Equity and Access Newsletter

Elementary Edition-December

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Tis The Season!

Balancing the Holidays in your classroom to create the most inclusive environment could become a challenge. We have Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa in December. But we must remember that other traditions need to be recognized as well. For instance: the month of Muharram, the liturgical new year of the Islamic calendar, the Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day, the Hindu family holiday Pancha Ganapati and Yule for pagans. Many people either have winter solstice parties or observe no holidays at all.

That leads us to the question of how can we be inclusive? Teaching Tolerance suggests:

  • We find out how important the holiday is to those who celebrate it.
  • Make sure that we put as much emphasis and excitement into the holiday as you do the ones from January to November.
  • Celebrate the traditions of others throughout the year.

Maura Cullen, a diversity trainer, suggests that education about traditions do not have to wait for the holidays. We can start as early as September with the Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As well as the Feast of Tabernacle in October. We also have the Islamic Ramadan festival Eid al-Fitr (when it lands in the fall). Equally important, is the integration of developmentally appropriate, child-oriented books about cultures, authentic customs, and holidays into the curriculum throughout the year. This integration of literature will foster on-going inclusive practices that are reflective of all students.

It can be a challenge to present the holidays equally. But it will be time well spent and will lead to a more equitable and inclusive classroom.

Grade level K-5

Multicultural Activities

“Avoiding the Holiday 'Balance Traps'.” Teaching Tolerance, 11 Dec. 2013, www.tolerance.org/magazine/avoiding-the-holiday-balance-traps.

Book of the Month

The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy is an award-winning picture book about the intergenerational story of the relationship between Tanya and her grandmother. Tanya’s grandmother begins making a quilt from used pieces of fabric from family members. The grandmother and Tanya spend a lot of time working on the quilt until the grandmother becomes ill. Tanya continues to work on the quilt, and when her grandmother gets better, they finish the quilt together. The story ends when the grandmother gives the quilt to Tanya as a gift.

The Patchwork Quilt is available in Springfield Public Schools libraries.

Patchwork Quilt Activity K-3


Did You Know?

For our students to succeed in life, they need Grit! You might ask what grit is. According to Angela Duckworth, it is a “combination of passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.” In Thomas R. Hoerr book The Formative Five Fostering Grit, Empathy, and other Success Skills Every Student Needs he states that many educators have recognized that it is not enough to teach the student to master content; but we must also teach them to hang in there when things get tough. We must not ignore the difficult circumstances in which some of our students live. Nevertheless, they have the grit to resist the temptation to give up. As educators, our job is to transfer that grit to the academic setting. And it would be an opportunity for you to share your own experiences.

In Fostering Grit (Hoerr 2013a), identifies six steps for developing this critical formative skill in students:

  • Establishing the environment--the school environment has two components physical and psychological; why not celebrate the student who has made the biggest gains in the semester regardless of where they rank? Psychologically we should embrace grit and celebrate stick-to-it-iveness.
  • Setting Expectations--educators have the opportunity to take the lead in sharing the fact that frustration and failure are a pivotal life skill. It is important to note that we must step outside our comfort zone to develop grit.
  • Teaching the Vocabulary--describing grit in various ways is critical so we can recognize the skill in different contexts. Tenacity, resilience, pluck, spunk, guts, courage, and backbone are terms with similar meaning to grit.
  • Creating Frustration--Before teaching about intentional frustration be sure to prepare your students for the activity let them know what to expect. Your approach to creating frustration should vary depending on the age level of your students. Present a challenge to your class and check their responses. Some students might be ready to give up before the end of the exercise.
  • Monitoring the Experience--monitoring your student's reactions to the intentional frustration activity will not only help you to understand what and how they are learning but you will gain an awareness of their attitude towards learning.
  • Reflecting and Learning-- after the exercise in grit, teachers should ask the student to reflect on how they felt throughout the experience. What they did when they first experienced frustration? Were they bored, and did they see themselves persevering and what did they learn?

Thomas, R. Hoerr.The Formative Five Fostering Grit, Empathy, and Other Success Skills Every Student needs. Alexandria, VA, ASDA, 2017.

What's In Your Tool Box?

Five Strategies for Avoiding Teacher Burnout This Holiday. It is easy to feel overwhelmed this time of year by heavy work-loads, lesson plans, and student assessments. Remember that you are almost halfway to the finish line. Now is a good time to celebrate all you and you’re your students have accomplished. Rutgers Center for Effective School Practices offers a few strategies to recharge your energy, patience, and sanity during winter break:

  • Treat Yourself--set up a countdown for yourself to build up excitement before the break, commit to less stress and doing what you enjoy during your time off.
  • Work? Forget About It--Establishes some electronic (cellphone and Laptops) boundaries for yourself and enjoy a work-free environment.
  • Get Creative--enjoy your hobby or just reading a book might provide the relaxation you need.
  • Breathe & Relieve Stress--breathing, meditation and mindfulness exercises are receiving increased attention to help relieve stress and anxiety. The more we exercise, the more oxygen goes into the bloodstream, which increases dopamine and endorphin levels.

“Center for Effective School Practices.” 5 Strategies For Avoiding Teacher Burnout This Holiday, cesp.rutgers.edu/blog/5-strategies-avoiding-teacher-burnout-holiday.

Coming Events

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Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Art Contest

The Theme: “Your Life, Your Choice” (for the contest, march, and rally on January 15, 2018). Number of entries: Each school may submit as many entries as they would like.

Specifications: All artwork submitted should be on 8 ½ x 11 plain white paper. The student’s name, classroom teacher and art teacher’s names, grade and school should be listed on the back. Any text on the artwork needs to be dark, and we recommend using bold colors and outlining designs in sharpie when appropriate. Submitted artwork should be “print ready.”

Deadline to submit entries: Entries should be submitted to Breana Kavanaugh at KAC no later than Friday, December 22, 2017.

Entries received after this deadline will not be considered.

Holiday Shopping

Kids Shop for Everyone at the Holiday Store

Library Station
10 a.m.-2 p.m. for infants-age 18

December 2-10
Shopping for families, friends and teachers is affordable and fun at the Library's annual Holiday Store. Kids through age 18 can shop at the "store" for gifts priced from 25 cents to $6. Friends of the Library volunteers will help young children shop for everyone on their gift list, purchase and wrap their gifts.