Staff Homework

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Dear Families:

We wanted to share with you some of the work that we do as a staff on Monday and Tuesday afternoons.  

One such project is our staff book groups.  This year, teachers and paraprofessionals have broken up into seven groups with each group reading and discussing books, books, which we believe will generate thought and pondering as well as self reflection.  These books have been chosen by our Race and Equity Committee and are important readings in this day and age.

The books are Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School  by Carla Shalaby,  Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta L. Hammond, and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.   

Troublemakers, written by a former elementary school teacher, explores the lives of four children who struggle with and perhaps challenge the demands of the classroom. By beautifully describing each of these individuals, Shalaby allows teachers to reflect on their own practice in relation to the unique members of their classroom communities.

In Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students, Zaretta Hammond connects brain research to how we think about teaching and learning and what we actually do each and every day in our classrooms as we work with children from a range of cultures, experiences and backgrounds.

Lastly, Robin DiAngelo in White Fragility explores how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what to do to engage more constructively.

In smaller sub-groups, teachers have come up with plans to make these conversations have the biggest impact.  They’ve come up with reading assignments, guiding questions, and facilitators for each upcoming meeting time. In addition to reading and discussions in book groups, staff will have the opportunity to share what they have learned with their colleagues on their grade level or cluster teams, who have read other books. The goal at this time is to directly talk about how the content of the books and our conversations can impact our work with children.  

We also would like to share this work with parents and as a start, will offer the texts to the members of our School Leadership Team.  

As we enter the week before the holidays, we encourage you to check the school calendar.  There may be a share or two happening for your child’s class, not to mention the big performance on the evening of December 19th at 6:00.  Hope to see you there.

All for now,


A Few Quotes of the Week:

From Pre-K:

One night  AvaRue Tang, a child in Amy Binin’s pre-k class participated in her family gratitude share:  

AvaRue’s mom: AvaRue, what are you grateful for today?

AvaRue: We tried to make mud. We try to make different ways to make mud.

AvaRue’s mom: How did you make mud?

AvaRue: We tried sand and water. Then we tried small leaves and water. Tomorrow we are going to try dirt and water.

AvaRue’s mom: Oh yeah. Which ingredient do you think makes the best mud?

AvaRue: Oh, water.

[She said it very matter-of-factly. Mom was expecting her to say, dirt, leaves or sand. Ha! She’s so right—water is the common factor here.]

From Kindergarten:

Barbara was talking with Valerie and Marisol’s kindergarten class about how to make a paddle boat using a milk carton, chopsticks, a rubber band and a piece of wood.   She explained that she found out how to make the boats from the internet. Barbara told the children that when she got to the part explaining how to make the paddle wheel out of a rubber band and a piece of wood, her computer had shut down. But Barbara thought the kids could figure this out. She asked the students, “How do you think I can use the piece of wood and the rubber band to make a spinning paddle wheel?” Alexander (AJ) DeGuzman Jr. replied, “My daddy can fix your computer. He is coming today.”  

From Third Grade:

Nancy and Alex’s third grade class did a shared reading of an article about linguists’ staffs and how they were used in Ghana. During a class discussion about the job of a linguist, Conor Brennan explained, “I like to think of a linguist as a bridge. The ambassador from a village is an island and the village chief is the main land. You could swim, as in learn the other language, but it’s easier to take the bridge, or the linguist.”

What an incredible and deep metaphor! We also love how Conor’s understanding connects the second grade island study and bridge study to the 3rd grade West Africa study.

From Fourth Grade:

Layla Wilson and her mom arrived at Maria’s second grade classroom on Friday morning to find a closed door with a sign reading, “Go to BAX.”  Layla’s mom asked Layla, “Where is BAX?” At that moment, fourth grader, Milo Daniels, in Jess and Carrie’s class, walked by. Using his knowledge of the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, he piped up, “BAX, that’s in Park Slope.” (BAX of course was down in the dance studio where Donna was teaching!)

Sharif Ben- Ali was chatting with his mom.  He said that I (Anna) was someone he played Fortnight with, and my game name was Anna-Banana!


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