Tag Archives: books

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

abrazos

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

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LeVar Burton Was My First Black Friend

LeVarBurton_headshotYou might say that LeVar Burton is one of the first black people I ever met. And that’s exactly how the producers and executives at PBS wanted it.

I grew up in a very white bread town in Northern Michigan. With the exception of a handful of Native American residents whose families lived on that land long before the voyageurs ever showed up, the vast majority of folks in that town and for hundreds of miles around were white. Despite that, I still felt like I knew people who looked and lived differently than I did, Continue reading

A Thank-You to Library Workers: National Library Week

Library BooksLibrary workers aren’t just caretakers of books. They’re caretakers of the children who read them. I have such wonderful memories of my little school library when I was growing up. There was a nice soft carpet on the floor in the children’s corner, where we would sit while the librarian read books to us like The Stinky Cheese Man, a new crowd favorite. Every book had an orange card in the back, which I could write my name on as I looked at the names of the kids who had checked it out before me. The only computer in the room was used by the librarian for inventory, but with all those books, who needed a computer?

Working in a school library has changed quite a lot in the last 20 years, probably more than any other job in education. The orange cards have been replaced with bar codes. Card catalogues have been replaced with computers. The internet is just as ubiquitous as books and magazines. However, the mission of school libraries hasn’t changed: to expose children to ideas that are much bigger than themselves, and to connect children with the people who come up with those ideas. It’s a big world outside the school gate, and media has a way of making that world seem bigger and smaller at the same time. Throughout these technological advancements, library workers have been at the forefront of learning and implementing new educational technologies. They’re the ones helping kids put together their research projects on the Amazon rain forest. They’re the ones helping teachers experiment with math games on a new set of iPads. They’re the ones making sure that the whole school has access to the best online periodicals.

That said, they’re still the ones introducing a new class of kindergarteners to the newest, silliest books. Some things never change. When you’re a little kid, libraries can seem like magical places, but they’re not created through magic. People make them possible.

Want to support libraries in your schools and neighborhoods? Visit ilovelibraries.org and sign “The Declaration for the Right to Libraries.”

How Can We Encourage Confidence in Girls?

But what if I mess up?

Failure can be a scary thing.

The Confidence Code, a new book authored by ABC’s Claire Shipman and BBC’s Katty Kay, reveals new research into the differences between men’s and women’s confidence and how those differences affect important areas of life such as workplace performance. This dynamic certainly begins even earlier, in the classroom. As Shipman points out, girls of today tend to work hard and strive for perfection in their grades rather than take academic risks. When they graduate from college with impressive degrees, the skills that helped them earn those degrees don’t necessarily transfer to the workplace. In an article posted today on ABCNews.com, she notes of women, “Perhaps we’ve contemplated taking a larger step – a run for local office or a change of career – but we opt for caution over risk.  For most women, such feelings are so commonplace we’ve discount[ed] them. But, in truth, they represent a profound confidence gap between men and women, especially in the workplace.” In contrast, men tend to be assertive in their contributions to discussion, decision making, and leadership. Women often take a back seat, fearing that they might make mistakes or be perceived as over-bearing.

As an educational researcher, I can’t help but wonder what educational structures and practices reinforce this confidence differential in schools. The article states that there are genetic and physiological determinants of an individual’s confidence levels, but the study also finds that individuals have agency in this. How can we teach girls the same non-cognitive skills of self-confidence and assertiveness that help boys succeed in the workplace? How can we encourage girls to take risks and view failure as a learning opportunity? Answers might be a long time coming, but the discourse generated by this research could go a long way in shifting educators’ approaches to preparing boys and girls alike for success in their careers.

Interested in taking The Confidence Quiz and contributing to this research? Click here for the link.