By Lenee Washington
AmeriCorps member on the Amidon-Bowen Elementary School team
#7 Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit
What AmeriCorps member has not thought about what success they will have in relating to and serving their students given their own backgrounds in comparison to their students’? As Lisa Delpit elaborates on in Other People’s Children, educators must know the students they teach—their racial, cultural, social, class, and linguistic backgrounds—in order to do so effectively. Delpit provides a host of knowledge regarding educating children of color in a way that prioritizes their humanity and empowering them for greatness. Specifically, this book provides tools and insight to equip people who come from different racial and/or class groups than students to teach them effectively. She identifies common cultural norms, expectations, and resulting barriers between teachers and students that operate in the classroom learning space and that can compromise the success of students. It is a must read for understanding multiculturalism in education.
#6 Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen
Poverty is a reality for many students that City Year serves, and they do not leave the experience of living in poverty at home. The realities of the many issues that are associated with living in severe poverty are heavy weights that many of our students carry with them to school each day. Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen provides relevant insight into the internal and biological effects of poverty and its bearing on students’ experience at school and in the classroom. By providing readers a clear lens of poverty through which to better view the scope of students’ behavior, academic performance, and motivation, Teaching with Poverty in Mind equips AmeriCorps members like me with practical tools for supporting students who face conditions of poverty to succeed in school and beyond.
#5 “Cause I Ain’t Got a Pencil” by Joshua T. Dickerson
You want your students to come to school prepared because you know it’s one thing they can do to be successful students. You gave your students a pencil yesterday and today, they are already asking you for another one. Why would they come to school without a pencil? Next thing you know, it’s 2:30 pm and your student asks you for a pencil again. You think to yourself or perhaps exasperatedly say to them, “What have you been using all day?” The day is almost over.
The truth is that there are many reasons why our students sometimes come to school without pencils. Oftentimes, this is not their fault. More often than not, teachers, staff, and AmeriCorps members ask our students why they do not have a pencil, but this is usually in a why-aren’t-you-being-a-responsible-student-by-coming-to-class-prepared kind of way. Before we hassle students about something as miniscule as a pencil, let this poem challenge AmeriCorps members and all educators to rethink what it means to be prepared for school and remind ourselves how often our students come to school already having tended to a host of responsibilities that they shouldn’t have to own in the first place.
#4 Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
When the majority the kids at the schools we serve are Black students, there may not be as much of a need to wonder why they are all sitting together in the cafeteria. However, our students are developing notions of what it means to be of a certain race. Oftentimes, our students, from elementary school-aged all the way to high school, notice race as well but lack the language to communicate experiences they are having or have had with race. In Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, Beverly Daniel Tatum explains stages of racial identity development that are relevant to our students’ internalization of their racial selves. She also gives background on the dispositions of students of color toward members and nonmembers of their race, which is an important concept for AmeriCorps members’ near-peer mentorships with their students.
#3 Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov
AmeriCorps members’ responsibilities often resemble that of the teachers we work with. Since a large portion of our service to schools and students are provided in the classroom, practical teaching tools are a must if we wish to get our students back on track or keep them on track to graduate high school. Whether a City Year AmeriCorps member has a desire to enter the teaching force or not, any AmeriCorps member or educator can benefit from the clearly defined teaching strategies presented in Teach Like a Champion.
#2 I Won’t Learn from You! The Role of Assent in Learning by Herbert Kohl
Have you ever refused to learn something? In this book, author Herbert Kohl explores the role of non-learning—learning not to learn— in students’ school experience as a form of resistance against oppressive systems, environments, and curricula. I Won’t Learn from You is among this list of recommended titles for AmeriCorps members because it provides useful, conscious insight on how and why students learn not to learn in school settings and sometimes defer to what this book understands as a defense mechanism. It reveals an underlying dynamic possibly operating in classrooms that can affect AmeriCorps member s interpretation of students school performance and motivation.
#1 [Insert Title of Your Favorite Children’s Book] by [Insert Author]
After all, why not? It’s amazing how much AmeriCorps members forget about what it was like in elementary, middle, and high school sometimes. Keep your favorite book on hand to take you back to that place. Save it for a tough day of service, and don’t forget to share with your own students why it is your favorite children’s book!