Midweek Reading: Trauma, Kids, and Schools

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We are hard at work on the next installment of our series, Small Stones Interviews. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not still treating ourselves to some reading worth sharing. (With iced coffee. Hiding in the coolest part of the house. If you aren’t doing the same, thank your lucky stars for either air conditioning or geography, and send cooling thoughts to the western half of the country.)

Our next interview will feature a violence-preventionist who works in social-emotional learning–SEL, for those in the know. We’re doing our homework, and we recommend this recent piece from NPR Ed, “When Schools Meet Trauma With Understanding, Not Discipline:”

“Generally there just was really not an understanding of how trauma impacts a child,” says Paulette Carter, president and CEO of the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans, a mental health agency for kids and families.

“Teachers and school staff really look at children through the lens of, ‘What’s wrong with that child?’ Versus, ‘What happened to that child?’ ”

“If I’m walking down the hallway and somebody bumps into me, and I don’t have a significant trauma history, I’m gonna say ‘Oh, sorry, excuse me,’ ” she explains. “Whereas a kid who’s been exposed to trauma on an ongoing basis, if somebody bumps into them that might be a threat.” From there, she says, the survival brain kicks in and reasoning and logic shut down.

Crocker has developed ways to help students who are dealing with those experiences. Two full-time social workers hold one-on-one sessions with students who need someone to talk to. Teachers send disruptive students to a room called the wellness center for a meditative time-out that’s not supposed to be punishment.

If students fight, they first work it out through group discussion. Kids who act up or shut down get extra support, not detention or suspension like they used to. The idea is to tend to life troubles at school, instead of sending kids home.

Go check out the whole thing and report back next week for more on SEL.

 

 

Politics, Loss, and Emphathy with Joe Biden

“You don’t know the pain other people have had.” – Joe Biden

Following yesterday’s shooting at congressional Republicans’ baseball practice, and thinking about the oral history training we’re about to attend, we offer this excerpt from an interview by Terry Gross with former Vice President Biden. Biden’s point is not new, but today feels like a good day to remember that we share humanity with our political adversaries, and that where possible, we should foster empathy as well as passionate and principled disagreement. The interview took place earlier this week. Full text and audio here.

Terry Gross: I want to ask a few questions about you and your life. You’ve been touched by death several times. Beginning when you—just before you took the oath of office as senator, your wife died. Your baby daughter died. Your two sons were hospitalized ’cause of a car accident. Your son Beau died not long ago. You were read last rites when you had your aneurysm. Thank God you survived.

The Senate is a place where it’s real hardball. I mean, collegial or not, it’s about politics. It’s about hardball. It’s about power to get your agenda passed and so on. A lot of people are there because they like power, because they really value power and want to have it. So coming from this place where you’ve been exposed to mortality and to, like, the ultimate meaning of life, what was it like to be in the Senate, where it’s not a place where I’d imagine it’s easy to express vulnerability, where you have long, reflective

Continue reading “Politics, Loss, and Emphathy with Joe Biden”

Small Stones Interviews: A Civil Rights Lawyer

“I’m definitely one of the people who didn’t realize how fragile everything really was…”

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Image via The Seattle Times

Our third Small Stones interviewee has requested anonymity. She is a civil rights lawyer actively working on what we non-legal minds like to call The Legal Resistance (hey, it sounds cool). We hope this interview will be just her first foray into educating laypeople about what’s going on in government and the implications it may have for our lives.

As you might expect, she’s experienced some pushback, and therefore we’ll be keeping her identity under wraps. Though we can’t tell you who she is, we’re happy to be able to publish our conversation in full below. Read on to find out what keeps her heading into work each morning, despite some very real misgivings about where the system is headed.

Small Stones (SS): How would you define what you do? I’ve been poking around your firm’s site, and it seems like you deal with a lot of good things!

A Lawyer (AL): I say I’m a civil rights lawyer, but I also do workers’ rights and consumer protection. I do a lot of “this looks important and interesting and like I could be useful. I’ll do that for a while.”

SS: That’s actually an excellent segue to my most pressing question. How are things different for you all, day to day, under this administration?

AL: A few ways, I think.
 First, when everyone thought Hillary would be elected, we had all of these plans about how we would push forward and make the world better, and we still have those, and some of them are still viable. But a lot more of what we do now is trying to protect the status quo.

With Scalia’s death and the new appointment, we were gearing up to try to get a bunch of things before the Supreme Court
, and now we’re on the defensive. And that’s true with everything.

SS: As a layperson, it’s been a bit disheartening to see how many governmental norms are really dependent on everyone agreeing that they are norms.

AL: Yeah, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m definitely one of the people who didn’t realize how fragile everything really was—and just how quickly it could change when everyone decides to just stop agreeing.

Continue reading “Small Stones Interviews: A Civil Rights Lawyer”

Know Your Rights

Warmup reading for our upcoming interview with a civil rights lawyer

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Image courtesy of The ACLU

In advance of this week’s Small Stones interview with a civil rights attorney (coming soon!), we’ve been thinking about how much we, personally, know about our individual rights. For sure, we’re quite privileged ourselves—white, highly-educated, and relatively wealthy—allowing us to mostly assume we’ll be treated legally and fairly. But, we’re both women, one of us is a religious minority, and the other has been pregnant, so we we’ve felt some fear, too.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has lots of handy “Know your rights” guides: if you have an encounter with the police, if you experience voter intimidation, if you’re a religious minority, an immigrant, pregnant, work in a nail salon, and so forth. Below, we excerpt their summary of rights if you’re a Muslim (or perceived as Muslim) and experiencing discrimination at the airport. You can read the full text here.

Your Rights at the Airport and the Border

The Constitution and federal law prohibit customs and border agents from performing stops, searches, detentions, or removals based solely on religion, race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, or political beliefs.

You have the right to:

Be free from discriminatory questioning at the airport or border. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have the authority to ask your immigration status when you are entering or returning to the United States or leaving the country. They have the power to determine whether non-U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have the right to enter the country. If you are a U.S. citizen and you have presented a valid passport, you do not have to answer officers’ questions, although refusing to answer routine questions about the nature and purpose of your travel could result in delay and/or further inspection. If you are a lawful permanent resident, we recommend you answer officers’ questions… Officers, however, may not select you for questioning based on your religion, race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, or political beliefs…

Continue reading “Know Your Rights”

Contact Your Reps!

There’s movement in the Senate on the repeal of the ACA. We could go over all of the reasons why this is a horrible idea, but instead we’ll just point you towards an opinion piece by David Leonhardt from the New York Times:

I realize it will be hard to pay attention to any other political story this week, but I urge you to find the extra attention span, because there is another important, disturbing story developing: The chances of the Senate taking away health insurance from millions of people seem to be rising.

Here are our resources for contacting your representatives, whether yourself or with a cohort of students.

And if you’re like us, and you can’t stay on hold today, consider Resistbot. In under five minutes, via text, send a fax to your representatives.

 

Small Stones Interviews: Coming Soon!

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We hope you’ve been enjoying the first Small Stones Interviews. (And if you’re new to this space, welcome!) We certainly learned a lot in conversation with these educators, and it’s our hope that featuring these conversations here will help us all to better understand the landscape of teaching and learning in this moment.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be featuring interviews with an anonymous civil rights lawyer and an educator who trains teachers in social-emotional learning techniques. And there’s a lot more in the works that we’ll be previewing soon.

We are always looking for educators, broadly defined, who want to chat. Get in touch if you’re interested!

Small Stones Interviews: The Rev. Kat Banakis

Kat Banakis is the Theologian-in-Residence at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois.

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The Rev. Kat Banakis is the Theologian-in-Residence at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois. Her writing, preaching, and teaching explore how to be people of faith in this time and place. She is host and producer of The Holy Holy Podcast, an interfaith program on life’s large questions bringing together secular leaders with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian voices. She is the author of Bubble Girl: An Irreverent Journey of Faith (Chalice, 2013), which puts Christian systematic theology into an accessible, narrative form for personal and group reflection on how our stories are wrapped up in God’s story. Outside of St. Luke’s, Kat works in fundraising consulting for large non-profit organizations. She and her husband live in Chicago. Full disclosure: Kat and the Small Stones editors were college classmates.

Small Stones: We are picking people to talk to who are engaged in education at all sorts of different levels and worlds, and part of why you came up is because of the podcast work you were doing in the second half of last year, and because so much of what that podcast is, at least from my perspective, is very educational. And not in a way that’s didactic or anything like that, but it seems like it was educational for the participants, and it was educational for the people listening. It was a really great interfaith, intergeneration dialogue… and that feels very last-administration.

I’m curious, given that you recently had that role, how do you look at what we have happening now, in the civic world, that’s really invoking a lot of notes of conservative religious positions, too?

Kat Banakis: So Karl Barth is a mid-20th century theologian, and he talked about how when you preach, you always do so with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. And when I was putting together the first season of the podcast, I was really looking at, and to use a religious term, exegeting, my congregation, seeing that so many of the young families coming in had grown up in multi religious or non-religious households, and really for me to be a good pastor to my congregation, I needed to expand my aperture and purview of interfaith work. This was to be able to gain fluency, to be able to pastor to them, and also because I think that it is important in the public square to have interreligious dialogue.

But you also make a really good point that it was, to a certain extent, a situation of the time, in that there was this burgeoning—there’s always been interfaith work in the US, but particularly since 9/11, thinking about intra-Abrahamic initiatives has been very live. And so it was intentionally the sort of topics that bring people back to religion, broad topics, and then doing interfaith education around life issues, which as you point out, felt appropriate to the time, and creating a space for interfaith education around life topics.

Fast forward to the present, and—

Continue reading “Small Stones Interviews: The Rev. Kat Banakis”

Repost: Teaching Climate Change

To mark the incredibly infuriating news of the day, we are reposting our March 30th post on Teaching Climate Change. We’d argue that there has never been a time when it’s more important for educators to have quality, accurate information so as to educate the next generation. We’re all in this together.

–Eds. 

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One of the more frustrating experiences we’ve had lately was clicking on a link for  NOAA climate change game, only to find that the climate kids portion of the site is not live.

This isn’t really a surprise. But we expect better from our administration.

In the meantime, here are some climate change resources that are still available. In our experience, games and simulations can be among the best ways to help students really understand just what climate change is, how it works, and what we can do at this point to interfere with the negative outcomes. Here’s a great example of how this can work from The New York Times.

For readers with a little more time, here’s a 2015 paper from Nature that we highly recommend, “Climate change games as tools for education and engagement,” written by Jason S. Wu and Joey J. Lee. From the abstract:

We argue that games on the subject of climate change are well-suited to address these challenges because they can serve as e ective tools for education and engagement. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the development of such games, many featuring innovative designs that blur traditional boundaries (for example, those that involve social media, alternative reality games, or those that involve direct action upon the real world). Here, we present an overview of the types of climate change game currently available, the bene ts and trade-o s of their use, and reasons why they hold such promise for education and engagement regarding climate change.

For fans of Model UN and Mock Trial, organize your own World Climate Simulation! Climate Interactive has all the instructions and materials you’ll need, all free to download and use.

How Does World Climate Work?

World Climate is a simplified international climate change negotiations meeting for large groups, typically 8-50 people (although it has been adapted for use in groups as large as 500). A facilitator leads the group, playing the role of a UN leader, while each participant plays the role of a delegate representing a specific nation, negotiating bloc, or, in some cases, an interest group. Everyone then works together in their respective roles to reach a global agreement that successfully keeps climate change well below 2˚C over preindustrial levels globally.

Simulation events vary in length, but most run 2-3 hours. Condensed versions have been run in as short as 45 minutes.

During the event participants must face the climate science, engage in the drama and tensions of global politics, test their ambitions against a climate-modeling tool used by actual climate negotiators, and then reflect on how the experience challenges their assumptions about climate action.

World Climate is suitable for, and has been used with, people from middle school to graduate school students, community and religious groups, executive leaders, scientists, and everyone in between.

Pop on over even just to take a look at the interactive map of where others have hosted their own World Climate Simulations. Good inspiration to become your own marker on the map.

The BBC has an online game available to all who have Flash. You’re playing as a member of the EU, so it might not be incredibly up-to-date, but it’s worth a visit. Notable also is the attention given to explaining the science behind the game design.

For now, we are pleased to report, the EPA climate site for students is live. Via this site, students can take a virtual Climate Change Expedition and learn some of the basics about climate change. Each stop contains a short video, and students will be collecting passport codes as they go. Educator resources for the site can be found here.

 

Weekend Reading

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First in our reading list is, appropriately, a summer reading list, via Public Books. It’s curated by their section editors, and covers topics from Global Black History to Literary Fiction to Comics. Our library lists just expanded from reasonable to out-of-control…here are a few we’re really excited about:

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson (Roaring Brook). This warm, witty, and inclusive picture book filters first-day-of-school jitters through the perspective of the school itself, giving young readers a new outlook on a familiar place…

In Gratitude by Jenny Diski (Bloomsbury). Part of it is mourning: those of us who read everything Diski wrote read this memoir-of-dying as a goodbye to an essential habit. Part of it is the pleasure Diski always gave: seemingly familiar stories told by dispensing with any of the usual reference points, like some sort of trick of the light making you step gingerly into a room you thought you knew…

Underground Airlines by Ben Winters (Mulholland). In the spirit of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, this account of slavery still ongoing in 2016 America asks readers to notice how much (or how little) has actually changed in our own world of racial profiling and third-world factory production…

Public Library: And Other Stories by Ali Smith (Anchor). Smith’s latest collection looks uncannily like the bookshelf of a library: you don’t know what you’ll find next to what, but you do trust that some logic governs the juxtapositions.  The lyrical statistics and laconic anecdotes that caulk together Smith’s stories add up to a story of their own, about the neoliberal British state replacing librarians by volunteers and selling off reading rooms to private fitness clubs.  The collection ends with Smith’s partner going through her dead mother’s purse to dispose of credit cards, reward cards, driver’s license: “The one thing I couldn’t bring myself to throw away was her library card.”

Next week’s interview is with an Episcopal priest working in interfaith education out of Chicago. If you’d like to get a quick preview of what we’ll be discussing, check out this quick read from Daily Kos about the contemporary Sanctuary Movement:

A month after popular vote loser Donald Trump’s election, some 450 houses of worship nationwide pledged to become sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, with one church in the Los Angeles area calling for “holy resistance” to his mass deportation force. And houses of worship have heeded the call, with the number of congregations vowing to protect immigrants from ICE doubling to 800, according to a new report from 60 Minutes. Undocumented parents like Jeanette Vizguerra—recently named one of Time’s 100 most influential people—have fled to churches for safety and as a last recourse.

And in honor of our first Small Stones Interview, we want to finish up by highlighting LaQuisha Beckum’s non-profit, Generation Reformation, and some of its programs. Check them out, and get in touch with the organization if you are local, have question, or even have services to offer! They are particularly looking for funding to complete the Generation Reformation organization site, which you can find here. The Facebook page is here. One of their projects is an after-school program that you can check out here.