Discussion topic #4: How do you/will you decide what themes and topics to engage in the space of your classroom? What themes or issues are or might be encouraged, and what topics are/will be discouraged or perhaps off-limits? How do, or how might, institutional boundaries and school or departmental norms shape what is possible in your classroom? How might an educator distinguish between pushing a topic versus creating a space to respond to student issues or concerns? A related question: how might you navigate the tension between pushing your own interpretations and politics as opposed to encouraging your students to develop their own? If you mention texts, lessons, films, media clips, etc. please share citations so that we may find and reflect on them too.
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As a public librarian, I have the advantage of working in a place where rarely we get our books challenged. Yet, I have to keep myself in check to not judge when adding books to my collection. Personally there are topics I feel very strongly about, but I do not cross that line, because I am here to teach, not to preach. It is one thing to encourage my students to see different points of views and another to push my agenda unto them. When in the classroom or the library we have to present the material and let the students learn.
When I set up programs with the children who come into the library or when I was a school librarian, I always want to bring something new and create a teachable moment. Some of the themes have been humorous, such as the difference in generations and others a bit tougher (drugs and death in the community).
I think that the more we are honest with our students, the more they will be open to discuss different viewpoints. Children and teens are intelligent and can sometimes see through adults. What we might consider the only way might not be the way for someone else. Years ago, a father told me that his daughter did not like books about magic because they were very religious and it was not allowed. The dad was so mistaken, because the child loved them. She told me when the dad had stepped away, that books about fairy tales and magic were her favorites because it took her away from the problems in the neighborhood.
I never stay away from “tough” themes. Instead, I find a way to discuss it by using books that are appropriate for the age of the child. As a librarian, I work together with the child’s teacher or parent, to provide a way to discuss these themes. It is good to keep those lines of communication open even when we disagree.