The Common Good

Blog Posts By Trevor Scott Barton

Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 3 weeks 2 days ago
The ground on our mountain is rocky ground and the land seems to have more stones on it than soil. I think it is a miracle that things grow here, that things grow so well here. But they do. We are planting, as all farmers do, in the hope that good rains will come and help the seeds grow into whole, full stalks of millet. I am enjoying learning the life of a Malinke farmer. Bala is my teacher. This is his field.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 4 weeks 1 day ago
There is a small, mud-bricked, tin-roofed building on a piece of flat land below a mountain in Kenieba, Mali. This simple structure, surrounded by courtyards, peanut fields, and scrub grass, is the church building where we lived for three years, a place that became our home. The people who are this church are simple people like the building itself. Most of them are subsistence farmers growing just enough peanuts, millet, rice and corn to eat for the year. When I think of these friends of ours, three people come to mind who symbolize them all.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 8 weeks 4 days ago
The French composer Claude Debussy once said, "Music is the space between the notes." His compositions were a part of Impressionism in music, a movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that focused on suggestion and atmosphere and favored short forms of music like nocturnes, arabesques, and preludes. This movement was a correction of the excesses of the Romantic period, where the focus was on strong emotion and the depiction of stories and the favor was toward long forms of music like symphonies and concertos.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 37 weeks 4 days ago
I created my SOLE space by providing one desktop computer per four students, a whiteboard to write questions on, and paper and pens for students to take notes for their sharing at the end of SOLE.Then I asked a big question — “Why does a blue whale have such an enormous heart?” — and I let the adventure begin. My students began their investigations.After 40 minutes, they shared their discoveries.“Blue whales swim all over the world,” said Ki’ara, “So they need a gargantuan heart to be their motor.”“Blue whales can call to each other over almost a thousand miles,” said Heavenly. “They need a big heart to talk to each other.”“They swim together in pairs,” said Amare, “So they need huge hearts to care for each other.”“Yeah,” said Isaac, “That’s true … it takes a huge heart to care for somebody.”“Kids who are nice to me on the playground must have a big heart like a blue whale,” added Aydan. “And people who are mean must have small hearts.”“Hmmm,” I said. “How can we have big hearts for each other instead of small hearts?”
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 47 weeks 2 days ago
"We all have a story to tell."These are the words that will greet my new elementary students as they enter my classroom this year.I will tell them my story: who I am, what I do, when I was born, where I have lived, why I am a teacher, how I came to our school.I will tell them this story: When I was their age, I carried a tattered journal, a Papermate pen, and a pocket dictionary everywhere I went. I wrote about the people, places, and things I saw with my eyes, heard with my ears, smelled with my nose, tasted with my tongue, and felt with my hands. I put down on paper the ideas and feelings that were floating around in my head and my heart. I was nerdy (and still am) ... but I was me!"Will you tell me your story?" I will ask them.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 5 weeks ago
Grandpa, you are my Pepa. Before me, you wereRobert Elias Cunningham: son, brother, husband and father butGod, through my birth, made you Grandpa andI, in my smallness, through toddling talk and wondering words, made you Pepa.Now, deep in my life, I feel you kneeling in your garden,Planting your plants,Your skin the color of newly plowed rows, your smell the humble smell of dirt.Sweat drips off your forehead and mixes with rain and soil andNourishes the plants so they can grow.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 6 weeks ago
If I were a tree     I would like to be          A giving tree.Leaves a peaceful green,     Birds could sit and sing,          Children laugh and swing                Upon my branches. 
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 7 weeks ago
Editor’s Note: The following poem by Trevor Scott Barton was written while he was living in Africa and reading The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi.Holding you in the palm of my handI see your tiny feet and hope you'll live and walk these stony pathsTo the pump to get water.Blessing you in your meekness and gentleness,You are Jesus to me today.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 8 weeks ago
Kind, tired eyes from too much seeing ...Worn, battered shoes from too much walking ...Stained, tattered shirt from too much working ...Gentle, calloused hands from too much holding ...Open, humbled heart from too much knowing ...
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 13 weeks ago
The question for me as a teacher is not so much "What could have been?" as it is "What can be?"I think of my fourth grader holding signs that say, "I am MLK," "I am Anne Frank," "I am Harvey Milk," "I am Daniel Pearl," "I am James Byrd, Jr.," "I am Matthew Shephard," and "I am Yitzhak Rabin." Though she cannot really be them, she certainly can take up their work and carry it on in her own life. She wants to become a doctor so she can help people live. With that spirit, she will help these martyrs live, too.As a teacher, it is my job not only to help students imagine a world without hate, but also to help them find the tools and the heart to build it.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 15 weeks ago
I just returned from a weeklong visit to Cuba. A team of seven people from First Baptist Church Greenville went to be with and learn from our partner church in Guanahay, Cuba — La Iglesia Bautista del Camino. After time in such a colorful country, here are some colorful thoughts of my own for three of our Cuban friends.If Javier were a color, he would be blue. He is kind. "It is important to look each other in the eyes," he said on Easter morning. "So look into each others’ eyes, really, now, look into each others’ eyes, for at the end of the day you will be able to say that you have looked into the eyes of Christ." 
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 19 weeks ago
The announcement was broadcast at the end of the day over the school’s public address system."Our Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 is ... Mr. Barton. Congratulations!"I walked out into the third-grade hallway where students were lined up for dismissal. Little hands reached up and patted me on the shoulder. Small voices joined together and called out, "We're proud of you, Mr. Barton!" Alondra, a quiet student, pulled me close and said, "Thank you for being my reading teacher." I was honored and humbled.As I walked back into my classroom, I reflected over my five years teaching at this Title I elementary school. "Who am I, what have I done, to become Teacher of the Year?" I asked myself.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 20 weeks ago
I walked down the newly plowed row with my grandpa, feeling the warm, red clay on the soles of my bare feet and listening to his stories and words of advice. I held a tomato plant in my hands, the rich, black potting soil falling off of the small, vulnerable roots, as he knelt and dug a place for it in the garden. “Hey,” he’d often start, “here's something my daddy told me when I was little. ‘God gave you two ears and one mouth because He wants you to listen twice as much as you speak. If you do that, you'll learn something. If you don't, you won't.’”The memory of walking with my grandpa in his garden came back to me after I read about The Faith and Politics Institute's Civil Rights Pilgrimage in which more than 250 people (including 30 members of Congress) took a three-day tour of civil rights landmarks from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham to Montgomery to Selma. The participants in the pilgrimage got to hear the stories of the struggle for justice from the people who were in those places 50 years ago. I especially remember grandpa’s stories about his childhood on the family dairy farm in Greenville, S.C. in the 1920s. I liked to hear stories about the black folks who came and worked with him and his family. I heard hard work in his voice and saw struggle in his face when he talked about those times.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 21 weeks ago
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 25 weeks ago
I received a galimoto for Christmas. In case you didn't know, a galimoto is a toy vehicle created out of sticks, cornstalks, wire or anything children can take into their hands and make into a thing with wheels. Mine is a bicycle made of wire. There is a wire child in colorful cloth on the bicycle seat, a rider whose legs pedal as the wheels move. It is beautiful in its simplicity, astonishing in its complexity. It came from the hands of a child in Kenya. I love it.I brought my galimoto to school and introduced it to my third-grade students. They held it in their hands, marveled at its design, and pushed it around the classroom. "A kid made this?" Matthew asked. "Amazing!"We looked at a globe and located South Carolina and Kenya. We flew with our fingers from Greenville across the Atlantic Ocean across Africa to Nairobi. We wondered what it would be like to live there. What would the weather be like? What foods would we eat? What kind of house would we live in? What clothes would we wear? What would our school be like? What would our parents do? What would we play with? "I know what we would play with," said Syleana with a smile. "A galimoto!"We took a picture walk through the book Galimoto written by Karen Lynn Williams and illustrated by Catherine Stock. "What do you notice when you look at the cover of the book?" I asked. "It looks like the little boy is poor," answered Zaniya. "Why do you think he's poor?" I continued. 
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 29 weeks ago
One morning, I walked out the front doors of the center and turned down Jefferson Street toward the Ohio River. There, huddled in a circle beside the wall of our building, was a group of worn, ragged homeless men. I knelt down with them and said, "Hello."One of the men smiled a toothless smile at me, reached into his coat, pulled out a bottle of Wild Irish Rose, took a swig, and passed it to me. "Here," he said. "Have a drink."It was truly a John Irving moment. Here I was offering my alcoholic friend a “hello” and he offering his ministerial friend a drink. He was offering me the thing that was most important to him.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 30 weeks ago
I attended a basketball banquet and a girls team gathered together on the stage. Their coach gave a small speech before she introduced each player.  "We didn't win any games this season," she lamented, "but in our hearts we won them all." Wow! What a quote! "In our hearts we won them all." I'll always remember it and hold it in my heart. Not long after that banquet, I heard a story on National Public Radio about a high school girls basketball team in Texas that lost a game 100-0. I found an article about the game written by Barry Horn for the Dallas Morning News. Horn wrote, "Later on the 100-0 night, Civello [the losing coach] told his girls the life lesson they could take from their loss: 'I told them someday they will be on top in a similar situation and they should remember how they felt when some people were cheering for a team to score a hundred points and shut us out. Hopefully, my girls all learned a lesson in sportsmanship that will last a lifetime.'" 
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 30 weeks ago
In The Last Shot, Frey has written a compassionate book. It is truly a compass that guides us into the sneakers and the hearts of children growing up in the housing projects of Coney Island, New York — inner-city kids defying the law of nature by growing in a tough place like flowers growing through concrete.It is truly passionate about basketball and life, basketball as it is loved by children, coaches, and communities ... life as it is felt through the hearts of people who know human beings are human beings and not commodities.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 32 weeks ago
I asked a small group of second-graders what they would like to find inside their mailboxes. That was after we read a story about a goose who opened her mailbox and found a kite. I expected to hear answers of things: video games, toys or basketballs. But the first student who raised her hand looked at me with sincere, big brown eyes and said, "I'd like to find a letter from my dad."In my classroom, my kids say the profoundest things.As we entered the holiday season, I thought about the answer that student gave me. I thought about what other of my 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds were saying about the holiday season.For three years, I lived and worked in a large housing project in Louisville, Ky. I was a middle-class, white graduate student, and my background clouded how I saw the people around me. But I finally began to see clearly.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 33 weeks ago
I learned from an article in The Sun magazine that the word eccentric comes from a Greek word that describes objects in space that don't revolve around the earth. The Greeks in ancient times saw Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn and observed that they wandered through the sky moving in a seemingly aimless way. They called these planets asteres planetai (wandering stars). The planets were not, however, wandering. They were revolving around the sun. It was the finite view of human beings that made them seem like wanderers.Human eccentrics move in a seemingly aimless way, too. Their movements make them seem like wanderers to other human beings with finite views. They don't wander aimlessly, though. They revolve around a different center.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 34 weeks ago
Editor's Note: The following is a poem written by Trevor Scott Barton following reading The Violence of Love by Archbiship Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in El Salvador in 1980.Childrenlonging for a hero,living love, peace and hope,protecting ordinary people from extraordinary hatred and violence,peaceful hero,dying for the cause but not killing for it,denying guns and bombs their power,risking the violence of love.Conserving tradition at first for the greatest,seeing through your glasses at last for the least,feeling the hunger of underpaid workers,knowing the poverty of farmers,hearing the warning, "Here's what happens to priests who get involved in politics,”holding tears of the disappeared.Challenging,calling all to view the liberating body of a slain priest,serving the poor,using words to build up humanity and tear down injustice,"In the name of God, stop killing ..."offering crucifixion,discovering resurrection.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 35 weeks ago
Editor's Note: Trevor Scott Barton wrote this poem after reading Subtle Is The Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein by Abraham Pais.Einsteinexperiencing a miracletrembling with excitementa compasssparking geniuscreating a world of thoughtEuclidian Geometry in a small bookflying certainly away from the miraculousfinding the miraculous in clarity and certaintygravityRydberg's Constant = 2π2em/h3clanding uneasily in chaoswandering and wondering in the quantum universeGod playing symphonies on strings
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 36 weeks ago
I remember the first time I saw the movie Awakenings. I was living at Jeff Street Baptist Center and working with a community of inner-city teenagers from the Clarksdale housing projects in Louisville, Ky. Monday nights were Dollar Movie Nights for us and we would load up in our orange van (affectionately called The Great Pumpkin) and head out to the theater. On that Monday night I chose Awakenings as our movie of the week, hoping that my kids would identify with the 'helping each other overcome' theme in the story. My dream was deferred. They hated it! Within 15 minutes of the start of the movie they were throwing popcorn at the screen. We got up and changed theaters to something faster paced with more action. I had to promise to check my movie choices with them before they agreed to go with me again.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 36 weeks ago
We were walking up the beach, on the sand as the tide moved out toward the ocean. I was holding Zeke's hand, talking with him about sea things. "I didn't know jellyfish swam this close to the shore during the spring," he said in 5-year-old wonderment. "I bet that drift wood is as old as The Old Man and the Sea. I think a horseshoe crab's blood can be used to treat cancer.""Look," I said."What is it, Dad?" he asked.I picked up a shell out of the deep, hot sand and held it in my open hand.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 38 weeks ago
During my first year as a second-grade teacher, I struggled with classroom management. I am a soft-spoken person by nature and habit. I didn't have the experience to help me set up great rules and procedures for my students. My classroom was noisy and chaotic. I think you could hear us all around the school.A well-meaning colleague stopped me one day after school and offered, "Trevor, you need to find your teacher voice. Most of the children at our school won't listen to you unless you yell at them. You need to show them who's boss."After five years of teaching, I agree that it is important to find your teacher voice. I disagree, however, that your teacher voice needs to be mean and bossy. I found my voice. It’s nurturing and supportive and one that students can internalize for positive growth and change. I thought about this teacher voice when I met 7-year-old Maria. On her first day in reading intervention classroom, she made a mistake on a skill sheet. She asked for an eraser but I said, "Don't worry if you make a mistake. You don't have to erase it. Just cross it out and fix it. I'll never be angry with you if you make a mistake. I just want you to try to fix it."
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 40 weeks ago
Peacemaking happens in many forms. Sometimes peace is offered to others, and sometimes given in unexpected ways.It was early morning. The African sun had yet to rise above the mountains, and the sky was the soft yellow of newly shucked corn.“Beep, beep,” sounded the horn on the old truck as it rumbled to a stop in front of my house. My old friends – Momadu, Madu, and Balamusa – greeted me with smiles, waves, and morning blessings.We were on our way from Kenieba, a small town in western Mali, to Sitaxoto, a large village about two hours away over a broken dirt road.A church was there, a little group of people who met each week outside under a big baobab tree to pray, study the Bible, share their stories and ask, “How do we follow Jesus?” 
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 40 weeks ago
This morning, Madu walked the one kilometer path from his village to my house. He is married to Sirima and they have two children: four-year-old Sira, who they call Bonnie, and two-year-old Musa, who they call Papa. He told me that Papa had burned his hand and wrist in the morning cooking fire.Maybe the path to civility and peace can be found somewhere along the path from my house to Madu’s village.“Do you have any medicine for a burn?” he asked.There is a hospital in our small town on the southwestern edge of Mali, but its small staff of doctors serve a large population of people without the use of technology, electricity, or even running water. Many times people come to me for help and healing before they go to the hospital because I have free first aid supplies, a generator, and a deep water well. I consulted my ragged copy of Where There Is No Doctor and turned to the section on the treatment of burns.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 40 weeks ago
Washing dishes. This is how I remember Momadu.Washing dishes is a chore, you know. In the pre-dishwasher days in America, my mom put "wash the dishes" on my list of things to do every day. I washed them, obediently though begrudgingly.In the pre-dishwasher days in Mali, though, we asked Momadu to wash the dishes, and he washed them with joy.How could he do something as mundane as washing dishes and do it with joy?
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 41 weeks ago
September 30 - October 6 was Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read.Surprisingly, Harper Lee's novel To Kill A Mockingbird makes the list of frequently banned books.To Kill A Mockingbird changed my life."You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view," says Harper Lee through Atticus, "until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."How much have I learned as a teacher and a writer by thinking about every person I meet with that consideration?
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 42 weeks ago
When Galileo saw this in the 16th century, it cemented the idea that Venus goes around the sun and not the Earth. It was the beginning of the end for an Earth-centered universe.Galileo was a mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and physicist. He became known as the father of science.He was a wonderer, and his wondering encouraged him to think differently from his fellow Pisans. When he was a child, people said, "He has stars in his eyes."
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 42 weeks ago
Dear God,As my son Zeke says in his daily prayers, so I say in our prayer this morning, "Thank you for all of the good things in the world."One of those good things happened to me when I stopped by the water company to pay  my bill. I walked into the building and stopped at the receptionist's desk to borrow a pen to write the check. I heard a family behind me and turned a saw a small child leading her mother by the hand, a mother carrying a baby in the cradle of her arm. The child listened to her Mother speak to her in Spanish, then looked at the receptionist and asked in English, "Can you show us where to pay our bill."Suddenly and surprisingly the child looked up at me and threw her arms around me in a happy hug. "Mr. Barton!" she said. "I'm glad to see you, Mr. Barton!"
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 43 weeks ago
In early 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders continued plans for a Poor People’s Campaign. It would take place in the spring in Washington, D.C. The poor and those in solidarity with them would take up temporary residence and march peacefully on the Capitol and advocate for substantial anti-poverty legislation from Congress. They would demand jobs, healthcare, and decent housing.People set up a camp on the Washington Mall and called it Resurrection City. Jesse Jackson gave his famous "I Am Somebody" speech there. But King was assassinated in the weeks leading up to the campaign and Robert Kennedy was assassinated during it. Disheartened and discouraged, people drifted away from the campaign, their dreams deferred.What if MLK had lived to lead the campaign with his insight and eloquence? What if Bobby Kennedy had lived to support it with his doggedness and political will? Would the United States be a place where 1 out of 5 children, around 15.5 million, are in poverty and where close to 50 million people are without health insurance?
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 44 weeks ago
Bralyan loves bugs. I met him during the first week of school as I conducted the standard assessment of how many words he could read per minute from a second-grade story. After the assessment, I gave him the customary caterpillar sticker to put on his shirt to show everyone that he was going to emerge as a great reader during his second-grade year. You would have thought that I had given him a piece of gold. "Oooh, I love bugs," he marveled as I handed him the sticker. "I have seen caterpillars around the trees at my apartment. They spin a chrysalis and turn into butterflies. “Have you seen a roly poly bug?,” he continued. “They're my favorites!" And so a friendship began around the pyrrharctia isabella, the armadillidum vulgar and other bugs that make up the most diverse group of animals on the planet. This interaction told me some crucial things about Bralyan. It told me he is a smart kid, and it also told me that keeping him engaged in school would likely include bugs. I later learned that Bralyan and his family moved here from Mexico when he was a baby. His mom and dad speak only Spanish at home. He speaks English at school.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 45 weeks ago
"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union ..."I heard these words for the first time in a song when I was a kid. I was pouring a glass of orange juice in the kitchen when I heard it. Bugs Bunny had ended. I was waiting for Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids to begin. There was the familiar refrain of Schoolhouse Rock in between those cartoons. "As your body grows bigger, your mind grows flowered, it's great to learn 'cause knowledge is power!" And there it was—the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution in song. I learned it and never forgot it.When I became an elementary school teacher, one of my goals was to teach my students to sing the Preamble.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 45 weeks ago
Being a teacher is like being a farmer. You rise early in the morning. You irrigate and fertilize the field that is your classroom. You plant the seeds that are reading, writing, and arithmetic. You hope for good soil, warm sunshine, and gentle rain that are good homes, healthy foods, and adequate healthcare for your students. You work with your hands, feet and heart with your plants who are your students. Your harvest is your students. Your winter season of fallow fields is your summer break of empty classrooms.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 45 weeks ago
I try to teach in the present. With Billy, though, I found myself thinking about the future. Will middle school be a challenge for him? Will he be an outcast in high school? Or a target for bullies?I wondered what contributions he might make to society as an adult. Would he start a revolution in the art world?If his peers constantly slap their hands down and say there's no room for him, how will he react? Will he become a part of what author Alexandra Robbins calls the "cafeteria fringe,” those people who are not a part of the school's or society's in-crowd? Because he seems different, will he be labeled “geek,” “nerd” or “weirdo?”As a teacher I want to help him overcome. But what can I do?
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 46 weeks ago
Baseball players Larry Doby was black and Steve Gromek was white. Gromek was from the working-class culture of Hamtramck, Mich., and Doby from the Jim Crow culture of Camden, S.C.One year earlier, on July 5, 1947, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Doby had become the second African-American behind the great Jackie Robinson of the immortal Brooklyn Dodgers to play for a major league baseball team and the first African-American to play in the American League.It was a revolutionary picture because it showed the world a way white supremacy and racism could be overcome.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 47 weeks ago
Nikki Haley, the governor of my state, recently signed the South Carolina Illegal Immigration and Reform Act. The law, which is part of a recent wave of state immigration legislation, goes into effect in January. As she signed the bill, she stated:“What I’m concerned about is the money we’re losing because of illegal immigration in this state. The money that’s lost in education and medical services and workers and employment and all of those things is well beyond millions of dollars …”It is dehumanizing when you refer to people only in terms of money. Further, the research does not support the governor’s statement.According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented workers in South Carolina paid $43.6 million in state and local taxes in 2010. Another study outlined the losses to the state if all unauthorized immigrants were removed from South Carolina. The state would lose $1.8 billion in economic activity, $782.9 million in gross state product and approximately 12,059 jobs.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 47 weeks ago
I love to receive letters. When I was a little boy, I lived on a long, straight street and I could see the mail truck coming from a long way off. After the mailman stopped in front of our house, I ran with hope in my heart down our front walkway, between our two giant maple trees and across the street to our mailbox. Would there be a letter for me? Was someone in the world thinking of me?One day last year it was not the mailman, but a second-grader on the school playground, who handed a letter to me. I unfolded it."Dear Mr. Barton, hi it Odeth from 2th grade I miss you a lot I wanted to know about you so much I am being good I am in 4th grade Do you miss me.  I live in __________  I go to school in __________  I hope you will come to my school … can you come visit me in school ask for my name…I am 10 year old I want you to come to my school.Your best student,Odeth"What a wonderful thing, to be remembered by a student.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 47 weeks ago
Imani walked down the hall with a paper cup in her hands.She stopped and held up the cup to me. Inside of its paper walls were soil, water, and seeds — all those humble and elemental things that build a third-grader's scientific knowledge.Imani was growing cabbage.She was my student last year. She loved science and writing. I remember the look of wonder in her eyes when we studied weather. We learned about tornadoes. In my classroom, I had two 2-liter bottles connected by a tornado tube, a plastic piece that allows you to make a tornado by swirling the water around and around in one of the bottles. Imani held the bottles in her hands and marveled as her water formed into a giant, powerful funnel cloud. "Wow," she whispered.I love the sound of learning.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 47 weeks ago
In Roald Dahl's classic children's book James and the Giant Peach, 7-year-old orphan James Henry Trotter escapes his two rotten, abusive aunts by crawling into a giant peach. The peach rolls, floats, and flies him to a new life of wonder and love.I'm reading this book aloud for the first time, and my listeners are spellbound by the story, especially the part where the very small old man opens the bag filled with magical crocodile tongues that will help a barren, broken peach tree grow fruit as big as a house."There's more power and magic in those things in there than in all the rest of the world put together," says the man. There is.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 48 weeks ago
"Teachers are builders," said my friend. "You build safe learning environments for your students. You build safe spaces for your parents. You build knowledge and experience for yourselves. You build community with each other. You are builders."I like her image.This year I'm going to work on the 'building community with each other' part.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 48 weeks ago
Editor's Note: Over the next two weeks, Sojourners is celebrating our teachers, parents, and mentors as children across the country head back to school. We'll offer a series of reflections on different aspects of education in our country.My elementary school is a Title I school. About 97 percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch and Medicaid. Research shows us that many children raised in poverty struggle to learn to read. Common sense tells us that children who don't learn to read can't read to learn. They often reach a frustration level with school by the time they're in the third grade. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 70 percent of low-income fourth-grade students can't read at a basic level. I often wonder, "What can I do in my day-to-day work as a teacher to help?"
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 49 weeks ago
Every morning at 7:15, the doors of our school open wide to a line of bus riders ready to come inside. "Hello, Jaheem. Hi, Kiara. Hey, Imani. Hope you're having a good day, Omar," I call out as the students walk past me to the cafeteria for breakfast. I stand at the doors for a moment and watch the big, yellow buses puff their diesel exhaust and chug their way to the garage until it's time for their afternoon run.Is there a more universal symbol for public schools than a big, yellow school bus?
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 49 weeks ago
There is a wonderful scene in Harper Lee's novel To Kill A Mockingbird where the all-white jury has returned an unjust verdict against Tom Robinson. Atticus Finch begins to wearily walk out of the courthouse. His children, Jem and Scout, are in the balcony with the black folks of the county. They all rise as Atticus walks out — except the children — so the Rev. Sykes says to Scout, “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”During the first weeks of school, Scout's story came back to me as I was benchmarking the reading levels of our first- and second-grade students. Before I took the students through the benchmark test, I asked them open-ended questions and listened to their answers. At first they were shy, as children often are when they meet a new teacher. But soon they were telling me their stories with confident voices and dimpled smiles.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 1 year 51 weeks ago
Every school day just after 2 p.m., Sandra pushes her cart into my classroom to clean the bathroom and empty the trash cans. She is the school custodian and my students love her. When students hear her squeaky wheels in the hallway outside our door, they listen for her kind giggle as she enters the room. "Ms. Sandra! Ms. Sandra! Can I help you empty the trash? Can I help you?" they yell out with their hands waving in the air.She responds, "Jennifer, you look so cute today! How you doin' VicTOR? Francisco, baby, you look like you're doing a good job for Mr. Barton. You come on over and help me today. Anna, honey, that's okay, you can help me tomorrow." She knows all of my students by name.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 2 years 2 days ago
"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me."I was sitting outside on the playground bench wiping the tears of a child when this proverb came to mind. It isn’t true, of course. Nancy was a second-grader going through an evaluation process to help us understand why she couldn't read. Kayla was one of her classmates. As they were climbing the ladder of the slide, Kayla yelled out, "Nancy is retarded!"Ouch.Words can break our hearts.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 2 years 1 week ago
My students had questions about the central character in the story Fly Away Home written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ronald Himler. And even as 2nd graders, they knew something about the problem."Homelessness is mean," said James. "I pass the Salvation Army on my bus on the way to school every day. I know homeless people sleep there," Billy added.Fly Away Home tells the story of a boy who lives in an airport with his dad because they have lost their home. They move through the terminals to avoid being noticed by passengers. The story places you in the boy’s shoes and helps you see the world through his eyes. You feel the pain of the dad who can no longer provide a home for his family. You experience what it’s like to have all of your possessions in two blue bags. This is just the right book to help students and teachers think about how we view people who are homeless.After reading the story to my students, I asked a few questions about homelessness.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 2 years 2 weeks ago
Every morning, Leo's smile brightens the cafeteria at my elementary school. He hobbles in, holding his teacher's hand. His eyes squint at the bright lights. He squirms at loud noises. And always, he smiles."Good morning, Leo," I say as I rub his cheek and look into his eyes. He looks back into my eyes for a split second, then gazes off into his own world. That one-second look is his way to say good morning. Leo is a non-verbal first-grader. He is a student in our K-2 trainable mentally disabled class. He comes to us with Down Syndrome, autism, and wonder.
Posted by Trevor Scott Barton 2 years 6 weeks ago
My second grader helped me understand that the story of Harriet Tubman is still being lived out today in the lives of Latino families in my school and across the country.Mary Bauer and Sarah Reynolds authored the report “Under Siege: Life for Low-Income Latinos in the South for the Southern Poverty Law Center.”They explain, "Latinos in the South—many of whom came here to escape crushing poverty in their home countries—are encountering wide-spread hostility, discrimination and exploitation."This report helps us understand the struggle for life that many of our Latino students take on, a clandestine struggle like the one Harriet Tubman made all those years ago.