#SOL18: Being the Change


I’m a product of my background.

I grew up on a farm in southeast Iowa. I went to school in a small town of approximately 6,000 citizens.  We were a homogeneous community.  Our biggest disagreements were between Democrats and Republicans or Catholics and Methodists.  Words.  Not anger. Not distrust. Words. There was one African American family.  One family. Although I graduated as one of 171 students in my class, there was no diversity at my grade level. None.

When I attended junior college, I was in a town of 20,000+. Diversity, some. And yet, our school was small enough that I knew people as individuals and not as a “racial group”. So it was a culture shock when at 19, I moved on to a university dorm in a town of 30,000+ with girls who didn’t look like me, didn’t talk like me, and who didn’t want to talk to me.  I was totally unprepared.

What could have prepared me? 

Relationships matter.  People matter.  When we understand our own relationships, we are better able to support the students in our classrooms. What happens when students want to talk about topics like race, gender, politics, religion and sexuality?  Are you comfortable with those topics?  What if their need to discuss those issues is so powerful that they can’t focus on learning until their conversation takes place.  What are your options?  One beginning point is to pick up Sara K Ahmed’s book, Being the Change:  Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension. It’s an EASY read.  What’s tough is actually “doing the work” yourself in order to become “comfortable with the discomfort” that comes with learning and growing.
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Here are just a few quotes from Sara  for you to think about:

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If you read and loved Upstanders, Sara K. Ahmed, will be no surprise to you.  She’s bright, articulate and so ready to challenge the complexities of the world. Heinemann has a podcast here where you can hear directly from Sara about this book.

What are you learning? 

What do you know about “social comprehension”?

Join the #G2Great chat Thursday, May 3, 2018 at 8:30 EST to learn from Sara!

Wakelet archive from #G2Great chat here.



Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                      slice of life 2016

18 responses

  1. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book this summer! I was lucky enough to be in a recent workshop that Sara was leading and I know I have so much to learn from her.

    1. Erika,
      It’s amazing! I think 2018 is the year of professional resources. So MANY great ones! But this is special because it’s also about “personal learning”!

  2. Oh, my! I love how you have taken us on a journey through your growing up and then holding it up to Sara’s book. We need to listen and give our students center stage. These words you share can’t be said enough. You’ve just sold one more book!

    1. Julieanne,
      I just love Sara’s work. It all makes so much sense. I think it’s often easy to give “lip service” to many ideas – harder when we have to “walk the talk”! (or as we now know, the students will call BS)

  3. I have not heard of Sara K. Ahmed before…now I am very intrigued. I will add her books to my summer reading pile. Thanks!!!

    1. Adrienne,
      The Heinemann site has some excerpts. And after the chat, you can check out the Literacy Lenses blog where Dr. Mary Howard will be writing about the chat.

  4. Hi Fran, Have you shared this with Sara Ahmed, yet? I bet she’d be thrilled. I like the term social comprehension which may help several folks who feel uncertain about wading into social justice waters find firmer ground to stand upon. I haven’t read her book yet but it is on my radar and you have just boosted it on my priority list. Your blog background “Be Curious!” offers a particularly fitting message for what you’ve just offered us here.

    1. Yes, I’ve shared. When I think of social justice, it’s my job to open up “the world” but not to tell the stories for anyone else. That makes the need for diverse books and literature so much more imperative in classrooms! 🙂

  5. Thank you for introducing me to Sara’s books. I’ve now ordered them and look forward to reading them!

    1. Karen,
      I am sure you will enjoy them. Sara is quite brilliant and it’s hard to put her books down until one is finished reading them!

  6. This sounds like such a powerful book, Fran! I especially love the quote you shared about students being “far less willing” to let someone tell them who and what they are when they are afforded the floor to do it for themselves. Really got me thinking how valuable our teaching can be in literacy instruction that encourages student agency and independence. I have to add this book to a long list! Thanks 🙂

    1. Lanny,
      We typically choose five quotes for a book. We could not get it under 11, so that’s why we have been tweeting out all these extra ones. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE when a book is that quote worthy. Dr. Mary Howard will have the Literacy Lenses post after – probably Sunday! . . . And yes! Students must tell their own stories – own them – for agency and independence.

      2018 has been hard on the book budget . . . So many great ones! ❤

  7. “We need to be mindful not only of what we mean to say but how we say it.” I know so many people who just blurt out things without really thinking about what they are saying or how it will come across. I, too, went to a small school where there was no diversity. I was not prepared for life at Penn State when I started there. I guess the nuns I had as teachers were not comfortable discussing diverse topics.

    1. Well, I had nuns at my junior college . . . they were NOT comfortable discussing diverse topics.

      I worry about classrooms where there is a monologue, whatever the teacher says, or even a discussion, that is teacher led. More discovery/inquiry and letting students find their way as well as “what does that really mean”? 🙂

  8. I have this book and am excited to dive in – thinking it will be my new summer study – spending time with each chapter and reflecting like I did with Harvey Daniels’ A Curious Classroom last summer. There are so many great titles out right now, plus many that I would like to catch up on that I missed (before my time as a teacher books!) Thanks for helping to get the word out and for inspiring me to get right on this reading!

    1. Prioritizing professional reading is always an issue for me. I try to leave space for “re-reads” but that doesn’t always happen unless I tag a friend. This will be great for a summer study!

  9. Thank you for the book recommendation. The school librarian is making library orders right now, so it will be a good addition to the list. As a school we are deepening our understanding of inquiry and concept-based instruction. I just finished H. Lynn Erickson’s “Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom.”

  10. What important thinking for our times. Thanks

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