How Are You Talking to Your Students About Ferguson?


Many teachers took to Twitter last night to express their dismay and disbelief after St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced a grand jury decision not to bring charges in the August death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. One common refrain: What do I tell my students?

TeacherPop is here to help: We’ve compiled a few resources below to help educators thoughtfully engage with and comfort their students in the aftermath of Brown’s tragic death and consider its larger impact on communities beyond the city limits of St. Louis. A great first step? Listen to your students. Read what else the experts are suggesting below.

1)      Facing History and Ourselves’ Steven Becton, whose first concern is “the emotional well-being of my students,” outlines some key goals for teachers seeking civil dialogue, rather than debate, in the classroom.  He also provides great insight into how (and whether) to incorporate historical context into the discussion.

2)      Edutopia takes a community-wide approach in its discussion. Dr. Travis Bristol recommends enlisting the help of teachers, students, administrators, and parents to create a school-wide initiative to address issues around race and violence.

3)      Earlier today, The New York Times’ Learning Network updated its list of resources originally published in August 2014. It includes helpful categories like what happened the night of Brown’s death, the role of race, and the role of protest.

4)      Georgetown University’s Dr. Marcia Chatelain, who started the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus, recommends this collaborative document. It includes essential material for understanding and teaching the events in Ferguson as well as a section where teachers can reflect on their experiences using these resources in the classroom.

5)      Teaching for Change revisits its comprehensive collection of ideas for a deep discussion about race, police brutality, and student fear and resilience, first published in August.

To read more about how educators are “teaching Ferguson” and providing support to their students, follow #FergusonSyllabus and @TeachForAmerica on Twitter. And tell us in the comments: how you are talking to your students about Ferguson?

By |November 25th, 2014|General|0 Comments|

Pop Links 11.25.14: Ferguson Discussion; Value of Tests; Design Resources


Pop Links is Teach For America’s twice-weekly roundup of education news and resources for teachers.

By |November 25th, 2014|General|0 Comments|

Motivation Monday: Gratitude


By |November 24th, 2014|General|0 Comments|

Three Minute Breathing Space


(Photo Credit: Camdiluv)

Sometimes, life can get so busy that we function on automatic pilot just to get through our day.  But wouldn’t it be great if we had a reset or a “clear” button, like the kind you find on calculators, just to wipe the slate clean and view our world with fresh eyes?  After all, if you don’t reset your calculator prior to running calculations, the results will be off.

Here’s a quick exercise called the 3-Minute Breathing Space, adapted from psychologists Segal, Williams & Teasdale, to help you quickly reset:

Step 1: Find a comfortable seating position. Sit up straight, but not overly rigid, in a chair or on the floor.  Close your eyes.  Now, ask yourself:

  • What is my experience at this moment?  
  • What are my thoughts?  
  • My feelings?  
  • My physical sensations?  

Just acknowledge and notice your experience, without attempting to change it in any way, even if it is unpleasant or unwanted.

Step 2: Gently direct your attention to your breath, perhaps noticing the sensation of the air as it moves across your nostrils for each inhale and exhale. Use your breath as an anchor. You will likely find your mind wandering, and this is normal, just continue returning your attention to the experience of your breath in this moment.

Step 3: After doing this for a minute or two, expand your awareness beyond your breathing: examine your sense of your body as a whole, your posture, your facial expression.  Perhaps visualize yourself seated in the chair in the room.  When you are ready, you can open your eyes and carry on about your day.

The task is not to see how long you can stay focused on your breath, but rather to repeatedly return your attention to the breath if the mind wanders. And trust me, it will wander.

Doing this exercise once daily, or even just now and then when you really need it, will help you to have more clarity and approach your day with greater awareness.

Remember, you can’t find the right answer if you haven’t first reset your calculators!

Source: Segal, Z. V, Williams, J. M.G, & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: A new approach to preventing relapse. The Guilford Press.


Hang On, Teachers, Thanksgiving Is Almost Here

Though the path to Thanksgiving break can be a slow slide, it’s not without its bright spots. Watch one teacher’s journey from November doldrums to unexpected joy.

For more inspiring videos, subscribe to Teach For America’s YouTube channel!

By |November 20th, 2014|Take a Break|1 Comment|

Pop Links 11.20.14: Affirmative Action Lawsuit; Early Warning Systems; Geography Games


Pop Links is Teach For America’s twice-weekly roundup of education news and resources for teachers. 

  • Affirmative Action is back in court. On Monday, two of the nation’s prestigious universities, Harvard University and UNC, were hit with lawsuits that challenge their use of affirmative action in admissions. Learn about the new case and why these schools were singled out.
  • To make sure that students do not fall through the cracks, many schools are using student data to create early warning systems. Factors like GPA, attendance, and behavior issues are used to provide extra support for at-risk students.
  • Cap off 2014 Geography Awareness Week with your students by playing one of these fun online geography games! #globalcitizens
  • TFANet Resource: Compare & Contrast
By |November 20th, 2014|Pop Links|0 Comments|

Stories From Native Students

It’s Native Heritage Month! Celebrate by turning an ear to the voices of our native students across the country.

We’ve compiled thirteen autobiographical poems by some of TFA’s Native Hawaiian, Navajo, and Lakota students involved in our student voices initiative, the Poet Warriors Project. Enjoy the teaser excerpts, click to read the full poems on the Poet Warriors site, print and share these stories with your students, and if you’re interested in publishing your classes with the Poet Warriors Project, find out more here!

1. “I don’t act like a Navajo
But on the inside of me, there is a true blood of Dine girl” -Odessa Begay


2. “He is struggling to get loose
The starry black night being splashed
With the color orange yellow

Painted like a painted canvas.” -Te-Mya Running Hawk


3. “A little girl waking
up with her family on a ranch.
A pink house full with a stove
and wood. Cooking blue corn mush
with my light in their eyes” 
-Talia Garmendez


4. “Seen evolution
Through an old man’s eyes
Sometimes I feel that it’s disguise
No one notices

The tide rolling in” -Cloe Parks


5. “I remember my brother well” -Sheridan James


6. “The mesas are golden,
And the landscape is orange.
The sun sees our Navajo Nation reservation.” 
-Lain Johnson


7. “As I look at the bright beautiful sunset in the reservation,
I see the bright sun go down
I hear the chirping and the laughter of
Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, and cousins.” 
-Michael Toldeo

8. “When she walks
And a Gary Stewart song is on,
It matches here.
When she was young,
She use to go to the Rez dances,
And used to dance with all
The cowboys” -Selvina Pletero


9. “When they came
They took our land.
They took aloha.
They took the queen.” -Shayla


10. “I remember
When I used to watch her weave
small rectangular Navajo rugs
I remember
When she laughed so hard that she cried” -Nathania Tom


11. “My dad believes I could do anything in my life
And get out of the reservation.” -Dallason Davis


12. “I don’t know any other place that I would like to be
I am not ashamed about where I come from” -Alec Lewis

1313. “The Navajo Reservation, it has brown flat land
And in the distance, red mesas.
While I sit in the old tower I see a stampede of brown, white, and black
-Taneika Ashley


Photos by Poet Warriors creator, Emily Southerton.  Photography taken while collecting poems from Teach For America students in Kailua Kona, HI, the Navajo Nation in Crownpoint, NM, and on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Kyle, SD.

Pop Links 11.18.14: How Teacher Hiring Affects Black & Latino Students; Texting Parents to Read to Children; Free YES! Magazine Subscription

By |November 18th, 2014|Pop Links|0 Comments|