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Tuesday / April 25

Owning Up Across the Curriculum

Working in education takes a specific kind of courage. Educators constantly face the question: Am I competent at what I do? Am I relevant?

In 2009 I published Owning Up, a curriculum that was a combination of social emotional learning, bullying prevention, and media literacy. But I had to admit that the curriculum got old fast. Sure the fundamental issues were still there but the context of young people’s lives changed. Gradually over a few months I realized that it wasn’t good enough for my students or the teachers who taught Owning Up.

And that realization was important. As an educator for over twenty years I am passionately committed to giving students and teachers the best resources. I can’t stand the idea of a young person being in my classroom and thinking this is yet another waste of time “let’s be nice to each other” class. Equally intolerable is conducting a professional development where a teacher sits in the back of the room catching up on their grading, making their marketing list, or playing “PD Bingo” in the back of the room. As Kyle, a teacher I am working with, recently said during a planning meeting, You go to PD specifically on the importance of not reading off a Power Point and having the kids get out of their chairs but the person teaching you is reading off a Power Point and we don’t get out of our chairs all day.

We know social dynamics, conflicts, and bullying influence every child’s ability to learn. We know a safe school climate depends on teaching students the skills to manage their emotions and critically think through solutions to social conflicts. And we know that social competency helps young people from any background thrive after high school. However, the reality is any “life skills” “character building” or “bullying prevention” is hard enough to convince students to buy into; specifically because so many don’t reflect the issues this generation of young people experience.

That’s why I had to overhaul Owning Up. Sure, it’s hard to admit when your material is out of date but worse is teaching material that your audience believes is unrealistic. Today, I am very proud to say that because of an incredible collaboration with educators who already use Owning Up and a group of middle school and high school editors, Owning Up is completely new.

Owning Up offers a solution by teaching young people to understand their individual development in relation to group behavior, the influence of social media on their conflicts, and the dynamics that lead to discrimination and bigotry.

Let me give you an example. There is no cyberbullying lesson plan in Owning Up. Social media is interconnected with everything we do: how we learn, what we learn, and how we develop our personal identity. It is an integral part of our relationship dynamics–from how we express our support of each other to our anger when we are in conflict.

Yet most of the teaching young people get about social media is without a realistic context and based on scare tactics like, “You will never get get into college or get a job if you take or send an inappropriate picture. Everything you do and say is always there forever.” Instead we should recognize young people’s use of social media as an incredible teaching opportunity to discuss critical issues facing civil society. What does it mean to have a right to privacy? What is the appropriate balance between people’s right to express themselves and other people’s rights to feel safe and welcome in a community?

All of these incredibly important issues can be tied to our curriculum goals teaching core curricula classes like US History or Social Studies.

But Owning Up isn’t just a written curriculum. In addition, we are have revised our teacher training program to reflect best practices for adult learning and created a teacher support network so they can modify lessons and share their learnings with their colleagues.

But formal program or not, we all have opportunities to meaningfully engage with our students. It’s our responsibility to ask them tough questions, treat them with respect, disagree when necessary, demand honesty, laugh with them, apologize if we did something wrong. And above all to always treat them with dignity.

Written by

My name is Rosalind Wiseman and I am educator, writer, and founder of Cultures of Dignity. For over two decades I have been talking with, listening to, and occasionally arguing with young people about everything and anything that’s important to them. I have authored five books–two of which hit the NYT Bestseller List. My non-fiction books are titled, Queen Bees & Wannabes, Masterminds & Wingmen, The Guide, Queen Bees Moms & King Pin Dads, and the Owning Up curriculum. I also wrote a young adult novel titled, Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials.

I write a monthly column for the Anti-Defamation League called Rosalind’s Classroom Conversations where I write about common challenges educators face in talking to young people about youth culture, bigotry, discrimination, and social media. I also blog and tweet frequently on a wide variety of topics but I always feel like I am slacking and I should be writing more often.

By far, what I appreciate the most about my work is that I am constantly learning.

I have been invited to speak at all kinds of venues: from federal and state initiatives, corporate board rooms, advocacy organizations, national conventions, public schools, charter schools, and private schools of diverse affiliations.

As a teacher, I focus on collaboration and because of this I meet amazing people who look at youth culture in ways I haven’t thought about. I have been described as a thought leader but my work is informed by integrating my expertise with the lived experience of others.

I have served on many nonprofit boards but currently only serve on one—the US Health and Human Services Substance and Mental Health Administration. I support many non-profits in smaller ways because these organizations do the work that tirelessly advocate on the issues I care about most.

Personally, I enjoy eating really good food, drinking really good bourbon, listening to great music, dancing until my feet hurt, and politics that make me think. I have been married for nearly 20 years and still wonder how I was wise enough at such a young age to recognize someone I could walk through life with. On the other hand, I have two sons who are 13 and 15… they are my everyday challenge. My favorite child is my dog, Layla, who is always by my side and has never rolled her eyes at me. I lived in Washington DC for most of my life until I moved to Colorado…and yes it was a culture shock but I am getting used to it and happy to be living in such a beautiful place with really nice people who never honk at you.

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