Teachable Moments: Talking to Students about Current Events

https://www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore/7403731050/

Photo courtesy of www.audio-luci-store.it / Flickr CC

Written by Courtney Battle

Among all of the recent headlines in the news, one that may have caught your eye was a story reported by KMOX-TV, which explained that the Superintendent of Edwardsville, Illinois District Seven schools directed teachers to not to talk about, and to change the subject, if Michael Brown or the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri came up in classroom discussion.   The story has undoubtedly sparked quite a bit of interest in the media.  For example, Melissa Harris-Perry dedicated her ‘Open Letter’ segment of a recent show to Ed Hightower, the Superintendent, and Valerie Strauss covered the story in a post for the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog.  Twitter has even gotten in on the action with the hashtag, #fergusonsyllabus, created by Marcia Chatelain, Assistant Professor in the History department at Georgetown University.  There’s no doubt that the news of Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent events in Ferguson has sparked conversation in our country about race, community relationships with the police, and justice.  However, it also begs the larger question of ‘Do we talk to students about difficult current events, and if so, how?’

Depends on who you ask, apparently.  KMOX’s report reads “Hightower says normally there would be an open discussion of current events.”  The Superintendent goes on to say, “However, this situation in Ferguson-Florissant has become a situation whereby there are so many facts that are unknown.”  On the opposite side of the spectrum, teacher David B. Cohen writes in a post for the InterACT blog:

I think we have to be willing to toss out the lesson plan, or revise it. This must be done thoughtfully and advisedly, of course. A teacher needs to know the students, the community, and have the skills and sense to manage whatever is about to replace the regular lesson. But certainly, if we place the lesson plan ahead of significant moments in our communal life, we not only rob students of a chance to learn something more lasting and potentially important, but we also unwittingly reinforce the oft-heard but incorrect message that school is separate from “the real world.”

We definitely cannot ignore the events in Ferguson, or any other recent headlines for that matter, as they directly impact the “real world” that Cohen references.  We live, work, and play in this world, and after students leave school for the day, they’re going out into the same world.  That said, how can we address kids when things happen?  Why is it important for them to engage on current events?

Education World tells us that there are several benefits to incorporating news into curriculums.  Not only can students gain language, reading comprehension, and critical thinking skills, but they can also become informed citizens and open up a more adult-like dialogue with their parents.  

Mock trials and mapping developing news stories, are a couple of the activities that Thomas N. Turner, Professor of Education at the University of Tennessee, suggests in his 1995 article for The Social Studies, “Riding the Rapids of Current Events.”  For older students, having organized debates could also be an option.  Maybe a good place to start, as Harris-Perry suggests, is reading a book as a class or exploring how music and other forms of art are often modes of expression on politics and news.  Given, the approach has to be tailored to the specific students that you are teaching, but there are several ways to engage children on what’s happening in the world.  

Whatever the approach may be, what’s important is not pretending that something didn’t happen.  Kids know what’s going on, whether they hear a conversation their parents are having, flip past the news on tv, or if one of their classmates mention something he or she saw or heard.  In addition, there’s the internet!  Today’s children are all using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and countless other social media outlets that report and spark conversation on just about everything.  Acknowledging a difficult current event, and from there using it as a ‘teachable moment,’ will help students process what has happened, but in the end they’ll also be better for it.

Star of the Month: Daniel Bradley

Daniel Bradley, CEO & Co-Founder of Dreams Work, Inc.

Daniel Bradley, CEO & Co-Founder of Dreams Work, Inc.

Daniel Bradley strives to inspire, uplift, and encourage all those that cross his path.  As the CEO and Co-Founder of Dreams Work, Inc., he uses the fine arts as a mode of reaching youth.  The non-profit organization is designed to equip young people to face critical social issues plaguing their communities, preparing them to become “artistic activists.”

Bradley has often been inspired by song lyrics recited by his Grandmother:

“If I can help somebody, as I pass along…Then my living shall not be in vain.”

Bradley has traveled extensively throughout the United States, the U.K. and the Virgin Islands to facilitate training sessions in youth development strategies. With more than 10 years of experience in youth development and community organizing, it is our honor to name Daniel as our Star of the Month!

You can find out more about Dreams Work, Inc. here.

Five Ways Volunteering Can Advance Your Career

Community ONE Volunteers at our recent Stars v. Students soccer game.

Community ONE volunteers and students at our recent Star v. Students soccer game.

#1 Networking, networking, networking!

You’ve heard it before, but let’s say it again:  sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.  It’s a well-known fact that networking is key to advancing your career, and volunteering is a great way to widen your network.  Your fellow volunteer may work in an industry that you’re interested in, or at a company you’ve had your eye on, and you never know what a good relationship with that person could lead to!  The key here is to make sure that the relationship is genuine.  So get out there and get networking!

#2  Skills

When it comes to volunteer opportunities, there’s just about something for everybody.  Once you find an organization or cause that you’re interested in, there may be chances to learn or practice skills that you don’t use regularly.  For example, maybe potential jobs you’re interested in are looking for someone experienced with graphic design.  If you handle all of the graphic design for the organization you volunteer with, that’s transferrable experience that you can include on your resume – all for a good cause.  It’s a win-win!

#3  Impressing Your Future Boss

Among the many benefits of volunteering, is the fact that it looks good!  As mentioned in the last point, doing volunteer work gives you the chance to practice skills that directly translate into job responsibilities.  In addition, it can show that you work well with others, you are passionate about a cause, you take initiative, and are a well-rounded person– all good things!

#4 Exploring Your Passions

If you are in a place where you are trying to figure out your career path, volunteering could very well help guide you in the right direction.  If you love kids, or the environment, look for ways to volunteer in those areas.  Maybe in the process you’re inspired to start your own business, or find out what you really love to do (or don’t love).  The possibilities are endless, you just have to start somewhere!

#5  Fill in the Blanks

If  you are in-between jobs, volunteering is a great way to fill in that space.  Potential employers will more than likely ask about what you’ve been doing in-the-mean-time-in-between-time, so you should be prepared with an honest answer.  Why not fill those holes with a positive experience that could help you hone in on your skills and interests?  According to a Corporation for National and Community Service report, ‘volunteers have a 27 percent higher likelihood of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers.’  Volunteer work can show a potential employer that you’ve been actively trying to make yourself a more marketable candidate, and hopefully help land the job that you’ve had your eye on!

Overall, volunteering is something that you won’t regret.  Not only are you bettering yourself, but more importantly, you’re helping someone else.  So while you look for ways to give back and how to reach your own personal goals, don’t forget the real reason why we volunteer.  Get up, get out, and give back!

Written by Courtney Battle

Back to School and Back to Work: Community ONE is looking for volunteers and speakers!

Backpacks, school supplies, a new outfit for the first day- all things that remind us it’s about that time for students to go back to school.  Community ONE is ready to get back to work, too, and we need your help!  We are looking for both event volunteers and speakers (or Stars, as we refer to them) to help us with our upcoming speaker series.

Volunteering

If you have been looking for a way to give back to your community, but haven’t quite found the right fit yet, this could be the opportunity for you!  We work hard to expose children to career paths that they may have never considered or seen before at home.  At our events, our volunteers are a critical part of the fun and educational experience we aim to bring to the participants.  As a volunteer you would be responsible for helping to engage the children in discussion with the Star, assist with the overall flow of the program, and participate in the interactive activity.  If all of that isn’t enough to convince you, you get a pretty cool t-shirt too!  

Exhibit A:

A Community ONE Volunteer sports his t-shirt at an event.

A Community ONE Volunteer sports his t-shirt at an event.

Stars

If you would like to take it one step further and you think you have a pretty cool job, you may be our guy (or girl).  What we’re looking for in a speaker is someone that loves what they do, has a good story to tell about his or her journey to the position they have now (including challenges he or she may have faced), and can explain all of this in a kid-friendly manner.  In addition, we will work with you to develop an interactive activity that the students can participate in to get a hands-on sense of what a typical ‘day in the life’ of you might look like.

Do these sound like you?  Let us know if they do!  Send an email to info(at)communityone(dot)org with your name, contact information, and what you would be interested in doing.  We look forward to working with you!

Written by Courtney Battle

The STEM of our Problems: Pushing for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education for Today’s Youth

Photo courtesy of Helix Magazine, Northwestern University

Photo courtesy of Helix Magazine, Northwestern University

STEM might be a term that may or may not have crossed your path recently- in the news, in everyday conversation, or in a Presidential speech that you caught the other day.  In fact, President Barack Obama has said, “… Leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today—especially in science, technology, engineering and math.”  And that, my friends, is STEM- science, technology, engineering, and math.  I don’t think I’d be alone in saying these weren’t my favorite subjects in school, which is exactly why there are people, organizations, and initiatives making serious efforts to change that mindset for upcoming generations.  

In recent years, there has been a huge push for STEM education in schools.  Frances Eberle, Ph.D. of the International Society of Automation writes, “A successful STEM education provides students with science, math, and engineering/technology in sequences that build upon each other and can be used with real-world applications.”  According to the Department of Education’s website, “only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career.”  It goes on to say that the US is behind internationally, ranking 25th in mathematics and 17th in science.  The Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) was formed for this very reason, and a key portion of its strategy is addressing groups that have “historically been underrepresented in STEM fields.”  President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget also has several areas that strive to improve STEM education for both students and teachers.

Female students are at the heart of those ‘underrepresented groups,’ and the national focus on STEM.  STEMconnector & My College Options tell us that “male students are over three times more likely to be interested in STEM majors and careers, compared to female students.”  In a 2010 report, the American Association of University Women found that “societal stereotypes can lower girls’ aspirations for science and engineering careers over time.”  In other words, if these subjects (and eventually careers) are not ‘cool,’ or considered acceptable for girls to take an interest in, then the cycle will continue.  

So the question is, what can we do about it?  We can make a change now by encouraging young people to not be ashamed or afraid of math and science, because those fields directly impact our everyday life and have brought us countless inventions and technology that we take for granted today.  There are tons of organizations who focus their time and energy on this effort- so don’t be afraid to get yourself and a student involved!  Community ONE supports the STEM initiative, and hopes to also play a role in encouraging students- boys and girls- to explore careers that are related to these vital subjects.  The sciences and technology are what keep our society evolving, after all.  It is our hope that through our programming we can inspire the next mathematician or marine biologist who makes a difference in how we live, work, and play.

Written by Courtney Battle

Star of the Month: Daniel Shannon

Daniel Shannon Star of the Month. Community ONE

Daniel Shannon Star of the Month

“Make sure you apply performance to your potential and… vision to your future because vision speaks louder than words” – Daniel Shannon 

Daniel Shannon is a motivational speaker, a hope dealer, and most importantly a visionary. Daniel has faced and overcome many challenges in life but has always had a vision which has driven him to success. Daniel now uses his platform to inspire others to identify the vision in themselves, recognize their power over their own future, and encourage them to achieve greatness! Community ONE teaches children to reach for the stars and our star, Daniel Shannon, portrays a positive image and a great example of what children can hope to achieve.

We are honored to make Daniel Shannon our Star Of The Month!

Learn more about Daniel Shannon at DanielShannonSpeaks.com

 

iLoveCollege.org

Julian Gunder | iLoveCollege.org

Our Star of the month is Julian Gunder, founder of iLoveCollege.org. Through fashion + events, Julian encourages children to attend and graduate college. Julian has a great vision for his company and has reached a level success in which many children should aspire to achieve.

Thanks Julian for being our Star of the month!

What it Takes to do Political Advance: Community One Gives Students the Inside on a Possible Career Path

Image
Wednesday a group of Arlington, VA teens at the Buckingham Youth Brigade had the chance to hear from Community ONE Founder, Jason Wallace about his work as an Advance Site Lead for the White House and other officials.  Working in advance, he often travels ahead of, or with the President (and other officials) and handles all of the details prior to an event to ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible.

The session started out with an ice-breaker activity, and then Wallace jumped right in to explaining his day-to-day duties, how he discovered his career, and even the challenges he had on the way.  From being homeless in the 8th grade to a successful career handling logistics for a Presidential Administration, Wallace conveyed that with hard work and determination, the students could make it happen for themselves too.

The night ended with a fun activity to give students a taste of what preparing for an actual Presidential event is like.  The group was divided into smaller sections that represented the Press Advance, Secret Service, and Staff Advance who had to negotiate with each other to address their specific concerns and still run a seamless event.  In the end, the students realized it wasn’t as easy as they may have thought, and learned about a possible career path in the future.  A win for them and for Community ONE!

 

Written by Courtney Battle