Front of the Class

A Student Steps Up: Creative Impatience and the Willingness to Act

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As a High School Civics teacher, I am often and absolutely embarrassed by my own lack of civic activism. While I am encouraging and requiring and rewarding my students for getting involved in something – ANYTHING! – that they care about to protect or improve their communities, I nearly never practice what I preach. And it’s not simply that as a young, charter school teacher, my time and energy seem to disappear into an unending vortex of planning/grading/updating/bureaucracizing. OR the fact that as a perpetual presenter of the fair and balanced, I am daily forced to equivocate, moderate and pause…

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Places to Go: Dr. Seuss and the Politicolors

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Like any great model, the strength of the politicolors pairs their simplicity with their potential for greater interpretation.  The collective works of Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss are just the same.  In my second year of utilizing Professor Harris’s model, I coupled Seuss stories with each of the boxes. I teach upper elementary students, but believe that great children’s literature contains the same room for re-discovery as any adult “classic.”  What follows is a summary of some Seuss, supplemented with a flurry of outside resources which might add greatly to the discourse, no matter what age your group. [Note: I…

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My Wish for You: A Letter to My Students Past, Present and Future

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Katie Reen graciously shared a copy of her oral exam paper incorporating her insighhts from the National Academy at Occidental College last summer. Katie’s students are 11 and 12 years old and she explains, “The concept of my paper is a letter to my students, past, present and future about what I wish for them as people and as citizens.” Below is the section related to citizenship… Now you know that no love letter written to you from me would be complete without my wishes for you as citizens of our community, our country and our world.  And you may…

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My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 3 of 3)

My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 3 of 3)

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In the previous installment, I overcame my apprehension at introducing the politicolors, and began to share student responses to political theory.  At one time, I had been worried about the abstract nature of such an approach, yet here they were truly excited to use colored pencils in their notes and making connections of which I couldn’t have dreamed. I usually turn up the heat on critical thinking skills once students hit sixth grade, but here the fourth and fifth were sweeping off my socks.  I also found that they were a bit more realist than I had been at that…

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My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 2 of 3)

My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 2 of 3)

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When last we met, I was explaining my dread, as I contemplated using Will’s boxes with my 4th-6th classroom.  Here was this rich, layered theory, which I still hadn’t mastered; yet, the politicolors had given dimension to the founding, I’d never before imagined.  Could I bring them to life? It was understood that I had a looooong way to even near Will’s grasp.  After all, I’d still look back at photos of the concept maps and ponder the meanings of words written in the corners of the boxes or lines that could sometimes be dotted, and I’d wish for a…

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My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 1 of 3)

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After a year to digest Will’s colors and boxes, I felt ready to use them with my class. It wasn’t without apprehension.  Although I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and re-envisioning the National Academy (primarily through writing and this site), I want to approach mastery before revealing ideas.  I think that’s only natural with one’s classroom.  All good teachers admit their limitations, yet we don’t like to be wrong a whole lot, and that’s when working with facts.  Here I was, deciding to dive into theory.  And it looked like a glass of water down on the sidewalk from…

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How the Hobbes Stole Christmas

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Looking for a way to make Thomas Hobbes more to your students than life as “nasty, brutish, and short”?  Today, I shared with my 4th-6th graders Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. You’ve no doubt seen the Chuck Jones animated version, but I’m going to visit the original text.  As the story goes, the Grinch grinds out both his years and teeth, high up in a mountain cave.  He hates Christmas, for “No one knows quite the reason,” but most likely it is because “his heart was two sizes too small.” The people down below are the Whos, and…

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A Paradigm: Six Words for the National Academy

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You might remember a New York Times contest to craft a six word motto for the United States. We turned the powerhouse of Academy thinking at the question. Laura suggested a phrase you might recognize… “MUTUAL GUARDIANS OF OUR MUTUAL HAPPINESS” I think that phrase resonated as a result of her work at Monpelier’s NEH Landmark institute. Keith reviewed his notes from the Academy and provided a whole list of possibilities! This year’s National Academy wrestled a rigorous three weeks but still found time to toy with the idea of what six words would be the best represent their three…

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National Academy 2008: Is it Over?

National Academy 2008: Is it Over?

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The Rangeview building is nearly quiet this afternoon. It isn’t that the exchange students all went to the beach today but that this year’s National Academy has run out of time. The machines still hum but the electricity of rigorous academic work is missing. From a discussion of constitutional citizenship befitting an intelligent people to an afternoon of panel presentations, our Friday was heavy with hard work and world-making ideas. This is the Academy that forever has the story of the L.A. quake during a lecture and 100 different strategies for propping a door open. I don’t think I’ve ever…

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