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Resources for Talking with Students about Violence

November 14, 2015

Linda C.:

This morning our thoughts are with Paris. Another senseless tragedy…. Unfortunately, I have gathered resources in the past for teachers to use in the classroom. I hope these will help you be ready for Monday.


Originally posted on From Surviving to Thriving:

Another  senseless tragedy ended a beautiful spring day in Boston and clouded the memories of those courageous marathon runners who were pursuing a  dream. Below are resources for talking with your students and helping them see that the world can be a better place and that we can all be agents of change.

lightGraphic by Peter H. Reynolds

Previous Posts (sadly)



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How will you teach the First Thanksgiving?

November 8, 2015

Linda C.:

Thanksgiving is coming soon. How will you teach about the first Thanksgiving? This past blog post offers ideas and resources for your classroom!

Originally posted on From Surviving to Thriving:

Thanksgiving will soon be here. It is the time of the year when we should all stop and reflect.

How fortunate I am! I have so much to be thankful for….my family, my health, my friends, my university family, my students (current and former), my health, my freedom…the list is endless. Of course there are things I would like for myself and my family and for those less fortunate than I. My son used to ask me what I would like for a gift and I would always reply, “World Peace!” He has promised to work on it.

Growing up on a farm, I can appreciate that it is also the time of year to be thankful for the harvest, to appreciate that which will sustain us throughout the winter. In fact, growing up we did not have a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. We grew many crops and animals but not turkeys, so we…

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Diwali Coming Soon: Culture-Gram

November 7, 2015

Diwali Coming Soon: Culture-Gram

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible.

Mahatma Gandhi

I am excited to continue this series on culture and diversity.  I would like to extend a special thank you to my student, Sumeera for today’s guest post.

Diwali, or Dipawali, is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (or deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects us from spiritual darkness. This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians. Diwali, celebrated in October or November each year, originated as a harvest festival that marked the last harvest of the year before winter. Indians celebrate with family gatherings, glittering clay lamps, festive fireworks, strings of electric lights, bonfires, flowers, and sharing of sweets.

What is Diwali?Diwali

Diwali is a religious holiday that Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains celebrate. It’s called the Festival of Lights.

When is it celebrated?

This year (2015) people will start celebrating from November 10th to the 13th. The main day is on November 11 in America!

What do people do?

People celebrate by decorating their homes, lighting candles outside their homes, burning firecrackers.

Are there any days that kids may miss school or not be able to do homework?

Most kids still go to school in America but in India kids have 10 days off.

Do I  have to do anything?

As a teacher, you could wish the Indian students happy Diwali and invite those students to talk to the class about the holiday.

Can students do their homework?

It depends on the family.

Why are the kids missing school? 

Again it depends on the family.  It’s a religious holiday and if the family wants to keep their kids at home, it is their choice.

What can I share in class? 

This is an excellent video to show your students.


Sumeera Mansukhani is currently completing her  student teaching semester.

Eid al-Adha Coming Soon-Muslim CultureGram

September 17, 2015

Eid al-Adha coming soon-Muslim Culture gram

Cultural competence is a key factor in enabling educators to be effective with students from cultures other than their own.

Cultural competence is having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference, and the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families. It is the ability to understand the within-group differences that make each student unique, while celebrating the between-group variations that make our country a tapestry. This understanding informs and expands teaching practices in the culturally competent educator’s classroom.


I am excited to continue this series on culture and diversity.  I would like to extend a special thank you to my friend and colleague Dr. Randa Suleiman for today’s guest post.

Eid al-Adha coming soon-Muslim Culture gram

What is Eid al-Adha?Happy Eid

Many Muslims in the United States observe Eid-al-Adha, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice, each year. This festival commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah (God). This festival also marks the end of the Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, in which Muslims are required to make at least once in their lives. Eid al-Adha is known as the Feast of Sacrifice because it traditionally includes the sacrifice of an animal permitted for food (eg. a lamb) as an act of thanksgiving for Allah’s mercy.

What do people do?

Many Muslims in the United States celebrate Eid al-Adha with prayers and social gatherings. The Eid al-Adha services (prayer) can attract thousands of Muslims in various places. Many Muslims of many heritages, including Pakistan, as well as Eastern European and African countries, wear traditional clothes and share their national dishes. It is a time for prayer, sharing meals, handing out gifts, and wishing one another well.

Are there any days that students may miss school or not be able to do homework?

Yes. Most Muslim students will miss school on Thursday, September 24. Some students might miss Wednesday, September 23 as well.

Do I have to do anything?

No, you don’t have to.  For some students, may be their parents or relatives have participates in the pilgrimage. It would be thoughtful to check with your students and ask if they know anyone who traveled to perform the pilgrimage. The other are that you might be interested in is student support. You can help students’ make-up missing work, be available to answer questions, and help them understand what they missed in class.

Can they do their homework?

Most likely, students might not be able to complete their homework.  It is time for prayer, celebration, and social gathering. Students will spend the day with their family, relatives, friends, and members in the community. Some families might choose to make sure that their student complete homework the day before, but that might not be the majority of families.

None of my students missed a day last year, how come?

Muslim holidays are on the lunar calendar; they’re a slightly different time in our solar calendar each year.  Eid comes on different date every year. Sometimes, it comes on a weekend and students do not miss school. For some students, they might choose to come to school on Eid day for a half day or certain time especially if there is any major exams or project; usually high school students.

What should I say to them?

If you’d like to say something to your Muslim students, you can say, “Happy Eid.”


suleimanDr. Randa Suleiman is Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Leadership. Dr. Suleiman earned her M.A. from Alverno College, holds National Board Certification in Early Adolescent Science and holds her Wisconsin Principal and Curriculum Instruction license. She received her Ph.D in Educational Leadership from Cardinal Stritch University.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Coming Soon – Jewish CultureGram

September 9, 2015

Cultural proficiency is not a destination, but a way of being.

(Lindsey, R., Graham, S., Westphal, C. & Jew, C. 2008).

I know that cultural proficiency is a journey and a lifelong commitment to “learning for the purpose of being increasingly effective in serving the educational needs of cultural groups” (Lindsey, R., Graham, S., Westphal, C. & Jew, C. 2008). My colleague and friend has made this commitment too, and she does this by sharing her culture with her school community. To really know our students and to meet their needs, it is critical that we know and understand the cultures they bring to school with them each day. Below is the email she sent to her colleagues yesterday. I found it most interesting and very insightful. I think you will too.

Thank you Kelly, for allowing me to share your message with other educators!


Apples and Honey symbolize a sweet and healthy New Year.

Apples and Honey symbolize a sweet and healthy New Year.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur coming soon- Jewish Culture gram

Purpose of the e-mail:

The two biggest days in the Jewish calendar are coming up. Rosh Hashanah is September 14 and 15 and Yom Kippur is September 23.  I wanted to provide information about how it relates to you in your work and also what’s happening for some of our kids.  Since I’m a part of the majority culture most of the time, I know how easy it is to assume that all kids have similar experiences.  Being a part of the minority culture in this one instance lets me experience how frustrating it is to not fit with what an institution expects.

Are there any days that kids may miss school or not be able to do homework?

Yes. Most Jewish students will miss school on September 14 for the first day of Rosh Hashanah.  Some Jewish students will miss September 15 (second day of Rosh Hashanah).  Almost all Jewish students will miss September 23 for Yom Kippur.

Do I have to do anything?

No, you don’t have to.  I can tell you though from experience, it’s really hard to just be trying to figure out what’s what and how things work and to feel out all of your teachers and figure out what works for you AND miss two or three days of school 10 days apart.  Please do whatever you can to help them navigate what they miss and still merge into your classroom culture.

Can they do their homework?

Probably not.  Rosh Hashanah starts on a Sunday night, but many kids will either be traveling to be with family or have houses full of family which can make the practicality of homework challenging.  During Rosh Hashanah they are probably in services all day, and doing work is expressly forbidden.  Yom Kippur during the day they are in services, forbidden from working, and for students who’ve already been bar/bat mitzvahed they will be fasting.  It’s unlikely that their homework/ classwork will get done that day.  Please, again, try to help them navigate this.

Why are the kids missing school?

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the two High Holy Days.  Think of them like the importance of Christmas and Easter, but only 10 days apart.  They are super serious, generally solemn, and big deals.  Different denominations observe different numbers of days for Rosh Hashanah.  Some celebrate only the first day (Sunday night to Monday night- all Jewish holidays start and end at sundown).  Others celebrate both days (Sunday night to Tuesday night).  Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” and it is the new year.  Instead of a big party day it is a serious holiday which starts the 10 days of awe in which you need to ask for forgiveness for sins from the previous year before your fate for the coming year is sealed.  Yom Kippur is the day of atonement- the last chance to pray for forgiveness before fates are sealed.

Why did they only miss one day last year?

Because Jewish holidays are on the lunar calendar, they’re a slightly different time in our solar calendar each year.  Many school districts are closed these days.

What should I say to them?

If you’d like to say something to your Jewish students, you can say “happy new year” although it’s a thoughtful tone instead of the party tone of December 31 since it’s such a serious holy day.

As always, I’m happy to answer any questions and invite you to consider parts of your culture that I might not be aware of and let me know.


Kelly Steiner

P.S. Principals, I’m sharing this with you in case it’s helpful with your staffs- please adapt as needed or ignore.

Kelly teaches science at Shorewood Intermediate School in Milwaukee, WI. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and an adjunct professor at Cardinal Stritch University.

Sources Cited

Lindsey, R., Graham, S., Westphal, C. & Jew, C. (2008). Cultural proficient inquiry: A lens for identifying and examining educational gaps. Thousand Oak, CA: Corwin Press.


Positive Phone Calls Home: A Simple but Powerful Tool!

September 2, 2015

It’s September. (Where did summer go?) Most traditional schools in the United States are Back To School. Our local schools started yesterday. Some schools rolled out the red carpet to welcome students and others even had the band playing. It is truly a time to celebrate a new beginning.back-to-school-40597_640

Teachers have been in their classrooms over the last few weeks getting everything ready and organized for their new students. Effective educators know that the more planning they do now, the more time they will have later to work with students and meet their needs. They also know the importance of creating a safe classroom and learning environment.

Stressful school environments inhibit learning while positive classroom atmospheres encourage chemical responses in students that help them learn. Children naturally seek out and thrive in places where caring is present. Integrating emotional expression in a caring classroom atmosphere improves memory and stimulates the brain to learn. (Green, 1999, p. 684)

Providing a safe leaning environment goes beyond the classroom walls. One thing you can begin doing today that will build relationships with students and parents and pave the way for a more successful school year is to make phone calls home. As a young teacher in a middle school, I was a little frightened when my principal announced during our teacher workshop that his expectation was for us to make two positive parent phones calls each week AND turn those names in to him each Friday on a note card. His explanation was “you need to know the parents of your students” and “every parent deserves to hear something positive about their child.” “Call when you can, not when you have to.”phone

I made those calls initially because I had to, but quickly I saw the difference it made with my students and the richness it added to my partnerships with parents. Students look at you differently when they come to school the next day and that goes a long way in working with both students and parents when challenges arise.

Make a plan now. Call 2-3 parents each week until you have called them all. (You might want to try to call 1-2 each day during the first weeks.) Then start over.  Keep accurate records of your calls and make notes about your conversations. If you can’t reach them by phone, leave a message or try email. That works too. You will undoubtedly have to make calls about concerns, behavior, or grades later. Those difficult calls will be easier because parents and students will know you as a person who genuinely cares.

It is a simple but powerful tool.

Have a great school year.






Works Cited

Green, F. R. (1999). Brain and learning research: Implications for meeting the needs of diverse learners. Education, Summer, 119,(4)ProQuest Education Journals pp . 682-681.

End of Summer and Time to Get Ready to Go Back to School

August 5, 2015

It’s August, in a teacher’s time cycle it means end of summer work/break and back to the classroom soon for most of us. I’m actually already back to school. I know some schools are beginning in a couple of weeks and some will not begin until after Labor Day.

Anyway it’s time to start planning. Take care of all those personal tasks and appointments now and get as much done as you can for the coming year. The better organized you are and the more preparation you invest now, the bigger the payoff in more time and less stress later.

Over the years I have written a number of Back to School blog posts. They are still important reminders of what we need to do to be ready for our students…..They’ll be coming soon.

Back to School Precepts Blog Seriesbacktoschool

Working With – Back to School Advice


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