Level(s): Elementary, Middle
Voices from the Middle
Volume 20, Number 3, March 2013
Issue Theme: Tolerance 2.0
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Editors' Message: How Is Tolerance Being Addressed in Middle School Classrooms?
Diane Lapp, Doug Fisher, and Nancy Frey
Tolerance: Woven into the Fabric of the School, or Not?
Abstract: Tolerance must be conceptualized based on the diversity that exists in our world, our communities, and our schools. The author posits that dealing with diversity is a 21st-century skill set and that tolerance of difference is a rudimentary element of that set. The diversity of experiences and situations that confront middle school students and their teachers extend well beyond the racial and cultural subgroups we typically use to categorize our diversity. The author argues that school leaders must purposefully and democratically create an inclusive schoolwide culture that welcomes and embraces its diversity. If not, the differences students see in others are likely to be the source of stigma, confusion, and conflict. However, the capacity to tolerate others and their differences can become foundational to empathy, growth, and interdependence. Unfortunately, youth experience and see far too many examples in their daily lives and in the media that model intolerance. In response, the author urges schools to become models of democracy that teach students that our differences can be constructively explored and challenged and may be the source of positive collaborations, developments, and change.
Recognize the Signs: Reading Young Adult Literature to Address Bullying
Kristine E. Pytash, Denise N. Morgan, Katherine E. Batchelor
Abstract: This article summarizes preservice teachers’ experiences in a book club that read young adult literature focused on issues related to bullying. Preservice teachers learned to recognize various incidents of bullying in the books. They also began to consider how they might handle incidents of bullying in their future classrooms.
Using Literature and Digital Storytelling to Create a Safe Place to Address Bullying
Kevin Cordi and Kimberly Masturzo
Abstract: Determined to shift the balance by providing a venue for students’ voices, Cordi and Masturzo reclaimed and remade a Web space to address bullying using digital storytelling (Ohler, 2009). Using Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories, they guided their undergraduate students on a valuable journey of self-exploration, reflection, and investigation, and encouraged them to create digital stories that would document and empower those whose stories have not been told. Students’ videos contained powerful messages, images, music, and literature recommendations to demonstrate that all stories count. Preparing preservice teachers to critically discuss acceptance and respect with their future students by developing digital storytelling and combining their stories with children's and young adult literature proved to be an authentic and memorable learning experience that changed them and the way they viewed their students.
Addressing Stereotypes by Moving Along the Continuum of Cultural Proficiency
Cheryl James Ward
Abstract: Programs to help middle school students deal with racism and hate have been in place for some years, yet almost monthly we hear of students committing suicide or killing other students due to issues of isolation or harassment. Within the confines of a safe classroom, doctoral students in Educational Leadership addressed issues of stereotypes and the pain that comes with stereotyping groups of people. It focuses on the use of cultural proficiency as a means of developing a total school culture—programs, staff, students—that embraces all students and their cultures. This article provides suggestions for moving everyone involved in the school along the cultural proficiency continuum.
Tolerance to Alliance: Deconstructing Dichotomies to Advocate for All Students
Abstract: This article argues that teachers in the twenty-first century need to incorporate queer theory into their teaching practice and their discussions about individual differences in order to advocate for those students most likely to be bullied in schools. It provides a brief background on queer theory, gives an introduction to central ideas of the theory connecting them to bullied teens, and suggests immediate steps that can be taken to foster a more inclusive learning environment. The key points are:
• Sexual/gender identities are not inherent; teens explore them online.
• Queer theory is not just about “gay” people.
• Transformational teaching “makes it better.”
• Change must be enacted now; eight suggestions are offered.
Disrupting Traditions: Swimming against the Current of Adolescent Bullying
Debi Khasnabis and Kevin Upton
Abstract: Advances in technology have aggravated the generations-old problem of bullying in schools. In this article, the authors attend to the impact of social media on bullying and advocate an approach to teaching anti-bullying that incorporates a project-based learning approach for young adolescents. Process drama as a model of learning and the use of multimedia-based tools are also central to the unit of instruction described in the article. Students are involved in two phases of instruction where they first examine bullying as a topic of study and then share their own experiences with bullying through role-play or process drama. The project orientation of the unit ultimately engages students in creating and publishing a digital video that portrays a bullying scenario as well as intervention techniques for victims and bystanders. The authors identify significant learning opportunities for students that participated in the anti- bullying unit.
Empathy 2.0 and the Wonderful World of Wiki Collaboration
Cindy Tarrant, Kathryn Godwin, Stacey Daniel, and Dawn Bolton
Abstract: In a perfect world, diversity would abound in people’s daily lives, promoting friendships across racial, ethnic, and religious lines. When that is not possible and students learn in a more segregated setting, wikis provide a tool to reach beyond the school walls, find a diverse audience, and create meaningful discourse. This article narrates an exploration of multiculturalism using a wiki that allowed two schools—one a Jewish day school and one an urban public school—to discuss experiences with intolerance, participate in literature circles, and post student work. Gee’s “situated learning” justifies this collaboration as a way to make meaning through literature by putting it into social and cultural contexts.
Young Adult Literature: Teaching Tolerance: Resources for Students and Teachers
Abstract: In this column, the author reviews books and other resources that address issues related to teaching tolerance for those of other religions, races, gender orientations, and cultures. It reviews titles related to Jewish oppression, including Doreen Rappaport’s (2012) Beyond Courage, the Untold Story of Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust. It also addresses the civil rights movement and intolerance toward lesbians, bisexuals, gays, and transsexuals, including the powerful October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard (Newman, 2012). Nonfiction titles about cultures and people of the Middle East are also reviewed, including Sharing Our Homeland: Palestinian and Jewish Children at a Summer Peace Camp (Marx, 2010). Online and other free resources about teaching tolerance are reviewed, describing many materials from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
CODA: Opening to Possibility: Reflectivity and Reflexivity in Our Teaching
Jeff Wilhelm, editor
Abstract: This commentary explores how teachers can create a culture of tolerance by promoting reflectivity and reflexivity, and considers classroom processes and activities for doing so. Reflectivity is considered to be the use of personal values, experiences, and habits to make meaning and is a central tenet of inquiry approaches: to build understanding, we must first activate prior reflections, then confront and build on prior experiences and knowledge. But also essential is reflexivity—the privileging of the perspective, history, and values of others.
News and Notes
Abstract: Middle Level Section member Susan Houser urges teachers to educate their students about tolerance. In talking with middle-schoolers, she has found that some students don’t even know what “tolerance” means, let alone have the awareness, tools, and support to practice it.