“Stand Up. Speak Out. Be Kind.”
“So let’s all take inspiration from some of the wisest people I know, the 14-year-olds in my classroom, and reach out to someone in kindness. Let’s start today. Let’s start now.
There is so much to be done. And we are the ones to do it.”
This speech can also be found in We Rise to Resist: Voices from a New Era in Women’s Political Action.
“And I am a proud queer public school teacher.”
“It has been an honor being your teacher, and I will remain your student far longer than you were ever mine.”
In my work with middle school students, I found these students to be intensely curious about the politics and policy that influenced their lives. They also possessed a finely tuned sense of social justice and a desire to make the world a better place. Building on these interests and passions, I collaborated with local artists, fellow teachers, and the students in my class to create an interdisciplinary art and literacy unit. We called it “Inquiry and the Ideal World.”
“Inquiry and the Ideal World” is a standards-based unit. Both Common Core State Standards and Social Emotional Learning Standards inform its lessons, and it is designed to be used in an 8th grade English Language Arts or Social Studies classroom. The unit is structured so that students learn inquiry skills by examining their world through conducting research, collaborating in small groups, creating art, and writing an argumentative research paper. It creates a space for students to inquire into their own worlds and then use their own voice, through argumentative writing and art, to share their ideas with the world.
The weeks we spent on “Inquiry and the Ideal World” were full of days I will always treasure, and I know it’s not just me. The Gallery Night Open Mic we hosted still comes up in conversation with former parents, and I know from surveys we conducted at the end of the year that it was a favorite unit among the majority of students. I am incredibly lucky to have been given the resources, the collaborators, and the freedom needed to develop this unit, but thanks to it being standards-based, I do feel it is able to be replicated in other classrooms. It is my hope that, after reading the unit plan and trying out a few of the lessons, you consider bringing it into your classroom. I think you, and your students, will be glad you did.
“There’s this thing in my world because it’s in myself – let’s look at that.”
“Common Core I think presents an interesting challenge… Spoken Word fits it like a glove if you really look deeply into what the Common Core is asking.”