CRFC Spotlight September 2012: Donald Davis
Donald Z. Davis
Chair, Social Science Department
John Hancock College Prep (Chicago)
Donald Davis is the chair of the social science department at John Hancock College Prep in Chicago. He currently teaches U.S. History, Economics, and A.P. Government. And if that wasn’t already a hefty load, he also teaches a Spanish class!
Donald has been actively involved in CRFC programs over the last six years, participating in the Illinois Youth Summit, the Law-Related Education Conference, and Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas. His commitment to CRFC programs helps ensure that students in Chicago are prepared for informed and thoughtful civic engagement.
Here’s what Donald has to say about his participation with CRFC.
Why did you choose to participate in CRFC programs?
I like how CRFC programs and professional development opportunities provide teachers with valuable resources to use in the classroom. I also looked for programs that help engage students as citizens and empower them to learn the skills to succeed in our democracy—both during their time in high school and after they graduate. I decided to participate in the Illinois Youth Summit, in particular, because it allows my students to think through the various opinions on public policy, understand the differing viewpoints, and then come to a decision on their own about what they believe.
How have CRFC programs affected you and your students?
My recent involvement in Deliberating in a Democracy in the Americas has had a big impact on how I structure learning activities in the classroom. The Structured Academic Controversy method has proven to be a valuable instructional tool to help my students become engaged learners. Students learn to think critically about the topics and use reason and specific evidence to defend their point-of-view. The skills my students obtain when participating in CRFC programs will help them become more effective citizens and active participants in our democracy. Additionally, CRFC programs give my students the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of students, those from the suburbs and of other racial and cultural backgrounds. Whether we are at the Dirksen Federal Building, the Willis Tower, or various law offices in downtown Chicago, my students appreciate being able to dress up and see the sights from high up in the buildings. This makes them feel special and broadens their horizons, which can have a tremendous impact on their motivation for future success.
What have you enjoyed most about your experiences with CRFC?
I appreciated the opportunity to travel to Cuernavaca, Mexico as part of the Deliberating in a Democracy Program to meet other teachers from Mexico and the U.S., learn how to use the Structured Academic Controversy method in the classroom, and practice my Spanish! I also appreciated the opportunity to lead the panel discussion between students from Chicago and Mexico at the Video teleconference (in English and Spanish nonetheless) and also to lead a breakout session on how I use writing with my DDA students at the culminating conference here in Chicago in June. These were invaluable experiences allowing me to become a stronger professional and collaborator with other educators.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experiences with CRFC?
I want to say “Thank you!” to the staff at CRFC for being great collaborators in helping to educate students in Chicago. The materials produced by the office are always of high quality and balanced, so that students benefit tremendously from reading them and have a greater understanding of many viewpoints. In fact I shared the Juvenile Justice deliberation reading with the Freshmen English teachers at my current high school and they had their students read through the materials in class. This truly shows the value of what is produced at the CRFC for high school students in many disciplines.