Rio Day 2: Ibtihaj Muhammad, Fencing

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Carmelo Imbessi/Associated Press

Some of you may have already heard of Muhammad, and we’ll all be hearing a lot more about her soon. As the first US Olympian to wear a hijab, one of the oldest first-time Olympians on Team USA, and an African-American woman in a mostly-white sport, she was worked hard as an ambassador for her culture and her sport of fencing. This has often meant overcoming financial hardships, abject discrimination, and long odds to become an athlete at her sport’s highest level. Continue reading

Incredible Stories of Olympic Women in Rio: Day 1

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The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP Images

The Olympics is one of our most complicated social ventures, but it’s undeniably the most important international stage for women’s athletics. And in honor of that, I’ve decided to highlight a different female athlete every day over the next two weeks. Hope you enjoy learning about these incredible people as much as I do!

First up is Oksana Chusovitina, a 41-year-old gymnast from Uzbekistan who is competing in her SEVENTH OLYMPICS!!! Her skills in the floor exercise are so legendary that she has a tumbling move named after her. And it’s so difficult that even in this constantly changing and improving sport, Simone Biles (favored to win the all-around and floor golds) will be performing it in her floor routine in Rio. That’s a full 25 years after Chusovitina first performed it in international competition in 1991.
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Miss Chris Goes to Washington

LessonPlanI stood at the dusty old chalkboard scratching out numbers, struggling through my third week of trying to teach fractions. I was enveloped in a half-circle of students in desks, but these weren’t ordinary students. They were almost all older than me, a scrappy midwesterner trying to deal with an unprecedented batch of allergies. The flora was so different in DC. Something had been making me stuffy for weeks. I sounded so goofy with every word that came out of my mouth. My students seemed to be immune to the plant life in town, as well as the oppressive heat. Southeast DC is surprisingly scenic for an urban area. In some ways, nature seems to be reclaiming ground from the residents, an almost exclusively black population. It’s a place where white folks are so rare that I was called “Snowflake” on more than one occasion.
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Autonomy: An Ideological Link Between Democratic Equality and Localism

IVotedpicAmerica’s schools are one of the first places where we learn to become citizens. It is the place where we go to learn about our history, our values, and how we will contribute to the common good. Scholars often refer to this vital aim of schooling as the democratic equality goal. Educational researcher David Labaree explains that “ . . . a democratic society cannot persist unless it prepares all of its young with equal care Continue reading

School Lunches from Around the World: Beware the Mystery Meat

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neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk / Via Never Seconds/ Martha Payne

While America’s school children spent Thursday gorging themselves on turkey and football, the rest of the world’s students were going about business as usual. That, of course, means school lunches. A family member related to me this weekend that he once attended a school where no one was allowed to go out for recess until they had finished every last bite of their lunch. He noted significantly that your best friend was always the kid who was willing to eat your split pea soup for you.

Ever wonder what kids around the world are eating for lunch? Check out this great post from Buzzfeed!

Even Educators Could Use Some Enlightenment Sometimes

10-30Despite the best of intentions, educators do not always understand where students and their families are coming from. I learned of this troubling lack of enlightenment and compassion among some educators at an education studies graduate school function in 2012. As I sat with other students at a meet-and-greet luncheon, we shared stories of how we each became interested in our graduate programs. During my turn, I related my experiences as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Washington, DC and how working with adult students with low academic skills had inspired me to make a career of education reform. Continue reading

Friday 5: High-Tech, Low-Tech, and ‘Oregon Trail’ In-Between

Buzzfeed, the internet king of list-making, offers “15 Things We Did At School That Future Students Will Never Understand.” This is a serious trip down educational memory lane. I have to admit that I really do miss chalk, but I certainly don’t miss overhead projectors. I once accidentally obliterated one in the 6th grade. Don’t ask me. I don’t want to talk about it. However, I’m ALWAYS willing to talk about ‘Oregon Trail,’ Continue reading

What I’ve Learned from Growing My Own Food

potatoesAn old friend and I have a saying: “The world would be a much better place if everyone grew their own potatoes.” It’s a political nerd reference to Thomas Jefferson’s belief that those who are close to the land are close to God, and as an extension have a greater appreciation for the importance of our relationship with what the natural world has to offer. It’s a back-to-basics belief that Continue reading

“Improbable Scholars”: Urban Students Can Get a Great Public Education, Too

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A nurturing culture is at the forefront of Union City’s success.

David L. Kirp’s 2013 book, Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools, shows us that the average urban school system can be a great one–but that takes a lot of doing. Kirp offers a case study of Union City, NJ, a small but heavily urban district comprised largely of first- and second-generation immigrants from Latin America. While many urban school districts languish, Continue reading