Welcome back, teachers! We love you all.

A back-to-school roundup of posts and readings.

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Here’s to all teachers and educators returning to the classroom, wherever that might be for you. And what a first week it’s been. Below are some of our most popular posts that may be helpful as the new school year begins.

If you, like us, live in a place where far-right and white-supremacist groups have been coming to visit, check out “Students and Civil Disobedience: Lesson Plans and Activities” and its sister-post, “Students and Civil Disobedience: A Reading List” for ideas on how to contextualize this moment in US history. For those who might have students participating in marches and counter-protests, we have some tips.

Teaching climate change? We will post information as soon as we have it on how to help Houston-area educators and students as they recover from massive flooding. (If this is you, and you have the bandwidth, please let us know what would be helpful, and we will amplify!) If you are currently on dry ground, here are resources for helping students encounter the basic science and impacts of climate change in the classroom.

In the spirit of resistance, we wanted to highlight one of our lesser-read but best-loved roundups: our post on the history of several US and Canadian general strikes. Seattle, Winnipeg, and Oakland all hold history that we never encountered in school. Don’t let your students be like us.

Best of luck to all in the new school year, and watch this space for more Small Stones Interviews. And if you have your own story to tell, please get in touch!

Teaching Resistance: General Strikes

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Image via The Stranger 

In honor of the general strike happening in some places today, this week’s A Day Without Immigrants, and the upcoming A Day Without A Woman, we’ve gathered some resources for teaching students a little bit about the history of the labor movement, with an emphasis on general strikes.

The Seattle General Strike Project has a wealth of information. Never heard of the Seattle General Strike? We hadn’t either. Lucky for we uninformed, the site has great background information.

The Seattle General Strike of February 1919 was the first city-wide labor action in America to be proclaimed a “general strike.” It led off a tumultuous era of post-World War I  labor conflict that saw massive strikes shut down the nation’s steel, coal, and meatpacking industries and threaten civil unrest in a dozen cities.
The strike began in  shipyards that had expanded rapidly with war production contracts. 35,000 workers expected a post-war pay hike to make up for two years of strict wage controls imposed by the federal government.
When regulators refused, the Metal Trades Council union alliance declared a strike and closed the yards. After an appeal to Seattle’s powerful Central Labor Council for help, most of the city’s 110 local unions voted to join a sympathy walkout. The Seattle General Strike lasted less than a week but the memory of that event has continued to be of interest and importance for more than 80 years.
There’s a LOT of information on this site, so here are a few things we recommend:
  • Check out Rob Rosenthal’s 1977 interviews with those who remembered the events. (This is also an excellent way to incorporate oral histories into the classroom!) Audio is available for some interviews, as are searchable transcripts.
  • For 11th grade teachers, there’s a full lesson plan on the general strike. Students role play as newspaper op-ed writers and are required to utilize first-hand accounts.
  • Photographs. Lots of them, both historical and present day.

From Documentary Lens, a lesson plan that goes along with the documentary On Strike: The Winnipeg General Strike, 1919.

This lesson is intended to foster, in Grade 11 and 12 students, a knowledge and understanding of the issues raised in the film On Strike and to promote progressive, democratic considerations around values and attitudes regarding Canadian citizenship. Cross-curricular connections include Socia l Studies, Language Arts, Political Science, Economics and History.

The activities will help students develop their inquiry, research, critical thinking, communication, and media literacy skills. Students will brainstorm current events around strike action issues; compare the rights of workers in the past and today; research and prepare a debate based on principles in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Labour Code; and write an editorial on the filmmaker’s point of view.

And finally, via the California Federation of Teachers, materials relating to the 1946 Oakland General Strike. The site provides a video excerpt from the longer film Golden Lands, Working Hands, “We Called it a Work Holiday.” There’s a lesson plan that goes along with it. Notably, it asks students to analyze three newsreel clips and the perspectives behind them.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• learn the causes of the Oakland General Strike and what it achieved
• critically assess news coverage of labor issues for point-of-view bias
• analyze the significance of a general strike as a strategy for collective worker action

Video Summary

Post-war tensions are revealed by a strike of mostly women retail clerks in two down- town Oakland department stores, which expands to become the last city-wide General Strike in US history. When the video repeats a newsreel segment with alternative voiceovers, viewers learn how “news”—like history itself—is constructed from a point of view. And through the exemplary solidarity of streetcar driver Al Brown, we learn how workers can make history, too. [We also gain a unique insight into the longest run- ning farm labor dispute until the 1960ʼs, the DiGiorgio strike of 1947-1950, through the footage of a “lost film” made by Hollywood supporters of the strike.]

 

Re. Inauguration

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image by Shepard Fairey, available for free download

Well, it’s here. We’ve got a few things that may be useful now and in the short term.

First, get your images. Via The Amplifier Foundation, download the series of We the People protest art, for free. One of these amazing images above.

Resistance 101: A Lesson for Inauguration Day Teach-Ins and Beyond comes from Teaching for Change. This is a middle and high school lesson focused on allowing students to “meet” a variety of activists. Students conduct interviews, taking turns acting as the American activists.

There’s a wealth of information, including short biographies with photos, and the handouts are easy to use. The list of activists ranges from Ella Baker to Yuri Kochiyama to Mother Jones to Ida B. Wells. There’s also good information on other places to conduct further research.

Note: this lesson requires a name and email in order to access the download. 

The lesson is based on the format of a Rethinking Schools lesson called Unsung Heroes and draws from lessons by Teaching for Change on women’s history and the Civil Rights Movement, including Selma.

This lesson can make participants aware of how many more activists there are than just the few heroes highlighted in textbooks, children’s books, and the media. The lesson provides only a brief introduction to the lives of the people profiled. In order to facilitate learning more, we limited our list to people whose work has been well enough documented that students can find more in booksand/or online.

Teaching After the Election of Trump comes from the Zinn Education Center. This is a landing page that curates the Zinn Education Center’s resources and lesson plans that are most appropriate for this political moment, and they are grouped by subject. Categories include Environment, Civil Liberties, Economic Inequality, Muslims, Press, Immigration, and more.

Check out this website when you have a little more time to spend–there’s a wealth of information, and it’s well-organized. Each section also invites you to click a link to learn more about various topics, and there’s a lot of great material here.

No doubt, still reeling from this poisonous election, it is hard to be hopeful. But we invite you to draw on curriculum at the Zinn Education Project to help your students make sense of this new context. We include lessons—some highlighted below—that:

  • Show how social movements have made important strides even during dark times.
  • Help students explore other moments in history when elites have mobilized to roll back racial and economic progress.
  • Highlight examples of “divide and conquer” politics.
  • Help students explore aspects of Trump’s agenda—immigration, the environment, Muslims, civil liberties, the press, and economic inequality.

It’s vital that we introduce our students to the individuals and social movements that have made this country more just.

#TeachResistance is a group after our own heart, founded in the aftermath of election results to help teachers, students, and families navigate both education and resistance.

January 20th is their Inauguration Day Teach In; you can read more about this project here. We’re coming to the teach-in a little late, but fortunately it looks as though this group of NYC-based educators is going to continue putting out good material.

There’s a toolkit available for download that contains lesson plans for K-5th grade, and while it’s linked to the inauguration, it’s well worth checking out for use at any other time. Currently, they feature teachers and books on their Tumblr and link to lesson plans that those teachers have developed.

From their statement of purpose:

WHEN

  • #TeachResistance is designed to support a Teach In on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, but the work is bigger than one day, and it is bigger than all of us. We envision it as part of the ongoing collaboration between educators, parents, and all those who want to prepare children to be an active part of our democracy.

HOW/WHAT

  • The goal of the #TeachResistance toolkit is to share stories of resistance from the past and teach strategies for resistance in the present. Students will learn about ways that young people have fought back against injustice in different times and different places.
  • Through age appropriate read alouds and suggested activities, we will introduce students to stories of communities coming together to make a difference.