Archive | May 2, 2015

Students Teaching Teachers about Empathy*

Students Teaching Teachers about Empathy*

By Lindsey Weedston

Kyle Schwartz, an elementary school teacher in Denver, recently came up with an activity for her third-grade class that went viral. Employed at a school where 92% of kids qualify for free or reduced lunch , Schwartz was looking for a way to better understand her students. She handed out note-cards and asked them to finish this sentence: “I wish my teacher knew…”

The results were heart-wrenching:

Although it’s a minor problem in comparison to what some of Schwartz’s students are going through, to this day I still wish my teachers had known how hard it was for me to give presentations. Forcing me into public speaking did nothing to alleviate my fear of it.

The terror. The sweating. The sleep deprivation. The dread that swept over my body like the spectre of death the moment my name was called. I had anxiety over public speaking so bad, I would be stressed out from the day the project was announced. I’d be so nervous the night before that I would be utterly unable to sleep and so, on top of being terrified, I had to present in a groggy, sleep-deprived, there-isn’t-enough-coffee-in-the-universe fog. These projects made me miserable.

Watching Schwartz’s story take off on the Internet got me thinking about how much we are affected by experiences in school beyond our classes, extracurricular activities, and cafeteria gossip. Most kids deal with issues at home, illnesses, or disabilities that are invisible to others. These challenges affect every part of the learning process—including attention span, classroom behaviour, and interaction with other kids. Every child has different needs, but the inflexibility of the education system in the United States often leaves behind those who don’t fit in. If you can’t learn to read the way reading is taught, you’re out of luck. Roadblocks like this hurt grades, lower confidence, and often haunt us into adulthood.

My teachers did nothing to address my phobia of public speaking, and I never learned how to give a presentation without being stricken with terror. Today, that fear limits my career possibilities. I could seek help for it on my own now, but it would have been so much easier (and cheaper) if someone had understood and intervened when I was young.

In order to explore this issue further, I embarked on a project of my own and asked some of my friends to finish this sentence: “I wish my teacher had known…”

Here are some of their responses, which have been lightly edited:

“I wish my teacher had known how much it hurt me emotionally and intellectually when they would teach other subjects and work on projects, which I missed while I was in my special class for dyslexia.”

Janelle has the common learning disability dyslexia, which affects about 10 percent of the human population. Because she didn’t learn to read like most kids, she was removed from classes each day for special instruction with other dyslexic kids. Because of that, she missed out on things that the rest of the student body experienced, like math lessons and arts and crafts projects. The knowledge gaps left Janelle thinking something was wrong with her, a feeling she struggled with through middle and high school.

“I wish my teacher had known that telling kids not to pick on me because I was ‘disabled and sensitive’ was not adequate help and actually counterproductive.”

Addison was born with cerebral palsy, which caused his left arm and leg to be smaller and weaker than his right. It affected his ability to run, play sports, and generally keep up with the other boys. As a result, he was bullied from a young age. Teachers did little to help him, and pointing out his disability only made him a more obvious target.

“I wish my teacher had known that just because I didn’t talk didn’t mean I didn’t understand. I wish my teacher had known that when they called my house to complain about my silence, my parents beat me for it.”

Janessa was born with a hearing disorder that left her mostly nonverbal through much of elementary school. Her teachers assumed Janessa’s silence meant she was less intelligent than her peers or that she wasn’t trying hard enough. She remembers how her teachers belittled her, yelled at her, and bullied her in front of her classmates, which in turn increased the bullying she endured from other kids. Unaware of abuse at home, teachers complained about Janessa’s behavior to her parents, which only exacerbated her abusive home life.

In sixth grade, a standardized test revealed she read at a college level. As an adult, Janessa recognizes the potential that had been hiding beneath her quiet surface and feels her teachers could have done more to understand her needs. “An intelligent curiosity dwelled behind my silence,” she said. “In not stopping the bullying by my peers, they further enforced my silence.”

“I wish they had known in high school that I was having a catatonic panic attack and that’s why I was scared to go to school. Or that I took so many bathroom breaks because I had to throw up any amount of food I ate. I wish they knew that we were too poor to buy calculators and flash drives, and that I didn’t know how to use PowerPoint because we didn’t have that on our computer.”

Poor attendance and frequent bathroom breaks are often assumed to be the result of laziness and disinterest in school. In Damielle’s case, her mental illness made it difficult to go anywhere, let alone spend all day in school. While many teen girls suffer from eating disorders like bulimia, a lot of school administrators remain unaware of the issue and are therefore unsympathetic to kids who ask for frequent bathroom breaks or can’t focus due to lack of nutrition.

As a former classmate of Damielle’s, I remember that PowerPoint presentations were a required aspect of many school projects. Having grown up in a middle-class family, it never occurred to me that some kids’ parents might not be able to afford the program, and that kids like Damielle had to try and complete presentations in the library or at friends’ homes. None of Damielle’s teachers recognized her behavior as a sign of a bigger problem until high school, but by then the years of struggling had left their mark.

All of these people, including myself, survived school and are now functioning adults. The question is, why does school have to be something kids “survive”? It seems deeply unfair that the friends I talked to had so much trouble in school because of differences they couldn’t control.

These stories reinforce my belief that the U.S. school system can and should be so much more than it is now. We need to change the way we think about education. Schools need to be flexible enough to create alternate paths around obstacles like poverty, disability, and illness. Teachers need more resources, more help, and smaller class sizes so they have an easier time getting to know their students.

With CNN and The Today Show reporting on Schwartz’s class project, she has become a leading voice in the national conversation about the importance of teachers building trust with their students. Educators all over the country have been inspired to learn more about their students’ individual needs and personal hurdles by holding their own activities around “I wish my teacher knew.” What started as one small classroom project has sparked a movement to improve the U.S. education system through simple empathy and understanding.






Related Topics:

Where Did Compassion Go?

Principals Express Concern over the Common Core Curriculum*

Jesus not Allowed in School*

Russia to Ban Import of U.S. Peanuts*

Russia to Ban Import of U.S. Peanuts*

Russia’s agriculture watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, will introduce a ban on import of peanuts from the United States starting May 1, 2015, the agency said on Thursday. The prohibition will be effective until the United States provides clarifications concerning the excessive content of cadmium in the US peanuts.



Related Topics:

Russia Bans Japanese Seafood*

Russia Bans Import of GMO Products*

Farmers Abandoned by EU from Russian Food Ban*

Russia’s GMO Import Ban Boosts Local Organic Farmers*

China Bans American Shellfish over High Levels of Arsenic*

Mayans Win Legal Battle Banning Monsanto’s GM Soya*

Italian Court Upholds Ban on Monsanto GM Corn*

Monsanto Reports $156 Million Loss in Q4 as Farmers Abandon GM Crops*

Spreading the Word through Festival for Democracy*

Spreading the Word through Festival for Democracy*

Reverend Billy of the Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Choir. (Reuters / Eduardo Munoz)

Reverend Billy of the Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir. (Reuters / Eduardo Munoz)

A group of radical performance activists who hail from New York staged an “exorcism” of corporate power outside an international law firm in London to raise awareness about the dangers of an EU-US trade deal being brokered behind closed doors.

The group, Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Choir, conduct creative and political performances across the globe to preserve local communities, life and the imagination.

On their website, they describe themselves as “wild anti-consumerist gospel shouters and Earth loving urban activists.”

In a symbolic act of political protest on Thursday, the performance artists targeted the London office of global law firm King and Spalding over its role in Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) litigation.

The firm has represented a slew of corporations in lawsuits against governments through a controversial investor protection mechanism – a version of which may form part of TTIP.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in question has been the focus of criticism in Europe and America, with anti-TTIP academics, trade unionists and politicians warning it will pave the way for corporations to sue governments attempting to legislate in the interests of ordinary citizens.

Using this mechanism, King and Spalding has aided multiple corporate clients who are engaged in a series of bilateral trade pacts.

Among these were Enron and Mobil’s legal actions against the Argentinian government, and Chevron and Texaco’s legal actions against the Ecuadorian government.

The creative spectacle was co-organized by UK think tank Global Justice Now.

“King and Spalding have represented countless corporate clients in suing governments for making decisions that have benefited workers’ rights, public services, or protected the environment,” Guy Taylor, a leading trade campaigner from Global Justice Now, told the Solicitors Journal.

“The controversial EU-USA trade deal TTIP would massively ramp up the ability of corporations to carry out court cases like this,” he said.

“Governments would start implementing legislation on the basis of whether they were safe from litigious corporations rather than whether it was beneficial to ordinary people. And law firms like King and Spalding would make a fortune through representing even more corporate clients in all the additional court cases.”

On Friday evening, Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Choir are also expected to attend a 10-day spectacle of dissent organized by Occupy Democracy in protest against corporate capture, environmental chaos and cronyism.

Billed as a Festival of Democracy, the affair will feature a diverse series of workshops, artistic performances, creative direct actions and discussions throughout the election period.

It will begin on Friday evening and finish on May 10.


Related Topics:

Corporation vs. State: Sweeping TPP Powers Strip Sovereignty*

Europe-wide March against Trade Deal between EU and US*

This is what TPP Looks Like: World Bank Demands Argentina Pay French Company*

Detroit: Your World under TPP*

The Watery Road to Serfdom: After Detroit, Baltimore*

Gates and Friends to Meet Privately on how they can Profit from African Seeds*

Protestors Shut down Nestlé Plant in Drought Stricken California*

Fracking Companies Free to Use 70 Million Gallons Of Clean Water in the Midst of U.S. Record Drought*

Protesting has Gone Flamenco, in Spain at Least*

Who’s Starving Yemen’s Children?

Who’s Starving Yemen’s Children?

The US-facilitated Saudi blockade is leading to severe food and water shortages in Yemen. When Iran tried to land a humanitarian cargo plane in Yemen this week, the Saudis blew up the runway so it could not land. What’s behind this escalation? Where might it lead?

Related Topics:

Saudi Blood Money for Mass Slaughter in Yemen*

St. Patrick’s Day*

Venezuelan President Calls for Workers to Take on Economic Policy*

Venezuelan President Calls for Workers to Take on Economic Policy*

We know who will not like this one iota… it sets a bad example

The president called on Venezuelan workers to participate in shaping economic policies now that they enjoyed new institutions that represent them. 

During a speech concluding  International Workers’ Day celebrations in Caracas on Friday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro stated that “now was time for workers to lead the economic policy of the country.”

Before the crowd of workers that had marched in the capital to celebrate the day, Maduro affirmed that the Bolivarian Revolution had increased the number of workers unions, councils of workers and federations.

I believe this is a great achievement of the Revolution, to have reinforced the union-channeled demands of the working class,” he said.

May Day Labour march in Venezuela

May Day Labour march in Venezuela

The Venezuelan president will meet with the Presidential Council of the Working Class in one week in order to define the policies that will ensure a victory in the economic war launched by the United States and Venezuela’s right-wing opposition in a bid to destabilize the country’s democratically elected socialist government.

Maduro also announced a 30 percent of payrise of the minimum wage. In Venezuela, during the 16 years of the Bolivarian Revolution, workers’ salaries have been raised 29 times when  including the one announced Friday, compared with nine times during the neoliberal governments of the Fourth Republic which ruled between 1974-1998.


Related Topics

Venezuelan Government Stops U.S.-backed Coup*

The U.S. Coup against Venezuela has Served to Strengthen Caribbean Unity

For Foiling U.S. Coups, U.S. Slap Sanctions on Venezuela*

Speech by Raúl Castro at the Summit of the Americas*

Widespread Police Brutality has Thousands March in Solidarity with Baltimore*

Widespread Police Brutality has Thousands March in Solidarity with Baltimore*

By Cassius Methyl

From Seattle to San Diego, Sacramento to Los Angeles, Portland to Oakland, this week the West Coast stood unified with the common denominator of wanting justice for Freddie Gray and victims of the police state. In conjunction with Philadelphia and New York, the West Coast demonstrated unity.

In Sacramento, 100-150 people marched at 65th and Florin where police surrounded the area. A few moved onto a rooftop, did nothing but intimidate while real crime occurred elsewhere. Exclusive footage filmed by Anti-Media can be viewed below. In a speech, a man said “We need to create our own system.”

In City Heights, San Diego a protest of hundreds of people marched for Freddie Gray/Baltimore.

In Oakland and all over the San Francisco Bay Area, protestors will march during May Day today. Below is footage of a large protest in Oakland from a few days ago.

In Seattle, Westlake Plaza was filled with protestors. The link here has footage, but it is not on YouTube yet.

On the south side of LA 6 people were arrested in protests.

To quote an activist’s recent statement:

I say, we need to keep marching even if the cops get convicted. We need to march for unity, march for the police chief to resign, march for absolutely anything that can get people out in the streets uniting, getting their blood flowing. We’re going to have to stand up against tyranny constantly in the future; we might as well get used to it now. We are making history; lets motivate each other and refuse to stop marching.


Related Topics:

Man Who Recorded Freddie Gray Video Arrested*

George Soros: The Hidden Hand behind Social Unrest*

Days of Rage in Baltimore and Mexico*

Obama’s Policed State

NWO: ‘Annoying’ Behaviour Now Under Police Control in the U.K. *

Chart of Deaths from Police Shooting*

When the Police Come Knocking at your Door…

Get Out of Jail Free Card for Cop Involved in 100+ Tortures of Black Men*

Utah Police Responsible for More Killings than Criminals*