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Why I Wear a Safety Pin

Adopting tangible symbols of peace, hope, and nonviolent resistance is a centuries-old practice. Ancient Greeks used an olive branch to symbolize peace. A symbol of wishes granted for centuries, paper cranes have symbolized hope and healing for 6 decades in Japanese culture. Peaceful protesters in Taiwan use sunflowers to represent the light they wish to shine on oppressive government policies. In Hong Kong, umbrellas symbolize peaceful protest, and women in Iran frequently wear brightly-colored nail polish to express their resistance to the extreme oppression they endure.

In April of 1940, just months into World War II, Adolf Hitler set his sights on an invasion of Norway. Controlling their ice-free waterways would make it quicker and easier to transport goods into Germany. German soldiers occupied Norway for 5 years, insisting that teachers and churches teach complete obedience to the leader and the state, passing anti-Jewish legislation, and deporting 700 Norwegian Jews to Auschwitz.

In the autumn of 1940, students at Oslo University started wearing innocuous paperclips on their collars and lapels to symbolize the binding together of like-minded Norwegians in a rejection of ethnocentric ideologies, peaceful resistance, and solidarity. Pins, bracelets, and jewelry fashioned out of paperclips bound like-minded Norwegians together in the face of adversity.

In December 2014, an Iranian refugee took hostages in an armed standoff in Sydney, Australia. By the end of the 16-hour ordeal, he had killed 2 hostages, prompting intense and violent Islamophobia to erupt across the country. Australian Rachel Jacobs posted on Facebook that she saw a Muslim woman remove her hijab out of fear for her own safety. Jacobs encouraged her to put her hijab back on, promising to walk with her and make sure she was safe. Her post prompted a social media campaign using #illridewithyou in which Australian citizens offered to walk, ride, or sit with Australian Muslims so they would feel safe and protected.

In post-Brexit United Kingdom, when there was a sharp rise in unprovoked attacks and hate crimes against both ethnic minorities and immigrants, a Twitter user named Allison, inspired by Australia’s #illridewithyou campaign, started wearing safety pins to symbolize a rejection of racism, peaceful push back against violence, and solidarity with immigrants. After tweeting photos of her safety pins and explaining, in 140 characters or less, the meaning behind the small gesture, the idea took off. Safety pins are commonly worn in the U.K. as a signal to marginalized groups that they are valued and supported. Thousands of U.K. citizens joined the #safetypin movement in a joint effort to communicate to marginalized and sometimes victimized immigrants, “You are safe with me.”

Since the 2016 general election in the U.S., millions of American citizens are concerned – scared, even – about the seemingly sharp rise in hate-based harassment, vandalism, violence, bullying, and crime being perpetuated against U.S. citizens – citizens who are often labeled “minorities” and are marginalized. As a result, the “Safety Pin Movement” has found a place here.

Many criticize or even condemn the gesture for being superficial and shallow, calling those who wear the pin “slacktivists” – a pejorative term used to describe people who think of themselves as social justice activists, but who only get involved with “easy activism” and “feel-good measures” such as signing on-line petitions or sounding off on social media websites, not the hard work of stepping out of our comfort zones to participate in street demonstrations, visit elected officials to demand change, or support organizations that actively work to affect social change with ongoing financial contributions. In other words, safety pin wearers are often criticized for doing something easy to “pat themselves on the back” without doing the hard work of actively trying to fix the problems they are peacefully protesting.

White people, in particular, are facing backlash for wearing safety pins as a passive and elitist action – an easy way to identify themselves as allies while doing none of the hard work it takes to help affect change. Christopher Keelty said in the Huffington Post, “We don’t get to make ourselves feel better by putting on safety pins and self-designating ourselves as allies. And make no mistake, that’s what the safety pins are for. Making white people feel better.” Others have criticized safety pin-wearers as lazy, saying they are being worn as a way for white people to identify themselves to other white people as having voted -- or not voted -- a particular way in the most recent general election in the U.S.

I acknowledge the limitations of this gesture or symbol. Wearing a pin doesn’t fix racism, xenophobia, exclusion, or cruelty. However, despite the sharp criticism and safety-pin shaming, I wear a safety pin and will continue to do so. Here’s why:

  • It is a concrete symbol that bigotry, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and bullying are not the norms in my circles, and I will actively take a stand against those ideologies in all their forms. If it reminds even one other person to actively stand for inclusion, acceptance, empathy, and kindness, it’s worth wearing.
  • I will actively take a stand against those ideologies in all their forms. I will not just wear the pin – I will attend the demonstrations, write my elected officials, contribute financial support to organizations actively working to affect change. Wearing a safety pin reminds me to actively be the change I want to see in the world, and if it reminds even one other person to do the same, it’s worth wearing.
  • Awareness is important. Awareness by itself doesn’t change things. It isn’t enough. It doesn’t solve problems. However, if enough people work together to raise awareness and use that awareness to dialogue about what we can actively due to help shift cultural norms, then awareness can lead to action, and action changes things. If my safety pin reminds me to act and inspires even one other person to act, it’s worth wearing.
  • Brain research shows that telling people what to do isn’t as effective as showing them what to do and how to do it. If enough people use their sphere of personal influence and social media influence to demonstrate actionable steps we can take toward inclusion, kindness, empathy, and acceptance, we can create social change. If my safety pin prompts even one person to ask why I wear it, and leads to even one discussion about the ACT in activism, it’s worth wearing.
  • Pinning this symbol to my clothes is a small gesture of community, participation, rejecting self-centeredness and apathy, being part of something bigger than my own little space in this world. If it symbolizes that to even one other person, and encourages them to share in this sense of community and togetherness, it’s worth wearing.
  • Knowledge is power. Some don’t understand the symbolism behind the safety pin, or the importance of real activism. If even one dialogue is sparked by a question about my pin, it’s worth wearing.
  • Helplessness, hopelessness, and despair are paralyzing, and we are flooded daily with media stories that incite these emotions. If wearing my pin symbolizes help, hope, and healing to even one person, it’s worth wearing.
  • Wearing a safety pin is not enough, but it may be enough to remind us to ask ourselves and one another what else we can do. It’s not a resolution – but it may be a start. It may lead to work toward a resolution.  If my pin inspires even one person to ponder this, it’s worth wearing.
  • Wearing a safety pin may indicate to a person who lives in fear of being marginalized, bullied, or victimized that I am a safe person. If I witness someone being bullied or victimized, I will not be a silent bystander. I will stand with them and for them. I will help. If my pin conveys that knowledge -- that safety -- to even one person, it’s worth wearing.
  • Wearing a safety pin may instigate dialogue with students and colleagues about the importance of active inclusion and kindness, and if even one student or colleague is inspired to think about these concepts, have these important conversations, act on these values, it's worth wearing. 

So, when you see my safety pin, please don’t assume I wear it out of privilege or guilt or an effort to assuage my guilt. The truth is, I understand first-hand what it’s like to be marginalized and bullied for one facet of the thousands of facets that make up who I am as a whole person. Even though on the outside, I may not “look” like a person who understands and experiences marginalization, I do. I hope I would stand with and for marginalized people even if I wasn’t a person who experienced this myself. I know my own experiences make me acutely aware of and responsive to others’ experiences. My other truth is, in some ways, I do experience privilege that others don’t enjoy. I am acutely aware of this and in the ways I am privileged, I will use that privilege to tirelessly work for inclusion and equality for all.

When you see my pin, please don’t assume it is the only thing I am doing. Don’t assume I am lazy, or a slacktivist. Don’t assume I’m not serious about intentionally and actively affecting change. Don’t assume I wear it to make myself feel better. In fact, I want anyone and everyone who is negatively affected by hatred, exclusion, or “othering” in any form to know I stand with them, for them, beside them, behind them, in front of them – whatever it takes – and knowing there is a need to stand against exclusion and for inclusion breaks my heart. I don’t feel better about myself by putting the pin on – I feel worse for all of us that there is a need to put the pin on.

When you see my pin, please don’t assume you know how I cast my vote. I believe acceptance, inclusion, and kindheartedness can bridge the gap between our differences, no matter whom we voted for and why. Despite political differences – despite all differences – we can find some common ground, stand with one another against bigotry, hatred, injustice, and othering, and stand together for compassion, empathy, and kindness.

When you see my pin, please don’t lash out at me for attempting to show solidarity and support. Instead, please consider that wearing the pin is a statement of my personal values . . . inclusion, acceptance, compassion, empathy, and kindness. But if you do judge me, if you do think poorly of me, if you do criticize me when you see my pin, know that those values – conveying them, reminding myself of them, inviting others to dialogue about them -- are so dear to me that I will wear a safety pin despite the controversy. Kindness matters, and if wearing a safety pin conveys encouragement to even one person who needs to feel a little kindness today, it’s worth it.

Secondary ELA Seasonal Blog Hop: Literary Sherri Shares "The Tell Tale Heart"

Students love Edgar Allan Poe's spooky settings and terrifying tales, and October is the perfect month to grab their attention with his Gothic masterpiece "The Tell-Tale Heart." Nothing piques students' interest quite like this creepy classic!  

Hit up The Dollar Store or Target's Dollar Spot for a few seasonal decorations for your classroom, dim your classroom lights, play some seasonal music in the background (here's one option), and use Poe's spellbinding short story to analyze mood, tone, theme, symbolism, characterization, figurative language, and author's craft. This resource contains everything you need to teach this riveting narrative tomorrow, including the full text of "The Tell-Tale Heart" with especially difficult vocabulary words defined, literary analysis activities, 9 unique and engaging writing prompts, vocabulary worksheets, grading rubrics, and answer keys. Best of all, it's available in traditional format, as well as interactive-notebook format!

Teachers who have used this resource say:

"This is very thorough and covers a lot of skills!" (Karen M.)

"My students loved working on this . . . it's not the typical read and answer questions." (Melissa R.)

"This was a great activity for breaking down the story and making it more understandable for my 8th graders." (Michelle W.) 

"I loved this . . . it inspired me to read more Poe works, and created interest in my students for  his works." (Tania P.)

"Excellent resource . . . my students really had to think, which I loved!" (Kathleen Y.)

Click here to add this resource to your repertoire today for 20% off, then cozy up under your favorite blanket with a steaming mug of hot coffee or (my favorite!) salted caramel hot cocoa and hop through the blogs below to treat yourself (and your students) to more perfect-for-October resources! Thank you to Stephanie of The Creative Classroom for organizing this Secondary ELA Seasonal Blog Hop!

Fidget Widgets Can Enhance Learning in Middle School Classrooms (Part 2)

Ready to incorporate fidget widgets into your classroom management plan? Some of my favorite fidgets include:

If you're on a tight classroom budget, you can make your own fidgets by using a wide-mouthed funnel to partially fill latex balloons with clean sand, flour, cornstarch. or play dough. Doubling or tripling the balloon covering will help these homemade stress balls last longer.

You can also stop by your local hardware store or carpet store and gather small carpet samples (approx. 3" x 3"). Ask if they'd like to donate a dozen or so samples to your class. (Run fabric glue around the edges to keep them from fraying, if you'd like.) Small carpet samples make fabulous fidgets!

Other super-effective ideas include:
  • Bands
    • Stretch a therapy band, resistance band, bicycle inner tube, or giant rubber bands around the front legs of each chair, allowing students to silently bounce their legs or feet on the band.
  • Velcro
    • Cut adhesive Velcro into 4-6 inch strips. Adhere 1 strip on either side of the underside of students' chairs. You can also adhere strips under tables or desks. You really don't even need to tell students the strips are there . . . fidgety students will find them and the strips will keep their fingers occupied for awhile.

    Be picky when choosing the perfect fidget widgets! You want fidgets that are:
      • Inconspicuous 
        • Fidgets should fit easily in one hand and be able to be used under a desk or table.
      • Inexpensive 
        • They may get lost or find their way out of the classroom. You'll likely replenish them a few times throughout the year, so don't invest inordinate amounts of money in them.
        • Silent
          • Fidgets that make noise (or that can be used to make noise) should be avoided, if possible.

        • Safe
          • Pass on fidgets that can be snapped, popped, or thrown across the room, unless you can prevent these scenarios with effective pre-teaching.
        • Tactile
          • Fidgets should be more tactile than visual -- they should not draw students' eyes away from the task at hand.
        • Tools, not toys
          • Balls or objects that bounce or roll are not ideal fidgets.

        Fidget widgets help enhance focus and concentration, decrease off-task and distracting behaviors, and increase learning for middle school students -- and the bonus is incorporating them into your everyday classroom management plan differentiates your classroom learning space and optimizes your middle school classroom for all learners!

        Not convinced? Click here to read more about how fidgets can enhance learning in Middle School classrooms -- and how to pre-teach so that you can incorporate them seamlessly into your cclassroom management plan!

        Do you have a favorite fidget widget? Tell us about it and how you use it in your classroom!

        Fidget Widgets Can Enhance Learning in Middle School Classrooms (Part 1)

        We've all been there -- after countless hours planning, preparing, and anticipating a rigorous learning activity that's also fun and engaging, we feel disappointed, stressed, or frustrated afterward because a few restless students distracted the entire class from enjoying -- or even completing -- the lesson. Drumming, tapping, off-task talking, irrelevant giggling, clicking pens, excess bathroom breaks, never-ending pencil sharpening, rummaging, and fidgeting not only distracted on-task students from learning, but made it difficult for the teacher to focus, too.

        Middle school bodies are physically changing -- skeletal structures are changing daily and students genuinely need to stretch, squirm, wiggle, and fidget to comfortably accommodate their (literal) growing pains. While fidgeting is developmentally appropriate for middle schoolers, it can be harnessed and intentionally focused so that it's not only less distracting, but also enhances learning!

        Fidget widgets to the rescue! When used correctly, fidget tools -- or fidget widgets, as I call them . . .
        • Increase active listening
        • Calm anxiety and/or restlessness
        • Channel excess energy
        • Accommodate students' developmental need for movement
        • Help students focus and concentrate on the task or activity at hand
        • Increase learning

        That's right . . . fidgeting during class can actually increase learning because it engages both hemispheres of the brain and helps students focus and concentrate on learning activities!

        The effective use of fidget widgets in middle school classrooms takes a bit of pre-teaching. Students need to know how they can use these tools:
        • Use fidgets silently
        • Fidgets are for your hands, not your eyes
        • Keep fidgets under the desk or table, or on your lap

        . . . and they need to know how they cannot use fidgets:
        • Fidgets cannot be thrown, tossed, or otherwise transported across the classroom
        • Fidgets cannot be used in the air, above your head, or where they will distract from learning
        • Fidgets cannot be used as eye glasses, megaphones, air guitars, vehicles, or airplanes

        Students may not always remember to grab a fidget when they need one. Don't hesitate to walk over during class, nab a fidget out of the basket, and silently place it within a student's work space. This is a silent cue to the student to channel their energy in a less distracting way.

        You may also need a silent signal indicating that a fidget is being misused and the student is about to lose the privilege of using it for the rest of that class period if their actions don't immediately change. <insert your most teacher-y teacher look here>

        After a bit of pre-teaching, keep a container of fidget widgets near the classroom door. Invite students to take one any time they need to keep restless fingers busy and minds focused. Remind them to drop their fidgets back in the basket as they leave class.

        Fidget widgets help channel restlessness, decrease distracting behaviors, and increase focus and concentration for middle school students. Incorporating them into your everyday classroom management plan differentiates your classroom learning space and optimizes your middle school classroom for all learners -- a superb bonus!

        Ready to incorporate fidgets into your Middle School classroom management plan? Click here to read about 12 of my favorite fidgets and a couple of super budget-friendly do-it-yourself fidgets . . . and leave a note below telling us about your favorite fidget widgets and how you use them in your class!

        All Treats & No Tricks - Free Resources for Teachers!

        Can you believe we're already heading into the whirlwind that is the end of October?!?

        Speaking of the end of October, look at these classroom tricks that will take your teaching to the next level this fall!

             The Power of Audio Books
             Meaningful Prompts for Struggling Readers
             Silent Signals: Cups

        Of course, you can't have tricks without treats. Thanks to Darlene Anne from ELA Buffet and Pam from Desktop Learning Adventures, The Secondary Smorgasbord has you covered with some amazing free resources that are perfect for this time of year!

        My treat for you . . . Tic Tac Tale! Nothing grabs students' attention quite like Edgar Allan Poe’s creepy classic, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” After teaching this spooky story, students use Tic Tac Tale to complete 3 unique writing responses, then choose one of those responses to revise, edit, and polish. Students love all the fun choices and teachers love seeing their students engaged in writing! Click here or on the images below to grab Tic Tac Tale for your students . . . then grab a mug of steaming hot apple cider and hop through the blogs below to enjoy some amazing free teaching resources for 6th-12th grade teachers!

        5 Ways to Make the Most of the TpT Back to School Sale

        It's the most wonderful time of the year . . . time to prepare for another school year! I love the excitement, anticipation, and energy this time of year! And I'm super-excited to team up with some amazing 6-12 English teachers to highlight a host of ideas, resources, tips, and strategies throughout the year that will help make 2015-16 one of your best year's yet!

        Over the past 3 months, I've had the opportunity to meet several of The Literary League teachers in person. They are the cream-of-the-crop . . . master teachers, knowledgeable about relevant education trends, passionate about their craft, and genuinely good people!

        Awesome Bonus: The 6-12 English resources these teacher-authors are creating are the best resources on the market, and several of these resources will be highlighted here throughout the upcoming year -- starting this week, with the annual sitewide sale at Teachers Pay Teachers!

        That's right, it's time to take advantage of the the annual TpT Back-to-School Sale as you prepare for the exciting year ahead! Getting ready for a new school year can be expensive . . . let us help you with some top-notch resources at great back-to-school prices! The sale is Monday and Tuesday, August 3 and 4. Save up to 28% with the sale code: BTS15.

        Here are some ways to take full advantage of the sitewide sale:

        -Log in to your Teachers Pay Teachers account.

        -Go to your 'My Purchases' page and make sure you've left feedback on all past purchases. Doing so builds credits that you can use toward your sale purchases, stretching your hard-earned dollars even further!

        -Buy bundles! Many sellers reduce already-discounted bundles during site-wide sales. For instance, all the money-saving bundles in my store are reduced an additional 28% during sales . . . bringing your total savings to nearly 50%! Look for bundles to get even more bang for your buck!

        -See if your favorite TpT Teacher-Authors have a "Buy My Entire Store" option. These super-mega-bundles usually save you big bucks. Save even more by picking them up during sitewide sales!

        -Check your Wishlist! Sitewide sales are a great time to purge resources you're no longer interested in and nab those you still want!

        -Finally, don't forget to enter your sales code before you checkout! Your code for this sale is BTS15. Use it and enjoy the back-to-school love!

        Speaking of love, The Literary League puts a lot of love into their resources . . . and they're sharing the back-to-school love with you during this back-to-school sale! Don't forget to check out these amazing TpT shops . . . you'll discover a lot of resources you can't live without, and you may find a few new favorite TpT sellers in the process. It doesn't get better than that!

        Literary Sherri
        Danielle Knight (Study All Knight)
        Darlene Anne- ELA Buffet
        Mrs. Spangler in the Middle
        Created by MrHughes
        The Classroom Sparrow
        The Daring English Teacher
        ELA Everyday
        Juggling ELA
        Making Meaning with Melissa
        2 Peas and a Dog
        Secondary Solutions-Simply Novel
        Addie Williams
        Linda Jennifer
        Fisher Reyna Education
        The Creative Classroom
        Stacey Lloyd
        Room 213
        Brynn Allison
        Open Classroom
        Perfetto Writing Room
        Secondary Sara
        Tracee Orman
        James Whitaker
        The Superhero Teacher
        Created for Learning
        Brain Waves Instruction

        Happy Back-to-School Shopping!

        Literary Sherri Goes Back to School

        After a bit of a summer hiatus, I’m blog hopping today with The Literary League – some pretty fabulous secondary ELA teacher-authors. You should definitely know these teachers and their resources, as they create some of the highest-quality resources you will find anywhere. It’s a privilege to be collaborating with them, and I’m excite to introduce you to them!

        First, a bit about me . . . I was the kid who loved school and everything about it. In early elementary grades, I cried on the last day of school before holiday breaks and summer vacation. Literally. I spent summers setting up a classroom on a blanket in the corner of the living room and creating schoolwork for stuffed animals – and later for siblings and neighborhood friends. In 4th grade, I announced that I would be a teacher when I grew up . . . and I never considered anything else.

        I started teaching in 1992. After a brief stint in 6th grade, I settled into 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts and I love it! Middle schoolers are both fun and funny. They are curious about the world and their role in it; they exaggerate nearly every experience and emotion, and they are wildly optimistic about their possibilities and futures. They keep me on my toes and I thoroughly enjoy working with them!

        In life outside of school, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, theatre and museums, weekend getaways, photography, and getting lost in good books.

        Speaking of good books, one of my favorite books to teach is The Giver by Lois Lowry. I can read it over and over again and never tire of the story and the many meaningful discussions it lends itself to, and I always appreciate students’ thoughts about diversity, individuality, freedom of choice, wisdom, the importance of preserving memories and learning from the past, the possibility of creating a utopian society, and the advantages and disadvantages of sacrificing personal freedom to gain a more peaceful society. Middle schoolers have a lot to say about these thought-provoking topics and their insights never fail to amaze me! The Giver is an absolute must in middle school!

        Speaking of school, it’s that time again . . . time to plan and prepare for a new year! I love the excitement and anticipation of a brand new school year! One of my favorite back-to-school activities is having students work in teams to design and build a new toy! Though you'd probably never hear them say it aloud, middle schoolers still love playing with interlocking building bricks! Ask them to get busy creating with a few friends, and they think they've just had the best school day of their entire lives! They think this activity is the bomb!

        I also think it's the bomb because it fosters team-building, critical thinking, collaborative problem-solving, communication, and social skills amongst students. It's collaborative and hands-on, it integrates other disciplines, and it allows me to start understanding students' learning and communication styles right away. While this is not your typical "get to know you" activity, it truly helps students get to know one another and connect with one another right away -- and it helps me get to know a lot about the students in my classes, as well! In fact, I'm so crazy about this back-to-school activity, that I've made it free! Grab it here and enjoy your first week back with students!

        I know you’ll enjoy hopping through these blog posts and getting to know a few other super-amazing secondary ELA teachers as much as I have!

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