Are you an educator of black or brown children? Maybe you just love kids, that's great too! Keep reading to see my thoughts on how educators can begin to "do the work" as we unpack systemic, blatant social and racial injustices, and how they impact our kids. Here's how to go BEYOND that black square you posted on Instagram a short while ago.
There are many resources that are accessible online. If you are teaching black and brown children, push yourself to spend some time reading books and scholarly articles that will support you in unpacking the topics below. In addition, take a look at some texts I have included for your reference.
Exclusionary discipline and the school to prison pipeline
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy
Racism, inequities, and how they impact black and brown children
Note: While you may be learning new information about white privilege and systemic racism, your students are not. Do not unload all that you have learned on to their shoulders in an effort to teach them or to share. Black and brown students carry this load daily and it’s quite heavy. Instead, use what you have learned from these readings. Integrate your findings into your lesson planning, execution, and relationship building with your students. They will see that you are doing the work, and this will not go unappreciated!
Reflect on your practices and student interactions by asking yourself the following questions:
Is my classroom a space wherein black and brown students can unapologetically be themselves?
Does the lack of culturally relevant pedagogy and practices in my classroom stifle academic achievement and positive rapport with black and brown students?
Do I possess unchecked privilege that negatively impacts my ability to deliver culturally relevant instruction to students in my learning community?
If you answered yes to number 1 and no to numbers 2 and 3, you have some work to do. But it's all good, keep reading!
Encourage Black and Brown Individualism.
Let black and brown babies be themselves! You can still have expectations for you classroom (make sure to let students have a say in these), but ingrain who they are into your room. Through our collegiate work, we learned about Howard Garner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Most Black students tend to be musical/rhythmic or bodily/kinesthetic learners (or both, tbh). This might look like learning through song, or developing gestures and dances to remember skills or ideas. Click the links below for more information about Howard Garner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences!
Implement Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.
Coined by Gloria Ladson-Billings, the term “culturally relevant pedagogy” refers to a way of teaching that infuses students’ culture into lesson facilitation. Culturally Relevant Pedagogy has three objectives:
Students will be able to achieve academic success.
Students will be able to build positive racial and cultural identities.
Students will be able to recognize, understand, and analyze social and racial inequalities.
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy is especially important to teachers of black and brown children because it is our job to provide students with opportunities to see themselves in academic content. This helps to promote not only a positive racial/cultural identity, but also increases student engagement. Research shows that students are more likely to be more tuned into lessons wherein they can see themselves being represented. In addition, unpacking social and racial injustices with students is essential because this provides a space where they can reflect, vent, heal, analyze, and take action. Below is a list of culturally relevant lessons and ideas that I have seen or led. The following ideas can be used in grades K-12.
Exposing black/brown students to texts where characters look like them. See this post for examples of these texts for younger grades (https://www.thrivingminds365.com/post/children-and-racism-what-do-we-say)
Swapping out names in word problems or stories, and including names of your students and their friends/family members.
Ebonics is a language! Allow and encourage students to be their authentic selves through the way they speak. Do not correct them when they swap you all for y’all, isn’t for ain’t, etc. Doing so sends the message that standard, white English is the only accurate way to verbally communicate, which is false.
Facilitating a mock trial on a case involving police brutality.
Going beyond Martin Luther King for black history month. He has made a significant impact on the black community, but there are many other activists that students should be learning about.
Read more about Culturally Relevant Pedagogy here:
Reflect On Your Privilege.
We all have some sort of privilege that we carry with us everyday. This is bound to impact how we interact with everyone, not just the children we teach. By no means is this something anyone should feel guilty about. We cannot help what we were born into. HOWEVER, when privilege goes unacknowledged or unchecked, this can lead to a disconnect between teachers and students. To gain a deeper perspective on your privilege, consider the following questions to compare experiences between yourself and your students.
When I was my students’ age, were all of my basic needs met prior to starting the school day (rest, food, hygiene, a peaceful environment to get ready for the day, etc.)?
Did I have adults in my life who provided funds for school supplies, trips, and food without a question?
Did I have easy, consistent access to enrichment programs, technology, tutoring, and opportunities to travel outside of my home state.
Do I fear interactions with the police, regardless of being right or wrong?
Do police use more punitive practices in my neighborhood, whereas they use more restorative practices in others?
Do I frequently see people in positions of power target those who look like me?
... I could continue (I actually had to stop myself from typing questions). Needless to say, all educators should use the responses to these questions to better understand their students, and to improve lesson facilitation and interactions within their classrooms. It can be as simple as offering your 2nd grade student breakfast when they enter your classroom yelling and screaming that they just want to go home. You can only see the behavior. But when you ask them "How can I help?", turns out they're just hungry.
Change your Practices.
You’ve learned, now implement. Here are some areas that may need a shift within your classroom.
1. Discipline: consider what positive, proactive, and restorative practices you will implement to avoid exclusionary discipline (practices that remove students from the learning space—suspensions, expulsions, kicking them out of the classroom, etc.)
Language: Remember what I said about Ebonics!
Teacher & Student relationship building
Know that unpacking your privilege and using new knowledge to implement culturally relevant, respectful practices is not easy at all. That’s completely okay! Continue to do the work, acknowledge when you make mistakes, and keep it pushing.
Check yourself and others!
You’re going to make mistakes, no one is perfect. You will acknowledge your own, of course. But also keep this same energy towards your coworkers, friends, and families. As educators of black and brown students, it is our responsibility to always speak out against social and racial injustices towards them, or anyone who looks like them!
Keep doing the work! Thank you for all that you are doing for our kids! If you read this WHOLE article...