Muddling through the blogosphere

February 12, 2018
by blogwalker

From “hate speech” to “dangerous speech”

Sometimes it is bad things that move teaching and supporting digital citizenship from a one-and-done assembly or an advisory period checklist into meaningful classroom discussions.

I have mentioned in previous blog posts that I coordinate, along with colleague Kathleen Watt, our district’s digital citizenship program. For 10+ years we’ve started each school year by asking our site coordinators to submit their proposed annual Digital Citizenship Implementation Plans and requiring by the end of the school year that every principal sign a form verifying that digital citizenship has been taught at his/her site.

To assist our schools, we post resources to our digital citizenship website, with an invitation for sites to develop a plan that works best for their school’s culture and needs. Although all sites have a plan in place, few are currently integrating digital citizenship into classroom curriculum. Designating an average of three lessons per grade level, covered separately (via assemblies, advisory, etc.) from the core curriculum tends to be the norm.

Every year, Common Sense Education’s lesson Breaking Down Hate Speech is one of our top recommendations for our high schools. The short (30 second) video included in the lesson quickly makes visible the broad reach of hate and the thin line between bystander and upstander.

We always point out that this lesson can easily be integrated into a social studies unit on propaganda, for instance, helping students make powerful connections between “then and there” to “here and now.”

As a district, we are still healing from the wounds of last month’s racist viral video  created and shared by two of our high school students. In response, we are suggesting that school sites visit/revisit Breaking Down Hate Speech – and, if needed, consider adding a resource Carl Wilkens recently sent me: The Dangerous Speech Project. Susan Benesh’s 6-minute video (below) visually explains the similarities, differences, and complexities in comparing “hate speech” to “dangerous speech” and provides 5 signs that will help you determine when speech is dangerous.

I know that the most powerful model for bringing about positive school-wide changes (face-to-face and online) to any school is students teaching students. And, of course, a supportive staff is also important. I hope to be back soon to showcase examples of students crossing the line from bystander to upstander and being change  agents at their schools and all the communities to which they belong. I would also love to share how teachers across grade levels and subject areas are weaving in the topic of confronting online hate.

As always, you are warmly invited to contribute to this conversation by leaving a comment.

February 13, 2010
by blogwalker

The Power of One – A Time of Remembrance

fletcherThis morning’s Sacramento Bee has a feature story on Bob Fletcher. Who is Bob Fletcher? The Bee’s headline sums it up: “When Florin growers were interned in WWII, he stepped in.”

Too often for our students, history happens in a textbook, with the correct answers at the end of the chapter. Stories like Bob Fletcher’s show that history doesn’t just happen in a vacuum.  History happens in our communities.  History happens one story at a time.

The forced removal of thousands of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast following the bombing of Pearl Harbor is an example of when justice failed…and history happened in a local community.

Bob Fletcher’s courage in steeping in to help the Tsukamoto family at a time when our government chose to deny to entire group of people their Constitutional rights provides an important piece of the puzzle when trying to understand the conditions that are common to the exclusion and forced removal of any group of people.

It has been my good fortune to work with Marielle Tsukamoto on our on-going Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project – a race against time to preserve the living voices of those who witnessed first-hand acts of intolerance, but  who also remember the impact one “upstander” can have on a community and on history.

What’s missing from the article is that Marielle and other internees work tirelessly to share their stories of the war years, of intolerance, of resiliency, and of the power of one with school children throughout the greater Sacramento region through their annual Time of Remembrance exhibit at the California Museum of History, Women and the Arts and with students across the nation through our growing bank of Time of Remembrance online interviews.

Bob Fletcher’s story is about one person quietly but courageously making a difference.  It’s also a story the Bee probably would not have told during the war years.  A visit to CSUS’s City of Sacramento online archives brings up the following reference:

Not Black and White: The Sacramento Bee’s coverage of the Japanese Community from Pearl Harbor to Executive Order 9066 (2002)
CSH Call Number: ETHN WHI
Thaddeus David White researched Sacramento Bee articles to determine whether the newspaper actively promoted an anti-Japanese campaign after Pearl Harbor. The articles advocated tolerance and restraint, but supported mass evacuations.”

All the more reason why I was happy to start my day with today with Bob Fletcher’s story:-).

I bet you have students who would like to join the conversation at

June 6, 2009
by blogwalker

Resiliency – What are we learning from our students?

I’m intrigued by the topic of resiliency. I’ve spent quite a bit of time at several Title 1 elementary schools this year, working with 4th graders on technology-infused projects.  What I have observed is that, despite grinding poverty levels and what are often intolerable, grossly unfair home situations, for the most part, kids are amazingly resilient.  In each classroom there are three to four students who are unable to maintain and need a bit of physical space away from their classmates, but the rest of the class manages to get through the day much the same as as their more affluent counterparts at wealthier sites. Why is that? What’s the key to being resilient? And what can we learn from our students about resiliency?

When Paul Allison‘s email arrived last week, with an invitation to listen to a Teachers Teaching Teachers podcast on resiliency, I rearranged my work schedule so I could make it home in time to join Wednesday’s conversation. It was worth risking a speeding ticket in order to join NWP ‘thinking partners’ Lynette Herring-Harris, Suzanne Linebarger, and Vanessa Brown, and others who would be  leading the discussion.

I’ve learned to keep a notebook with me during the TTT sessions to record resources, strategies, and great quotes, such as:

I’ve added the above titles to my summer reading list and also made a note to myself to contact Suzanne Linebarger directly to learn more about the work she is doing up north in Butte County with third graders, especially the program she developed to combine technology with the genre of cooking to build resiliency in her students.  I’ve known Suzanne for about ten years, through our Writing Project connection, and am always blown away by her insights, her work – and her humor. Her latest gem was during Wednesday’s TTT session, when she mentioned how she deals with the lack of Internet connectivity at home that is a reality for most of our Title 1 students: Start them thinking about where they can get online: a neighbor’s house, a relative’s house, the public library, etc.  On Thursday, when I headed in to work with a classroom on a VoiceThread project (please checkout the project embedded below), I found myself ‘going live’ with those same problem-solving strategies.  When I asked how many had Internet access at home, few raised their hands, but when I threw out some suggestions, heads started nodding.  OK, Suzanne, where are you posting your work?!

My contribution to the topic of resiliency is to share a bit about that VoiceThread mentioned above. Halie Ferrier, the wonderful teacher who had asked me to come work with her students, had also organized in May a Day of Tolerance unit for her 4th grade team.  I suggested that she invite Marielle Tsukamoto in to speak with the students on tolerance and resiliency.  Marielle has worked with me on the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project.  We’ve tried to capture through interviews the lived experiences of those citizens of Japanese heritage who were denied their Constitutional rights following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Each interview is testament to resiliency.

Following Marielle’s visit, along with a reading of Yosiko Uchida’s The Bracelet, Halie’s students stepped back in history, assumed the role of internees, and wrote letters to a friend back home, along with an accompanying piece of art. Thanks to VoiceThread, the students’ historical fiction is now crossing genre lines and mixing with biography, as Marielle and others who experienced discrimination, exclusion and forced removal first hand begin to join in the discussion:

Oh, and the image of bamboo – It symbolizes resiliency in all its forms.

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