In most classrooms, the morning meeting is when students and teachers greet one another, share information about their lives, and get the school day off to a good start. But this year in Julia Chrestay’s 4th grade classroom at McClure Elementary School, the students have been taking their morning meeting one step further by including conversations about social issues.
A teacher for six years and a first year Network member, Julia has always tried to integrate social issues into her classroom. But she credits NID with providing an “anchor" for discussing these matters.
Inspired by the book Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz, Julia’s students have had passionate discussions about the assets and challenges within their community. The women identified in the book – including Angela Davis, Billie Jean King, and Carol Burnett among others -- have become part of the classroom culture. The students can relate to the issues of racism, homophobia, sexism and addiction that these women confronted, and they can articulate what they might do if they faced these issues themselves.
According to their teacher, “Our conversations are richer and much more proactive. My guided reading groups are reading about social issues and we have a concrete context for discussing these things. My students are becoming more comfortable using terms like ‘social justice,’ ‘activists’ and ‘social change’.”
And it’s having an impact on Julia as well. “This process makes me feel energized. My students are so engaged by the conversations we have when we are discussing social issues."
Well, that energizes us and makes us happy to call Julia one of our own.