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The Response-Able Educator Newsletter
Special War Edition - April 9, 2003

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Welcome! This is a free newsletter on becoming a Response-Able teacher and developing Response-Able students.

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MISSION STATEMENT

My mission is to inspire, encourage and uplift the spirits of educators so they can in turn inspire, encourage, and uplift the spirits of their students.

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IN THIS ISSUE

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1. Quote [back to top]

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"What good is academic learning if young people don't learn to become contributing members of society?"

----Jane Nelson

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2. Disturbing Conversation [back to top]

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My granddaughter Chelsea is 15 years old and in ninth grade. She and her brother Austin live with me. Chelsea is an all-A student who takes an advanced language class at Central Michigan University. I tell you this because I want you to know that I had the following conversation with what I consider to be a very bright young lady.

"Grandpa, I got only 7 out of 10 on my history test."

"Not your usual score. What happened?"

"Not sure. Didn't know all the answers, I guess."

"Which ones did you miss?"

"I didn't know the Prime Minister of England during the Second World War."

"What else?"

"I missed some dates."

"Those sound like fact questions to me. How did you do on the opinion questions?"

"We don't have any of those."

"Why not?"

"Grandpa, it's a history class."

"So?"

"History is about facts - there's no opinion to it."

"There's no opinion to history?"

"No, it's all facts. It either happened or it didn't."

"That doesn't exactly encourage you to think."

"There is no thinking to history. It's about facts. You just have to know them."

The next 15 minutes featured a lively discussion about whether or not there is any interpretation to history. I said that while it's a fact that bombs were dropped on Japan, whether or not they should have been dropped is opinion. Chelsea didn't agree with me and took off shortly to go study for her next history test.

My questions are these:

How can a kid get to be 15 years old without thinking that the events of history are at least partly open to interpretation? For example, cannot Manifest Destiny also be called genocide? Doesn't it depend on how you look at it? How is it that a high school student believes there is no thinking or opinion involved in the study of history? This bothers me and I will need to invest some time in contemplating how I contributed to that belief.

What do you think?

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3. Article: Helping Students Understand War [back to top]

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Helping Students Understand War: The Do's and Don'ts

By Chick Moorman

What role should teachers play in helping students understand war? How can teachers walk that fine line between telling students what to think and helping them understand more clearly what is going on? The following do's and don'ts are designed to help teachers successfully perform the balancing act of encouraging students to become informed while also teaching them to use critical thinking skills that allow them to form their own opinions.

    • Do make yourself available to students who want to talk about the war. Tell them you are available if they have concerns, questions, or opinions that need to be expressed.
    • Do not act as though this major event is not your responsibility because you teach math, computers, or English literature. Current events and thinking skills are every teacher's responsibility.
    • Do ask opinion-seeking questions, such as, What do you think? What is your view? How would you handle this?
    • Do ask questions that invite students to think. Ask them to analyze, predict, prioritize, summarize, evaluate, generalize, create, and come up with options.
    • Do not push your point of view. Your job is to help students think clearly about important issues and form their own points of view.
    • Do help students see events from differing perspectives. What does this situation look like from the perspective of other countries and different interest groups?
    • Do teach students the importance of honoring their classmates' points of view even as they attempt to persuade them to change their minds.
    • Do not teach right and wrong. Every side is right from its own perspective. Right and wrong are relative, and there is honest debate over the rightness and wrongness of every aspect of this war both within this country and throughout the world.
    • Do teach about democracy, a form of government that allows for active participation, dissent, and diversity.
    • Do challenge students to become active citizens. Help them see the choices they have concerning active involvement in this war. Could they tie yellow ribbons on trees, write a serviceman or servicewoman, write editors or representatives, donate to the Red Cross, or encourage others to give blood?
    • Do help students examine the costs and profits of war. What do we gain and what do we lose? What do others gain and lose?
    • Do challenge students to come up with questions as well as answers.
    • Do not use the increased emphasis on standardized tests as a rationale to miss the teachable moment. Are test scores really more important than this current world crisis?
    • Do personalize war for students. Encourage them to bring in photos of people they know who are serving our country in the armed services. Create a space for them to display photos of their friends and relatives.
    • Do ask students to relate to children their own age who are involved in war. How are they the same? How are they different? Is there some way they could reach out in friendship to the children of war? What would your students like their Iraqi counterparts to know about us?
    • Do have students apply the events of the day to their own lives. Ask them if they have ever felt they needed to use force to solve a situation? What have they done in the past when conflict resolution has broken down?
    • Do not use war to teach solely about war. Use it to teach about self-expression, economics, media, mathematics, reading, diversity, tolerance, government, and more.
    • Do ask students to dream and imagine a world without war. Challenge them to articulate how world peace would look. Ask them to move beyond describing a world without war to detailing a view of the world at peace.

We live in a democracy that not only allows for active participation but requires it. It is time to bring young people into the national dialogue in a way that helps them see themselves as valuable, informed, contributing citizens. That process begins in the classrooms of America's teachers.

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4. Spirit Whisperer Contemplation [back to top]

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What if you are not really a teacher? What if you were sent to earth to be a healer and don't yet realize it? What if healing is your main purpose in the classroom?

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comment to IPP57@aol.com

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