History, Literacy, & Equity: Megan DuVarney Forbes

One power of #thegram has been introducing us to leaders who push our thinking and expand our expertise. We specifically found this to be true for those educators doing the work every day promoting best practices in equity and literacy. This week, we are going to highlight two fierce females who are incredibly intentional with their influence. First up, Megan DuVarney Forbes.

Megan DuVarney Forbes, aka @toocoolformiddleschool

TMP: Tell us about you and your current work.

MDF: I teach 6th grade History and 8th grade English in Southern California. This is my eighth year as a public school teacher, and I also taught private piano and voice lessons all through college. I am married to a P.E. teacher and we have a 3 year old son who keeps us busy and entertained! I also love creating videos for my YouTube channel, Too Cool for Middle School, which has videos from my past 5 years of teaching, mom-ming and learning.

TMP: Amazing! Tell us more about your strengths, passions and areas of expertise within literacy which influence your work as a teacher?

MDF: My training is as a historian, so non-fiction is my wheelhouse. I love teaching articles and putting together background information text sets when we read novels or short stories. The historical context of a book or story truly takes our understanding to a whole new level, and is often essential for an accurate reading of the theme. On the other hand, I also LOVE teaching musical theater as texts and one of my very favorite units to do with my 8th graders is on the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen.

TMP: Umm…how can we sign up to audit that class?!? We always joke about how we would have loved to be 8th graders in your classes. So what is your favorite children’s book right now?

MDF: I’m always buying new children’s books for my 3 year old and–wow!–he is lucky to grow up in an age when we have such diverse children’s literature. He especially likes reading books about food, so a few of our favorites are Fry Bread, Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao, and Leila in Saffron.

TMP: We just discovered Fry Bread. It’s an incredible story our daughters love, too! What do you find to be your best resource or author on literacy?

MDF: I started by teaching career as a History teacher and added my English credential later, so I always feel like I’m catching up a bit. Through Instagram and teaching blogs I found a group of incredible English teachers who have taught me so much about literacy, pedagogy and engaging English curriculum. Some of my favorite blogs are Doc Cop Teaching, Building Book Love, Read It Write It Learn It, and Write on With Miss G.

TMP: Thanks for sharing! Tell us more about how you ensure literacy experiences promote equity?

MDF: I love nothing more than using literature to widen students’s perspectives and to bring diverse voices and experiences into my classroom. During the first week of school we do some work exploring our own identities through identity maps (and the Social Justice Standards from Teaching Tolerance), and we practice by creating identity maps for different characters in YA novels. We read the first chapters of With the Fire on High, Front Desk, Born a Crime, and Ginger Kid. This year we also explored a lot of Native American literature, which my students really enjoyed. (I have more information about all of these units on my YouTube channel if you’d like to know more!)

TMP: This is incredible work–seriously readers, go check out her YouTube channel. These units are deep AND accessible to all students. On a personal note, we also love the audiobook of Born a Crime. We recommend it audio style so you can hear the range of dialects Trevor Noah uses throughout. Last question: What is your greatest hurdle in literacy, and how have you worked to overcome it?

MDF: I work at a large school with a 7 period day, so I have over 200 students every year. It’s difficult to give useful and timely feedback to all of my students on their writing. This is something that I’m still working on, but I’ve found so many great tips on teaching blogs and through some Teachers Pay Teachers resources. Well-structured peer feedback stations and quick teacher conferences seem to work the best so far!

TMP: Truly a hurdle us in the elementary world don’t have to work through so we appreciate the sharing of the tips. Thank you for your time sharing your expertise on literacy and the work you do in the classroom to use literature to promote diversity and self-exploration.

Make sure you pop over to YouTube to give Too Cool for Middle School’s channel a subscribe, follow her blog, and like her on all social media if you haven’t. Lead on with Literacy #EduQueens!

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