Friday, August 17, 2018

Teachers Find Many Ways to Learn this Summer

Great teachers are also great learners. They continue to push their own education in the drive to offer students transformative experiences in and out of the classroom. Street Law offers professional development to secondary school civics, government, and law teachers to improve their subject-area knowledge and help them use effective teaching strategies to foster civic engagement. We deliver programs across the country and can work directly with school districts to develop and deliver customized workshops. Below are three examples of teacher professional development programs Street Law led this summer.

2018 Supreme Court Summer Institute

Since its inception in 1995, approximately 1,300 teachers have participated in the Supreme Court Summer Institute, reaching more than 325,000 students! The 2018 Institute included sessions led by Supreme Court experts, journalists, authors, and lawyers, who gave teachers an in-depth understanding of the Court's inner workings, including how the Court chooses and decides cases and what it is like to argue before the Court.

This year’s Institute covered granting certiorari, emergency appeals in death penalty cases, partisan gerrymandering, and more. This exciting professional development opportunity culminated with a visit to the Court to hear decisions handed down by the justices and a farewell reception at the Court.

The Institute covered six cases from the recent SCOTUS term. You can find case summaries for all in our Free Resource Library:

  • Carpenter v. United States
  • Gill v. Whitford
  • Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission
  • Minnesota Voter Alliance v. Mansky
  • National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra
  • Trump v. Hawaii

Following the Institute, one teacher reported:

“This was an enchanting week! I can’t say enough about how impactful it has been! It is a week in my life that I will never forget, professionally and personally. Thank you!”

Next year’s sessions are tentatively scheduled for June 13-18 and June 20-25, 2019. Look for the application to open online in October.

New Perspectives Deliberation Training

This summer, Street Law premiered New Perspectives—a teacher professional development program that prepares secondary teachers from across content areas to master the use of deliberative discussion in their classrooms in order to build positive relationships across differences. 

26 teachers from the Washington, DC metro area, Omaha, and Denver participated in a three-day training centered on deliberation—a highly-structured discussion method that teaches people how to address controversial issues by carefully considering multiple perspectives and searching for consensus.

Teachers learned how to lead deliberations not just among students, but also between students and adults from the greater community. A highlight of the training was the community deliberation held with local students from the Montgomery County Minority Scholars Program. The group deliberated on “hate speech,” a topic selected by the students. The deliberation provided an excellent opportunity for intergenerational conversations, offering a variety of perspectives.

After the program, one teacher commented:

“My students will benefit from all of these deliberations. All have been discussions that we have had in the classroom this past year in law and juvenile justice.”

Participating teachers will implement the program throughout the 2018-19 school year, at the end of which materials will be released publicly. Materials will include at least eight new deliberation topics, including assault weapons bans, compulsory voting, and minimum wage.

National Constitution Center’s Rule of Law Institutes

In July, Street Law provided two full-day training workshops as part of the National Constitution Center’s rule of law institutes in Philadelphia. A total of 63 teachers from across the country took part in the workshops, which addressed judicial independence and the rule of law.

Workshops were led by Street Law’s Lee Arbetman and Cathy Ruffing and Professor Greer Burroughs of the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. Topics included:

  • Teaching about judicial independence
  • Deliberation
  • Using case studies in the classroom
  • Using moot courts in the classroom

Volunteer attorneys helped prepare participants to conduct a moot court of Minnesota Voters’ Alliance v. Mansky, with teachers taking on the roles of petitioner, respondent, or Supreme Court justice.

Image Caption: Street Law's Jen Wheeler with participants in the New Perspectives Program