Category Archives: Anti-Racism

Teaching for Tolerance is Now Learning for Justice

I confess that I have never liked using the word tolerance when it’s used in conversations about race, gender, or any other targets of stereotyping and prejudice. To me, “tolerance” has always connoted a level just above hatred and far below acceptance. I have tolerance for careless drivers (my husband does not) and I tolerate physical pain fairly well – but I’d be more than happy to rid my life of both.

So, when I saw that Teaching for Tolerance, an excellent website that provides incredible resources for classrooms intent on abolishing bigotry, had changed its name to Learning for Justice, I applauded the upgrade. The new name does not only appeal to me because of the elimination of a word that seems to be limited in its ambition, but also because of the important verb substitution. Switching from “teaching” to “learning” communicates that no one is an expert and that we are on this journey together.

As we continue toward reaching an understanding of what “justice” means in this country and this world, it is vital that we look toward a future where we embrace differences instead of tolerating them and recognize the importance of lifelong learning about ourselves and others.

I will be adding this post to my growing collection of Anti-Racism resources. Please take a look, and feel free to offer suggestions!

Image by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

Culturally Responsive Lesson Design

I am currently attending the TCEA Virtual Convention, so I plan to share a little about what I’ve learned in each post this week.

Education has a reputation for an overwhelming amount of buzzwords and acronyms. When I saw a TCEA session called, “The Heart of Culturally Responsive Lesson Design,” by Nyree Clark (@MsNyreeClark), I knew that I needed to attend, if only to better understand the meaning of “culturally responsive teaching.”

Those of us committed to social justice and anti-racist work may feel that this qualifies as culturally responsive teaching, but it may not be. According to Nyree Clark, we can be covering these topics, and even include multicultural studies in our classrooms, without meeting the criteria for culturally responsive teaching. The significant condition that we need to meet is that we are “trying to accelerate student learning by accessing their cultures and connecting them to the content we teach.”

Clark says we can do this in four steps: Spark, Support, Synthesize, and Share. As she took us through her interactive presentation, she modeled how we can do each step as we consistently weave in depth and complexity as well as social-emotional learning.

When asked for some ways to begin on a road toward culturally responsive lesson design, some of the steps Clark recommended are: working with your grade level, looking for paired texts that show perspectives of different cultures, using the amazing resources at Learning for Justice (once Tolerance.org), and highlighting positive role models from different cultures.

Of course there is much more to culturally responsive lesson design. You can visit Ms. Clark’s website to see some books to help you begin your journey here. She also has a fabulous Wakelet where she has curated many valuable resources.

I will be adding this post to my own Wakelet of Anti-Racism resources.

Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

Make Valentine’s Day Inclusive and Culturally Responsive

No matter your own feelings about Valentine’s Day, if you are an educator you know that it is a HUGE day for students of any age. It’s tricky to navigate through this holiday that is ostensibly predicated on love and kindness without someone feeling left out. So I’ve collected a few resources with great suggestions for preparing the best that you can to make this a happy day for your students.

Celebrate Love and Kindness!” by Lindie Johnson recommends several different activities you can do to help students share their own traditions

“Culturally Responsive Teaching: Valentine’s Day in the Classroom” by Jalissa on Lee and Low Books has literature suggestions

“Celebrating Valentine’s Day” from Responsive Classroom suggests emphasizing charity and appreciation to steer away from commercialism and popularity contests

I’ll be adding these to my Valentine’s Day Wakelet as well as my Anti-Racism Wakelet.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Brave New Voices

When we see young people like Amanda Gorman on the world stage, we are astonished by what she has to say and the way that she says it. But the truth is, there are so many people her age and younger around the globe to whom we should be paying more attention.

For this week’s anti-racist post, I would like to introduce you to two more young ladies who understand what is really important. Unfortunately, I don’t have their names. I found them through the Teach Living Poets site. This website was founded by Melissa Smith (@MelAlterSmith), and is a wonderful spot to discover contemporary poetry by diverse authors. Smith, along with Scott Bayer (@LyricalSwordz) also created this interactive Google Slides digital library of living poets. Help your students to find poets who look like them and write about topics relevant to them by recommending and celebrating some of the authors on this website.

I will be adding this post to my list of Anti-Racism posts on Wakelet. Please consider sharing it with others, especially those who have the power to make a difference in the classroom. 

The Homework Gap

For this week’s anti-racist post, I would like to thank Tiffany Arce (@tarce29) for sharing the video below on Twitter. The video was created in support of the 1 Million Project, which was formed in 2017 to give more students access to high-speed internet at home. The initial concern was the academic rift that was being created between students with and without this advantage on homework assignments. As we all know, that rift became gargantuan when entire school days ended up online due to the pandemic.

The embedded video is a simple demonstration of the difference that high-speed internet access can make during one activity on one day in the life of a student. Aside for the fact that the quality and quantity of homework assignments is a topic that needs to be addressed in our education system, I think that we need to accept the fact that high speed internet access has become a necessity rather than a luxury. Even as we are in the process of distributing vaccines right now, people in many parts of the country are at a huge disadvantage if they cannot receive digital information about the availability and method for signing up.

According to the data, an inordinate amount of students who do not have any or adequate internet connections at home are students of color. This is another example of how systemic racism continues to suppress student achievement in education.

If you are a teacher, please consider this carefully when you assign any work to be done at home. In addition, we all need to do what we can to rectify this by supporting programs that provide high speed internet to entire communities instead of just a privileged few.

I will be adding this post to my list of Anti-Racism posts on Wakelet. Please consider sharing it with others, especially those who have the power to make a difference in the classroom. 

I am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing is a picture book, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James. The beautiful words and accompanying breathtaking images represent the ultimate Black Boy Joy, as the young child narrates his delight in life and ideas for the future. In a Q&A about his book, Barnes said that he wants, in part, for people to take from the book that, “No matter where Black boys come from, I along with the people that love them want them to win in life. They are not living breathing stereotypes that fit like jigsaw pieces into your biases, only useful for your entertainment, and to justify your ridiculous fears. They are human beings capable of extraordinary feats.”

This book, with its fantastic metaphors, reminds me of the “I Am” poetry my own young students would author – celebrations of uniqueness and life. But, of course, there is another dimension to this work as we not only see a child seeking to be accepted for his remarkable traits, but one who some unjustifiably view as threatening merely because of the color of his skin. James, who used his own son as the model for the oil painting on the cover of the book, says in this NPR story that he wanted to portray his child “looking like how I feel he sees himself and how we see him as his family.”

I Am Every Good Thing is a book for boys, girls, and families of every color. It is also for every age. Many educators can tell you the value of picture books grows in secondary classrooms, where new experiences and understanding can help teenagers see reading as both an enjoyable pastime and an invitation to think deeply. For discussion ideas and other reading suggestions, use this Learning Guide created by Tiffany Jewell (author of This Book is Anti-Racist) along with the book. Whether using the book in a history class as you discuss civil rights, or a language class where your students are learning about writing devices (see this mashup of Song of Myself and I am Every Good Thing shared on Twitter by @PaulWHankins) this book will be a gift to everyone who reads it.

This post is part of a weekly series of anti-racist articles. For previous posts in this series, please visit this link.