I have the privilege of serving students from the South Chicago/South Shore Neighborhoods of Chicago, at a school where 96% of our students receive free/reduced meals, and anywhere from 22-36% qualify as being in 'transitional' living or experiencing homelessness at any given point in the year.
Our students are amazing-- most of them overcome significant obstacles just to get to school / stay in school due to the challenges poverty and crime place on their neighborhood.
In spite of this, they still work hard to achieve the highest test scores on the South Side, and a 100% college acceptance rate.
After 13 years in Education where I started as a teacher and then moved into administration, I'm returning to the classroom as a Special Education teacher / Learning Specialist to serve our most needy students. The high trauma rate in the South Chicago area results in a high population of students whose learning has been impacted by the psychological and physiological repercussions of such trauma. Often, these students get the fewest resources and the least experienced educators. These students deserve the specialized attention and instruction they need for success in school and life.
As reading teachers, the texts we choose have power. We choose texts that prepare for tests, that expand skills, and that expand minds. This being the case, I would like to do all three and am requesting a classroom set of "The 57 Bus" by Dshka Slater.
For most my students, there are only two kids of people in this world- male and female.
For most of my life, that is how I understood things to be, as well. As our society becomes more understanding of gender fluidity and the multitude of ways by which we can define and respect gender, sexuality and identity, it needs to be a conversation in our classrooms. I think of my own practice - for 13 years, I've been addressing rooms of students as 'ladies and gentlemen.' It was a mark of respect, an adult title for growing young minds. Looking back, I wonder how many students I may have aliened with a simple phrase.
"The 57 Bus" eloquently tells the true story of two teenagers in California - Sasha, an agender individual who uses pronouns they/their/theirs, and Richard, an African American male who uses pronouns he/him/his. In a random encounter on the 57 bus, the young man makes the life altering decision to light Sasha's skirt on fire. The result is tragic for both. Sasha sustained terrible injuries and Richard was arrested on multiple charges, including hate crimes. The book accessibly and beautifully explores what it means to be gender non conforming in a format that can be used in a classroom to create a safe place to ask questions and build community between all students. The book also explores the impact of chance decision making as Richard navigates the justice system in a state that frequently charges minors as adults.
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