decide the best way to learn words and definitions. They discuss strategies in small groups and may choose to work individually or in groups. At the end of the week, they inform me how they studied and how much time it took to study. Then they take a quiz. Every week, students will also learn to "tweak" their studying strategies. Since this is my first year trying this, I will update any progress made in class.

Here are some links if you would like more information:

Strategies for Different Learning Styles

Visual Learners:
  • use visual materials such as pictures, charts, maps, graphs, etc.
  • have a clear view of your teachers when they are speaking so you can see their body language and facial expression
  • use color to highlight important points in text
  • take notes or ask your teacher to provide handouts
  • illustrate your ideas as a picture or brainstorming bubble before writing them down
  • write a story and illustrate it
  • use multi-media (e.g. computers, videos, and filmstrips)
  • study in a quiet place away from verbal disturbances
  • read illustrated books
  • visualize information as a picture to aid memorization
Auditory Learners:
  • participate in class discussions/debates
  • make speeches and presentations
  • use a tape recorder during lectures instead of taking notes
  • read text out aloud
  • create musical jingles to aid memorization
  • create mnemonics to aid memorization
  • discuss your ideas verbally
  • dictate to someone while they write down your thoughts
  • use verbal analogies, and story telling to demonstrate your point
Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners
  • take frequent study breaks
  • move around to learn new things (e.g. read while on an exercise bike, mold a piece of clay to learn a new concept)
  • work at a standing position
  • chew gum while studying
  • use bright colors to highlight reading material
  • dress up your work space with posters
  • if you wish, listen to music while you study
  • skim through reading material to get a rough idea what it is about before settling down to read it in detail.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Integrating Technology in PreK

We have started working on a  PreK blog but it isn't ready for prime time yet!  We have a few parents who are on the no photo list so we will wait to talk about it at Back to School Night.  Our blog will go live in October.  In addition to this we have are go through the tutorials for Three Ring.  Three Ring is a documentation app where we an capture moments, photo, audio, and video.  We can make notes just for our eyes,  share information with individual families or the entire class if it is appropriate.  We hope that this tool will help us with launching provocations and project work in small groups with our class. But more importantly  creating a portfolio of information that will paint a picture of where each child is developmentally that will be easier for parents to understand during conferences in January. 


For the coding study group, click the link below to find out what we're doing here.

What is the difference between doing a project and project based learning?

Here is a site that has a great chart showing what is the difference between projects and project based learning.
There is also other info on the site as well.

Cultural Competency

What cultural competency is not:
  • “appreciation of diversity” - statement of purpose
  • Not mentioned in ESLRs

What we hope to explore:
  • not making it token (not isolating it to dress-up one day a year)
  • how does it become ingrained into curriculum
  • make what we’re teaching is culturally relevant
  • cultural appreciation vs. appropriation
  • definition of "culture"
  • are we addressing student experience when we’re attempting to “appreciate” diversity
  • privilege!
  • relationships to adults (each other)
    • how is this hard for us as adults/faculty?
    • how are we avoiding the conversation?
    • how can we agree to define cultural competency as a faculty?

  • how does that inform the way we act in the classroom
  • understanding the community, identifying the community
  • how do we define "cultural" activities within our community
  • inclusivity - shift language, actions

What goals we hope to accomplish:
  • For the year, how do we establish/define this for us as faculty (maybe next year we can work on implementing it into curriculum/discussion with students)
  • get on the same page in terms of understanding cultural competency
  • begin with the intention
  • PD / training
  • building awareness of gaps in our understanding
  • small and large conversations
  • becoming okay with tension, discomfort
  • sharing the same language
  • acknowledging privilege
  • how do we assess where we’re at? Who we are?

  • Facilitator for this conversation: Cheyenne Pronga (Cosmo)

Goal: Continue the conversation, read