Last week here in Champaign-Urbana (IL), kids in the “balanced calendar” schools started their 2019–2020 school year. In a couple more weeks, the “regular calendar” public schools start back and by the end of the month university classes begin. It’s time.
Even those of you whose schools don’t open until after Labor Day are probably beginning to experience that “teacher twinge”—the nagging feeling that summer is ending, along with the excitement looking forward to the beginning of another school year. I’ve seen Twitter and Facebook posts (#backtoschool) about which books you’re reading for your teacher selves and which you’re reading in order to share them with your students (#buildyourstack), about different ways of thinking about how you teach reading and writing, and about ways to design the physical classroom environment.
So, this year, as you prepare for your students, I ask you to also prepare yourself for the possibility of a challenge to what you’re teaching, how you teach it, and the materials you’re using.
It could easily be that you’ve never been challenged and so this preparation falls to the bottom of your list. But I suggest that it only takes one time, an angry parent or an administrator who misunderstands how the text or method you’ve chosen will benefit the students and not harm them, or even a community member with an agenda, to make your teaching life miserable, especially if you are unprepared.
There are a few relatively simple ways to get prepared and they follow:
- Know your school policies for curriculum, text selection, and reconsideration of texts. You can usually find these on your school/district website under school board policies and then under curriculum, instruction, and community relations. If you don’t find these policies, please ask your department head, superintendent, or union representative to see them.
- Have rationales for what you’re teaching. Develop your own, using the Write Your Own Rationale Form and/or adapt rationales from the NCTE supply to your curriculum and intent for the text.
- Know where to find help through the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Center, including a form to report a censorship challenge, an email to contact, and the most helpful policies and resources.
Wishing you and your students a wonderful, prepared, and challenge-free 2019–2020 school year!