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#blackboylit: New & Notable

I’ve been loving some new titles (or new to me) that I’ll either be book talking in upcoming presentations or suggesting when folks ask. Here are a few. All make worthy additions to the on-going list of resources distributed at workshops and available here.

Dream Country by Shannon Gibney

The Season of Styx Malone, Kekla Magoon (MG): funny, buddy novel that includes a realistic Black family living in rural Indiana

Where’s Rodney? Carmen Bogan (PB): fantastic way of thinking about why Black boys (and ALL kids) need to be able to experience nature and what happens when they are outside and able to LIVE

The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip Hop, Carole Boston Weatherford & Frank Morrison (PB): this just arrived in my library. I’ve heard great things about this book and can’t wait to read it.

Finding Langston, Lisa Cline-Ransome (MG): a gentle, slim, beautifully written novel about a boy who moves to Chicago with his father during the Great Migration and struggles to find his way. Literacy saves him, and so, too, does love. Oh how I love this book.

The Parker Inheritance, Varian Johnson (MG): another on my TBR list. It’s picked up a bunch of awards and I’m thinking this is a good model for boy-girl friendships and could spark some healthy discussion about being a good friend, especially for tweens.

Dream Country, Shannon Gibney (YA): I do think this is the first example of a YA novel that covers the relationship between African immigrants and African Americans. Reminded me a lot of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, in that it’s intergenerational and takes place in Liberia and in Minnesota. Be sure to read Gibney’s acknowledgements, particularly about why she wrote her book and about Black boys. Image credit 

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October Update: Where You Can Find Me This Fall

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I’m returning to this blog after too long away. In case you’ve been wondering what I’m up to, I’ve created a Publications & Podcasts page where I’ve put up some recent and relevant stuff.

This fall, I’ll be at the Association of Independent Schools in New England Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference on October 24 and at the People of Color in Independent Schools Conference November 28-Dec. 1 in Nashville. I’ll be co-presenting with the Cambridge Friends Schools’ Jack Hill about #blackboylit. I’m so excited! Come see us!!

I’ve been having lots of fun with my #DisruptTexts cofounders, too. Be sure you’re following us on social media, stop by NCTE for an in-person session, and, in general, be in touch.

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What Happened When We Asked Students to Think: Conclusions

Reading student reflections is always my favorite part of anything I plan. There, if we’ve done it at all well, they will reveal what they really think, what they learned (or didn’t), and offer any suggestions for future instruction. This process of asking for feedback and reflection is amazingly useful and quite humbling. It’s also thrilling. Thus, when I sat down to read through the student reflections of what they’d learned through the messy process of growth mindset (part one is described here and part two is described here) and design thinking, here are some snippets of what they said:

Question: Why do you think this assignment asked you to think of a problem and design a solution?

They said: “Maybe because people want to know what kind of ideas we might have.” “To tell people nothing is impossible, there’s a solution for every problem.” “…there are always problems in this world and to design a solution can help us learn to think of a problem then solve it.” “…because Dr. Parker wanted to know/see what we’re capable of.” “Because we as students might want a change in the high school.”

Question: What risks did you take to move your project forward? What did you try that you weren’t certain about at first? What were the results?

They said:”We repealed our skit in order to move forward”…”We took a risk when we started designing our prototype. We weren’t certain about the drawing of the brain. The result of the drawing turned out to be good.” “The biggest risk was changing of topics because if we did that we’d have to start back at square one again with the very little time we had left. But it turned out all right in the end.” “I wasn’t sure that this idea will work because it seems a bit too far fetched. Like not many teachers and staff in the school may agree with the idea of naptime.” “We tried to use a soft poster, like a thin one and it got destroyed and it resulted to us having a really good poster board.” [Note: ALL students remarked that their results were satisfactory because they made changes. That’s a big deal!]

Question: What did you learn about yourself through this activity?

They said: “I learned that I need to have a positive growth mindset at all time and not everything that’s impossible unless you actually try.” “I can be creative if I want to be and I want to be able to use my creativity through everything I do.” “I like solving problems.” “I can have a lot of potential if I focus more.” “I learned how to manage my time.”

As I look at these responses a few months after the project, I’m gently reminded that, while I felt this project was disorganized and I was one step ahead of my students, they learned a tremendous amount. Specifically, they learned how to collaborate, how to think of something that mattered to them and try to change it, how to take pride in their work, how to present their ideas to an authentic audience.

Since that project, we’ve moved on to other pursuits, but we keep the throughlines of the growth mindset work with us. [Note: it’s important, too, to consider what Carol Dweck has said about how the growth mindset understandings can be used incorrectly with young people. She’s right. We are all combinations of growth and fixed mindsets. It’s situation-dependent. We are all works in progress, and that is not a bad thing.] Students will occasionally challenge each other to “GROW!” which I find hilarious, especially as those words come when we are doing something hard. Kids want more of this type of work, work that matters, work that is real, work that encourages them to push against their own boundaries and, indeed, to grow. 

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A Little Help for Some Teen Book Joy

It’s an all-hands on deck type of situation with my classroom now. All my kids are reading, but they won’t go to the library, I can’t get a library cart for them, and the books they want to read aren’t readily available.

So, in the latest attempt to do some problem-solving, I created a Donors Choose project to raise money for books for them and some bookcases.

If people donate before November 3 and use code SPARK, DC will match the donations.

Here’s the link.

#sharebookjoy!!!

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Winning a Literacy Award

…and, I’m back! I was named a MA Literacy Fellow over the summer. My project is to create what I’m calling the Black Literary Society during this next school year. The goal of the organization is to connect all students in our school to Black literary traditions. We’ll have monthly themes, explore literary luminaries, read some books in a book club, and generally nerd out over literature. This might be the most fun EVER!!!

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Video from the Random House Teachers Event for New MLK HS Anthology

I spoke at Random House’s Author Event for NYC Educators on Friday, June 28, 2013. Best thing I might have said (and what I firmly believe): “Intertextuality is my jam.” The anthology is called A Time to Break Silence and is appropriate for grades 8-12.

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September 4, 2013 · 11:03 am

One Year!

Word Press just informed me that I’ve been blogging for one year. One year?! Already? I swear that I blinked and I missed it. But this picture of Octavia Butler is a fantastic way to celebrate. Image

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