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NYC Helpline: How To: Manage Your Classroom
View Instructional Videos for Teachers about Classroom Management

Classroom Management (Secondary)

A high school science teacher demonstrates how her structured and routine-based classroom environment is the key to success.

Classroom Management (Elementary)

An elementary school teacher guides us through her daily classroom routines and shows how consistency and structure are essential.

Classroom Management through Cooperative Groups

View two elementary school teachers demonstrate how they engage their students through group work to help them learn.

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NYC Helpline: Manage Your Classroom
NYC Helpline: How To Get Started

Toward Better Choices: Analyzing Popular Culture
Charlene Davis

I dared to do a picture-walk through Vibe magazine while at the salon one recent day and as I did so, I thought to myself, “Wow, no wonder our kids are so exposed, and sometimes seemingly so foreign in how they rationalize how the world around them works!” It was more the images that grabbed me and subsequently lead to my closing the magazine for good. However, I thought to myself, if this is part of what’s influencing many kids’ thinking and behavior, then we need to talk more about what they’re exposed to. If children aren’t listening to influential lyrics and programming, then they’re viewing it. I know teachers who analyze pop culture with their students but more often than not, teachers cannot find the time to do anything that seems to be ancillary to the curriculum. Given an increase in the wayward types of behaviors we’re witnessing, my question is: Can we afford not to examine with them what they’re ingesting?

Have a Go at It!

Through a read-aloud, and/or… The 15-20 minute read-aloud block
Through book (article) talk and/or… The reading workshop
Through writing Modeled, independent writing (essays, poetry, etc.)

Several months ago, I read an account of the well-known rapper Remy Ma’s life story in The Village Voice newspaper. I had not read this newspaper in years; it does cover far more pop culture than I remember. I was moved to read the entire article, despite some of the strong language it contained. The more I read, the more I thought that it would make for a powerful discussion in a high school classroom. According to the article, this young lady had suffered through years of rejection within her family. At that time she faced an attempted murder charge (she has since been convicted and sentenced). I marveled at the juxtaposition of despair, sheer determination, and creativity that led to her stardom. However, for now, she’s a fallen star. I find that so many of our students can relate to this type of story and, therefore, can learn from the negative outcomes that often occur when poor decision-making takes place.

First, I really wonder whether many students understand what poor decisions look like? We sometimes see a lack of evidence of this in our classrooms. This is why I think it is worthwhile to take the time to devote to these pop culture conversations and topics. I am increasingly finding that poor decision-makers commiserate with other poor-decision-makers. They fail to see the error in their own ways, and it takes intense one-on-one attention from others to get them to view situations differently. Guidance counselors sometimes struggle in this area. The “cause” in the child’s cause and effect gets muddled. Insistence on their rights and “extenuating circumstances” that only they see is fiercely clung to. As a result, it’s no longer surprising to find that they’ll take the side of celebrities who find themselves in trouble for breaking the law. This, to me, is a disturbing trend that needs redirecting.

I think that discussions meant to weigh society’s norms with the preponderance of poor choices that more and more celebrities are making offers great yield. Behaviors begin with one’s thinking. Peer influence and shared thinking is always powerful in discussions. Designing a framework to filter the latest media-based gossip our young people are discussing can greatly impact their actions. For example, objectively using Britney Spears’ troubles to examine what students think about motherhood; or Wesley Snipes’ tax conviction to discuss students’ opinions about American citizens’ obligations, and so forth have implications for students’ daily behavioral choices. These conversations can cause shifts. Consider the following framework:

Controversial News… Extenuating/Mitigating Circumstances? What Society/the Law Says/Said… How This Applies to My Life?

If this speaks to your needs, “have a go at it” and watch text-self connections abound!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me.


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