Fall 2020 Dialogue

COMMISSION ON SOCIAL JUSTICE IN TEACHER EDUCATION

Welcome to our current dialogue.

Black Lives Matter at School

We ask that you post an initial response to one or more of these questions from October 19th-October 26th, 2020. Then, please respond to at least two posts to generate dialogues across contexts and experience. The dialogue period will be from October 26th-November 1st, 2020.

Recommended reading/viewing

Website: BLM at School

Webinar: Teaching For Black Lives During the Rebellion

(This webinar is with the editors of the book Teaching for Black Lives.)

Article: Johnson, L. L., Jackson, J., Stovall, D. O., & Baszile, D. T. (2017). “Loving Blackness to Death”: (Re) Imagining ELA Classrooms in a Time of Racial Chaos. English Journal, 106(4), 60.

Discussion Questions

  • What is the Black Lives Matter Movement, and what role do you see it playing in schools? How do you see these principles guiding your teaching practices, if at all?
  • What does it mean to teach for Black lives? Discuss the most important issues raised in this webinar; how, if at all, are they useful to your future/current classroom strategies or routines?
  • How can we reimagine our classrooms as spaces that disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth?
  • You are invited to respond to one or more of these questions. (To post, please log in using a Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress account.) Please feel free to share experiences, dilemmas, questions, or information about particular contexts of teaching and learning (e.g., where you student teach, teach, study, or participant observe) as you explore what issues of equity or justice look like in a particular domain for a particular person or group of people. You may also feel free to recommend or cite texts (e.g., articles, books, films) that may be of interest to others on a thread.

30 Comments

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  1. Hi everyone. My name’s Leah and I a junior at Penn State studying Secondary English Education. To begin to think about what does it mean to teach for Black lives, means to develop the pedagogy you hold for yourself and your classroom. I believe it is absolutely necessary to develop a constructivist culturally sustaining pedagogy to benefit not only ourselves as teachers but more importantly our students. Black, Brown, and other minoritized students in America are going through school being taught colonized curriculum leading to feeling as if their culture does not matter as they see little to no representation in the classroom. These student’s histories have been completely whitewashed or not even talked about let alone applied to the standard curriculum. While Black, brown and marginalized students are being inherently told by a young age they do not matter, white students are being told that they are more smart and important. Institutional racism must be recognized and fixed in order to create a safe, welcoming, and strong learning environment. Teachers of any subject and/or grade level should be advocates for their students and teach in a way that embraces different perspectives, not diminish them. I believe it is our job as educators to create intelligent, compassionate, and culturally sustaining human beings, and in order to do that, we must balance high expectations with student-centered instruction, and explicitly address issues of power and freedom in the classroom. We must guide our students to develop a conscience. “When you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with society” (Baldwin, A Talk to Teachers).

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    • Hello Leah. My name Gunnar and I’m a student at CSU Long Beach. I find it affirming to hear what you think teaching for Black lives means. I love that you pointed out how school’s seem to “whitewash” their curriculum, as this is something I feel many people might not recognize. One of the biggest challenges in K-12 education for many students is the fact that school culture is different or even conflicts with their family culture. In my own experiences and observations, many schools still hold certain expectations of their students that you might consider “whitewashing”, but many schools have begun to take steps to rectify this. It is on us as new and incoming teachers to affect the culture of our schools with a constructivist mindset and, as you mentioned, “teach in a way that embraces different perspectives, not diminish them.”

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    • Good evening Leah,
      I appreciate your understanding that culturally sustaining pedagogy is essential in our American classrooms, for minorities have been silenced for far too long. As a future educator, what steps and teaching techniques s will you take to provide a safe and culturally expansive classroom? Excited for you to be teaching our future generation.

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  2. Hello, everyone! My name is Jamir Barnes and I am a junior at Penn State University studying Secondary English Education. In hopes to answer the question, how can we re-imagine our classrooms as spaces that disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth?, I must examine my life experiences as a black youth in the classroom.

    I can recall at a young age the classroom being a place where selected readings and materials were based upon the old deceased white males with there being no relatable content in the classroom to those students of color. Because of the frequency in this habitual tendency, I was groomed to think this was normal and that perhaps there was not any authors or contents based around multi-cultural literature. However, as I am matriculating through my collegian journey, I realize that is not the case.

    The questions that need to be asked are, (1) what is the image of our current classrooms? (2) Who is that image? (3) Is that image a depiction of students?

    Sad to say, the answers to the questions above will not reflect blackness or even youthfulness however will reflect the image of a cycle of repetitive curriculum that does not represent student’s realities. As future educators, we must first reverse our thinking on what we have been trained to see as classroom and see our students as the image of classroom space. Once we see the black student who perhaps may be going through an identity crisis and/or who is interested in writing as the image of our classroom, we will be able to build curriculum and content that will further develop that student’s image instead of suppressing it. We must then be okay with the fact that our classrooms will not always be peaceful.

    When disrupting anything that is uncomfortable there will be space for opposition and offense, but it is how we navigate through those moments that will really continue to cultivate our classrooms, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth. No one can disrupt, transform, and humanize anyone or anything that they cannot comprehend nor seek to embrace.

    With this said, when we re-imagine our classrooms as a place of discussion, as a place of asking questions, as a place of students being the image of the classroom, and as a place of commUNITY then transformation and humanization can take place. Everyone’s journey of how to get to that classroom atmosphere will be different but I believe we can all start at place of examining the current image of our classrooms and cultivating the image so that students become and remain the image of the classroom.

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    • Hello Jamir, my name is Gunnar from CSU Long Beach. I think the three questions you pose do a great job of getting teachers to think about what it means to teach for Black lives and create a culturally sustaining class environment. You make an important point that students are the image of the classroom. You helped me realize that the first step toward correcting systemic racism and inequity in our classrooms is to re-imagine from the ground up what the structure and purpose of our classrooms are. We must ask ourselves do we really want to indoctrinate and encourage assimilation while discouraging creativity, or do we want something more for our students and for ourselves that can humanize us and facilitate our growth as individuals. Reconstructing the structure and culture of our classrooms will have profound changes on the experiences of our students, as well as steer the educational identity of America away from the shortcomings it clearly has. Whether we choose to create a curriculum centered on projects and collaboration, teach for mastery rather than completion, or employ traditional pedagogical strategies, we as professional educators need to be in constant reflection of our practice, an reimagine our classrooms as centers of “transformation and humanization.”

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    • Hi Jamir! I appreciate you’re insight on this question and your willingness to share you’re own experience with the classroom setting. I had a similar experience with literature prior to college, however, I was lucky enough my junior and senior year of college to begin experiencing diversity within the reading materials and their authors. The questions you pose here are ones that every classroom- and every school- should be asking itself on a regular basis. The curriculum and the materials used within classrooms should be accessible, relatable, and mirror those who are within the classroom. How can we expect our students to learn and grow if the materials we use do not reflect our students inner selves?

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    • Hi Leah,
      It awesome to hear the perspective of another secondary education teacher from the other side of the country. I am glad to hear that we have the same school of thought even though we are thousands of miles away from each other. I could not agree more when you talk about the importance of developing culturally responsive pedagogy not only for ourselves, but for our classrooms. I believe it is our civic duty as teachers to teach love for diversity and to create inclusion for all students with the classroom and in the curricula. All voices should heard (black, white, asian, latinx, etc.). We must fix institutional racism and I believe that that begins with education. We must teach our future citizens and members of our community values that don’t create separation. We should definitely advocate for our students to learn from different perspectives and not diminish them or ignore them. It is definitely our duty as educators to help mold students that are compassionate of all and culturally sustaining. Well said, Leah! I wish you tons of luck and success in your journey in English Education.

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  3. Hi everyone! My name is Emma Burhop and I am a junior studying Secondary English Education at Penn State. The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about my classroom as a space that disrupts racial injustice is developing and utilizing a critical literacy framework. As an aspiring English teacher I recognize that the curricula present in most high school English classrooms consist of white authors telling white stories. It is clear that this alone is something that needs to be changed. The lack of representation for black students (or really any students that aren’t cisgender, straight, white men) in the curriculum has wide reaching negative effects on their self-efficacy, sense of identity, motivation, and so much more not to mention furthering the racial injustices present in our society. As teachers, though, we tend to have little say over what books have to get taught and that’s where critical literacy comes in. Critical literacy is defined by Heather Coffey as, “the ability to read texts in an active, reflective manner in order to better understand power, inequality, and injustice in human relationships.” Through utilizing a critical literacy framework the students will be able to recognize the world around them and the power imbalances that are present within it and thus be able to use that knowledge for social justice and change. So, even if I am only given white stories to read with my students, I can still try to represent black students and their experiences by providing supplemental sources from varying perspectives and ask students questions about the nature of the books assigned and the world in which they were written. Through strategies like this, and many more included in the critical literacy framework, students engage in meaningful conversations about the racial injustices present in the texts they read, and in the world around them, and are thus motivated to try to stop them and change the world for the better. With critical literacy, literature becomes an agent of social change and thus my classroom can take a step towards being a space that disrupts social injustice.

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    • Emma,
      I am really glad you brought up that although as English teachers we may not get to choose the culturally diverse books we want to we can still choose culturally diverse supplementary texts and other resources to teach an old white-washed story. I also like how you have the students view the books through a historical lens that way the students get a sense of the time frame the book was written in and who the author is. I think this takes away from the view of, “you should be connecting to this book” and changes it to, “You should be studying this book as an article of history.” Then using this lens they can discuss what injustices or struggles were present during this time and then we can relate those to the students’ present-day experiences. Thank you for sharing your ideas and highlighting the Critical Literacy framework.
      Best,
      Alisha Starner

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    • Emma! I love that you related these readings and concepts to a critical literacy framework. I know that as aspiring English educators, we’re probably at one extreme or the other, where we either love or hate “the canon” by this point. Your post reminds me that no matter what texts we read in class, I can choose to create active conversations about the identities, values, and lives of the characters we’re reading, and my favorite, examine the power structures present. In my student teaching, I talk to my students a lot about power. Who has power in this book, and why? What point of view is this written from, and how does the narrator have power as the storyteller? Further, I want them to examine the power structures in our classroom… texts can and should relate to our own lives and opinions, as well.
      I know that some districts may dictate the books that we have to teach, without much leeway. But, I encourage you to challenge the status quo and push to change up the required texts in your future classroom! There’s a chapter in Cornelius Minor’s “We Got This” about approaching this conversation with higher-ups. Let me know if you ever want to read it!

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  4. Hi–I’m Sarah! I’m a graduate student at Penn State working on my M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with plans to teach secondary English.

    When it comes to reimagining our classrooms as spaces that disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth, I think of a classroom that places student voice and experience at the forefront. By inviting student voice and experience into classrooms, classrooms can inch towards becoming more representative and inclusive to Black Youth. We have to make it a priority to give space for students to speak and share their voices. But that’s just the beginning of the work that must be done, students need to also feel and be represented in the classroom. One way we can do this is by fighting for diverse texts to be included in the curriculum. As Rudine Bishop Sims believes, books should act as a mirror where students can find and see themselves. This should include ALL students, not just white students. So through the teaching of diverse texts, we can provide more students with mirrors and disrupt the usage of ” texts that send the message that Black students are inferior, subordinate, and unreal (62).”

    To further disrupt racial injustice in ELA classrooms, we can provide our students with “Black texts that counteract Eurocentric histories.” As English teachers, I think we have an opportunity to supplement and present our students with sides of history that are often not given space in other curriculums. All of our students would benefit from receiving a more well-rounded scope of history. Personally, I do not feel I received this in my K-12 education and find I have significant gaps. Until I read the article “Loving Blackness to Death”: (Re)Imagining ELA Classrooms in a Time of Racial Chaos,” I had never heard of the name Assata Shakur. In fact, my general knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement is vague and limited to the names of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. And those names, I learned in third grade. It’s important that those names and many others are included and remain apart of our curriculums so we can move towards classrooms that cultivate and embrace the lives of Black youth.

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    • Hi Sarah! I agree that centering student voices and experiences in the classroom is so valuable. I’ve heard the metaphor of books being both a mirror AND a window, where readers can see themselves and see others in the texts they read. I love this comparison, because it makes me think about which might be missing for which students in my classroom. For example, I saw a lot of myself in the Eurocentric texts I read in high school, so I had a lot of mirrors but fewer windows. I wonder if my Black peers felt like they had all windows and no mirrors.
      I think that letting students hear, see, and read voices and words and bodies that resemble their own in the classroom will also help them feel more comfortable sharing their own voices. I see this in my student teaching with 7th graders right now — when a student shared a Free Write about playing soccer, we had papers from four other students about their favorite sports the next week. When a girl shared what she wrote about equal pay for the USWNT, her peers started writing and talking about what life is like as a girl in a patriarchal world. Imagine how monumental this encouragement and representation could be for young Black students who have never read a book by a Black author in school before.
      Also, a friend shared Assata’s autobiography with me this past summer, and I highly recommend! https://libcom.org/files/assataauto.pdf

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  5. Hi all! My name is Natalie and I study Secondary English Education at Penn State. I’m grateful to have the space in my classes to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and readings and webinars like those on the suggested reading list. I think this is critical as we consider the concept of teaching for Black lives, because I don’t think we can approach these conversations until we’ve read, watched, listened, and learned about what it’s like to be a Black student in the U.S. public education system. I appreciate the chance to hear from educators, scholars, and from students themselves. I think it’s vital to understand what system and tradition of pedagogy I’m walking into (as a pre-service teacher) as well as to know and understand the specific students in my future classroom. It would be a waste to do so much learning and working about equitable teaching practices if I step into the classroom and reduce my students to a stereotype of what I expect them–and their experiences–to be.
    In these recommended texts, I noticed an emphasis on love. I think I’ve been conditioned to believe that advocating for students requires deliberate thought, fervent intentionality, a willingness to fight, and radical practices. I still think this is true in certain situations, but I don’t often think about how advocacy also includes radical love. In some situations, it means loving my students when they’ve been taught to believe that emotions don’t belong in this space. It’s acknowledging and celebrating Black students when they feel invisible. It’s including texts that show Black love and Black joy, not just stories of enslaved or victimized Black Americans. It’s saying that Black Lives Matter and inviting students to share their stories rather than pretend that this is a solely political movement. And it’s refusing to pretend that politics don’t already seep into our classroom.
    In order to reimagine our classrooms as spaces that disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth, I think that we need to acknowledge, refuse, and reevaluate the elements of white supremacy culture that we might not even realize inform our pedagogies, assessments, and classroom culture: https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/white-supremacy-culture-characteristics.html

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    • Hi Natalia! My name is Rachel and I am a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. As I was reading your post I really appreciated your call to action in having teachers do their best to fully understanding what it’s like to be a Black student in America. Especially at a time like right now, where there is an election literally around the corner and a lot of tension between what feels like a divided country, it’s important to remember that all of our students deserve to have a teacher who works hard at acknowledging and supporting the sentiment that Black lives matter. One aspect that I feel is one of the biggest issues with the educational system in this country right now is that even in schools where there are a lot of BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/People of Color) students there aren’t many teachers who are BIPOC. A lot of teachers that I know can’t really comprehend what it’s like to grow up in a school system that wasn’t designed for them, so it’s extremely important that we step up to better understands what our students are going through and experiencing. I also appreciate how you pinpointed the emphasis on love throughout these texts because I think that love is something we could use more of in the world right now. Our students go through so much that we don’t see, and showing them love and support in our classroom is so important for their character development, growth, and overall happiness.

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    • Hi Nataly,
      My name is Noel and I also plan to teach Secondary English in California. I couldn’t agree more with you on how valuable it is to have the space to be able to allow our students to share their voice. I definitely appreciate the chance to hear these different perspectives and stories from our professors, scholars, and everyone who takes a stand against or has been affected by racial injustices. Being black, or part of any minority, in the U.S. public education system means learning from a curriculum that was not meant for people of color. As pre-service teachers we must, without a doubt, reimagine our classrooms as a space to disrupt institutional racism in the education system. By the way, great like on the characteristics of the white supremacy culture. We must definite learn to recognize it to dismantle it and that train of thought. Thanks for sharing that. I wish you luck on your journey into being a service teacher.

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  6. Hi! My name is Rebecca Horowitz and I am a senior in the PDS program at Penn State University Park. I am a Secondary Ed English major. I hope to answer the following question in my post: What is the Black Lives Matter Movement, and what role do you see it playing in schools? How do you see these principles guiding your teaching practices, if at all?

    Admittedly, I thought I knew way more about the Black Lives Matter Movement than I actually did once I started to actively research and become more exposed to the movement. I have learned that the Black Lives Matter Movement has 13 guiding principles. These principles guide and serve as a resource for teaching and including BLM in the classroom. I do not see the Black Lives Matter Movement playing enough of a role in schools. To quote from the Webinar, “It is a political act to barre these discussions, whether we allow these discussions in class or not students will be discussing. We need to allow these conversations to occur in the classroom” (Teaching for Black Lives).

    After watching the Webinar, “Teaching for Black Lives During the Rebellion” my eyes have been greatly opened. I noticed one of the speakers stating that he felt the need to constantly code switch while in school, act not overly black and fit in with the white kids. But, he’s not white, so where does that leave him? At a weird in between? This should not be the case at all. No school or classroom should ever make a student feel the need to hide who they are in order to get a better education or have their voice be heard in the classroom.

    For us future educators and even for current educators, there are a plethora of resources for teaching BLM in the classroom at every level. As a teacher I intend to not limit BLM to one week. Yes, one week of more intensely focused instruction on BLM is great; but, why stop there? We can easily weave BLM principles in to the curriculum year round. Especially as an English educator, I will definitely be including the 13 principles into my teaching practices.

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  7. My name is Faith Justice, and I am a secondary English education major at Penn State University. To me, teaching for Black lives means being an ally first and an educator second. Without the practice of true allyship for Black lives outside of the classroom setting, I don’t think it is possible to be an effective teacher for Black lives within the classroom. Being an ally does not reference performative means of allyship, but a true aligning of your pedagogical framework with the mission of supporting and loving Black lives. My hope for classrooms of the future would be to view students as individuals who bring unique and valuable perspectives to the process of learning. Teaching for Black lives in my future classroom might look like building a culturally sustaining pedagogy that lifts up voices of Black students, inviting conversations surrounding racial stress, and encouraging all students to ask questions and share their perspectives. I do not believe in confining the importance of Black lives to a week, but instead creating relationships with students that allow for frequent and open discussions to occur in a safe, supportive space.

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    • Hi Faith!!

      I really love what you said about shaping pedagogy to support students of different socio-economic and racial backgrounds. I feel as though a lot of educators get stuck on how to “handle” these conversations when they arise rather than actually crafting our pedagogy in a way that allows time and care for these conversations. This is the sort of thing that, if normalized, will actually transform the field of education in a way that does not cause a rift between teachers and parents, and in a way that is conductive of productive conversation that supports each student and their backgrounds.

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  8. Hello! My name is Sarah Losco, and I am a senior studying Secondary English Education at Penn State. I am currently student teaching through the Professional Development School program in an English Language Learner context and hope to teach ELLs in my future career.

    Learning about BLM and anti-racist education have been some of my top priorities within my last few years of schooling and life in general. As a white woman, there are a lot of biases and privileges that I have had to reconcile and work through while learning that being simply “not racist” is not enough, but that I have to work to be actively anti-racist.

    The importance of this is something I constantly reflect on in my position as a current and future ELL teacher. The situation of a white educator in a classroom of ELLs who are all people of color is inherently and unescapably fraught with imbalanced power dynamics. This is something I want to make sure that I never shy away from interrogating and questioning both in my own personal work and possibly even with my students directly. Thoughtful and consistent reflection on my whiteness and other privileges as well as being un-defensively open to feedback are essential.

    I also plan to work on crafting, not just a culturally responsive, but a culturally sustaining approach to my pedagogy. To me, this looks like not only affirming student backgrounds but actively providing integrated, central curricular opportunities for students to explore and utilize their already-there skills, languages, and experiences. It involves a focus on BIPOC, POC, LGBTQ+, and various intersectional texts in the classroom. Especially important to me personally and in the ELL context, I want to de-center the false ideal and glorification of “Standard English,” critically engaging students in conversations and analysis about language constructs and the power dynamics within them.

    Lastly, I want to be a teacher activist, advocating for policy and curricular changes that will benefit our students and make them feel validated, safe, and empowered in their school and home lives. This means supporting BLM through peaceful protest, donations etc. as well as other causes. In the school setting, this means advocating for the BLM at schools demands of ending zero tolerance, funding counselors and not cops, mandating Black history and ethnic studies, and hiring more Black teachers.

    I acknowledge that I am always growing and learning, and I want to commit to a lifelong growth mindset throughout my future in the field of education and in life.

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    • Hello Sarah!

      I really resonated with your post. I am about to join Teach For America in the D.C. region and I have been struggling with the imbalanced power dynamic of being a white, privileged female in a class filled with students of color. The experience gap in our lives is large and I have been intrinsically looking at how I can break down that power dynamic. Although being in an ELL classroom is a completely different realm of the unknown for me, I feel like I can relate to you in some sense and your post was very refreshing to know I am not alone with my feelings. I am also planning on building an antiracist space where my students and I can explore literature in connection with the world around us. I want to ask myself hard questions about what I can professionally do to break down racism in the classroom while simultaneously working on my personal growth. BLM will be integrated into my everyday curriculum and I am so excited to go on this journey! Thank you for the insight on what you will be doing to grow on your antiracist journey.

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  9. Hi everyone my name is Grace, I am a junior at Penn State studying Secondary English Education. As a future educator, it is so important to be empathetic and understanding of all people because you will have a vast variety of students coming from many different backgrounds. To me, the Black Lives Matter movement revolves around educating others and empathy for others. I am a white female, so I truly can never understand what it is like to be a person of color in America, but I learned that I can use my own privilege to amplify the voices of others. It is everyone’s duty to fight for what is right whether it is your own personal struggle or not. The BLM movement is recognizing that black communities have faced injustices for centuries and enough is enough. I see the Black Lives Matter movement playing a role in schools in ways where students receive the opportunity to learn about the movement, where it strings from and why it is important. As teachers, I know there is a fine line between teaching stuff that may not be taught at home and pushing an opinion on students. That is why I will choose to be strictly informational as I discuss the BLM movement and how it has impacted the U.S. As a future teacher, I want to be able to relate to every single student and facilitate a classroom where they will feel safe. My classroom will be ant-racism, ant-sexism, anti-homophobic, etc. I think in the past, a lot of teachers focused on “bullying”, but now we see something that is deeper: a racist system embedded within the U.S. For me, I honestly only learned about the faults within the US system as of recently, and my goal is to make all students aware of this before they are 20 years old. We can reimagine our classrooms by as spaces that disrupt injustice by really paying attention to what goes on within our classroom and representing all of our students. It is so important to facilitate a welcoming, judgement-free classroom and stick to your word when you lay those rules down. Once you hear/see any inequality, recognize it and generate consequences for those who were wrong. I think educators can change the world and make an impact by educating our students about this system and educating ourselves to hold others accountable.

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  10. Hi everyone, my name is Nate Gillespie and I’m a junior studying Secondary Education English at Penn State. I think that the Black Lives Matter movement is often understood, and as someone who grew up in a rural high school with little diversity, I witnessed first hand how biases and racism are perpetuated through schools by a lack of education. Understanding the 13 Principles of the Black Lives Matter movement can and should be central to any pedagogical approach that seeks to dismantle systems of oppression within the United States, which is what I aim to do. I want to raise my students up, and lift their voices and their experiences and let the students of color in my classroom understand that their experience and who they are is just as valid as anyone in this country.

    As was pointed out in the webinar, some people want schools and teachers to be completely apolitical, but to be apolitical is a political stance in itself. I don’t want discussions about basic human rights to be controversial. I don’t want learning and having healthy discussions about the systemic racism and police brutality in this country to be controversial. Students are going to be talking about these things outside the classroom anyway, so why not bring it into the classroom and model mature and productive conversation about such difficult topics?

    As a future english teacher, the article “Loving Blackness to Death: (Re)Imagining ELA Classrooms in a Time of Racial Chaos” really resonated with me, and I think that understanding how ELA classrooms (and schools in general) perpetuate racial violence is really where we have to start when we want to teach for black lives. Whether it just be through our associations of blackness with evil and white with purity, or the strict grammar rules that we force our students of color into, the classroom is a place where it is easy for black students to become dehumanized. We have to recognize this as teachers, and start to dismantle these beliefs. If that isn’t abundantly clear to people now then I don’t know when it ever will be, but it is time for us as teachers to start taking a stand and stop remaining neutral, whether we’re teaching in a classroom in New York City or in a classroom in central Pennsylvania. If the issue isn’t being pressed in our schools, then we should be the ones starting to press it to create change.

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    • Hi Nate,

      I agree with you basic human rights should be thought of as apolitical. It’s upsetting that this has been politicized and that teachers in some schools are being told to not talk about giving all people basic human rights. As ELA teachers we need to pick diverse texts written about and by BIPOC authors as the “cannon” anchors texts are mostly written by old white men. We need to consider how some texts perpetuate racial violence and do not need to be read in the classroom as it can dehumanize BIPOC students. I do think it’s a teacher’s job to instill empathy in all students. The first step to doing this is choosing better, more diverse texts to read in the classroom. You are right that teachers need to start and create this change.

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  11. Hello everyone, my name is Matt Paolizzi and I’m a senior majoring in Secondary Education at Penn State with a focus in English and Communications. I grew up in a suburb outside of Philadelphia right on the wealthy Main Line. While I grew up going to school with kids of all colors and backgrounds, it was still a majority white area despite a growing influx of immigrants, especially from East and South Asia. I’ve always been somewhat aware of the injustice faced by black people in America, but it was never taught to me in an engaging or impactful way. I remember reading Native Son in 10th grade and enjoying it, but never acquiring a deeper understanding History classes brushed over most of the Civil Rights Movement, both the most visible movement in the 60s and the continued fight that has been carried on since then. My college education has opened my eyes to many things over the years and the events that shocked the country over the summer rocked me to my core.

    I see the BLM movement as a successor of the 60s Civil Rights Movement, something that I see has having never really finished. Promises were broken and freedoms were never ensured. Instead, the movement was more or less silenced for decades. In this current moment, that spirit has once again been given the attention it’s always deserved. Why should we limit its exposure in our classrooms, both present and future? I, like many others, just want to do my part in helping educate my students and act as a facilitator in the discussions I hope to spark. As a white man, I know that there’s many things I’ll never understand and that it’s not my place to dictate any part of what BLM means or what it should become. I’d like to use my position as an educator to do whatever I can. These topics of justice need to be inserted organically into curriculums however and not tokenized. It’s important to create curriculums that are diverse throughout the school year and a student’s entire education, not just during certain months of the year. As someone with an interest in one day going into administration and being a principal one day, I’m especially interested in learning about how these decisions are made and what goes into their implementation. I hope the education and training I’ve been receiving at Penn State will provide me with the tools to ensure that there’s always at least one voice in support of racial justice and change in the room.

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    • Matt,

      I was drawn to your personal experiences in regards to the small amount of interaction you received with the concept and actions of injustice through the high school curriculum. I too am thankful for the opportunity to learn and discuss at the college level, but am disappointed that individuals all across America are being denied the facts and conversations surrounding the truth of injustice. In the setting of education, it is ideal to talk about what makes each human unique while celebrating their culture – History and English classes alike have the chance to use texts/bridging texts to inspire students towards a path of consistent recognition. I have yet to read Native Son, but would suggest that it could serve as a great mentor text for you in the classroom if you resonated with it in high school. I am working on finding a plethora of authors and representation for my classroom curriculum – let me know if there are any other texts in which you feel would be helpful in positively adjusting the high school classroom!

      Reflecting on your ideas moving forward and bringing BLM into the classroom, I agree that limiting exposure is of no worth and students should recognize their surroundings in a way that assists in their understanding of education. I want to take note of a word you used – “organically”. It is important that teachers don’t just address the outside world when it needs to be addressed or leave it up to the students to start the conversation of racial injustice because as teachers, we have the tools to effectively create and facilitate a conversation in a way that matters. Diversifying curriculum can only be successful if teachers are willing to talk about why they need to diversify the course work and share the importance of what the students are ingesting. The intention cannot be hidden, but instead broadcasted to students for them to take note of and use shared tools to start conversations within their own worlds. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts Matt – I resonated with your response and thank you for taking the time to speak on BLM.

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  12. Hi Everyone,
    I am majoring in secondary education with a focus in English Education at Long Beach State. I grew up in Santa Ana, CA in schools that were predominantly filled with a Latinx population. However, we did have a few African American students attend and we always got a long fine. There were never any hate crimes or problems due to race. I think that was largely due to the fact that we have faced a same struggle. Whenever we come next to the white population we do become invisible (as Diane from the video mentioned) or out of place. We become not normal. I remember visiting friends that would live on the “white” side of town, and it just felt wrong being there. I would get stared that with expressions that made me felt unwelcome. Being there definitely made me feel out of my environment. When I went to UC Berkeley as an undergrad, I was one of 2 Latinx students in class of 35. All other students were white. I was invisible to the class. Although I loved the curriculum, the curriculum was white. All my peers highly related to the text and I could only relate so much. I became invisible for the most part. I was an outsider trying to fit in. My college experience taught me a lot of white privilege and of institutional racism.
    I see the Black Lives Matters movement as the greatest movement for racial justice of our time. It also a movement that helps build community nation wide, maybe even worldwide. When a racial injustice happens to someone in whatever part of the united states, the black lives matters community will definitely take a stand and protest to try to right that injustice and to make sure injustices do not keep happening. It is amazing to see people in different parts of the world stand in solidarity for someone that they knew little about to fight against the inhumane racist system and cogs of that system.
    BLM and anti-racist education should be an essential part for all educators. The BLM movement not only builds this community, but it encourages all people to become activists to right the institutional injustices we fight as people of color. Having educators and future educators be educated in the struggles some of their future students might face will help them understand their students and help get rid of their biases. Teachers will not label, profile, of judge students and their academic performances based on the color of their skin. We should also learn of racial injustices and how to combat them so that we can teach these things to our students.We need to teach them acceptance and love for diversity. We need to teach them to say no to racism, and teach students of color to voice themselves and be proud of their race, roots, and everything that makes them them.

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    • Noel,

      I really appreciate you explaining your personal experience with the way in which a white curriculum directly impacted you. As someone who has had the privilege not to experience this, I find it incredibly helpful to hear of your experience as it is something that I can take into my own teaching and lesson planning when creating curriculum. I also want to say that your view of the BLM movement was spot on. I find it imperative that we, as educators, should be encouraging our students to be activists within the classroom and within our community. Yet, it is also important for us to continue to develop literacy within the field of racial injustice and attempt to understand the different ways in which we can use these moments of education to incorporate it into our curriculum. I think that it says a lot about a teacher (and their values) based on the ways in which they incorporate critical theories and modern movements. Finally, I want to really emphasize the importance of helping students (especially students of color) find their voice. In moments where a classroom has little racial diversity, it is even more important to ensure that our students of color have the agency to speak to their experiences and help their peers understand racial diversity.

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  13. At the beginning of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, I had just started my gender transition. In that time, I went from living as a white male to a white woman, struggling financially, and watched as my privilege left my life day by day. By the time the Black Lives Matter protests had started peaking, I realized – where I wouldn’t have before – just how necessary these protests were and what their true message was. When I began my teaching courses, I was not exposed to much diversity. I had grown up in private schools and had not met many people of color at all, and so learning about diversity and racial justice in the classroom was foreign to me, especially as I was led to believe that the government truly did fight for equal rights for all. But, through my own circumstances and the circumstances of 2020, I learned how much of a systematic lie this was, and my views on education changed. We are all taught in the teacher’s college that every student is an individual with circumstances that affect their learning opportunities, and with the light of racial inequality, these circumstances are not created equal and are recycled by a toxic system. As educators, we must use BLM as an example for how to care for the whole student, especially the difficulties that they face as a result of their class or race, and we also have to apply ourselves to understand how systematic oppression shapes these environments for our students. Going forward, as an educator, I hope to continue expanding my understanding on what we – as allies – can do to teach for racial justice and true equity and equality, using BLM and the ripples it has caused in our own society as a guide. We need to instill these same principles of being critical of the system within our students, so that they can form their own opinions and fight for what they believe in. I truly believe that all change starts in the classroom, and branches out into all areas of our world, and so as educators it is our duty to help guide those branches to transform an inherently broken system.

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    • @opeitshope, I just want to thank you for sharing your own story and allying yourself and your experiences to the BLM movement. I agree that as educators BLM teaches us and reminds us to care for the whole student! This is a lifelong journey, but one that can be so rewarding for students and teachers alike.

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  14. @opeitshope, I just want to thank you for sharing your own story and allying yourself and your experiences to the BLM movement. I agree that as educators BLM teaches us and reminds us to care for the whole student! This is a lifelong journey, but one that can be so impactful for students and teachers alike.

    Like

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