Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free COINTELPRO: Teaching the FBI’s War on the Black Freedom Movement

    By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

    Students learn about the FBI’s counterintelligence program of the 1960s and ´70s. They see the roots of Black Lives Matter—and the attacks on it—in the history of Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Hampton.

  • Features
  • Free ESSA: NCLB Repackaged

    By Stan Karp

    Its total failure and the movement against standardized testing finally brought the demise of No Child Left Behind. But is its successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act, any better?

  • Free Education Under Occupation: East Jerusalem

    An interview with Zakaria Odeh

    By Jody Sokolower

    An on-the-ground account of the impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian children from the perspective of East Jerusalem.

  • Cultivando sus voces

    1st graders develop their voices learning about farmworkers

    By Marijke Conklin

    Emerging bilingual 1st graders research farmworkers by visiting a strawberry farm and reading lots of books. Then they write their own stories.

  • El corazón de la escuela/The Heart of the School

    The importance of bilingual school libraries

    By Rachel Cloues

    A public school teacher-librarian describes a vibrant library program—and exposes the harm when librarians are seen as dispensable and libraries become testing centers.

  • Free El corazón de la escuela

    La importancia de las bibliotecas bilingües en las escuelas

    By Rachel Cloues | Translated By Nicholas Yurchenco

    Una maestra bibliotecaria describe los dinámicos programas de su biblioteca y expone el daño causado cuando se considera a los bibliotecarios como dispensables y a las bibliotecas como el centro de los exámenes.

  • Believe Me the First Time

    By Dale Weiss

    A 2nd grader and a 4th grader share experiences on their paths toward gender identity, then join forces to create and teach a lesson promoting understanding and support.

  • Free Sacrifice Zones

    By Rosemarie Frascella

    An English language teacher uses Naomi Klein’s concept of sacrifice zones—from This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate—to help her immigrant students understand connections between oppression in their home countries and in the United States.

  • Free Zonas de Sacrificio

    Por Rosemarie Frascella | Traducido por Vanesa Ortiz Solis

    Una maestra de inglés usa el concepto de zonas de sacrificio de Naomi Klein, de Esto lo cambia todo: El capitalismo contra el clima, para ayudar a sus estudiantes inmigrantes a entender las conexiones entre la opresión en sus países de origen y en los Estados Unidos.

  • “The Most Gentrified City of the Century”

    By Becky HenkleBerry, Jeff Waters

    Middle school teachers collaborate to help students understand and critique the changes that have taken place in their Portland, Oregon, neighborhood. Their inspired students create an online resource of local history and heroes.

  • Free Prizes as Curriculum

    How my school gets students to “behave”

    By Kelly Lagerwerff

    A paraprofessional exposes the harm of substituting compliance for content at a school for special needs students.

  • Departments Free
  • Boycotting Occupation: Educators and Palestine

    By The Editors of Rethinking Schools
  • Education Action
  • Reining in Military Recruiting

    By Seth Kershner
  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.
  • Good Stuff
  • Memories

    By Herb Kohl

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El corazón de la escuela/The Heart of the School

The importance of bilingual school libraries
El corazón de la escuela/The Heart of the School

Simone Shin

A 30-foot-long grey whale skeleton visited my school library for a week last spring. The whale arrived in many parts—giant vertebrae piled up in bins and boxes; long, curved ribs carefully carried up the stairs and down the hallway; the enormous and beautiful white skull pushed slowly on a wheeled cart from Mission Science Workshop, based in the neighborhood a few blocks away. As the teacher-librarian at a bilingual elementary school in San Francisco, I worked on coordinating Whale Week for more than a year. Now it was upon us, and I was grinning from ear to ear as I watched the children’s mouths drop open at the sight of the huge collection of bones moving into our library.

Our students spent a month studying grey whales, which migrate each year along the California coast between Alaska and Mexico. It was an engaging schoolwide topic, especially because most of the children’s families themselves migrated from Mexico and Central America. During Whale Week, each class spent an hour in our school library learning from the Mission Science Workshop staff, in English and Spanish, about whales. Each class worked together to assemble (and then disassemble) the grey whale skeleton, piece by piece, nestling numbered vertebrae together like a giant puzzle and tying ribs taller than 5th graders to a specially constructed wooden frame. Flippers—with finger bones clearly visible—fanned out from the whale’s giant shoulder blades. The fully assembled skeleton spanned the entire length of our library.

Throughout the week, parents and community members stopped in to help with the bones and marvel. Several classes of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from the middle school next door also visited. They helped our preschool and kinder students lift and place pieces of the skeleton. On display around the library were myriad books about whales and other ocean animals. The whale website I created with photos and digital resources was up on the computer screens. Recordings of whale sounds emanated from computer speakers while the children worked to match together almost 200 sun-bleached bones.

This powerful, bilingual, integrated learning experience in our school library was a collaboration between many players: a community organization dedicated to bringing hands-on science to low-income Spanish-speaking youth in the Mission District, our school’s science resource teacher, our gardening intern, classroom teachers, and me—the teacher-librarian.Funded through a modest library budget, our school’s Whale Week is an example of the kind of creative, literacy-rich, and intercurricular learning opportunities possible with a robust school library program. It is one of many reasons we need our school libraries and teacher-librarian positions to be adequately funded.

In recent years and across the nation, school library programming has gone the way of art, music, PE, and other “supplemental” or “special” programs in public schools. Nowhere has this reduced funding for libraries had a more devastating impact than in California, where we currently have one credentialed school librarian for every 7,187 students, according to the state’s department of education. The California School Librarian Association (CSLA) drives home this shameful fact by pointing out that Texas—the state with the next largest population of students—has approximately one teacher-librarian for every 1,080 students; Mississippi can boast roughly a 1:575 ratio. California is at the very bottom of this absurd range of statistics. Each time I attend the annual CSLA conference, it is noticeably and sadly under-attended.

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