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Election 2016: Campaigns, Candidates, and Voting

February 10, 2016

Today marks my 200th post for this blog. Thanks to all my followers for your support!

While I can’t say I have enjoyed the campaigns and the never-ending media coverage so far, I must admit it has been and continues to be a VERY interesting election year. As classroom teachers, it is our responsibility to remain unbiased and give our students the opportunity to learn about the election Your_Vote_Counts_Badgeprocess in a safe and neutral classroom environment. Below are some resources for teaching about the primaries, debates, campaigns, candidates, and the 2016 Election. Remember to keep your opinions private and let your students explore and make  their own informed decisions. Most importantly teach your students the importance of voting and the importance of active and responsible citizenship in a democracy.




Martin Luther King Jr. – I have a Dream!

January 18, 2016

Re-blogged from Jan. 2013. These are excellent resources for the classroom.

Today we  honor an American who devoted his life’s work to ensuring equality for all people. The words of Martin Luther King Jr. remind us all to keep working to fulfill his dream of a country and a world where all people are truly free!

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

. . . . . .

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream. Delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

Let us know what you are doing in your classroom to help achieve the DREAM.

Linda C.


Resources for Teaching About Martin Luther King Jr.

Two of My Favorite Books:


Resources updated Jan. 18, 2016. Please share your resources and activities!

Jewish Culture-Gram: Hanukkah Edition

December 4, 2015

Today’s post is written by guest blogger Kelly Steiner. Kelly shares these insights with her faculty and administration. Thank you Kelly for sharing your culture with us. This year Hanukkah begins at sundown on Sunday, December 6 and continues until December 14.

What to expect with your students in terms of Hanukkah
some FAQs about this often misunderstood holiday.

Will the kids miss school?
Generally, Hanukkah doesn’t require missing of school.  However, for some Jewish families the mandate to light the candles at a specific time (connected to sunset) is very strict.  Since the sun sets just after school these days, it may mean that some Jewish students aren’t available for after school activities/ help.

Can they still do their homework?
There is no religious expectation to not work, so it is still reasonable to ask students to complete their work.  However, exceptions might be needed for kids who are either traveling to be with family or have lots of family staying at their house, which can make it more difficult to manage, but you would be culturally sensitive to treat these cases the same way you’d treat any other family time.  All eight nights can have associated family time and festivities so there may be more on kids’ plates this next week, just something to be mindful of.

Isn’t it weird to send e-mails about religion?
I hope it isn’t weird.  Judaism is a bit different in that it is both a religion and a cultural ethnicity.  Lots of people consider themselves Jewish culturally but don’t practice the religion.  We’re an odd group that way.  I hope that I don’t offend anyone, I aim to just help us better understand each other’s cultures.  If it helps at all, Jews actively discourage converting to Judaism and so we’re one group where it is a good guess that there is no intent to sell the religion.

I thought Hanukkah happened at Thanksgiving, what’s with that?
The Jewish holidays happen based on the Jewish calendar which is lunar, as opposed to our secular solar calendar.  This means that Jewish holidays fall at a different time in the secular calendar each year, even thought they are always at exactly the same time on the Jewish calendar.  Previously we had  “Thanksgivikah”, this year it starts at sundown on the 6th and continues until the 14th.  You can search future secular dates of Jewish holidays if you’re interested.

Is “Hanukkah” the right way to spell it?
There is no right way.  Hebrew and English don’t share the same characters so all spelling in English of Hebrew words is just phonetic.  Multiple spellings are considered “correct”.

What is this holiday all about anyway?
Hanukkah is not a biblical holiday like some of the others, it comes from early Jewish History.  Because Judaism is both a religion and a cultural identity and has the added distinction of being a minority culture in many places there is a lot of focus on retelling of the history of the people and their struggles to maintain a sense of cultural identity, cohesiveness and common history.  This holiday (like many others) follows the theme that would probably be a movie trailer like this: “in a world where the culture of power bans Judaism and Jewish practices, persecuting Jews for following their beliefs, a band of feisty Jews refuses to be oppressed and fights back against a much larger and stronger force to preserve Jewish culture for future generations!”  In this episode, the oppressive culture of power is the Greek-Syrians and the rebel band of Jews was led by the Maccabee family.  After the Greek-Syrians destroyed the temple, the Jews reclaimed it and rededicated it.  Hanukkah means dedication in Hebrew.  More information can be found at:

What about the presents?
Just like Christmas isn’t really about presents and trees, Hanukkah isn’t really about presents and fried foods.  It is an opportunity to repeat the stories of a common history and focus on the victory of light over darkness (a key theme in lots of cultures around the winter solstice).  That’s why the menorah is lit.  The fried foods are a nod to the oil which, when where was only one day’s worth of not desecrated holy oil left, miraculously lasted for eight days (according to the story as it is told every year) until more oil could be prepared.  That’s also why the menorah has one additional candle each night for eight nights.  It is lit, prayers are said and songs are often sung.

The last menorah I saw had 9 spots, was it a mistake?
Nope, there are 8 candle spots, one for each night plus one “helper” candle, the shamash, which is lit first and used to light all the other candles – making a total of 9.

What’s with the dreidel?Dreidle
The dreidel game was originally a way to cover up the teaching of the Jewish traditions from the oppressive regimes.  When soldiers came by it was a basic game of chance.  But when the soldiers left, it could be used to teach children.  The four hebrew letters on the dreidel are the first four letters of the phrase “A Great Miracle Happened There” which allows for the telling of the story.  Interesting factoid – in Israel, the last letter on the dreidel is different so that is says “A Great Miracle Happened Here”.

What do I say to a Jewish kid?
It is polite to say “Happy Hanukkah” to Jewish kids on any of the eight days.  It starts at sundown on Sunday night and continues until December 14.  “Happy Holidays” is also generally considered inclusive of Hanukkah.

Also, just like all cultures, actual practices and traditions vary greatly family to family.  A student’s (or other staff member’s) description of their tradition and practices should trump my generalization.

Happy Hanukkah!

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

Resources for Talking with Students about Violence

November 14, 2015

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.


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

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

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.

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