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2008 Program

Keynote: Linda Christensen

The Power Of Language In School

Using stories and examples from her 30 years as an inner city classroom teacher in Portland, Ore., Linda Christensen will explore how she engages students in a critical study about the power of language. She shows how she grounds her curriculum in students’ language and lives, teaches students to pose essential questions about language and society, and encourages them to reflect on ways to make a difference in the world. Christensen shows concretely how we can value our students’ diverse cultures while giving them access to the language and tools of power.


Linda Christensen taught high school language arts in Portland, Ore. for thirty years and is now the Director of the Oregon Writing Project at Lewis & Clark College. She is the author of Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word, and co-editor of Rethinking School Reform: Views from the Classroom, and Rethinking Our Classrooms: Teaching for Equity and Justice. She is on the editorial board of Rethinking Schools magazine. Her latest book, Teaching for Joy and Justice will be published in the spring of 2009.




Please note, this list of workshops is incomplete, and more workshops will be listed throughout September. Most of our presenters are teachers currently working for social justice in their own classrooms.

Living Algebra, Living Wage

This session places students’ lives in the center of academically rigorous mathematics instruction. Wages can offer some real-world lessons in algebra and allow students to hone their math skills and use them to inform an ethical stance on an issue close to their own lives. Participants will learn to help students use graphs and equations to place earnings in the context of a living wage.
Jana Dean

The Lemon Grove Incident: Mexican American empowerment through school desegregation

Participants will use reading and writing strategies to write about the similarities and differences between the experiences of African Americans and Mexican Americans in schools before Brown vs. the Board of Education.
Catherine Theriault, Amy Ambrosio, Henise Telles-Ferreira

Rookies for Social Justice

This session is for new and soon-to-be teachers confronting the reality of public schools while still working to make a difference. This workshop demonstrates role plays with your new principal and colleagues, time to think about anti-oppression curriculum that meets state standards, and Q&A with new teachers fresh out of their first year.
Sarah Bracken, Emily Coulter

Civil Rights in the Pacific Northwest: A Look at the ‘Internment’ of Japanese Americans during World War II

This session examines resources and methods that may be used in learning about the experience of Japanese Americans during and following World War II. Participants will be exposed to primary accounts and will engage in role playing activities that allow them to take on the persona of characters portrayed in literature written by and/or about internees.
Katie Baydo-Reed, Paul Johnson

Building an Encuentro at the Speed of a Snail

This session will examine the role that an encuentro, or gathering, can have in creating a space for students to demonstrate mastery of social studies content, practice democratic decision-making, and build school community within the same event. Seniors in the presenters’ social studies class ¡Ya Basta! examined and researched the Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico, and put on the first encuentro in their school’s history. Participants in this workshop will receive student-created teaching materials for building and facilitating an encuentro, as well as gain a basic understanding of the Zapatistas.
Isaura Jiménez, Michael Williams

Beyond Kyoto: Teaching about Climate Change Policy and the Atmospheric Commons

This session centers around activities that introduce students to the challenges and opportunities facing the world as we work toward fair policy responses to climate change. Participants will engage in a Climate Conference role play, examining some of the various perspectives, needs, and responsibilities of the world’s wealthy and poor when confronting issues like carbon emissions, alternative energy technologies, and environmental refugees.
Tim Swinehart

Rethinking the Line Between Us

The U.S. war with Mexico (1846-48) rarely makes an appearance in the traditional history curriculum. And yet this war resulted in Mexico losing almost half its territory and the U.S. gaining huge amounts of land, including California. It also was the birth of this country’s first anti-war movement. This participatory workshop will focus on how to introduce students to a multicultural perspective on the war and how to enlist students in thinking more critically about their textbooks. These activities are transferable to other content areas.
K-12 and parents
Bill Bigelow

Afghanistan’s Ghosts: Teaching The Kite Runner and the ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan

While most political pundits agree that the war in Iraq has failed miserably, the war in Afghanistan has not received the same scrutiny. Critical analysis of war requires that we also surface the ways in which “the good war” can be understood from multiple perspectives. This participatory workshop will focus on how to introduce students to a multicultural perspective on the war and how to enlist students in thinking more critically about the novel The Kite Runner. These activities are transferable to other content areas.
Ian McFeat

Voicing your Global Justice Vision in an Era of Standardization

With national, state, and district mandates, where is there room for the teacher’s voice and vision? What does it mean to be an activist educator in a climate increasingly dominated by corporate interests and standardization? How can we justify our work for broader social and environmental justice in a test-driven environment? These are questions we must ask and answer every day. Through autobiographical writing and discussion, participants will explore and articulate their vision as education activists.
Michael Vavrus

Rethinking Special Education

Do you use a “brain-friendly” approach in your classroom? Want to make a brain out of crumpled-up newspaper? Children are really interested in their brains – let’s teach them neuroscience! And how can current neuroscience be used to further benefit students with IEP? Bring ideas or resources to introduce in a round-robin discussion. K-12
Doris Brevoort

Conscious Rap: Hooking Students on Reading and Social Justice with Music

A high intensity workshop that empowers, informs, and educates students, parents, teachers and other participants by using Hip Hop and Conscious Lyrics to develop higher order reading and thinking skills and awareness of social issues. A wise man once said, “You have to bait a fish with what a fish likes to eat.” This workshop demonstrates how to “hook” students with a genre of music that they can relate to because of background, family history, and societal influence. 7-12
Karanja Crews

Teaching Leadership Skills for Social Justice

Student leaders are a fantastic source of ideas and energy within a school. Too often, they are given direction with little opportunity for input, or are hand-chosen by administrators. In this session we will explore ideas of leadership that go beyond student council meetings, spirit week, and commercial fundraising activities. Young student leaders will discuss which skills have served them best in harnessing their own power to create positive change in their school and community. We will look at and create models that allow more than student council members to be seen as leaders within their school. 6-12
Samantha Chandler and student presenters

Sustainability: Empowering Students for Change

How do we integrate social justice work and still teach students reading, writing, and math? In this workshop session, participants will engage in a gallery walk of student work developed during a unit on sustainability that ended with students presenting proposals to community leaders, school administrators, parents/guardians and local business leaders about how to create more sustainable homes, schools, and communities. Workshop attendees will engage in activities and discussions aimed at designing their own sustainability curriculum for their community.
Dusty Hoesly

Increasing Our Cultural Competence: Advocating for Change and Taking Action to Address Racism

Becoming culturally competent is an active and on-going process that develops through our willingness to challenge the status quo. This workshop moves beyond awareness of self as a racial being and knowledge of ethnically diverse cultures, and takes us to a place of action and ways we can advocate for change within our organizational settings.
Caprice Hollins

Grading for Equity and Justice

Standards/Competency Based Evaluation has transformed teaching and learning in our academy, The School of Urban Literacy (SoUL), at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. This presentation will share the evolution of a standards based approach in the classroom. Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on their own assessment practices and be challenged in their personal philosophies of assessment and grading. Rubrics, pre-assessments, formative and summative assessments will be examined.
Jennifer Zamira, Amy Lavold, Bernadette Ray

Creating a more Democratic Classroom

Public schools are institutions where teachers are positioned as dictators – hopefully benevolent dictators. Given that fact, how can we create democratic classrooms? What is democracy in a school? I will share approaches that have worked with my learners, and we will have a democratic discussion so we can share successes.
Ken Rubin

Writing Our Lives to Develop Cross-Cultural Understanding

What does it feel like to be a stranger in a new country? A newcomer in an established classroom or school? A parent visiting school? In this hands-on workshop, participants will engage in reading and writing strategies that help students develop literacy skills as well as cross-cultural understanding.
Elizabeth Schlessman and Beth Essex

I Am a Teacher of …: Using “I Am From” Poems to Explore Why We Became Educators

In this workshop we will write an educator’s “I Am From” poem exploring the series of life experiences that brought us to teaching our subject and/or grade. The presenter will model his own and others’ poems as fertile ground for this exploration.
Peter Thacker

Representation Issues at the National Level: How Shall We Be Represented?

The 2000 presidential election shocked many U.S. citizens when the loser of the popular vote “won” the election. This workshop will provide materials and strategies for examining representational issues regarding the electoral college and single-member district, winner-take-all House elections. We will also explore electoral alternatives and how they could impact representation.
Regon Unsoeld

Beyond Barbie: Moving from Scale to Social Justice

Starting with mathematizing the Barbie doll in terms of proportional reasoning, we will explore serious social and cultural issues. Besides examining the relationship between self-worth and body image that often results in eating disorders, we will also look at labor issues – particularly in terms of sweatshop conditions – in toy manufacturing. K-12
Swapna Mukhopadhyay

Resisting High-stakes Testing

This session will explore the real impact of WASL and NCLB on students, teachers and parents. Participants will discover small and large steps they can take to stop harmful testing practices and hear the firsthand account of a teacher who “just said no” to WASL. K-12 and parents
Carl Chew and Juanita Doyon

Black student/White school

This workshop will explore how a lack of cultural competency by staff can be deleterious to the cognitive/academic development of African American students and how this is magnified when the students themselves are dealing with an identity crisis brought on from living in the suburbs and feeling cultural detachment. Participants will leave with a framework for action and strategies they can use right away. K-12
Nate Bowling-Gibbs

Tribal Voices: Intellectual Property Rights and the teaching of Regional Tribal History and Culture

New legislation has paved the way for culturally competent teaching of Native American History in Washington State with a new Tribal Sovereignty curriculum resource developed by a collaborative team of Washington educators and Tribal representatives. We will discuss the definition of intellectual and cultural property as defined in an agreement between the 29 Tribes in Washington and various state education agencies. In small groups, we will discuss the language of this important document, what it means for teaching the history of regional Tribes, and how it can help guide our teaching.
Michi Thacker

Examining Your Hidden Curriculum to Improve Social Justice in Your Classroom

This workshop will present a guided tour of the hidden ways we teach, such as what is on our walls and whose voices are heard through texts. Participants will map their own classrooms and in small groups develop a plan for positively using hidden curriculum to promote more social justice.
Jacque Ensign

Defending Education Across Borders: “Granito de Arena” film Screening and Discussion.

Documentary filmmaker, Jill Freidberg, will present the film Granito de Arena (Grain of Sand). Granito de Arena is the story of hundreds of thousands of public schoolteachers whose grassroots, non-violent movement on behalf of public education took Mexico by surprise. Mexican teachers have endured brutal repression in their 25-year struggle for social and economic justice in public schools. Following the screening, the discussion will include an update on the teachers’ movement in Mexico, and will also look at how the issues in the film are relevant to public education here and how educators can use the film as an organizing and education tool.
K-12, parents, teacher education
Jill Friedberg

Youth Cultural Activism in South Africa Today: A Screening and Discussion of the film Masizakhe: Building Each Other, by Scott Macklin

Documentary filmmaker, Scott Macklin, will present the film Masizakhe: Building Each Other. The Eastern Cape city of Port Elizabeth is home to a group of dynamic young artists dedicated to the upliftment of their community through cultural activism. This film explores the collective identity of these activists through their ideologies and diverse initiatives. Rushay and Imhotep, big brothers of the scene, ’emcee’ a narrative that explores the principles and relevance of hiphop, black consciousness and history to the youth’s continuing struggle for freedom. Impressive animations combined with powerful spoken word poetry support a documentary that demonstrates the energy and urgency of a new South African youth culture. Following the screening, there will be a discussion regarding implications of using this film in a classroom setting. The film is directed by Angelica and Scott Macklin, and is 80 minutes in length.
K-12, parents, teacher education
Scott Macklin

Poetry as Tribute to the Commonplace

Poetry can act as a weapon for justice in a society that oppresses people who aren’t white, who don’t speak English, whose work as janitors and migrant laborers is exploited. Through the power of language, students can learn to make the invisible, visible; they can demand dignity for the commonplace subject, command respect for things and people normally denied such respect. In this workshop, we will write a praise poem for the commonplace, for the people and the places that raised us.
K-12, parents, teacher education
Linda Christensen

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