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.

202 Comments

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  1. Hello my name is Sam, I am currently in a teaching credential program, and is looking forward to becoming a math educator in California in the next year. The whole Black Lives Matter movement has taken us by storm over the past few months and has finally got the attention it has deserved. This movement is not only for Black people to come together and for support but for all races of people to unify and fight for equal rights and treatment regardless of race or ethnicity. It’s also a movement, whose goal is trying to educate those who are oblivious to the unfair bias and stereotype that foreshadows many situations involving the law and black people. In terms of applying this concept in schools, I believe that it’s very crucial that us educators really be familiar with the movement, ideals, and morals behind it. It’s important for us to take components such as oppression and really be vigilant in the class to protect our students from being trapped in it. This also expands on how this segregation isn’t limited to just race but also gender bias and conformity as well. As teachers, we must be open with students and spread positivity about culture, race, and culture through our instruction. We must also create practices that help build community and familiarity to those (students and teachers alike) that aren’t of the same race, gender, or culture.
    Particularly focusing on those of Black Youth, we must change our classrooms to help promote their culture and cast aside the previous determined stereotypes associated with them with also keeping in mind not to single out other cultures negatively. For example, we must address anti-blackness and create an environment that embraces the black culture while at the same time not segregating those who are White. We must also promote culturally responsive pedagogy in the classroom so that students of the next generation do not make the same mistakes the generations before them have, where by doing so we can avoid unnecessary crisis in the government and civil injustice like riots in the future. Teaching young students about openness, embracing differences, and showing respect to those around them will be the key to success for the next generation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Sam,

      I agree with everything you wrote and was very happy to read it! I have three points I would love to try elaborating on.

      The point of educating ourselves on the BLM movement is imperative to its success, and I believe that many people in my life (including myself, at times) look past, or forget, about doing so. It is easy to label ourselves as allies. It is difficult and time consuming to comprehend the origins, developments, and nuances of the movement in a way that allows us to truly understand and support the movement’s mission.

      Culturally responsive pedagogy seems to be key in modern teaching! What you write about seems to also support a term I recently learned– culturally sustaining pedagogy. This term shares your ideas of embracing and promoting the cultures of out students, beyond simply responding to them, in order to let the students know that we truly value their culture (not just tolerate it).

      Lastly, your final point of teaching our students to be open with each other and embrace their differences in a respectful way stood out to me. I think many people take the route of simply avoiding uncomfortable discussions in classroom, for a plethora of reasons: time management, relevance to subject matter, etc. However, if we model for our students how to have conversations that regard their differences, I think we can support the next generations social development in a positive way.

      Thanks for your writing! Wishing you all the best in your career.

      Like

    • Hi, I really appreciate your initiative of bringing up gender as well and the layers that this adds to the conversation of equality in the classroom. As it is sometimes said, Black Lives Matters, means ALL Black Lives Matter, and that means protecting those who are also affected by a system set up against their gender identity. Meaning that ALL Black Lives Matter means that Black Women Lives Matter, Black Gay Lives Matter, Black Lesbian Lives Matters, Black Trans Lives matter. These are crucial to mention as up until this day, people that fall in those categories are often targeted for violence. This Violence could be traced to having began in classrooms that are not well prepared to disrupt the social injustices that they face.

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    • Hello Sam,

      I hope you are doing well. I enjoyed reading your response. You have written very powerful statements that I agree with and would like to further discuss. First, you mentioned that that this movement is not only for the Black community to come together, but more so for all individuals of ALL races to come together and take a stand against the racism and injustices that continue to be seen in the twenty-first century. Personally, I believe that it was and continues to be a very beautiful thing to see how people of various races and statuses have demonstrated solidarity and become a voice for those who are not being heard nor treated equally. Secondly, you mentioned that as educators it is our responsibility to be open with students and spread positivity regarding cultures and race within our lessons and I could not agree more. As a matter of fact, throughout the course of this semester I have learned examples of how to practice culturally responsive teaching and two of Banks’ Dimensions of Multicultural Pedagogy contribute to this goal of being accepting of those who come from different backgrounds than we do. Those two dimensions are “Content Integration” that infuses ethnic and cultural content from multiple cultures into the curriculum and “Prejudice Reduction” that essentially helps students form positive attitudes toward others who are different compared to them. Thus, practices that can be included for these two dimensions are incorporating texts that allow students from different communities to see themselves in it and giving students from different cultures the opportunity to collaborate together so they learn more about each other. Thirdly, the other significant goal that you have mentioned is working towards dismantling the stereotypes that have been imposed on the Black community. I believe that as educators, being able to obtain a positive image of the black community does begin in a classroom and how we speak to them, about them, and how much potential we see in them. As Twitter states, we should highlight “Black excellence” and demonstrate to the Black Youth that they can achieve their goals and progress in life. We need to nurture this community despite the history that haunts this community and oppresses them. All in all, I truly enjoyed engaging in conversation with you, Sam. I wish you the best of luck as you progress with your credential program.

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    • Hi Sam,

      I really thought that you gave some wonderful insight into this matter, and I really enjoyed reading your post. I particularly agree with you on your second paragraph, in that we must change our classrooms and shake free from predetermined ideas we may carry in order to best help students of all backgrounds. I especially like your pointedness at ensuring we are creating a classroom that is inclusive by including black culture in the classroom environment, but also by not segregating against those who are white. I feel that this is a point that is often brought up by those who are against the Black Lives Matter movement, as they seem to believe that black inclusion can only mean white exclusion, when in reality all that is required by the Black Lives Matter movement is inclusion of all. Overall, your post was wonderful to read, and thank you for sharing it with us.

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    • Hi Sam! Your writing was very insightful and brought up some points I may have missed. I feel as though you really described the Black Lives Matter Movement very eloquently. I also think it is very important for educators to be well informed on topics such as this so we can address it within our classrooms if the occasions arises. Schools can sometimes be quite segregating based on certain characteristics by signaling individuals out or excluding some individuals. We as educators must fight that within our classrooms and stay vigilant. I do believe spreading positivity is important; however, we may also need to let our students know the reality of the situation instead of shielding them from it at times. Your ideas on embracing other cultures, specifically black cultures, are very important during this sensitive time as well. Your last sentence is very powerful and a great ideal to follow in the classroom!

      Like

    • Sam I found this post very informative and full of helpful comments.

      You are right, we need to make sure that all the children we teach feel respected and like you mentioned, come to together as one for unity. We need to make sure that we are teaching all students, not just Blacks, that they can make a difference and if they all work towards equality for all races, religions and even genders the future of America will be a much different place.

      I have often seen people worried that Black Lives Matter will remove white history and this has caused fear and undo worry. If we as teachers include history about all of the people in American than we can stop the fear and allow the students to see that we are supportive of them no matter what. We are there for them and that we will helped them into the future.

      Great comments!

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    • Hello Sam,

      I enjoyed reading your post. I love how you mentioned changing to the classroom to help benefit the classroom. I believe as educators, the change can begin in the classroom. As teachers, we need to become aware of what our students are going through. Introducing the black culture and helping students learn more about what black went through will help bring awareness. Maybe that will start a chain reaction. Allowing them to express themselves and show respect, just as you mentioned, will bring forth a great generation in the future.

      Like

    • Hello Sam, I really enjoyed reading what you wrote and it has brought some insight to topics I have missed. I appreciate you bringing up gender and how everyone should come together and not only those of particular group.

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    • Hello Sam,

      I love your post. It seems very well thought out and constructed. The closing part of your post caught my attention the most. I agree with you that “we must address anti-blackness and create an environment that embraces the black culture while at the same time not segregating those who are white.”

      If we define our goals as inclusion and equality, we must be mindful to pursue those ideals. Creating another segregated society is a leap backwards even if it is established in the name of equality. Although our lived experiences may be vastly different, fundamentally we all desire the same things. Unity and equality are best achieved when we embracing our similarities and truly value each other as individuals.

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    • It seems to me that American classrooms promote the overall “American Culture” as opposed to welcoming other cultures. We must first embrace and welcome the Black American culture before we can understand it. And as far as I can tell, Black Americans will be here, so we need to start acknowledging the culture as of yesterday. The beautiful thing is that many educators are already beginning to create classrooms that welcome EVERY culture, including those who have been long forgotten. With that being said, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Best of luck!

      Like

    • Great comments with well thought points of discussion.

      Informative and thought provoking, as the comments discuss as well the inclusion and understanding.
      Supportive by nature and beneficial for overall societal growth.

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    • Hello Sam,

      I agree with you and I also believe that this movement is important to everyone. I feel that there is a need for change in education and I believe the Black Lives Matter movement is a positive step to improving the way we teach our students. I am not in the classroom yet and I can only go by my experience from observations and being a student. From what I see, when we teach about anything it is usually from a perspective of a white male and this is from our history books, to science, math, philosophy,and literature. I very much agree with the panel from the webinar that there are very few representation from other races and genders being taught in our schools. I feel that we need to change this, even if that means as educators that we need to find alternative sources that is not provided by our system. I think the biggest way we start changing the viewpoints of society is by educating the our students on how to listen and respect one another and learn from the past, not continue to make the same mistakes as the past. I really liked your post and I wish you the best of luck in your education career!

      Christine “Chrissy” Black (Student at Austin Peay State University)

      Like

    • Hi Sam,
      I agree with your statements about the Black Lives Matter Movement and also like that you included the comment about what it stands for. I think that it is very important that the movement try and help people who are oblivious to unfair bias and stereotypes understand that it is a real thing and that it still happens today. I also love your last paragraph, I find that as future or current educators it is important to become familiar with the movement and learn how we can incorporate it into our classrooms to help improve unfair bias that may take place in schools and in classrooms.

      Kendahl Edwards.

      Like

    • Hello Sam
      Yes, i totally agree with you, we should all come together and fight and support all races for equal rights. As teacher we should be informed like you mention on aspects about racism and teach our students that every single person deserves to be treated equally and with respect. I like the idea that as teachers we should incorporate all cultures so students can start learning and loving different cultures as much as they love theirs.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      Like

    • Hi Sam,

      As I was reading your response, I really enjoyed the fact that you pointed out that we must address and challenge anti-blackness without condemning/punishing it. This is a great observation because I believe that addressing anti-backness or anti-whiteness in a negative manner can have the opposite effect and can polarize individuals even more. Addressing these concepts in a culturally responsive way is the only way to resolve them without having negative consequences. I also agree with teaching young students about openness and embracing the differences of others. I have always agreed with the statement that “Hate is taught”, and instead of teaching hate we in the classroom can teach compassion and respect for others.

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    • Hi, Sam.

      Your post confirms so much that I am learning here at Penn State. I totally stand with you on the need to promote culturally responsive pedagogy in the classroom. In this, educators will be forced to seek out movements across the world that addresses cultural needs. Your post truly emphasizes the need for us, as educators, to be aware of the reality of our world is in and I love that for it correlates to reality pedagogy.

      Like

  2. Hello everyone!
    My name is Abbie Rosenthal and I am a post grad student, getting my single subject credential in music at CSULB.
    The Black Lives Matter movement is a call for reformed social justice policies throughout the United States, due to police brutality. This affects our classrooms in so many different ways, as our classrooms are full of students from different cultures, backgrounds, and races. I think the most important character trait to have as a teacher is empathy, and this is especially important when it comes to dealing with BLM. I am a white, straight woman who will never understand what it is like to be mistreated because of the color of my skin, but I can listen, have empathy, and choose to celebrate all cultures and races within my classroom.
    The webinar was really wonderful, thought provoking, and insightful. One of the ideals that I took from listening was that teaching for black lives means teaching for everyone. Not all black individuals have the same background, or culture, but If we choose to not only include, but celebrate all cultures and races, we choose to teach for black lives. In the music classroom, this can look like choosing repertoire that was written by a BIOPIC composer, or pieces that celebrate different cultures, faiths, and races. In this way, not only can we disrupt the inequality that exists in the music world, but disrupt racism and hate at the same time. Part of reimagining our classroom spaces has to do with our character and presence. If students know that they can get away with being racist, unkind and rude in the classroom then they will do it. We need to be active about speaking up against racist behaviors, while also creating an environment that students know what is expected of them from the moment they walk in, that we hold them to consistently. In these ways, we can create a classroom that celebrates black lives and transforms the world.

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    • Hello Abbie,

      As a fellow pre-service music teacher, I loved your response! I would love to speak on two of the points you made.

      First, that authenticity is a necessary component to any sort of teaching (especially in music). For example, if I, a white music teacher, programmed an African Spiritual for my mostly white choir, my intentions may be good, but I would not be doing the BLM much, if any justice. I think that you hit the nail on the head with the example you gave– choosing to rehearse music written to celebrate different cultures, faiths, and races, by people of those communities!

      Second, I was intrigued by what you wrote in regards to our character and presence in the classroom as teachers. It is one thing to label our classrooms as “safe spaces,” but we have to wonder what that actually looks like, right? Explicitly not tolerating racist behaviors that we witness is a great way to let everyone know that we are safe PEOPLE. I think a great way to create the safe environment you mention is by involving our students in the process of creating classroom guidelines. That might help us hold our students accountable for following the respectful expectations that they helped create.

      Here’s to celebrating Black lives and transforming the world!

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    • Hi Abbie. I hope the credential program has been treating you well, and obviously you are well prepared to talk about BLM which is commendable. Your comment about how “teaching for black lives means teaching for everyone” really gets to the heart of why stereotyping is so dangerous when these students come into the classroom. This kind of stereotyping is something that students even participate in themselves, and it can cause a lot of divisive arguments where students may feel out of place with the ethnic community that we may assume would be welcoming to them. Rather than having separate communities that concentrate on the differences in order to keep people apart, a strength of the teacher in the classroom is that we can uplift all students and celebrate all their differences. We also get to find the common threads that will make our classroom communities strong and full of positivity and acceptance.

      Disrupting racism and intolerance in the classroom can come in many forms, and you’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to not tolerating intolerance. Having high expectations of students when it comes to both their content mastery and their behavior to each other creates an environment where you encourage students to be at their best as learners and as people.

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    • Hi Abbie! I absolutely loved your response. Your focus on empathy is very important to me as well, as I am also a straight, white female and cannot fully relate to the injustices Black Americans have to face. However, I feel empathy can go a long way, as listening to student’s issues can be quite meaningful to students. Celebration of different cultures is quite possibly one of the best things we can do as educators, including telling multiple sides to every moment in history or viewpoints to certain opinionated topics. I also really like how you got so specific with how you will implement this into your music classroom, it seems as though you have thought about this quite extensively! Setting boundaries and letting students know you will not tolerate any type of hate or bullying is very important.

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    • Great job Abbie!

      I am was very happy to read where you mentioned celebrating all lives no matter the color. I agree that we need to encourage all races and allow our students to see that we are not going to allow disrespect from them or anyone else in our classrooms. I like that you mentioned we need to be the example of this and speaking up against racists behaviors that we see. Students need teachers who can see past the color and teach everyone with the same respect and care!

      Great job!

      Like

    • Hello Abbie, I really enjoyed reading what you wrote and it is interesting to see you are getting your credential in music. I liked how you put things in perspective for you future music classroom because it made me think of this topic differently.

      Like

    • Hi Abbie,

      I agree that a necessary trait a teacher must have is empathy. We never know what situations our students are going to but we need to be equipped to be ready to listen and try to understand them. I like how you talk about celebrating all cultures and races within the classroom. I agree this is important and beneficial for everyone. Sometimes as adults I think that we forget there are still things out there for us to learn everyday and as teachers we are lucky enough to have so many different students walk into our classrooms who can teach us so much about the cultures around us in society. I did not read through the webinar but after reading your response I will make a point to go back and look through it. I like how you talked about the reimagining out classrooms as spaces where students can learn better ways to treat someone who is different than them. It breaks my heart what things students learn and take into their adult lives. Being aware and having discussions like this is important for us to make sure the next generations do better.

      Megan

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    • Agree with the supportive nature of the overall growth beginning in the classroom and expanding outward. I like the perspective from a subject here different than my own and yet the commonality of the end result desired.

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    • Hi Abbie. I think your response is great! Being from California myself, I received my BA from CSUF, I know how diverse the population is in California and how important it is to celebrate that diversity. I like your point about being empathetic. I think when teachers, or adults anywhere, try to say they understand where a student is coming from when they are a different race or come from a different background, there is a negative impact on the student. I will not understand what it is like to be mistreated because of the color of my skin, and my goal is to be the person students can lean on, especially if they don’t have anyone else to listen to them. I also like your point about character and presence. As a teacher, you must be real, honest, and real with students. No one likes fakeness. When the students are in an environment that refuses to be a part of racism, oppression, and hatred, they will flourish and celebrate who they are.

      Like

    • Hello Abbie,

      I love your post! I was exited after reading though it, I was exited because far to often I see/hear people talking about how Black Lives Matter is a huge deal and we need to do something to help. They all seem to just talk and not take any action on the matter. Your idea of incorporating it into your teaching of music is really refreshing.

      I also really liked how you talked about how not all black individuals come from the same background or culture. You seem very open minded and that is exactly the mindset you have to have to be a great teacher!

      Like

    • Hi, Abbie.

      I love your post.

      You bring out a truth in your post when stating “not all black individuals have the same background, or culture.” This is why it is so important for us as future educators to not make assumptions based upon similarity of race but to get to know each student for themselves. How are our students similar? How are they different? How can we create a space of unity and acceptance for all? are questions we can start thinking about as we prepare to move forward in the education career and that you so eloquently embrace in your post.

      Like

  3. The Black Lives Matters has been an national movement to recognize the social inequalities that have plagued or Black communities for centuries. The movement has brought up issues of not not only inequities but also police brutality that continues to kill our people of color with out any accountabilitiy to the police officers. I believe that it is imparative that we are allow students to be a part of these discussion because they are living these realities before them. We have to understand that racism is a social construct that was created to keep those in power, stay in power. Our history has been distorted and real racism has never been address but it is time, it has been time all long time ago. As James Baldwin “A Talk To Teachers” we must attempt to correct so many generations of bad faith and cruelty, when it is operating not only in the class room but in society. It is important to teach students of racial injustices have accurred and constructed in society. In hopes that we can correct the problem, we can allow them age appropriete lessons and because I am a historian that is where I believe I can and will balance these lessons. I love that in the webinar they talk about how do we do this with out just talking about slavery or victimizing. It will be teaching student about revolts and resistance movement and empowering lessons. We have to understand that all black people have experienced institutionalized racism but all peoples experiences have been unique and we must always aknowelege this always in our class rooms.

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    • Claudia, I really like that you brought up the unique individual experiences of everybody and the importance in recognizing this in the classroom. I agree with your assessment that it is important to teach a balanced lesson, allowing for a comprehensive teaching approach and providing examples of positive representation for students.

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    • Hello Claudia,
      Your response has many strong points that I agree with. To begin with, your very first sentence is powerful and moreover I could not agree more with your selection of wording. Particularly, I would like to focus on “inequalities that have plagued Black communities for centuries.” I feel as though the word plague really brings to light the horrible experiences that the Black community has lived through time and time again. Next, I also believe that it is very important to have these discussions about Black Lives Matter and racism to bring awareness to the students, but also give student themselves, especially the Black Youth the opportunity to express and share their experiences of the injustices that they have experienced. I believe these shared experiences will impact students the most considering that they will come from a first-person account and I can further support this taking into account the stories of the injustices that my professor’s Black students have experienced and shared with him. When my professor brings these stories up and connects them to the content we are learning, I empathize even more so as a human being who realizes the amount of inequities that students of color constantly live through. Lastly, I also believe that the faults we see today has a lot to do with systems that have failed us and more specifically, the Black communities. By systems I refer to the educational and criminal system. In order to bring about change, I believe educators and those power figures within the criminal system must work together to bring the violence and racism to an end for the Black communities. Blacks should be able to live a life as equal and safe like other human beings of different races do. For this reason I agree with you that we must acknowledge these topics within our classrooms and continue to fight for change alongside our Black students. In conclusion, it was my pleasure to read your response, Claudia and I believe you will become a great history teacher!

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    • Claudia I also do hope we can correct the problem. I think it is good that you want to balance the lessons and talk about other things besides slavery and teach students to be empowering.

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    • Hi Claudia! I really like your ideas on how to address the problem that is still in classroom even if you believe it or not. Doing something as little as integrating history documents, literature, and even music written by black people will cause a much bigger effect then what the students realize. I am learning to be an K-5 teacher, so at this level students are learning things without realizing they are learning them. Baldwin says this in his article about how teachers need to be aware at what a student might be learning subconsciously. This really stuck with me and once I start making my own lesson plans I hope to keep this in mind and not make any of my students feel inferior.

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    • Hi Claudia,

      I enjoyed reading your post, and I find that I am agreeing with you that we need to be encouraging our students to bring these discussions with them into the classroom, so that we may better our communities by allowing people to have what may be a difficult conversation in an environment that is safe, and open for different viewpoints to be shared. I think that by allowing these candid conversations, we not only allow the Black Lives Matter movement to advance our society, but our classrooms towards a place of more inclusivity for all.

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    • Claudia, I really liked where you talked about teaching all ages, and not everything has to be about slavery or victimizing. I feel that we need to also teach about Black inventors and positive things that Black people have done in the past so that students see more positive things about their pasts than negative. We need to work together to make sure that the future starts now.

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    • Hello Claudia,

      I enjoyed reading your discussion. I love how you mentioned recognizing everyone’s individuality in the classroom. Yes, each student are all different in their own way and as educators, it is important to learn how our students like and dislike. Black Lives Matter has changed our world and as educators discussing it with our students will give us and insight on how and what they feel about it. This will allow them to open up and speak on something they may not be able to speak on at home. We want our our students to feel equal and I believe as future educators we will do just that.

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    • Claudia,
      I agree that we in a sense need to explain to the kids in our class the events that are happening around them. With the current BLM vs Police Brutality has become an overwhelming concept to where students NEED to know what is going on, at least high school age students cause they will be going into this world within the coming years. There are many reasons why kids of the right age need to know of the events going on around them. One being they may be getting the wrong information. With information (right or wrong) being accessibly to a kid faster than they can go to the restroom, it’s possible that they would inform themselves with the wrong information and would possibly share that wrong information. When events such as BLM occur, it should in a sense be our responsibility as teachers to lead them with the right information. I’d also like to put in that information from good sources, not just what we believe as that is rather unethical.
      It is sad that we should teach our kids about these events, especially with the Breonna Taylor case getting worse as days go on (the officer that wrote the letter a month or so ago is now suing her BF for emotional distress), but they need to find the right information to gain the right opinion, and be informed to assist in stopping these events from repeating. Especially in a society that is more divided than a state line.

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    • Hi Claudia,

      Thank you for your post — I completely agree with you that we allow our students to be a part of this conversation exactly because it has, it does, and it will affect them both inside and outside of the classroom. I’m curious about how you define age appropriate lessons; what grade(s) do you (plan to) teach, and how do you plan to approach the lessons on resistance movements? I agree with our selected readings that we should not view anti-racist lesson planning as incorporating literature that only victimizes people of color but rather as including lessons that characterize them as strong and valuable to society as we inherently characterize white people. Have you heard about the 1619 Project, and if so, what do you think about their recontextualizing of American history? I believe that students would greatly appreciate a greater sense of nuance in their historical lessons; I certainly remember feeling conflicted in my history classes when we learned about our systematic displacement of indigenous peoples while we realized our “manifest destiny.” The more we talk about these issues in the classroom, the more we can equip our next generation with the language and tools to fight racism in all its forms.

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    • Claudia!

      I really liked your comment on how racism is a social construct meant to keep those in power in power. I know that when I was growing up, I wasn’t exposed to much diversity because I lived in middle-class America and went to private schools, but I never really understood or perceived the racial divide until later in my adolescence. Once I began to see how what I was learning in school about race – more specifically, the inequality that people face – wasn’t actually reflecting the values of our society and the stories that people of color were telling, I felt as though we were only being told a portion of the story. It shocked me quite a bit when institutionalized racism became a political talking point, and I began to see how we don’t start racist, but we are made racist based on the systems that we grow up into. I feel if more people realized that a large portion of racism is a systematic construction meant to continue the ways in which we live, there would be less backlash against it, and I firmly believe that this starts with education more than anything else. If students are taught about these oppressive systems instead of developing beliefs solely based off of their family’s existing prejudices, we wouldnt have seen such a huge array of issues with race when police brutality spikes. Unfortunately, this progress is set back by current politics and ideologies, but as educators, I do believe that the work we do can slowly make a difference and change the racist attitudes that have become widespread.

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    • Claudia, I appreciate your point that addresses the longstanding injustices Black communities have faced. I think it is important to realize that these aren’t new issues. Given that point, as teachers it is necessary to understand the stress that comes from fighting a battle for basic rights and equity for so long. Additionally, the issue of police brutality is relevant to many schools today. The increased presence of police in public schools has created more opportunity for racial stress to occur in young lives. I believe this is a problem that puts the lives and educations opportunities of students at risk. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  4. When I think of ways that I can reimagine my classroom as a space that disrupts racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth, my mind automatically thinks about the ways that I can include texts that show my students the struggles that black people have had to, and continue to, go through in this country. While there may be certain required texts within the curriculum, there’s always going to be a way for me to include pieces that exemplify what black people endure. While reading “Loving Blackness to Death”: (Re)Imagining ELA Classrooms in a Time of Racial Chaos by Lamar L. Johnson, Johnnie Jackson, David O. Stovall,
    and Denise Taliaferro Baszile I became frustrated in realizing that many of the required literature in typical ELA curriculum is centered around white authors and the white experience, so it is my job to disrupt the racial injustice in my own district’s curriculum by including work that talks about the experiences of black and brown people. As unrealistic as I thought it sounded at first, I really do think that doing this work in my classroom can transform the world. When we show students of all races that black lives deserve to be seen as strong and beautiful, not just as gangsters or slaves like many historical texts deem them as, then we will create a climate where the general public will begin to see them in the positive light that they deserve to be seen in. As a society, we have an obligation to humanize the lives of all black people so that the injustices toward them stop; as teachers, we have a special opportunity to educate children on this at a very young age so that they can grow to be accepting and supportive of black lives.

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    • Rachel,
      I love how you envision your future classroom. Bringing text that describes the struggles Black people have had to overcome is a great way to bring real world issues into the classroom. Multicultural literature, it is a fun way to reach your students. Selection will vary depending on the age group you teach. For example, kindergarten through third graders would appreciate the book Firebird by Misty Copeland. Ms. Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer. Her inspiring book earned the Coretta Scott King award. Her book teaches students the importance of being confident and to always strive to do their best. It teaches ALL students to follow their dreams and to never give up, no matter how many attempts it takes them to get there. I agree with what you said, it is up to us to humanize the lives of Black people so that the injustices toward them stop and they can strive for success as everyone should.

      Respectfully,
      Lisa Bledsoe

      Like

    • Hi Rachel,

      I agree that many of the required literature books in schools are centered around white authors and white experiences. I also agree with you that although these texts might be mandatory for educators to teach, we can teach them in a way that highlight the injustices that BIPOC have endured historically and currently. I think it is also important to include literature from authors of color from their own perspectives. Showing students that BIPOC have and do endure injustices but also that they have done and continue to do great things. It is equally as important to showcase BIPOC’s strengths and stories and not solely focus on the injustices that they have faced. I too think by creating a classroom environment that is accepting and supportive of Black lives as well as BIPOC, we can transform the world into a better, more empathetic, and caring place.

      Crista

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    • Hi Rachel,

      I agree with your beliefs that this is a social justice issue that we can and have an obligation to solve in our classrooms. Schools have contributed to the omission of Black culture and history, and it is necessary that we cease this behavior and begin to construct an educational space that is truly inclusive to everyone. I also agree that in ELA classrooms we can begin to combat this issue by including authors of color onto our reading lists. This is a significant way to turn this issue around in our schools. Providing students with material from authors that we share similar experiences with helps to engage students into their learning and support them in their academic efforts. This teaches are students that they are welcomed and encouraged to bring their cultural experiences into school. Thank you!

      Like

    • Rachel,
      I really enjoyed reading your post. School Curriculum does focus a lot on white history and the negative sides of black history. I believe this should be changed and including more of black history and black authors will help children get a more diverse understanding of the world that promotes every one of color not just white. It will open the eyes of young black children that see their heritage as more than just gangsters and slaves as you said. It will open the minds of all children. In today’s time, we as educators are the ones that influence change the world. With all the racism and injustices towards black and brown people today, we need more open-minded individuals to end the crisis against those communities and bring an end to it. Incorporating it into classrooms is the first step of truly making a difference, bring racism to an end and giving the black and brown communities equal justice that they truly deserve.

      -Madison Wyatt
      Ausitn Peay State University

      Like

    • Rachel, I really enjoyed reading your post. I am happy that you mentioned teaching children of all ages because I believe that the younger we start to teach our students then the more it will stick with them. I am also interested in making sure that they understand that not only Blacks were slaves, and that all people who had no more or power were used as slaves. I like the idea of using literature through out the year that can strengthen the knowledge that Black people were writing books and discovering things as well as white people. I would even like to try and find some literature that was written by other races as well.

      Like

    • Hi Rachel,

      When reading your response, I felt my jaw clench at “certain required texts.” I am also a future ELA teacher and know too well the supposedly immutable canon that we must draw from. While we may have some leeway in incorporating necessary additions to our curriculum, we are ultimately at the mercy of what our district decides the students must learn for their state tests. My question, then, is this: how can we make these additions to the curriculum when we are somewhat constrained by the system that education serves?

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    • Rachel,
      It’s great that you’re planning on implementing other literature besides from white authors into your classroom. You’ve mentioned that it was unrealistic at first, but I would like to borrow words from my professor, Dr. Golden, that a small group of people have what it takes to change the world. As teachers, we have the influence over generations of voters. Students learn from our way of teaching and the material that we teach them. We have to be mindful of the power that we hold so that we can be the change or start the change that is needed for us to move away from racial injustice.

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    • Hi Rachel!
      I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said! We, as ELA teachers really can make a difference in our classrooms! We don’t have to follow the path that every other teacher has taken in the last 50 years. We can make our students better people, more understanding and empathetic humans. I too have been getting extremely frustrated lately when realizing texts which perpetuate racists beliefs and behaviors are still taught regularly because they have been deemed “classics.” There are hundreds of novels available that portray strong Black characters, characters that have not been cast as the villain because of the color of their skin. It’s our duty as teachers to change the expectations.

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    • Hi Rachel,
      I enjoyed reading your response. I think that it is amazing that you are already envisioning your future classroom and deciding to bring in texts to bring awareness to the struggles Black People have had to endure. I think it will bring a sense of respect to the classroom and a sense of pride to other Black students in your classroom. I completely agree with you that, “as teachers, we have a special opportunity to educate children on this at a very young age so that they can grow to be accepting and supportive of black lives.” I believe as educators, it is our job to change the narrative and to help show our young students that because these issues have been ignored for so long, does not mean that it has gone away.

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    • Rachel, as a future English teacher, this point resonates with me. I value the power of books to transform lives. The current trend of curriculum that strictly focuses on classic European literature is not something I believe serves most students. I agree with you that Black lives should not only be represented, but lifted up and celebrated. I think you mention a lot of great ideas for how to create a classroom environment that disrupts racial injustice.

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  5. Hello all! My name is Gunnar Robinson, and I am working on my Single Subject Math Credential at California State University, Long Beach. I’d like to answer the question “What does it mean to teach for Black lives?” in a way I have come to understand through my coursework and from watching this informative webinar. First, teaching for Black lives is not just the traditional content that we often see in schools centered on the history of slavery, emancipation, the civil rights movement, and the impact of well-known Black figures like Martin Luther King. What I mean is that teaching for Black lives is not just about the content we share with our students, but also our pedagogical approach to how we get students to learn. Before we can effectively impart on our students the importance of an equitable education, however, we as educators must first recognize that the Black experience, and the experience of other marginalized groups in America, is not a monolithic one. We must understand that not all students learn the same way, and that not all students have the same level of privilege and resources at home, in their communities, or even in their schools.
    As discussed by Jesse Hagopian in the webinar, all black students experience structural racism, but that does not mean the Black experience is the same across the board. He elaborates that teachers need to take an intersectional approach, suggesting the “Queering of Black History”. It is not enough to teach about Martin Luther King as if he is the only important Black figure in the fight for racial justice. Including Black LGBTQ figures in history, for example, that are often not mentioned in most classrooms, can serve to better affirm the identity and experience of not just Black LGBTQ students, but perhaps of a white, Asian or Latinx individual who identifies as LGBTQ. Furthermore, as Hagopian explains, we need to rethink the structure of our classes at a fundamental level. He elucidates that an approach to teaching that is surrounded by “collaboration, projects, and roleplays” fosters a collective effort of students of all colors to work together, feed of each other’s unique perspectives, as well as validate the experience of all students.
    Whether your classroom is comprised mostly of Black students, or there are zero Black students in your classroom, these kinds of approaches to teaching Black history and encouraging a community of learners in the classroom that respect one another can profoundly impact the future of this nation, and even this world. And collaboration should not begin and end with our students. As educators, it is imperative that we establish a support network of professionals in our school sites that work together to meet the individual needs of every student. We must practice what we preach, and model to our students what a group of collaborative professionals looks like, and how even with differing experiences and opinions, a team of dedicated people can and will accomplish great things.

    Like

    • Hello Gunnar,
      I agree that our focus on what out students can do and their difference in how to take information is crucial to think about when thinking of teaching of Black Lives in our classroom. It take the focus to an entire different level in which one can think of the many ways that these two subjects can relate to one another. It makes students more aware of equality and privileges when their difference in information intake is taken into consideration. Furthermore, I loved your inclusion of focusing Black LGBTQ+ historical figures that for far too long have been gone unnoticed. Linking and relating struggles helps to highlight the importance of uniting for the cause of creating equality in and outside the classroom for black youth.

      Like

    • Hello Gunnar! After watching the webinar and what I have been reading throughout the course of the semester, I have also learned that teaching for Black Lives is not just teaching about slavery, civil right movements, and what most of us learned in high school. It is about having a classroom in which our Black students feel comfortable, safe, and respected. It is about the approaches we take to teach our content matter in our classrooms so that all students feel represented by the curriculum. I totally agree with you that not all students have the same experiences, even if they identify as part of the same ethnic group. Therefore, as you said, it is imperative that we as teachers take an intersectional approach. It is very important that our curriculum addresses the diversity within our classroom and celebrates differences. Particularly, I believe that one of best approaches to celebrate differences in our classroom so that our students learn to respect each other is that of collective work. As you mentioned, when students work together, they learn not only about the different perspectives, but they also learn to validate the experiences of their peers. I could not agree with you more when you stated how important it is to teach for Black Lives even if there are zero Black students in our classroom. This is very important as we need to teach all students to respect the lived experiences of everyone. Even if there are no Black students in our classroom, we need to teach our students about the injustices that the Black community has and continues to face so that they are aware of what is happening in our society. As you mentioned, this can profoundly impact the future of our nation. Lastly, I liked how you stated that we as educators must practice what we preach. We need to make sure that we are setting a good example for our students. A great way to do so, as you said, is by working together with our peers to fight for social justice and advocate for our students’ needs.

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    • Gunnar,

      You’ve chronicled an approach to teaching which exposes a present deficiency within the American Education system. It is well supported by Jesse Hagopain’s argument in the webinar. Your statement, “before we can effectively impart on our students the importance of an equitable education, however, we as educators must first recognize that the Black experience, and the experience of other marginalized groups in America, is not a monolithic one” precisely summarizes Mr. Hagopian’s argument. I, too, noted Mr. Hargopain’s point of teaching beyond the canonized figures in American history, and I relate to the experience he describes of “pigeon [holing]” groups of people within my educational experience. As future teachers, we must recognize the extent of diversity of our students, and teach in validation of all student experiences. In addition to modeling professional collaboration with your colleagues, what other ways to you plan to approach “[fostering] a collective effort of students of all colors?” (I am assuming your math content area includes few state standards with specifically addresses such topics to the extent a history or sociology content area would.)

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    • Hello Gunnar, I can agree with you what you wrote about. I think that it is important to talk about whether or not if the classroom has Black students in it or not too.

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    • Hi Gunnar,

      Fantastic post — I greatly appreciate how you discuss the intersectional experiences that go into teaching a more inclusive curriculum for not just the Black identity but the various other identities that comprise our students. As teachers, we must understand that all of our students come from all walks of life. One of the biggest struggles for teaching is not teaching just how we were taught, which teaches to a very specific audience: typically one raised in a Eurocentric model of learning and trained in a Eurocentric style of teaching. If we want to reach all of our students on a more meaningful level, we must be open to listening even more than we are to speaking to our content, thus making the art of teaching much more collaborative, as you suggest. It will mean nothing to our students if we cannot make our subject matters relevant to their experiences.

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    • Hi Gunnar,

      I like how you brought up pedagogical approaches in the classroom. I agree this is very important when it comes to teaching for Black lives. The way we set up our teaching styles directly affects our students. Creating lessons that allow students to bring in their personal experiences allows them to show us as teachers their understanding better. I think that if more teachers were able to create classrooms where critical conversations are able to flow freely more students would be equipped to continue to lead these conversations in the future. I agree with your statement about practicing what we preach. In my opinion the best tool we have in our classrooms is us, if we lead by example then students have something to look up to and a model to start to follow.

      Megan

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  6. Hello everyone!! ty name is Shaniqua Ward. I am a grad student at APSU in Tennessee. I am majoring in Elementary Education K-6. Black Live Matter is a strong movement that has made an impact on the whole world. Not only has it change our school systems but also our entertainment world. I can say that I have witnessed teachers treat black students differently than white students. I can remember in high school always wondering why Black History Month was hardly ever discussed or in textbooks. Teachers would briefly discuss black history and culture, then move on to the next lesson. At that time we did not realize what was soon happen in the future, which is today. Black Lives Matter is a great movement to help bring awareness to the black culture. Now in the classroom students are interested and what to know more about Black history and I believe this is what is hurting our school systems. There are not enough Black educators to teach Black history. As a future black educator, I will make sure to teach all students equally. I want all my students to feel safe in my presents and want to learn about other cultures and what they had to go through just to vote or use a public bathroom. Being a black educator, I will make sure to push the black students because I want them to know that no matter what the world around you says, they can be or do anything they would like. I was always told this world is not set up for Black to succeed in, so they need to push themselves and always try to be better and do better than than the day before. In schools, we need to practice making everyone equal. I truly believe that will change a lot that is happening today. We have to set the right examples for our students and I am sure they will follow in our footsteps. I will make sure that all my students no matter what the color of their skin is are treated equally. If I tell something to one to then I will expect all my students to do the same because we are all equal and no one will get special treatments.

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    • Shaniqua,
      Growing up, the only thing I really read about in history textbooks regarding Black lives and Black people was Martin Luther King, Jr.. The school curriculum made it seem as though he was the only Black person in history to ever do anything monumental! However, as you mentioned, students in classrooms are more interested in and want to know more about Black history since the #BlackLivesMatter movement has caught their attention – and I’m glad it did. Unfortunately, I also agree that there aren’t enough Black educators to teach Black history – my African American Novel class is taught by a White man! Nevertheless, I hope this movement creates more Black educators who are passionate about accurately teaching students about Black history and Black lives. I know you’re going to be a great teacher from this short paragraph because you want what’s most important for your students: to push them to try to be better and do better and to make them feel equal with one another.

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    • Hi Shaniqua! I’m a current credential student at CSULB. I’m sure that your students will be able to experience a loving and welcoming classroom with the way you want to set up your classroom environment. Your personal experiences are sure to inform your pedagogical practices and I can see with the way you carefully describe what your expectations are for your students that you have your whole heart in your planning. In California, I did not have a single Black teacher during my time in K-12. I think it is incredibly important to have a diverse group of people in jobs where individual identities are fully visible, and teaching needs to have a group of people that are culturally diverse and that are dedicated in delivering multicultural education that will invite students of all cultures to come together and feel welcomed. You have a skillset and experiences that will help inform the ways you communicate with your students and I think that both Black and non-Black students will benefit from the ways that you are structuring your classroom. Sending you all the best vibes as you get through grad school, and thank you for pursuing education with great passion and dedication!

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    • Hi Shaniqua,

      I am completing my single-subject credential in English in California; however, I have taught in private schools for a number of years with a master’s degree in English. I am from California originally, but lived in North Carolina for seven years. By the way, Tennessee is such a beautiful state, especially the Great Smoky Mountains, Nashville, and Knoxville, and the people whom I met there were very kind. With that being said, I really appreciate the honesty in your post and your endeavor as an new instructor to treat all students equally, especially after suffering from racism yourself. That is both admirable and generous. When I taught in a North Carolina school about 10 years ago, I was rather shocked that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday was not mentioned or celebrated. The school that I taught at briefly was 150 years old and originated as a White Flight school during the Reconstruction. I asked fellow teachers and administrator about the situation, but received little response. It was so bizarre to me. Since then, I have checked back with the school, and they finally acknowledge Martin Luther King’s birthday.

      Now that being said, California, which is one of the most liberal states in the country has much racial hypocrisy that needs to be addressed. Neighborhoods and schools are still largely divided by race; and the schools that are more diverse and multicultural rarely have many black students, which is tragic. It is shameful that we still have such division today, but I do think that we are going through another civil rights movement. At the moment, I am teaching at an inner school, and about five percent of the students are black. I am making great effort to bring literature and music and art from African and African America artists into the conversation every day. It really has made a significant difference in student engagement and in my relationships with the students. I am also making great effort to support students that fall behind in their studies by calling and emailing them with words of encouragement. Online teaching is tough, but it can still be personal. I, too, agree that we need to set ourselves up as examples of justice by treating each student with dignity and by encouraging thoughtful conversation in the classroom. We also need to celebrate all cultures; and hopefully, out efforts in the classroom will help transform the school and beyond.

      Great post! I would have very liked to have a teacher like you when I was sitting in a history class in high school. I am sure you will make a big difference in the lives of your students.

      Best,

      Dana

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  7. Hi Everyone! My name is Mary Bennett. I am currently a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln working to obtain an MA in Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education as well as my initial certification. My content area is Secondary English Education. I am currently placed in a practicum setting so the bulk of my experience is as a pre-service teacher. While that means that my experience teaching and being within a classroom is limited, I feel that this moment in my educational experience is invaluable because I am positioned to be both a teacher and a learner.

    Working with each of these pieces of content, I felt especially drawn to the Black Lives Matter at School website because this is something that feels especially within reach right now. The Black Lives Matter at School Movement is one in which educators, students, parents, and those involved in the community are invited to stand for racial justice within schools. In an environment where students are being “managed” by their teachers (classroom management is what I’m really referring to here as opposed to restorative justice practices), it feels like incredibly important work to give students an active voice within their community (specifically a school setting). In traditional school settings, student voice is one that, at least in my experience, seems to be prioritized less frequently than the voices in “power” (I’m referring to the district, school administration, and teachers). To me, this communicates to students that their voice is not valued or prioritized (and thus, neither are their stories). This is where organizations such as Black Lives Matter at School become imperative because it gives students agency over their own voice and their education.

    However, I feel that it should be emphasized that it is not just students who should have agency over their own voice and education, but ALL students and not just the ones who it is convenient to give a voice to. What I envision for how this might guide my own teaching practices is that the power I am given (merely for being a teacher) should be reallocated to students. I don’t mean this in a “students can do whatever they want without rules” within my classroom. But, rather, I want this to be an important point of how I teach. If my students have the “power” within the classroom, it means that they are aware and understanding that agency over their voice is not given by me. Rather, it is inherently theirs. I want my students to understand, as I am teaching, that their voice, regardless of their identity, is valued, is important, is prioritized in my classroom. I want them to leave my classroom knowing that they have agency over their voices and their education.

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    • Hi Mary, first of all thank you for sharing. I definitely agree with encouraging students to be an active voice. By giving students a chance to share their voice in school they may feel more inclined to share their voice as they transition into society. It all starts at school, students learning to speak up and critically analyze what is happening around them. I hope that by encouraging them and allowing them the opportunity to share their voice they will continue to do so as they progress in life. Perhaps something school districts can try is inviting students to attend district meetings that could impact the students. I believe that in doing so the districts and schools can receive some student feedback that could potentially help better shape their education. Power to the students, power to the people.

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    • Hi Mary. Your point of giving students a voice in school and in the classroom is very important. We (teachers) expect students to learn from us and follow the standards we are required to teach them. I know of teachers that leave no room for anything outside of what is outlined as their job. Empowering students to speak their minds, to know they are being heard and respected is what should be happening in every classroom. I believe adults (teacher, administration) in schools need to ground themselves and understand their students have important contributions to their education will benefit them more than we can imagine.

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    • Thank you, Mary, for your take on the discussion. After reading your response, I believe I have come to a certain realization.

      You make a good point on mentioning giving students voice within their community and them not being prioritized over the district, school admins, and teachers. As future teachers, we all know that giving our students a certain autonomy within the classroom gives them not just an interest in class, but also make them feel like their opinions and voices matter. But after you’ve noted giving students voice within their community and prioritizing them over educational staff, I thought this could be a critical way to provide for our Black students as well as other students of color.

      In these uneasy times, it’s imperative more than ever to acknowledge to our students that Black lives do matter, and I believe that if we gave our Black students and other students of color voice in not just our classrooms, but in our communities and school districts, they could accomplish so much more than just within our classrooms. This is especially needed for the BLM movement, because we need to give our Black students and all students of color a voice within not just our schools, but our society as a whole. Even then, this is just a small step in showing our Black students and others of color that they matter, and that they are more than able to accomplish the goals they have in life.

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  8. Hello!
    The Black lives matter movement is a movement that fights for African American rights in the United States. It is very inspiring how they unite and fight for racial injustices.
    To me the webinar was very interesting. Those teachers look for freedom and justice for their students. They tell us that teachers should be curious about students’ experiences and encourage them to share those stories in the classroom so educators can learn from them and about the struggles they face. Students come from diverse backgrounds and their cultural factors should be reflected on the materials and readings used in the lessons and activities. As teachers we need to understand the experiences of students from different backgrounds and also, we must use all that knowledge to help them learn the subject matter. As a future Spanish teacher, I will educate myself about the movement, and I will make sure to talk about the social injustice against African Americans. I will promote and contribute to a positive learning environment for each one of my students. I’m aware that it is important to recognize the existence of race and racial inequality. Teachers have a huge impact in the lives of students, and we should make them feel safe and comfortable learning at school. I understand that it is important to provide resources and connect their experiences into the curriculum. I will include readings and books by African American authors. As well, I will empower my students to share their thoughts because rich discussions contribute to a culturally responsive classroom.

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    • Hi Paaranda6, thank you for sharing. I like that you mentioned as teachers we should be curious about students’ experiences. As a future teacher, I want to say I’m also excited to learn about their experiences as it’ll help me connect to them better. I want to be able to incorporate their experiences into the lessons whenever possible. By connecting their experiences to the content, students should be able to better grasp the material. I am also a future Spanish teacher and I believe that we have an advantage to incorporate and promote culture. It is up to us to not only teach a language, but to also teach the culture that comes along with it. Hope we both become amazing Spanish teachers!

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    • Paaranda6,

      Thank you for your thought-provoking post! Yes, I agree! it is so important for educators to understand the experiences of students from different backgrounds and it is also important to inform students of community power, citizenship rights and government responsibilities. As a future teacher, it is important to me that my students know their worth and potential without feeling discriminated against. I agree, bringing the BLM thirteen guidelines into the curriculum to humanize the lives of Black youth can help to steer present and future educators in the right direction. You are going to be an awesome teacher.

      Happy learning.
      Lisa Bledsoe

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    • Hi Paaranda6,

      Thank you for posting your thoughts. I agree with you when you mentioned that teachers need to be curious about their students. Teachers need to show that they genuinely care to know about their students to create a classroom environment that teaches students to care to know more about their peers and their community. As a teacher, it is a duty to model respect for diverse backgrounds and allow students to see themselves in their readings and material. I agree with you when you maintain that teachers have a huge impact on students’ lives which means that we cannot allow students to feel disempowered in their academic career because they did not have a responsive experience in school.

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    • Hello Paaranda6,
      I agree that as teachers we should inform our students of the events of the past and possibly present. There are many factors that make this needed now more than ever. These factors include: access to the wrong information (internet, family members), needed to inform to help them not let history repeat, and to give them enough accurate information to where they can form their own opinion. The latter is important now especially when we are in a society so divided some of us are scared to talk to strangers due to them thinking they will be attacked for having an opinion on a certain matter.
      Even though teachers have more on their plate than needed, teaching their students the different ethnicity and cultures and their histories, specifically those that seem to be in the minor or disrespected part of our society, it an important part of their work nowadays. I’m hoping that you, and other teachers, will gain assistance from the parents as they need to help their students understand the world. It’s not just the teacher’s job.

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    • I also agree that the webinar was interesting regarding the teachers’ interests for their students in terms of freedom and social justice. However, it upsets me that this is something you and I are both fascinated with, because teachers should always care about all of their students and their individual wellbeing – regardless of skin color! I’m happy to hear that you’re aware of the importance of recognizing the existence of race and racial inequality, especially since you want to be a Spanish teacher (which, judging by this short paragraph, I believe you will thrive as). I appreciate future educators like you who want to make sure their students feel important and feel loved in a world that may not love them back. What an inspiration!

      Like

  9. The black lives matter movement is a movement that focus on treating and respecting the black lives like we do with everyone else. Unfortunately racism occurs in schools too and as educators we should be aware and educate students that every live matters, that every individuals have the right to receive a good education and be treated equally.
    Teaching for black lives mean to understand, respect and care for justice. From early ages, we need to provide and guide students that respecting others is really important. From the webinar, I love the letter from Dyan Watson to her son. Is an impact letter and sad to know who racism to the black community has been happening since the longest and that is something as educators, parents and people in general should take in consideration and teach
    new generations that everyone deserves the same respect and education.
    I think that giving support, love and respect to all students and teaching the black community students that they can become whatever they want in life.

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    • My name is Melissa Faulkner, and I am currently attending Austin Peay University for MA in Teaching.

      Kimmlo, I agree that the Black Lives Matter movement is about focusing on treating black lives better than we currently do. Racism is a part of our country’s history and unfortunately our present, what the movement wants to do is make sure it is not something of our future. I agree that racism continues to occur in school and that all educators have a responsibility to their students and their community to help eliminate it. Teachers have to start teaching children, all children, the history of important black figures, the social injustices done throughout history and have open and creative dialogues between students about the effect this has. I agree that giving support, love and respect too all individuals will help them blossom into the best person they can be. However, a major overhaul needs to be done from the highest form of govenement to the small rural classroom. Even though it might seem like a small step to you, every journey started with a small step.

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      • Hi Melissa,
        I am a student at California State Long Beach earning my credential in social sciences with an emphasis in History. I could not agree more when you state that we have to make a major overhaul in both the government and in the classroom. We seem to forget how much of our history and policies have created a system of inequalities that continue to harm black and brown communities. There is so much we still need to change but I believe that we must provide love, respect and support to all our students always as educators. I believe it is important to teach students in a multicultural environment in every classroom despite the population of the students. I know many will disagree with me but that is okay. I believe we as educators must take advantage of teaching our students diversity at an early age. I think as educators we have somehow lacked the opportunities to teach cultural sustainable pedagogy all year around. As a future educator I am looking forward to give my students lessons that involve multicultural pedagogy all year long. I chose to teach history because I could incorporate a variety of lessons that have gotten us to where we are in this point of history. The Black Lives Matters movement is a perfect example that we will continue to have injustices and inequalities continue. Because we have failed as a society to face how systems were created to favor some people while leaving others at the bottom.

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    • Hi kimmlo!
      I agree with you that, unfortunately, racism does occur in schools. In order to be the ones that start change in schools, we need to educate ourselves on the issues that black people face, so that we can be there to support our students. Not only that, but we need to also educate other students, teachers, and parents so that they are aware of the issues too, so that we can all understand, respect, and care for justice, as you mentioned. We should teach all of our students how to have an active voice and role in the classroom in order for them to fight for racially equality in our society.

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    • Hi Kimmlo,

      I really enjoyed reading your post, and I agree with what you wrote in it. I agree that it is unfortunate that racism does enter our schools sometimes, and why I also agree with you that it is up to us as teachers to teach students ideas which will snuff out these racist ideas before they have any opportunity to grow. I also agree that a big part of that is to teach respect in others, as well as to teach empathy in our students. And while I do agree that these are things which we need to begin providing at their early ages, I think it is also important that we carry these positive ideas through high school and even beyond, if possible. In order to do this, I think that we need to not only help students in schools, but also to ensure that as educators, we build connections to students’ home life and their families so that these positive traits and ideas which are being taught in the classroom are not just being tossed aside once they leave the classroom. Again, your post was wonderful to read, and thank you for sharing it with us.

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    • Hello Kimmlo,

      I agree with you on this and I would also add that this movement in my opinion is to also focus on how we educate our students. We need them to recognize when there is inequality they need to take a stand against it. I feel,like the speakers in the webinar,that we need to change how we are teaching our students by giving equal representations from all genders and races in the subjects we are teaching. Education should not just be from one perspective. I also agree with giving students a safe place to open up about their feelings and viewpoints are essential to providing them the love and support they need. I really enjoyed your post!!

      Christine”Chrissy” Black APSU student.

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    • Hello Kimmlo,
      I agree, I think empowering the black community is integral to creating a space where we believe that all lives can’t matter until black lives matter. I also have been struggling with this concept of equality throughout the course of my undergrad. Equality is giving students the same opportunities, but equity is giving students the opportunities that they need to succeed and meeting their specific needs. When it comes to teaching, certain students are going to need different things from teachers. We cannot, and should not, give each student the exact same thing within the classroom. Different students will need different things, so when it comes to integrating black lives matter into the classroom we cant just go about it in one way. It must seep into everything we do within the classroom.
      Thanks for posting!
      Abbie Rosenthal

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  10. Hello, everyone, my name is Denise Sosa, my major is US and World History, I graduated from CSULB and currently working on my teaching credentials. I am aiming to become a high school history teacher. The Black lives matter movement is more than fighting against police brutality, which is a collective reckoning. It’s a confrontation with the history of racism and anti-blackness that has a predominant role in American society. The systemic discrimination that black people have faced in this country and around the world and the BLM is trying to imagine a new way of organizing a society that isn’t based on the continued segregation of those communities. Teaching about the Black lives matter movement and its values are essential in every classroom, education has inherently catered and centered around middle-class white students. In many cases, education reinforces social oppression because it creates a system where marginalized groups are placed in boxes, in which they are not viewed or treated as a source of knowledge. Students in marginalized groups are taught to regurgitate facts whereas students in higher white income communities are thought to have higher critical thinking and analysis skills, have debates, have the confidence to question teachers, they are being brought up to be the leaders of the world as opposed to schools in marginalized areas as seen as the trade workers. BLM is a movement that is aiming to have education equity, as a future educator these principles will guide my teaching practices because I will treat each student as a source of knowledge taking into account their unique experiences and being regardless of their socio-economic status, race, or gender identity. Teaching for Black lives aims to better serve students, connects with racial justice, and is important to vocally support BLM in school and our education. Police should also be removed from schools, and the fund should be reallocated to restorative justice counselors and social services and education. Scaffolding difficult conversations, educators should bring up topics of institutional racism, its a political act to bar these discussions because students have these discussions whether they allow them in the class or not. As an educator, BLM means we stand with black students, we defend our black student we see black students as a source of knowledge and scholars and see them for who they are and the promise of the greatness they will be. Cultural pedagogy should be used in classrooms, it’s important that black and brown students see themselves in the curriculum, this promotes engagement as well as empowerment. Many times people think that speaking on social issues politicizes the classroom, but speaking on these issues highlights the black experience and allows for people who don’t identify as black to understand the systematic oppression that they face and build community within the classroom.

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    • Hi Denise!
      I thought that your post made a lot of good points! I can see how curriculum can and should include more African American works in our education system. I think it’s important to understand the topic that you discussed: about how our education system operates differently on a county and even on a school by school basis. I am very new to coursework regarding teaching but right away, one of the things my foundations of education course discussed as a class is school funding. Who gets how much and how resources are divided up in a school system is mind boggling. We discussed the difference in class that some of the college freshman who grew up in the county realized just by attending one school or another in high school. When we talk about teaching for black lives as a part of the social justice movement, funding can immediately be scrutinized. It’s hard to say, by line item, exactly what resources go where (especially because I don’t have that information), but if as a nation we can see certain schools and certain districts lagging in resources and academic performance, then it would make sense that we would figure out how to make a change. I think that if we take one thing away from this year’s substantial Black Lives Matter movement, it’s that we can and should strive to be an inclusive society and education is an important part of our society. Thank you Denise!

      Gary Minnick

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    • Denise,

      This is Riley Perkins from Clarksville, TN.

      I specifically like your description of the BLM when you defined it as a “confrontation.” This description exposes issues within the American Education system which has been ignored, and I agree the BLM seeks to directly confront these issues. You offer many “actionable” methods of implementing Black Lives Matter beliefs into the classroom. Do you believe that successfully implementing these methods with reverse the trends you listed above: “students in marginalized groups are taught to regurgitate facts whereas students in higher white income communities are thought to have higher critical thinking skills?” In communities which lack a presence of marginalized groups, what you would recommend teachers implement into their classrooms if state standards fail to warrant teaching from multicultural perspectives?

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    • Hi Denise,
      Your post is very well constructed and highlights many of the most important takeaways that I have gained form learning more about the BLM movement in schools. I really resonated with the statement that, “As an educator, BLM means we stand with black students, we defend our black student we see black students as a source of knowledge and scholars and see them for who they are and the promise of the greatness they will be”. At its core, teaching BLM is a humanizing action, meant to deconstruct the issues that persist in schools and classrooms across the country when it comes to Black students. We have to realize that the system we’re imbedded in benefits the white majority who constructed it. I’m beginning to work on a thesis paper looking at how tracking and assessment disadvantage students of color in American schools because of opportunity and access to resources, and I think you get at that when you point out that this system was made for white middle-class students, and students of color are “taught to regurgitate facts” rather than to form connections and create new meanings when learning.

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  11. Hi everyone!
    My name is Kelci Lopez and I am a post grad student at Cal State University Long Beach and I am finishing my credential in history. The Black Lives Matter movement that calls attention to the inequality and racism that has been happening in today’s society. The movement also aims to educate those who are unfamiliar with the movement and its goals. The main goal is to respect black lives as much as everyone else’s and to hear their calls for reform and better policies to be put into place. As a future educator, it saddens me to see that racism still exists in our education system. This means it is our job to make students more aware and educate them that every life matters and every person has the absolute right to receive a quality education and feel safe while doing so. I feel that although I will never experience the inequality that they have experienced because of the color of my skin, I can still stand by them and continue to educate myself so I can become more aware and a better asset to the movement. The webinar was really powerful and I loved how it said that we should be celebrating everyone no matter where they come from. It is very upsetting that racism in the black community has been happening the longest and it should absolutely be brought up to parents and teachers, especially in my own history classroom. By giving support, love, and respect to all students and teaching black students that they can become whatever they want just like everyone else, there will be a real change being done.

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    • Hi Kelci! I really like how you said you want to give support, love and respect to all student, because I think that’s how teaching should have been from day one and not differences in others. Equality starts in the classroom

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    • Kelcie from Long Beach, greetings from Big Rock Tennessee!

      Thank you for the thought-provoking post. I agree the webinar was very moving. Sadly, the reality of Racism is tragic and real for so many. Like you, I have never felt the razors cut of racial discrimination. Like you, I believe it is our responsibility as educators to support and respect all students regardless of their skin color. I believe we must make our students feel safe and respected while they are in our care.
      I am currently in rural area title 1 middle school where less than 2% of the population is Black. I feel it is important for me to inform students the importance of the BLM guidelines regardless of the percentile. Because I believe, the more the students know now, the less they will discriminate in the future. Along with cultural relevant curriculum, I will bring Multicultural literature into the classroom to enhance student’s knowledge. How will you inform your students?

      Happy learning,
      Lisa Bledsoe

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    • Hello Kelci,
      I agree that students need to be informed and made aware of how equal all people should be. I also agree that teachers themselves need to be aware and inform themselves of what is going on in the world and need to do so in an unbias manner so they can inform their kids as they learn themselves.
      I believe a classroom should be a place to not only learn the standards, but to learn about the diverse society we live in. I believe, even though teachers already have a lot on their plate, that they should make an opportunity for their students to learn about the numerous ethnicity and races in their world, if not already in their classroom. Events such as BLM may need to be more of a focus on the topic, but all cultures should be given an opportunity to be understood to make the students’ lives better.
      Because our society is so divided, I fear for our kids that are about to be sent out into the world. Our teachers, and parents as well, need to inform their kids with accurate information to where they can gain an educated opinion. Sadly some parents, and even teachers, may get their kids to believe what they believe with all the information they seem to know no matter how inaccurate or one sided it may be. Teachers need to put their self aside and put ethics above all and teach their kids the right information, so they may form an opinion of their own.

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    • Hey Kelci, you make good points in your writing based on your understanding that racism is racism, and we need to end bigotry in America to continue to thrive. I have a hard time to understand the policy point that puts African Americans in 2020 behind. All over the news, we see countless accounts of racism being suppressed and if you say any racist comments you will be immediately put away for obvious reasons. The problem lies in the history of African Americans being treated poorly and not given rights based on their skin color, signs of true racism that happen in the open with little to no punishment. In today’s society, this does not occur based on how our culture has embraced many cultures and ideas without harm from the outside public. I am not saying racism doesn’t exist. Still, I am saying that the country’s main focus for teachers when it comes to African Americans is to make better schools and create an environment that pushes for more. When they fail, it doesn’t just make them a statistic. They didn’t make it because they were black. Just because we are given little doest in life, success is one thing or looks a certain way. As teachers, we should push individuals, no matter the color, to always strive for more no matter what outcomes or circumstances and push for hard work instead of just saying there are racist and that why you failed. I support Black lives and want nothing but the best. And just because we may disagree doesn’t mean that we are on two different sides. Still, we are both pushing in a different direction to eventually help African Americans succeed in other ways in and outside the classroom. I really appreciate your opinion and hope you can see where I am coming from as well.

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  12. I read the article, “Loving Blackness to Death.” The quote, “the idea of violence against nonwhite bodies begins in the classroom” resonated with me because this exact idea was on my mind while I was lesson planning for my Sport’s Literature class. The assignment I was planning was one that required them to research a sports scandal. I gave them a list of five sport’s scandals to research. One of them is about the White Sox scandal and is titled, “Black Sox.” The name change felt unsettling and I reflected on how, as a society, we consider all things black to be negative and all things white to be pure. I quickly labeled this thought as an overreaction and moved on after I recalled a similar instance where in my Multi-cultural Education class we were talking about racial stereotypes and how young children picked them up so quickly. I had suggested that it may be because in cartoons and other shows we often see the villain as a black figure or dressed in black clothing. Many of my classmates laughed at this idea and said it was simply because of what these young children heard from home. Even my professor seemed to brush off this idea but I couldn’t help feeling as though there may be some truth to it. This article validated my concerns regarding how the language we use and the word associations we make truly can have drastic impacts far bigger than we may realize. While teaching something seemingly harmless I may actually be teaching the violence that stems from the curriculum many ELA teachers serve to Black youth. I have also witnessed the silencing or “correction” of students using AAL in the classroom. I have seen the whitewashed versions of the content that we teach. One specific example of this was when my CT asked a group of boys to write a poem about why they should sit together because they had been disruptive for the entire class period if they wrote a poem arguing for why they should sit together she would let them stay. One of the boys, a boy of color, said that he didn’t know how to write poetry but he could rap. I stepped in and assured him that rap WAS a form of poetry. After I said this I realized that many students may not have been exposed to spoken word poetry or viewed rap lyrics as poems and instead their idea of poetry probably stems from authors like Shakespeare.

    All of these things and many more raise the question How can we reimagine our classrooms as spaces that disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the
    lives of Black youth? One of the ways we can do this is by not only allowing black literacies in our classroom but encouring them when students present them and by providing exposure to them for our entire classes. I also belive that classrooms tend to be censored and this censorship can be damaging to students when they see police brutality on social media. Instead we should provide a safe space for students to critically think through these difficult topics through discussion and creative outlets. In order for these conversation to feel safe means that we need to scaffold these conversations. Another way we can disrupt racial injustice is by constantly reading texts like this article and engaging in conversations like this comment thread to keep ourselves open to learning new ways to implement antiracist pedagogy in our classrooms. Let your students know you care about them, ask them about their lives, and ask them how they think you can support them. If you’re listening to your students and observing their needs you can love blackness to death and create a classroom community where the lives of black youth are humanized. Your students of all backgrounds will then take this narrative out of your classroom and spread it thus transforming the world.

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    • Hi Alisha,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences! I agree with your insight that bad guys being dressed in black reinforces associations of black with villainy. I’m sorry your class was not receptive to this observation. I think people underestimate how all of these hidden messages accumulate and cause true harm. I did a couple observations in a Sports and Literature class last semester, and think it is such a great subject to engage students’ interests and to connect to history and politics. I remember the students watching an episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 on how Len Bias’ death was used by politicians to create harsh drug laws. The students were very engaged in the discussion and made many great connections to the current moment. Also, with Colin Kaepernick and other sports figures and teams taking a stand for Black Lives, I think doing a lesson on them would be a great way to bring BLM discussions into the classroom. I have also seen teachers correct students AAL and police their clothing. As a future educator, I find this unacceptable. It tells students that they are inferior and that they are not welcome as themselves in their own classroom. I found your story about the student who did not think he could write a poem to be a sad but telling example of how backwards the way ELA is taught. If the goal was to teach students about writing, then the many forms writing takes should be included in the curriculum. The teaching of literature as an artform as opposed to popular forms has an agenda of reinforcing narratives and select bodies of knowledge that serve to perpetuate the current social stratification of education and society. Further, much of what is now considered “literature” was once the popular art form of its day. I plan to teach song/rap lyrics as well as music videos because so many are profound works of art that have much to analyze and discuss in them. I love your commitment to bring Black literacies into the curriculum and to create a safe space and for discussing important topics. It is really about changing the priorities of the ELA classroom and asking what is it that is really important for students to come away with. Your words say it all: “Your students of all backgrounds will then take this narrative out of your classroom and spread it thus transforming the world.” I think your insight and compassion will make you a wonderful teacher and advocate! Best wishes on your teaching journey!

      Liz Hickman

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    • Alisha,

      This is Riley Perkins from APSU in Clarksville, TN. Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I would support using your assignment in your classroom, and I agree your are validated in your concerns and they are supported by the article. Education “whitewashes” and often censors students creative and cultural perspectives. You list numerous implementable ways to “humanize the Black youth.” Your statement “Let your students know you care about them, ask them about their lives, and ask them how they think you can support them” is very powerful. A student’s application of your treatment of student can undoubtedly influence our society.

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  13. Hello! My name is Megan Timmons, though I live in Nashville, I am in my first semester of graduate school at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. I am in the MAT program for grades K-5.

    To begin, Black Lives Matter (BLM) is already a big part of my ideologies. As a white woman, I cannot even begin to understand what black people are subjected to and the need to have an organization like BLM should make you realize that racism and bias is alive and well in 2020. BLM is an organization that campaigns against systemic racism and unnecessary violence against black people. This movement has gained momentum lately with, unfortunately, many black people who have lost their lives due to police brutality against them.

    So, what role do I see BLM playing in school? I think to answer this, you must take into account the idea of multicultural education that has been drilled into our minds in many of the classes we’ve had in grad school. As a teacher, we must be ready and able to be inclusive with all of our students despite their race, ethnicity, or cultures. In order to be inclusive, I think it would be a monstrosity to not include education on BLM in certain lessons in your class. As stated above, this is a huge movement in this day and age and, in my opinion, can be compared to the civil rights movement. I can’t think of any schools that do not teach the civil rights movement and I feel that BLM will be included in the future teachings as well.

    Even if BLM is not a part of curriculum like I believe it will be, I will make it a point to include as many lessons as I feel is needed when I’m teaching in my own classroom. I want, not only my black students, but my white students as well to feel the same sense of power and excitement I got when I began my research on this organization. Not only this, but I strongly believe in the good that BLM does and I have hopes that, despite what my students have learned from the media or at home, they will too learn the necessity of this movement.

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    • Hi Megan,
      I am a student at California State Long Beach I am also in my first semester as a graduate student earning my credential in history/ social studies. I am so happy to learn that your school also emphasizes multicultural education. I strongly believe that we as educators must incorporate multicultural pedagogy in our regular lessons at and early age. We must empower all our students to love and respect the diversity of all people, social movements are a vital part of our history. And I agree with you when you say the BLM movement should also be a part of our pedagogy. In a dream world we would not have to be discussing racial inequalities in our lives, but our realities is what we must face. I get frustrated by so many people that either deny or ignore that we have a flawed system. I believe we must incorporate ethnic studies in all schools across our country, but sadly many administrators continue to oppose this. I am glad that in California all incoming university students are required to take ethnic studies as a graduate requirement so this gives me some hope for a better future.

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    • Hello Megan,

      I completely agree with you that it would be a great disservice to students to forgo incorporating BLM , and issues surrounding it, into lessons. Multiculturalism and inclusivity should be reflected in curricula, and it should be places there by design, rather than an after thought. It is true that students need to see see themselves in the curriculum. Hopefully, in the future, BLM will be a part curricula across the board, and maybe queer history and issues LGBT+ people face, and so on.

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  14. My name is Cece Duhamel and I am a senior secondary English education major currently attending the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. As an aspiring educator, my goal is to positively uplift those around me while seeking out new learning environments and ideas that will impact learners to further their roles as active members in their communities.

    The Black Lives Matter is about empowering the voices of black individuals through intentional actions and words that inspire communities to seek authentic diversity. The human aspect of the movement connects with all – make those around you feel loved and invited and heard while continuing to seek new interactions that broaden your horizons. This movement instills many emotions for me as a teacher; inspiration, sadness, fear, anger. The movement is not about me and my emotions as a white teacher, but about how those emotions and my privilege can then open doors for voices that need to be much louder than mine. As a teacher, I find that this to be true of all classrooms, of all students; all lives cannot come to fruition until black lives matter and the amplifying of black voices in the classroom will then further lead to all students feeling heard through education. Within my classroom experience thus far through working with students while understanding this movement to its fullest extent, there is something special knowing that students have the chance to change educations outlook in a positive manner by navigating tough conversations and understanding how to use uncomfortable feelings/moments as a tool towards authentic knowing of another human and their background. However, if teachers are not able to start or facilitate these conversations, then students are not able to have a safe space to explore the movement and the ways in which it directly affects their lives.

    When looking specifically at the 13 guiding principles, they resonate with me because these are the qualities that need to be present in classroom discussions. There is so much to understand about each other that classrooms have the opportunity to present and guide – intentional friendships, identity affirmation, and unapologetic confidence are ways that education can assist black communities in this ongoing movement. Collective values and the encouragement of exploration of culture and empathy are ideas in which students must know are expectations of a classroom. When connecting with students about Black Lives Matter, my hope is that teachers will seek to find tools of communication and discussion that can provide a safe place for students to actively explore who they are and the connections that they are making. In my personal classroom, having these principles in a place where the classroom can visually see their expectations will be a positive way to bring powerful black voices into the room – students need reminders that these conversations are continually and hold strong importance to all of their identities in a way that takes practice and inward reflection. By consistently revisiting a pledge and allowing for learning moments, students will have the chance to connect with each other, and through other multi-modal elements to speak with those who are outside of their communities, to find a way to personally and globally understand Black Lives Matter in a willing space.

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    • Great post, Cece. It is inspiring to hear your recognition of your privilege and how you can actively use it to “open doors for voices that need to be much louder than mine.” – very well said. I absolutely agree with you about providing a safe space for our students so the conversation about racial injustice can be had in a supportive environment.

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  15. One of the things that I have loved about spending so much time in the classroom this semester with students is seeing what they care about and how they see the world. Even though my practicum experience is not in a traditional English classroom setting, the students are still willing to share and connect our coursework to their lives in beautifully deep ways that demonstrate critical thinking and word-to-world connections. One specific area where students seem to find their voices revolves around human rights. Ranging from clothing marked with BLM and LGBTQ+ insignia to bringing up recent events in discussions, the students have this drive to communicate their thoughts that is both incredible and slightly nerve-wracking.

    Of course, I want to support them in their expression and confirm to them that they do have a voice and important ideas to share with the world. They stand for and with movements that are huge and can and likely will pave the way for major changes in the lives of people globally. These students recognize injustices in the world around them and want to do what they can to make a change and help create a world where equity can be assured and equality doesn’t need to be questioned. It’s nerve-wracking because I do not know what I can do as a teacher to support them, other than providing them a safe space to have those conversations and communicate how they feel and what they believe. What all is allowed of a teacher, especially one who is still learning to teach, when political discussions and statements are so heavily regulated inside the walls of the school building? How can I make sure my students know that I am standing with them, for their rights, and them as people, when there is so much oppression and injustice inside and out of the educational system here in the United States of America?

    This is where the Black Lives Matter website struck so dearly and tenderly on my heartstrings. Following those 13 guiding principles is something that I can do to establish a classroom environment that is safe, accepting, and supportive for all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, cultural background, socioeconomic standing, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability level, or any other defining characteristic that is so easily twisted and used against them. The principles rang true to me, as principles that I plan on implementing in my life, inside and out of the classroom, to become a more effective ally to my students and loved ones who may be struggling with pressures and oppressions that I might be unaware of. Inside the classroom, these principles can help create the classroom environment I want for my students, in a way that is unlikely to go against the policies and regulations put in place by the district, state, or administration level of education.

    That being said, I am always looking for more guidance and ideas as to how to best support my students, so any input would be greatly appreciated.

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    • Hi Hailey!

      I am so glad that you are enjoying teaching so much and I love that you are creating a safe space for your students. The fact that your students feel comfortable connecting the classroom material to their lives is beautiful and I think it is something that we all strive to achieve as educators. I also understand your dilemma of, how do we show our students that we support them within the parameters of our classroom? The 13 guiding principles found on the BLM in school website are absolutely a great way to start so the fact that you are even thinking that way means you are headed in the right direction. I cannot speak for how black students feel in classrooms, but I do identify within the LGBTQ+ community and for me, just seeing that a teacher supported students with those identities, whether it be that old and faded safe space sticker or teachers saying that gay is not and should not be used as an insult, gave me hope. There is something to be said about teaching by example, so I think as long as you do not tolerate hate speech and you support students of color by teaching content that is relevant and culturally responsive, they will see that in your own way you stand with them. We are all learning new things in this current climate, but you sound like you are doing a wonderful job supporting your students. I wish you well in your teaching journey!

      Cheers,
      Maria Crowley

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    • Hello Hailey.

      I agree with the statement of trying to get your kids to feel like you are for them and want nothing but the best, and in that, we both agree. I have a hard time understanding why we need a website made by protesters and other outside sources to teach what certain groups need when it comes to excelling in the classroom. More than anything, we need teachers to focus on why kids are truly dropping out or not understanding the material. You don’t have to explain to a good teacher that they need to be better at worrying about what sexual orientation a student is rather than the student’s ability to read, write, and understand the complex material presented. A good educator is not racist, sexist, or against students that identify differently. But my fear is not focusing on what makes someone better in society, which is knowledge and giving student information that will propel them into their future job. As teachers, the job is to make students better and go on to the next level to then set them up for success later in life. My goal is to make better of a bad situation, and the only way we do that is by pushing the material needed to get students out of their situation and make them become leaders instead.

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    • Hi Hailey,

      It already sounds that you are doing a great job at being culturally responsive with your students just by wanting to do more for them and make their education meaning full to them. It is great that they are already open and feel in a safe place in your classroom where they can discuss politics and social justice issues. Just as the 13 steps from the BLM for school web site was mentioning, we need to view our students for who they are and notice the differences and embrace them. See diversity as an advantage instead of a disadvantage. I have the feeling that you already do this and I am sure you are doing a great job with showing your student that you care. Once students notice that the teacher cares about them, they then care about the teacher and their own education. Also sometime it is good just to check in with the students and ask them how they think you are doing and if they need, or want to learn something specific you can teach.

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  16. Good evening everyone! My name is Kasey Johns, I am currently a student at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. The Blac Lives Matter movement began in July 2013 following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. This movement picked up steam once again after Version unjustified killings of other African-Americans. Overall the Black Lives Matter movement began to bring awareness and hold those accountable for the unjustified Deaths and unfair treatment of African Americans. As a future educator I see that this movement playing a great role in schools. I feel like this movement in particular has brought awareness to many things that should be taught. I feel the need for the ideal of fair treatment for all and for each other to know about diversity since the students we teach are our future. They will go on to be the next police officers and other influence jobs which have affected this moment and caused it as a whole. I feel like the 13 principles should be taught. These principles overall teach students to be good all around people and it will teach the future to see each other as equal and element problems that we are seeing in today’s world.

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    • Hi Kasey!
      I agree with you that the Black Lives Matter movement does play a great role in schools. Not only does it bring awareness, but it also can ignite change within schools to be inclusive to all races, especially to people that are a part of the black community. I also agree with you that we need to know about the diversity of our students because they are the future. It’s important that we educate ourselves and educate our students on this matter so that the future can be filled with equality, peace, and respect.

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  17. Hi everyone! I’m an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln currently observing and teaching an 11th grade English class in Lincoln Public Schools. This discussion is essential for educators, particularly ELA educators, at the moment because the lives of black youth are at stake. In the article “Loving Blackness to Death: (Re) Imagining ELA Classrooms in a Time of Racial Chaos,” I agree with the argument the authors make about racial violence from the community seeping into ELA classrooms. When I look back at my primary education experience, I’m now hyper-aware of the fact that I didn’t read a novel by a black author until I was in 11th grade (I didn’t attend school in LPS). We read Kindred by Octavia Butler, and we were able to choose a book from a list of black authors. My classmates complained about having to read a book by a black author and said it was racist for our teacher to force us to read a book by someone of a particular race. I’m shocked looking back, and I’m even more shocked that I didn’t realize how incredibly ignorant I was about the issues facing people of color until recently. Racial violence absolutely lives within the walls of the ELA classroom because students read books by white authors who write about white people, and they are often not exposed to multicultural literature until they have already normalized reading about the white perspective. It’s harmful for students of any color to lack knowledge or empathy regarding a population of people that is valued and important in our society. Reading the article today reminded me that hope isn’t lost. We can transform classrooms into places that teach democratic citizenship to students so that they can go out into the world, ready to fight for justice and equality.
    The first important way to reimagine the classroom is by advocating for multicultural texts. Educators must advocate for their students by getting rid of the literary whiteness that dominates most American classrooms. At a young age, students should start reading about people of all backgrounds and cultures. As the article said, black students are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually hurt by the lack of representation and voice they have in the classroom. Increasing that can change lives. In addition, humanizing the lives of black youth, like the article mentions, is essential in moving toward disrupting racial injustice. My current class is reading All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. I highly recommend this text if you want to engage your students in authentic discussion that will ask them to consider the perspective of black lives. It is only the second week, however, they are already beginning to open up and get more comfortable talking about race and police brutality. When students are able to discuss perspectives that make them empathetic and understanding of another point of view, they begin to see others as people first and foremost.

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    • Hi Layne,

      Like you, I too was not introduced to multicultural literature until my college education. Looking back at my secondary schooling, I cannot think of one instance that I read a book from a non-white author. It is an injustice to our young people to only teach them one narrative, especially being the dominant white narrative. It saddens me that this was and sometimes still is the norm in schools around the country. I do think we are in a cultural shift as more and more people see the importance of creating a culturally responsive classroom environment for all students to learn and feel seen. I agree with you that students should be taught and read about people of all backgrounds and cultures from a young age. I think this would help our society become more accepting of people differences and perspectives while creating more empathetic young adults ready to go into the world and fight for justice and equality. Thank you for your book suggestion, I am always looking for new literature to add to my future culturally responsive classroom library.

      Crista

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    • Hi Layne,

      Your post really resonated with me. I, too, am teaching English Language Arts, and completing my Single-Subject Credential in English this semester. In the article “Loving Blackness to Death: (Re) Imagining ELA Classrooms in a Time of Racial Chaos,” I also agree that forcing students to largely read literature from the white perspective is an act of violence and oppression brought against black students. When I think back on my own education in junior high and high school, even the texts that supposedly celebrated black lives where predominately written by white Americans, for example books like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This storytelling still does not give the black community the authority to tell their story and, in fact, further eradicates their right to be heard. Because language holds such power, this is definitely an enormous problem and directly affects the rights of others. As a white person, I cannot imagine how awful it would be to it in a classroom and be forced to repeatedly listen to narratives about my race written by another race. Common sense should tell us how wrong this scenario is, but we are just now realizing the importance of people telling their own story. The closest that I can come to understanding is reading stories or watching films created by men from the female perspective that are laced with stereotypes and judgments against the female gender. I also remember first reading Beloved by Toni Morrison as a freshmen in college and what an awakening I experienced. Morrison’s language in the text is both raw and hauntingly beautiful, and her use of stream-of-consciousness and surrealism to communicate the slave experience was poignant. To this day, Beloved is still one of my favorite books.

      I feel encouraged that students are now moving toward reading texts written by authors of all races and ethnicities at a young age. By doing so, we are better able to recognize the humanity and dignity of all people–and, so our dialogue in the classroom becomes more balanced and authentic. I am presently on the lookout for books written by Africans and African Americans that I can introduce into the curriculum, and so I will check out All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. I am also looking for British texts written by authors of color.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      Best,

      Dana

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  18. I would like to participate in the discussion of how we can reimagine our classrooms as spaces that disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth. Many students in all years of schooling are never even cognizant of the struggles and atrocities committed against Black folks historically, and today. The historical trends of schooling simply promote white authors and voices, discarding facets of diversity and empowerment in exchange for what schools deem to be “good taste”, “true canonical authorship”, and “perfect English prose”. Yet, we all know, as educators in this space, that the lives and educations of our students cannot, and must not, be defined by curriculum that silences Black and minority voices and promotes whiteness as the god-like paradigm of “success” in education. In order to make our classroom spaces more accessible to inciting the disruption of racial injustice, we must first do everything in our power to dismantle the hierarchies (many holding whiteness as the utmost ideal of perfection) lingering silently in our schools and curricula. Of course, taking these actions are easier said than done; yet, I believe that all of us hold the power to make the world more accessible and equitable to our students, even if that initial defiance towards the system manifests in smaller steps. As someone who is not yet a full time teacher, I know that I can start on this journey by educating myself as much as I can through seeking out texts, whether they be academic journals, webinars like the one associated with this thread, or even novels about diverse perspectives and Black empowerment and experiences. In constantly reading and gaining new insights on social issues, I hope to set the example to my students of actively pursuing new educational resources to help us along this journey of combatting racial injustice at its very core: how individuals see and think of others based off of false, preconceived notions. Disrupting racial injustice can only be achieved through rewriting the mental framework of oppressors and colonizers, and the racist framework that this country was founded upon. As I have seen others mention in this thread, we must do more than simply place diverse texts in front of our students. Providing access to anti-racist resources is an astounding first step, but it is not enough. I am a firm believer that literature provides windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors for the students experiencing them. We must teach texts in such a way that students are not only seeing themselves within them, but opening their eyes to the perspectives of others different than them. It is our job as teachers to ignite these conversations in our classrooms, and to make our rooms into such generative spaces that Black students, and all of our students, are able to be heard and seen in all aspects of our instruction. Only then can we rewrite the framework of our classroom mindset, and continue this integral work of supporting Black youth and giving them the time, space, encouragement, and resources to flourish.

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    • Hi Olivia!

      I love what you have to say about reimagining the classroom to support black lives. You are absolutely correct in saying that a lot of the curriculum out there is in support of white lives and a lot of the history and literature that is taught is all from the white perspective. As the educators of today, we need to rework our curriculum to utilize culturally responsive pedagogy so we can create an inclusive classroom that does not just cover the white perspective of everything. One thing from the webinar that made me think in a new way was about how we only learn about the slave perspective of US history. While this is something I never thought about before, I appreciate it being brought up because I believe that educating ourselves is the first step to making lasting changes. We absolutely need to rewrite curriculums to include more diversity and teach accurate representations of cultures, especially when it comes to teaching for black lives. I wish you well on your teaching journey and from reading what you have to say I am excited to see the change we are all going to bring.

      Cheers,
      Maria Crowley

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    • Hi Olivia. I love your point about reimagining the classroom to support students. I grew up in a town with very little diversity and as I have been pursuing teaching, I have realized how one sided the curriculum is that is being taught in schools. I absolutely agree that we need to reimage classrooms to incorporate the voices so students from as many ethnicities as possible. One point made in the webinar was that students are introduced to black people in a “victim” situation and they are portrayed that way all throughout America’s history. Including curriculum from different perspective will help weed out misinformation and teach students to be more inclusive of people with different backgrounds.

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  19. Hello! My name is Leah Wadsworth, I am a graduate student studying Elementary Education (K-5) in Tennessee. Black Lives Matter is an extremely influential movement, and will play an important role in my classroom in the future.
    It’s no secret that the current curriculum is extremely Eurocentric and the webinar, as well as the “Loving Blackness to Death” article, brought up many issues surrounding this and how harmful it can be and how as teachers, we should work to disrupt violent and harmful and provide a variety of perspectives and experiences for our students to learn from that will affirm, celebrate and uplift black lives. In the webinar, they discussed how often in schools these discussions and difficult conversations about police violence and systemic racism are often discouraged or even banned due to it being “political” in nature. Jesse Hagopian made a great point saying that by banning these discussions, that in fact, is the political act. I often hear people, especially with younger (white) children, not wanting to have these difficult conversations with their children believing that they are too young to learn about it, meanwhile, black children are already living it, experiencing the violent and damaging microaggressions, or the policing of their bodies and lives, from their teachers or their classmates or society. Through children’s books, lessons on tolerance, and multiple perspectives (like those of black women, LGTBQ folk, Black trans lives, etc.) children can learn about cultures and perspectives that may be different than their own. Dyan Watson brought up a great point about the curriculum, and how all too often it portrays black people as victims, while neglecting to learn about their acts of resistance and liberation, she talks about how multiple identities should be centered, and how all types of black people should be represented, from ordinary to extraordinary. White students have always had the standard/dominate narrative to represent us and “too often, texts that are selected for Black youth provide narrow and monolithic depictions of Black life and ways of existing and being” (Johnson, Jackson, Stovall, & Baszile, 2017). My classroom library, the posters on the walls, and the lessons would reflect the different experiences and lives of my students, as well those that are different from them.
    The last part of the webinar really stuck with me, as Jesse Hagopian mentioned that the same system that glorifies master, Eurocentric narratives, is the same one that states “change is created by great individuals” and discussed how often there is a hyper focus on individuality in our society. He discussed taking a collective approach, reaching out to colleagues and uniting with people in our school and community and as allies collectively raising our voices to actively fight anti-blackness and racism and make change together.

    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.

    Rethinking Schools. (2020, August 22). Teaching black lives during the rebellion [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X58lqaojG34&feature=youtu.be

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    • Hello Leah,

      I agree with you on so many levels. American curriculum is far too euro-centric; history, math, science, and so on place nearly all focus on white European men. There isn’t much attention paid to contribution made by non-European culture, effectively trivializing them. The increasingly diverse student population in the US will identify less and less with this kind of curriculum. I also thought that Dyane Watson made a great point in that curriculum does focus too much on victimhood. Curricula that incorporates black history/issues, or queer history/issues should focus on empowerment. Highlight key figures, movements, contributions, and the uniqueness of respective sub-cultures.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Leah
      I enjoyed reading your post and I agree with, it is important to teach students different cultures from their own. I think that teaching students when they are young to love different cultures as much they love theirs, once they get older they will treat people with the same respect they treat their own people. I like what you mentioned about having your classroom with posters and having lessons about your students live and others, that way students can also appreciate and value what other people has been through.

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  20. Hi everyone! My name is Bri McManaman. I am currently a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln working to obtain my BA degrees in English and Secondary English Education. I am in the midst of my practicum in a 9th grade classroom and will be completing my Student Teaching in the spring. Being a pre-service teacher in this moment has been pivotal on myself as a student, a teacher, and a person, and, as such, has invoked significant growth.

    I feel particularly drawn to the third question here about reimagining our classrooms as “spaces that disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth.” As a pre-service teacher, I haven’t had much say in the content that I teach. However, once I have my own classroom, I hope to be able to implement practices that do just that. As an English Educator, I feel as though it is important for us to first take a look at the literature being taught in the classroom. In my own education, up until late high school, I did not see diverse texts taught in my classes. My classes focused primarily on Canonical texts (e.g. The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, The Catcher in the Rye, etc.). While these texts are important, they do not allow all of our students to see themselves within their learning. Implementing texts that have diverse characters and socially/culturally relevant content allows us to bring the outside world into the classroom in a constructive manner. In the article “Loving Blackness to Death” by Lamar L. Johnson, Johnnie Jackson, David O. Stovall, and Denise Taliaferro Baszile, they state that “…believe Black youths’ physical deaths are proceeded by depictions of them as thugs, criminals, uneducable, and subhuman, we also believe this symbolic form of violence transpires in classrooms where educators hold dehumanizing assumptions about the history, culture, and language of Black youth” (p. 61). It is so, so important that we work to disrupt these depictions and assumptions. As educators, we have the gift of being able to influence and shape the minds’ of our country’s youth, and we must use this gift to generate positivity, warmth, and kindness and a society in which Black youth and people of color are humanized.

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    • Hi Bri! I really could not agree more with your comments here about transforming the content in order to disrupt assumptions and create safer spaces. While this is the goal, we will be limited by our book rooms. While we can always suggest new texts and fight for more diverse content, there might be many years where we are teaching those canonical texts you mentioned. With that being said, we really have to find ways to alter the content and make it more accessible. I think using essential questions to discuss texts can really help distance us from the content, which might not be diverse or contextually relevant. I also think we need to start building a collection of meaningful and productive texts that might be a little shorter. I have started compiling poems and short stories, even excerpts from anthologies with the intention of finding places for these voices in my future classroom. This way I can supplement the voices my classes are missing. This will be especially critical in schools where the book room is small/limited. I think we need to keep the very real limitations of book rooms, required books, and different district curricula in mind when we envision how to create safe and anti-racist spaces.

      I am in a classroom now where the teacher is pairing The Odyssey with Enrique’s Journey and framing them both as the Heroes journey. She can’t skip The Odyssey because it is required, but she has found a way to also include a culturally relevant and diverse book to teach with it. This pairing is so great, especially in my school where the community is extremely diverse. Many of the students are immigrants and though there is no real number, many are undocumented or have parents who are. So, comparing an immigration story to the tale of Odysseus is really a brilliant way to turn that text into something meaningful.

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  21. Hi! My name is Rachel, I am currently in a MAT program at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. I am SO glad that we are shining a light on this topic. As teachers, it is our job to understand and to create a safe learning environment for our students no matter their background. However, sometimes we fail when it comes to making it a safe space due to some of the things our students experience or how our students think we may perceive them due to society’s standards especially in the era that we are growing into. I think the first step is to overall make the student feel welcome by ensuring that we do have that space that children want to come to despite where they live or their skin color. I also think it becomes an injustice when we try to assume that racism or judgment is not going on within the school. With that being said, I think as we have seen from these protests taking the time to listen to Black youth and truly acknowledge their heritage without trying to conform them to a specific race can benefit a classroom and even extend to at home. I also think it speaks volumes to African American students when it comes to teaching about their culture. We don’t necessarily teach their history as we do white history and there has been some feedback about it in past years. I think by promoting their heritage and exploring their culture with them and the class can open doors to benefit a future society as well.

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    • Hi Rachel,

      Thank you for your response to this discussion. I am sure that your contribution, along with the others, have greatly helped all of us in understanding what it means to be a teacher. I agree with you on the fact that our job as teachers isn’t just simply standing up in the front and teach our students about the core subjects. We aren’t there to turn our students into robots, demanding our students to do this and that. Besides teaching them about the core subjects, we need to also teach them what it means to be human. However, like what you said in your post, it is extremely difficult to do so and it is evident that we will fail to teach our students things like racism is not okay and that we should treat others how we want to be treated. Elementary, middle, and high school students are mostly very influenced by their parents’ ideals unless they take the time to learn about what is right and wrong in this world. Although you are in the MAT program, I will say though that one of the things we can do as English teachers (what I’m currently in the process of) is to help our students find their own voice. You are spot on about how it is important that we need to bring in and show acceptance to diversity because that way, our students of color will feel safe and enjoy going to school/enter our classrooms.

      Thank you for sharing! I enjoyed reading your post.

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    • Hi Rachel,

      My name is Maria Kamar, and I am studying to become an ELA teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska. Just wanted to thank you for this post because I am also happy to be part of this discussion and hearing from teachers around the country. I agree that we should create a safe learning environment for our students and make them feel welcomed in our classroom. I think one of the ways we can do that is to allow students to have opportunities to express their thoughts and opinions. Have activities where they can build strong relationships with each other and post their work around the classroom. I like that you bring up our assumptions and how that could be dangerous when we try to ignore or think a certain way without making sure it’s right. I think students love to express who they are and if we let them teach us their background/culture/traditions etc without assuming that we already know them then that would be ideal and a good way to get them involved in class. Giving students a voice in the classroom matters a lot and they need to learn how to use it.

      It was nice to read your post and hope mine helped add some thoughts to it!

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  22. Hello, I am Emma Kreuser, a math education major at Austin Peay State University.

    The Black Lives Matter movement is a movement to promote equality, diversity, and empathy in communities, focusing particularly to empower black, queer, and trans people and women. I see the BLM movement influencing programs within schools that either educate students and staff on the issues that these minorities face as well as ways to overturn and prevent them. I plan to encourage diversity within my future classroom as well as gain an understanding of my students’ backgrounds so that I can better serve their education needs. I have always believed that being empathetic is one of the greatest skills to have in life, and especially as a teacher, to show others that you can understand the emotions they may be feeling and are there to help them.

    Based on the webinar, teaching for black lives means acknowledging the existence of institutional racism within our education system and country as a whole, while also avoiding generalizations based on this knowledge. Another important part in teaching for black lives is how people of color are presented in history lessons, and that addressing their experiences should be in such a way that does not just victimize them, but empower them.
    An important message from the video was understanding that all people are human and should be treated as humans. It is important to acknowledge the struggles of black people throughout history while also not generalizing all black students into one stereotype. This further encourages me as a future teacher to have personal connections with my all students to understand them better so that I do not force them to conform to one culture.

    In the article by Johnson, Jackson, Stovall, and Baszile, they address the implicit racism in ELA classrooms and their effects on black children. These hidden aspects of education such as ignoring talks of slavery during the writing of the Declaration of Independence or enforcing strict grammar rules that belittle other forms of the English language such as AAL silence black students and white wash their learning. In order to challenge these obstacles, teachers must highlight and empower black lives while addressing the injustices in our world and communities. Teachers must not shy away from the difficult discussions of racism that are heavily present in our history, but work to share experience or contributions from black people as inspiration to their students. Though these mentioned issues are more prevalent in subjects such as ELA and Social Studies, as a future math teacher there are still steps I can take to share black experience. One of my favorite movies is “Hidden Figures” which tells the story of 3 black women who worked as mathematicians and computers for NASA, primarily Katherine Johnson. Their stories highlight the importance of black women that put the first man into Earth’s orbit.

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  23. Hi, my name is Julia Cartwright and I am a pre-service teacher, and I currently attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I am excited to develop my identity as a teacher and learn how to effectively teach students to the best of my ability. After murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery summer, it is undeniable that the needs of Black students are not being met by America’s current education system, and it’s essential to me that I actively work against this problem within my own classroom.

    I think I am left thinking with two main thoughts after reading “Loving Blackness To Death.” I think first and foremost, it is essential that our classrooms are a place of mutual understanding, and in turn, love. I think if all students don’t feel respected and cared for in our classrooms, this is when we fail in the greatest way possible. Often, I think Black students are often made to feel excluded from this narrative by white educators, which is why the current system we have today is a failing one. I think communication is the biggest key in regards to this, and making sure that the opinions, voices, and thoughts of Black students are just as heard as any of their counterparts. I think this is a lot in how warmly we greet our students and how we radiate certain energy in our classroom. We must be intentional about this.
    While this wasn’t directly stated in the article, I think it’s an important point that often gets looked over. We can have strong pedagogy and curriculum, but if we don’t show our students we love them through our attitudes, I think that all is for not. Without creating a community that feels safe, I think a lot of the teaching moves described in the article might come across to Black students as hollow or forced, and might leave them feeling less respected more than anything.

    Once we create this environment, I think introducing Black narratives and literacies into our classrooms is crucial. Time and time again, white narratives are present in so many of the texts we continue to introduce into our curriculum and many times they are about white people who do pretty average things, and then are over-commended for them. I can only imagine this to be such an exhausting experience for Black students to relive over and over again, in English classroom after English classroom. Even if we are handed texts and curriculum that surrounds itself in white voices, we have to find ways to include Black ones, and make them just as present in our classroom. You can do all the loving and community-building that you want- but if you don’t validate Black literacies by including them, that is all for nothing.

    I don’t think you can have either practice without the other, and it’s two of the most important concepts I keep in mind, as I strive to make my classroom a place where Black students feel able to grow, learn, thrive, and become stronger versions of themselves.

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    • Hi Julia! Thanks for such a thoughtful comment! I love the last sentence of your first paragraph. “Actively” is the keyword there. We need to be *actively* anti-racist. Our students and colleagues need to know that we take action against racism. I also love your point about how we radiate energy. The best places to start are the places we can change right away. Students notice our demeanor; they notice our attitude, our offhand comments, our facial expressions. Creating a loving, caring, nourishing environment starts with those things. You bring up an interesting point about making Black students feel like we’re forcing our acceptance, like we’re making a hollow effort in loving and caring for them. They would feel like we’re tokenizing them, treating them well because they’re black instead of treating them well because they’re human. Such a complex idea that requires a careful balance of how we present ourselves and or beliefs. However, I think that if we successful convey our beliefs to our students, if we show them we are adamant and passionate about taking action against the white supremacy in our society, they will know we’re genuine. Students are smart, they’re adept. They know when teachers are being honest, they know when we’re being genuine.

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    • Hi Julia,

      Great post! I found myself agreeing to all your points. I too took away a lot while reading “Loving Blackness to Death”. I feel like respect and representation go hand-in-hand. And there is a serious lack of representation in the classroom. In order to create an environment of love, learning, and acceptance, we need to ensure that all our students are heard and seen. Too many children walk into their classrooms and feel like they are not important enough as individuals because they can not find representation in the books they read or the lessons they learn As educators, we need to change the curriculum in order to cater to all students and foster a growth of love of learning and a love of school.

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  24. My name is Emily Wells and I am a Secondary English Language Arts Education major at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. I am currently experiencing my first secondary practicum in seventh-grade English and reading classes! Teaching in the current political moment is certainly an experience I am cherishing because I feel like I am learning and growing personally and professionally each and every day.
    I see the English classroom as a space that overflows with storytelling, advocacy, and learning. It is a space where students can learn to break down the barriers the world uses to encapsulate them and cause good trouble. In the past, in the moment, and in the future, this is especially true for our Black students. Black people in America are constantly jumping through hoops in a system riddled with racism just to achieve their goals. This is where Black Lives Matter plays a huge role in the classroom. Now more than ever, it is important to give our Black students the opportunity to write letters to government officials, learn how to write argumentative pieces, and learn political and professional jargon that may be used to keep them out of certain spaces in America. All classrooms should follow the “13 Guiding Principles” and uplift Black voices.
    Students should have the opportunity to see themselves in the classroom curriculum. If teachers are only teaching the Canon, they are conveying the message that white people’s voices should be the ones we listen to and learn from. This, quite frankly, is an absolute disgrace of an idea. In my classroom growing up, I cannot remember a single BIPOC author that we read and I cannot imagine giving my students that same experience. They deserve to have their voices heard and they deserve to hear from amazing Black authors every single day!
    It is part of my antiracist journey to provide a classroom that provides a safe space for Black students to grow and break the system that tries to hold them down. I will continue to learn from Black voices to become a better ally for the Black community and achieve this goal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Emily! My name is Eric and I’m a grad student at PSU, studying curriculum and instruction with a focus in secondary ELA. I love your focus on giving Black students opportunities to take action. I also love your mention of canonical texts and I agree with you. Teachers must recognize our political and social climate and update their pedagogies and teaching accordingly. Black students need to know that they are loved, cared for, and welcome in the classroom. If teachers fail to acknowledge these facts, they fail as teachers. Claiming these topics are “too political” is equivalent to claiming “all lives matter” or “I don’t see color.” Those ideas are meant to do nothing but detract from anti-racism, acceptance, and inclusivity.

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    • Hi Emily!

      I love what you have to say about both the English classroom as a generative space and how to support Black lives in the English Language Arts classroom. Storytelling, advocacy, and learning are all such important facets of language arts that allow us to see the world through so many different perspectives. In the same sense, it also allows us to take action in ways the traditional classroom does not allow. Your ideas of promoting the Black Lives Matter principles and providing opportunities for Black students to be involved within the community outside of just English class shows just how amazing of a teacher you will be. I can see just how much you will love and support your students, especially through introducing new ways of learning and teaching that many teachers currently have a fear of diving into. I wish you the best of luck in your 7th grade class and hope all goes well with your teaching experiences!

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    • Hi Emily, my name is Kayanna Pickett and i am a student at Austin Peay State University studying education K-5. I love how you feel as if you want to be able to provide that uplift and opportunity for growth for your black students. It is crucial for black students to learn how to write argumentative pieces and learn political/jargon. That will allow for them to see first hand what is right and what is wrong involving equality in America, i love that you involved that in your response! I feel the same way that students of color should be able to hear of famous authors/artists that represent them as a person and not just the same race year after year. I think that your are doing an amazing job with your classroom!

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    • It’s good that you see the potential within your classroom as an English teacher; during these very uneasy times, it’s important to give Black students and others of color a safe space to learn and advocate their beliefs. You’ve also made a great point in further providing for the BLM movement for our schools; Black students could definitely benefit from being politically engaged and active within our schools. There is no better place to start our students’ political lives than within our classrooms.

      And considering you’ve noted that students should see more works from Black authors, I believe there is merit in English teachers such as yourself working with History teachers, which is what I’m trying to be. Collaboration between the two subjects can definitely led to amazing promise for a slew of culturally diverse sources and texts for our students to read and analyze. Beyond just changing up our curricula, it’s never been more important to allow our students to be able to identify much more with our class material by “seeing” a bit of themselves within history.

      I hope in our time as teachers that we can truly embrace the teachings of BLM in the classroom and make our Black students and other students of color well and ready to make a scene in our society; after all, as the late John Lewis said himself, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

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  25. The reimagining of our classroom as places where to disrupt social injustice should not be something that should be frowned upon or made as something politicized. The disrupt of social injustice should be an integral part of classroom as a place where social justice should reign supreme. It is a place, where as the educators, we are mentoring students from all walks of life, who deserve the same level of respect and opportunities as all their peers. If we expect this level of equality in our classroom, we must also prepare them to expect the same level of equality in their adult lives, and this is done by presenting them with an environment in which they given material from all voices, and making sure that those voices that are so often silenced are emphasized. Another important factor is highlighting what injustice is, and what needs to be done to prevent said injustice. However, as it has been evident, it is often times that disrupting social injustice, and attempting to make the world a better and safer place for black youth is seen as a discussion that should not be in the classroom, and I believe that this is wrong and counterintuitive to the purpose of education. As mentioned in the article, “Loving Blackness to Death,” it identifies the problems with not addressing these issues not only in classrooms, but in the curriculums, ” According to Susan Anne
    Cridland-Hughes and Lagarrett J. King, the traditional curriculum softly kills the spirit and humanity of Black youth. In agreement with the authors, Lamar L. Johnson and Nathaniel Bryan explain that Black youth are spiritually murdered in classrooms,” continuing, “To highlight, when Black students’ prior
    knowledge, experiences, culture, literacies, and language are marginalized, ELA teachers are (un)intentionally enacting a curriculum of violence. For example, the traditional curriculum overtly and covertly attacks the beautiful, rich language, namely African American Language (AAL), Black students bring into ELA classrooms through the enforcement of stringent Eurocentric grammar rules— thus positioning society to believe mainstream American English is superior and is the only language that should be valued.” If this is the reality of what traditional classrooms are, then it becomes out responsibility to change this curriculum to fit the image of equality that should exist in a classroom and the world. It is crucial to empower the diversity and strengths of our classroom students, and that has to start by empowering black voices and their rich history. Now, more than ever, black agency needs to be an important part of every class curriculum. We need to reimagine a classroom where reading of the Civil War does not carry the message of Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves, but rather seeing the long effort of African Americans fighting for their rights that they were denied for so long. It is reading of more black authors in the English classrooms. It is of introducing the importance of black artists in arts and music classrooms, and appreciating the black origins of many of the arts our society enjoys. While the changing of traditional curriculums may not be a change that happens as fast as we need it, as educators, we have the responsibility to make those changes ourselves.

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    • jojo9x,

      Education is a building block, and as students’ progress through high school there is an expectation that they are college ready at graduation. In you text you mentioned two similar and topics “adopt the language of the oppressor” and “Eurocentric literature”. My question is, if we allow black students to not use proper English in their writing or read the “Great Works” of Eurocentric literature how are we preparing Black students for college? And which books/readings would you remove? Do you think your current professor would accept paper not written in the “language of the oppressor?” What books from “Eurocentric literature” would you remove?
      My concern is by doing the items you suggested, might actual hurt our high school students who want to attend a college of their choice or if they get in not have the literary background or writing skills required to successfully graduate (or at least make it more difficult.)

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  26. Hi, my name is Brianna Corcoran and I am a post-bacc seeking my English credential at Framingham State University. The article on including Black literacies in the classroom show how important it is for ELA teachers to include intersectional media and literacies. This is important for students to see reflections of themselves in the literature they read and for students to see a diverse perspective of the world. The article, “Loving Blackness to Death: (Re) Imagining ELA Classrooms in a Time of Racial Chaos,” states that ELA teachers need to diversify the chosen content in schools, “It may include tattoos, poems, novellas, graphic novels, technology/social media sites, oral histories/storytelling, body movements/dance, music, and prose.” I agree this must be done. I know some teachers are restricted to a curriculum and although some teachers work around the anchor texts, there must be an initiative for school districts and ELA departments to diversify their anchor text to include the voices of more BIPOC authors. The article also addresses this problem and encourages teachers to add supplementary texts in context, “In many secondary ELA classrooms, teachers are required to teach texts such as the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta. Therefore, if we truly want to center Black lives and literacies, we need to supplement our curriculum with texts that focus on Black struggle and liberation to teach in conjunction with Eurocentric texts.” I agree teachers have the freedom to include other texts in their lesson plan. Teaching the Magna Carta does not have to be limited to only focusing on the Magna Carta and there is definitely a way to include texts that focus on Black struggle and liberation. The webinar focused on including the BLM movement in the classroom and I agree this should be a priority to include in lessons.

    In my classroom growing up, I did have one teacher who made an effort to include BIPOC authors in class and we read A Raisin in the Sun. This is, unfortunately, the only text by a BIPOC author I remember reading in high school. When I attended college and majored in English, my professors included several BIPOC authors. I think this approach needs to be taken at the K-12 level and it needs to become a priority for ELA departments when writing their curriculum.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Brianna!

      I could not agree more with everything you had to say in your post. I had a similar experience in which many of my high school teachers never referred to any BIPOC authors or texts, and my exposure to these resources was hindered as a result. It wasn’t until college that I also started to see more professors including a variety of texts in their teaching. It is so incredibly important to adopt this inclusive mindset in the K-12 classroom, especially since many children never get to see themselves in anything that they read in school. One thing that I also strongly believe in is that it is the teacher’s job to make sure voices are heard and representation is seen in the classroom literature, and am so excited that you plan to include so many more texts and resources for Black students. Something that really resonated with me is how you explained that just because we might be mandated as English teachers to teach certain texts, it doesn’t mean that we can’t teach them with a more inclusive approach. That’s such a positive reminder for all of us to always be flexible and adapt our teaching to be antiracist even when teaching those anchor texts. Beautifully said!

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    • I agree with everything you said! I feel like many curriculums taught in schools need to be more diverse and teach the history of all of our students. Having a more diverse group of texts that we can teach to our students is an excellent way to incorporate the Black Lives Matter Movement into our classrooms and help teach the history and cultures of all of our future students.

      Kendahl Edwards.

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    • Brianna,

      I adore your perspective that ELA teachers need to diversify the content they use in the classroom and agree with it wholeheartedly. There is so much more to English, and really any language, than the books that are considered canonical texts. This is a very effective way of creating a multi-modal experience for students, which can heighten their ability to understand core concepts and identify with them. Multi-modality also helps clarify and expand lessons and contexts so they extend beyond the classroom and into the real worlds of students, which helps with information transfer. Alongside the importance of variety in the genre or style of the text, I agree with your perspective that the texts must also display a diversity of perspectives. This will allow students to learn more about history from different cultural and racial backgrounds, which can then showcase struggles and stories that are generally left out of the curriculum but are just as, if not more, important to learn about.

      Hopefully, as future teachers, we will be able to include a wider variety of styles and perspectives in our classrooms, helping our students to be able to consider the importance of different perspectives and sides to a story. Not only is being able to do that important for most educational standards but also just for being prepared for entrance into the world outside of school.

      All in all, I really appreciated your comment! Thank you so much for posting.
      Hailey Bottoms

      Like

    • Brianna, I agree with this so strongly – I feel like I began to understand the breadth of Black creation when I came to college. I had a wonderful teacher who included A Raisin in the Sun and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. While this is a wonderful starting point, this happened in my 11th grade honors class. Before this, in all of my education, the only example I can think of is the I Have a Dream speech. In college, I’ve had one professor so far who only taught with white creators, and it was something my friends and I discussed with frustration. I think there comes a mindset that only honors or advanced kids can handle and analyze topics of Black creation because of the “heavier topics” involved. This frustrates me to my core. I understand that a lot of it comes from a sense that teachers don’t want to say the wrong thing or have awkward situations, but the way that our system is currently functioning perpetuates a narrative that white creators hold cultural capital and Black creators sit at the margins, mentioned one day a year during February for Black History Month, or more if students are lucky.

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  27. Hi! My name is Haley Landolina, and I’m a Secondary English Ed major at Penn State University. We’ve been talking a lot in our classes recently about the importance of having conversations about race, injustice, and world events happening in relation to these topics. I find it really important to bring these discussions to the classroom, and this webinar gave so many ideas for doing so well and fostering a classroom where Black students feel like they can be themselves, voice their opinions, and feel safe.

    Teaching for Black lives is teaching to make Black students feel seen, heard, and valued in the classroom. Black students across America feel out of place in their schools and hardly see themselves represented in the materials they learn, if at all. Teaching for Black lives is giving all students space to be themselves unashamedly, which is something that this webinar highlighted as an issue for so many Black students who have to change the ways they speak, act, and exist at school. For teachers to teach for Black lives (especially in the English classroom), we need to be deliberate in choosing texts that reflect our Black students, represent Black authors, and include these people in everyday roles and events, not just historical contexts. We also need to include conversations on current events surrounding race and inequality. I feel like some of the most important work we can do is educate ourselves thoroughly. Taking time to read texts written by Black authors, hear their voices and experiences, and commit to learning and growing each day feels essential to becoming the best teacher for Black lives I can be.

    Some of the issues I found to be most important that this webinar raised were the following:

    -The importance of including inclusive education/reading in classes with AND without Black students.
    This is essential, and something I think can directly relate to my teaching now and in the future. Especially in rural Pennsylvania, there are so many classrooms with very few Black students, if any. These classrooms are crucial places to teach for Black lives, include reading materials written by Black authors, and have conversations about race and inequality. Getting students to engage with these ideas and read these stories gives Black voices a place in the classroom and in daily teaching, which is necessary no matter the number of Black students in the class.
    -The importance of remembering that there’s not one Black experience (and related to this idea, keeping in mind intersectionality)
    This idea is why I find it so important to keep reading and keep learning. It is inaccurate and, frankly, irresponsible to read one person’s story and assume this applies to an entire community. This point reminded me that keeping up with the stories of ALL Black voices is necessary, and it’s important to be aware of intersectionality due to gender, sexual orientation, ability, age, and so many other factors.
    -The idea that “politicizing” the classroom by having these conversations is inaccurate. If you ignore these things, that’s political, too.
    This point also definitely felt like something I will be facing in my teaching. The decision to engage with conversations about race, or even openly support Black Lives Matter can and probably will be deemed “political” (like the story with John Muir Elementary). I also agree with the idea that choosing NOT to do these things is political, and when it’s so crucial to have these conversations and make the classroom a space where Black students can express themselves and feel heard, the choice seems to be pretty clear: teaching for Black lives is something that every teacher needs to do.

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    • Hi, Haley!

      I am also studying to be an English teacher. Like you, I also wish to “commit to learning and growing” so that I can be a better educator for my students. You bring up some very important points made in the webinar. I was also struck by the importance of bringing up racial issues in places where there may not be many Black students. I hadn’t considered this because I live in California and I plan on teaching in the City of Long Beach, where most classrooms are diverse. I think it’s great that you want students to engage with these ideas regardless of the number of Black students in rural Pennsylvania. Moreover, I also agree with Jesse’s point about ignoring difficult conversations about race equity! Ignoring the racial inequity in America is already a political act that only perpetuates white supremacy and ignored the lived realities of our students. I loved the ending of your post! Yes! Every teacher must teach in a way that directly and overtly supports the Black Lives Matter movement. Thank you so much for sharing, Haley!

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    • Haley,

      Thank you for the insightful post inspired by the webinar! I’m also a Secondary English Ed major, but I’m studying at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Similar to what you said, Nebraska is predominately white. Urban school districts, such as Omaha or Lincoln have a more diverse population but most other places do not. It’s important for students of color who attend a school where they are a minority to feel seen and heard. I really appreciate your emphasis on making sure there is opportunities for students to talk about their fears and trauma from racism so that they can feel supported. Another important point you make is that conversations about race can be seen as “political.” I have had issues with students who say that they’re being taught “propaganda” when they discuss racism, implicit bias, and issues regarding police brutality. It hurts my heart that the black students in the classroom are probably afraid to speak out and express themselves because they know there is speculation about what is “political” or not. I’m whole-heartedly dedicated to teaching for Black lives, however, I worry that there is more resistance in secondary classrooms because students were not exposed to black authors or culture when they were younger. I agree with you that every teacher needs to teach for Black lives because this is going to have to be a team effort! Great post, Haley!

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  28. My name is Emily Moore and I am a Graduate student at Framingham State University in Massachusetts studying to become licensed in Secondary Education in English Language Arts. I am also a full-time Paraprofessional working in the 8th grade. I grew up in a very small town with virtually no diversity. Everyone looked like my family, celebrated the same holidays as my family, and shared a similar culture as my family. It wasn’t until I moved to South Carolina in 2010 that I realized how big the world actually was, and how little my town was in comparison. I saw this as an opportunity to begin educating myself on racial inequality, and when the Black Lives Matter movement began in 2016 I felt that it was imperative that I continued educating myself. In the past six months the Black Lives Movement has swept the world in response to the countless acts of police brutality and other racial injustices. It is my role, as a white woman who is a future educator, to pay attention and continue speaking out against racism. Ideally, by the end of 2021 I will be teaching in my own classroom. And when that time comes, I want to be equipped with resources, books, and lessons plans that uplift and celebrate Black voices in a time of racial inequality.

    “The past and ongoing legacy of racial violence that is wrapped in colonization degrades, dehumanizes, and brings trauma to the hearts and minds of Black people and the generations to follow…We argue the racial violence that unfolds in various communities seeps into English language arts (ELA) classrooms.” (Johnson 60).

    The above quote holds many truths about education and Black lives. For themes and motifs in literature (and in history), the word “Black” has always held negative connotations while the word “White” has held positive ones. This is not accidental. Racial injustice and inequality has been ingrained in the school curriculum, whether subconsciously or consciously, to the point where it has been widely accepted as truth instead of fallacy. In the curriculum, there is a focus on European culture and a complete lack of diversity when it comes to Black representation. From language to history, Black students have been taught that their culture is less than Western values and beliefs. As educators, we can become complicit in the process of Black youths’ educational failure, ‘albeit often unintentionally or because we are unaware of the larger implications and influence of our actions and practices’ (Boutte 1)” (Johnson 62). As a future educator, who is now aware of the racial inequality in both society and the classroom, it is my responsibility to fill my classroom with diverse representations, curriculum that rids the classroom of previous stereotypes, and show respect for a culture that has been treated unfairly (and is still being treated unfairly) for generations.

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    • Hi, Emily!

      I am studying to be a Secondary English Language Arts teacher as well! Like you, I believe the English classroom is a place where students can practice “storytelling, advocacy, and learning,” especially in relation to America’s lack of equity. Yes! I agree that the tools that the English classroom gifts–the ability to read analytically, to write convincingly, and to think critically– are particularly powerful in this time of change. We can tell our students that ELA is a powerful resource for them, as it can help foster the change they want to see in the world. Like you, I will also make sure to allow my students to learn from texts that are written by a diverse range of authors. Reading these posts makes me feel so excited about the fact that I will be working alongside such motivated and aware educators who also wish to provide a safe space for all students! Thanks for sharing!

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  29. Hi, my name is Bianka Silva and I am a single-subject credential student at California State University, Long Beach. The Black Lives Matter Movement is a movement is a call for the end of white supremacy, which continuously places the black body in psychological and physical danger. It is ment to create a safe world for all people, so that they can face empowerment instead of oppression. The Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 have been one of the largest movements in U.S history, bringing about new national changes and national awareness. However, as educators, we have the power to continue the movement in our own classroom. In “Teaching for Black Lives During the Rebellion,” Cierra Kelar Jones, Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, and Wayne Au discuss how to continue organizing for racial justice within our schools.
    One part of the discussion that particularly struck me was the letter Dyan Watson wrote for her son Caleb. I went to school with people who looked like me and it’s so difficult for me to imagine what it feels like to be invisible or out of place. When I college forced me to interact with other people who were not Mexican-American, I began to feel self-conscious of what I looked like and the different way in which I carried myself; but, I was older, and I could process my emotions and thoughts with greater ease. As a future teacher of children, I know it is my job to make sure that my impressionable students, like Caleb, are not seen through hurtful preconceptions, and are instead empowered and loved. Like Watson mentions, we are “gatekeepers” who must “ love [them] for who [they] are and the promise of who [they’ll] be.” (So powerful!)
    Wayne Au proves the power teachers have in progressing the Black Lives Matter movement. He explains that, even after being raided by the police looking for explosives after someone made a bomb threat, the teachers stood in solidarity to celebrate their Black students. The community came together to support the school and the movements, sparking a greater movement for racial equity in schools. Teachers are powerful! Like Au mentions, “one school can spark a whole movement.”
    The “13 Guided Principles” call for the need to “work vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people,” including queer people, trans people, diverse families, old people, young people, etc. As educators, we can help humanize and empower the black students in our classroom, and in turn, everyone else! Jesse Hagopain mentions that we must acknowledge that our students have become our teachers, as they’ve demonstrated great strength, bravery, and diligence. We can support them in the classroom by making sure we don’t victimize our Black students, allowing them to read a diverse range of texts, and by having difficult conversations about the state of our nation.
    Some of the questions that I had, in the beginning, were based on people who were reluctant to embrace the ideals of BLM: What do we do when our district or school administration is a conservative one? Or when our coworkers don’t support us in being “co-conspirators of freedom”? How can we garnish more support? This question was answered by Hagopain, who encourages teachers to create awareness clubs so, in staff meetings, teachers can “collectively raise their voices.” Hagopain also mentions that there are many educators who fear discussions about police violence and institutional racism will “Politicize the classroom,” but he argues drake that its political to ignore these issues because black bodies are already experiencing violence.

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    • Hello Bianka,

      I really enjoy your post. I completely agree with you. It is true that this movement has binged national changes and awareness of the injustices that still exist in our society. I think that it is amazing that you want to make a change in your classroom. I also believe that we have to talk about these issues at school. As teachers we should empower our students, making sure they are listened to and encouraged to express themselves. This discussion has opened up my eyes, and made me realize the importance of awareness. I will keep educating myself about the Black Lives Matter Movement and I will try to make a positive impact in the lives of my students.

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  30. Hello! My name is Kelly Townsend and I am currently a senior at Penn State University studying Secondary English Education and English. This is an exciting year for me because I started my student teaching (virtually) in August and although it is not the student teaching I had expected to experience, it is still a great learning endeavor and I look forward to it each day. As a future high school English teacher, I am committed to creating a classroom environment in which my black students and other students of color feel safe, welcome, embraced, and comfortable. In schools, I think BLM is important because it shows black students that they are welcome and supported in the classroom and the community around them. It shows that their lives are valued, they are worthy of receiving an education, and they are worthy of feeling safe in school. For white students, they can be advocates for their peers who are POC and can lend their voice if needed. Being a student myself, I know that other students and people my age (or any age really) are talking about BLM, they are participating in BLM protests, and they are continuing to become more educated about BLM. For this reason, I think the classroom should be a place to allow for discussions to happen about BLM. These conversations are happening anyway, and as a teacher I have the ability to create a safe and stimulating environment for these conversations to occur. Meeting the needs of my students in an education-sense is one thing, but being able to meet the needs of my students as humans and teenagers is another aspect (and arguably a more important aspect) and I am committed to doing so.

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    • Hello Kelly,

      You are absolutely right that these conversations are going to happen outside the classroom no matter what. However, I would add that not all of our students will have these very necessary conversations. While BLM has definitely done a lot of work in amplifying voices and bringing these conversations to the forefront of society, White students are still able to avoid these conversations because they can live their lives without being racialized like minoritized students are. By giving space in our classrooms for these conversations, we ensure that everyone has the tool box to discuss the systemic issues that many Americans face. As English teachers, we are in a unique position to bring in outside voices through the texts we include and oftentimes narratives that tackle the systemic issues can contextualize the statistics for non-POC students.

      Like

  31. Hello everyone!

    My name is Julianne Uhlman and I am currently a graduate student at Framingham State University in Massachusetts. It is an honor to be a part of this conversation and to get to read and engage with everyone’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas about this topic. Black Lives Matter is one of the most essential topics that schools and teachers should be discussing in the forefront of their curriculum meetings. As I am studying to become a secondary education English teacher, I often think about the kind of classroom environment I hope to create for my students. I am determined to create a classroom that is uplifting, encouraging, and nourishing for Black souls and Black students who have been marginalized and held back in American school systems for far too long. As the article “Loving Blackness to Death”: (Re)Imagining ELA Classrooms in a Time of Racial Chaos” discusses, the beginning of dismantling this overbearing white supremacy, control, and violence that exists in our society, must start inside of our ELA classrooms. The ELA classroom should be a place of revolution for the Black voice and Black spirit through reading and engaging with Black literacies and anti-racist pedagogies. Part of this has to begin with dismantling and reconsidering the canonical texts that we choose to teach. The majority of texts that are taught in secondary education are by white males. This is unproductive and unfair to all students and especially students of color. There are so many texts by black authors that should be included in the curriculum. This allows for the liberation of a perspective and voice that has been constrained for too long. There are also so many opportunities to discuss Black culture and community apart from slavery and violence. The article states that “if we truly want to center Black lives and literacies, we need to sup-plement our curriculum with texts that focus on Black struggle and liberation to teach in conjunc-tion with Eurocentric texts” (64). Why is it that when Black peoples are discussed in the ELA classroom it is always revolved around negativity? There is another side that must be uplifted and celebrated in our classrooms. I loved the article’s overall emphasis on “collective action.” This work cannot be done without the help and support from people everywhere. I hope to continue to be a part of this conversation and to continue to find new ways to lift the Black voice and the Black community in general.

    Like

    • Hi Julianne,

      I really enjoyed reading your post and think you made a lot of really insightful points about the ELA classroom! As someone who is also studying to be a secondary English teacher, I wholeheartedly agree that our classrooms are spaces where we can really make positive changes for our Black students. We have the ability to hold discussions, read texts, and generally give our students voices in a safe, comfortable space. On top of this, having a diverse reading list is so important, and I also really liked the point you brought up about the necessity of discussing Black culture beyond negative historical contexts (which is where so many classes seem to get stuck). Reading books by Black authors simply about the Black experience or general daily life is something we should all strive to do more of. Making this a group effort is the best way to do it!

      Like

    • Hi, Julianne! I love your focal point on diverse texts. In particular, your point about Black people only being mentioned in the realm of negativity stands out to me. One discussion we’ve had often in my Penn State classrooms is how Black English appears in text with high schoolers. Often, students’ only experiences of it are in Huckleberry Finn – a story written by a white author. Rarely are texts like The Color Purple and Their Eyes Were Watching God chosen, yet these representations show more fleshed out, humanized Black characters who are intelligent and extend beyond caricature. Representation only being of Black people struggling creates a host of problems in people’s understandings of Black people. Rather than seeing the intellect and liveliness of Black creators, white students often only see stories of struggle and white saviors. The biggest example of this comes to me with To Kill a Mockingbird being one of the most universal texts about racial unrest and having few mentions of the Black character until the end. This helps Eurocentrism continue because even when Black people are mentioned, there is still a sense of superiority. In our current curriculum, Black is associated with civil rights and unrest, and white is everything else. I think this develops a picture of Eurocentrism that has to be actively fought.

      Like

  32. Hello everyone!
    My name is Taylor and I am a senior at Penn State University studying secondary English education. This is such an exciting time for me as I am starting my full-time student teaching process in January. I am learning new things every day and I am constantly learning how to support more equal teaching and improve our students lives.

    I think the BLM movement is starting to gain traction in school. With current events, BLM is getting the attention they should have been getting for years now. I think the teaching practices are evolving to be more involved in racial justice, equality and abolitionist teaching.

    Teaching for black lives means to show our black youth students that they are equal to those that are white. I learned in a recent seminar I attended that Black youth are being “spirit murdered” by our curriculum that is standard. They are not being represented in the way that they should be. Black youth aren’t seeing black authors being taught in school, and if that is their goal, to be an author, they aren’t seeing others who achieved that goal represented. This was a huge, groundbreaking realization to me. I never realized it, and I always wondered how I could help, and that is a solution I can start with.

    We can reimagine our classrooms not as if everyone wasn’t different, but that we are all equal. I really like being on a first name dynamic with students even though it isn’t sometimes approved of. I feel like students are more willing to be open with their experiences and life if you are on an equal playing field with them. I feel like students are also more willing to listen and learn to someone who doesn’t make their authority a big deal in their classroom. Treating our students like actual humans first rather than students will benefit them and their comfort levels in your classroom.

    Like

    • Taylor, the idea of Black students being “spirit murdered” was a new one to me as well. Now that I know what it means I cannot believe I did not think about it before. Initially, I tried to think about the importance of getting textbooks updated to reflect more positive examples of Black people, but after more thought I realized textbooks are not the answer. Instead, I think the answer lies with educators to provide the different perspective and examples of Black lives in the classroom. This is not a new idea. Educators always add material to textbook readings, so it is well within the realm of possibility. It also puts pressure and responsibility on educators now to make changes in their classrooms instead of waiting for new textbooks to be published. But what should educators add to their curriculum? To answer that question educators need to determine what gaps exist in the textbooks they are using, identify additional resources (Teaching For Black Lives is an excellent start) to fill those gaps, implement the new resources into the classroom, and most importantly follow up with students for their feedback on the additional course content.

      Like

    • Hello Taylor,

      I couldn’t agree with you more! I also believe that the curriculum does not represent all of our students accurately. I think we really need to focus on many different perspectives and contributors in the field of the subject areas that we are teaching, not just the white male’s perspective. I feel the more we start to do this in our classrooms, the more our students feel comfortable and safe to discuss issues and viewpoints among one another. I really feel that the way we start changing society is through education, not just with our students but with everyone we come in contact. I also agree with you viewpoint to start treating our students as people or young adults, than children will help encourage them to voice their concerns and evoke change in areas they feel they need to. I really enjoyed your post!

      Christine “Chrissy” Black APSU

      Like

    • Hi Taylor. I like what you said about being ” spirit murdered”. Growing up I was one of the best Track athletes in my state, but I always had a passion to be a mentor. Unfortunately, most of the successful black men I heard of were athletes not authors. I think you are on the right track when you say you want to know each of your students on a first name basis. What really helped me chase my dreams and not conform to a particular stereotype were the educators that believed in me. The relationship they fostered allowed them to instill confidence in me.

      Like

  33. In my mind, the core of BLM is pushing against the historical and systemic forces that labeled Black lives as less valuable compared to their white counterparts and continue to do so. While the root of this was slavery, with Black people being considered 3/5th of a person, the themes continue to pervade modern America with the amount of incarcerated Black people compared to white people, as well as police violence against Black and brown bodies. I see this as something that should strongly guide schools and classrooms because schools should be a location in which students foster critical literacy. We want our students to be able to look at the broader context that they are a part of, and a major aspect of this is understanding the current injustices in our system that persist.

    I find that most people that have gone through the US public system were taught through their schooling that the US had slavery and it was bad, so we fixed it, and then they had segregation, and it was bad, so Martin Luther King Jr. protested peacefully, and now we’re all free and happy – one big family. This perturbs me. In particular, I cannot remember a single time that police brutality was mentioned in any of my classes. I think that refusing to bring up “political” issues in the classroom – ones that are pervasive and traumatizing for students – sets up a system where students cannot be completely vulnerable in a classroom setting. On the flipside, those who are not impacted by issues of white Supremacy have an opportunity to leave our current system believing that racism was a past issue. I personally don’t think that Black Lives Matter should be treated as a partisan issue, in the same way that I feel LGBTQ+ rights shouldn’t be treated as such. An issue like a group of people wanting to be able to peacefully exist should not be shied away from because of its ‘political’ nature. Especially given that, as a teacher, I want to create an empathetic classroom that affirms the identities of all students. This notion ties into the 13 principles of BLM, which center around restorative justice, self-reflexivity, and empathy. In my opinion, these concepts should be incorporated into my classroom, as they create a sense of openness and reflection, which can lead to deeper critical thinking.

    When I observed a teacher in Philadelphia, I remember feeling the gap between the teacher and the students. The teacher assumed the worst of her students, and the text that was read was about medieval times. It honestly frustrated me because it didn’t feel like anything that transformed and humanized. I think in order to push against this in my classroom, I need to be willing to facilitate often uncomfortable discussions rather than creating curriculum that doesn’t resonate with my students. One aspect of the web seminar that stood out to me was that our goal is help students make sense of the issues that traumatize them. I can’t do this if I’m stuck in the mindset of teaching the traditional canon, checking for understanding, and moving on. I think reimagining curriculum to disrupt racial injustice requires me believing that I can make a difference in the current system, and a difference must be made to ensure the safety of current and future generations. Once I begin with that mindset, I’m better able to see the action plans I need to enact to help encourage my students along their journeys.

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    • I agree that BLM can be tied historically all the way back to slavery and that some individuals still see Blacks as not “full individuals”. I also agree that classrooms need to learn how to incorporate history correctly so that all students are feeling included and are learning about themselves, their ancestors and how history defines people. My only concern is how early do we start this? I am an early education major, I plan on teaching anywhere from Pre-K- 3rd grade and I wonder how involved we should get into this with them at such a young age. If I was teaching high school ethics, political science, history, debate or philosophy I could easily find a way to teach this and open it up for discussion. But not so simple with a 5 year old. I definitely want to make sure that there is literature available to them to absorb and see people just like them problem solving and growing up in positive positions. All in all, I believe that your post and many others are making me realize that I am going to have to push myself to think outside the box to help all students feel equal, appreciated and represented.

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      • Melissa, that’s super insightful – you get put in an interesting position in younger education since conversation already floats around frequently about if students are ready to discuss discrimination. Equally difficult is the idea that some students are already negatively impacted by discrimination while not being able to put a name to it.

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    • Hi Vicky
      I like how you convey the efforts of Black Lives Matter to ensure black lives are as equally valuable as white lives. While I am not yet a teacher, I believe that all of us go into this profession wanting to have a positive influence on all students. Not just a particular race. Much of the material read and watched for this discussion was about how schools need to find better ways to educate students on the positive impact the black community has on American life. Doing so will get black students more motivated to learn and will educate other students on the black community’s positive contribution to society and subsequently educate our population that they are as equally valuable as everyone else.
      I like that you bring up that some of the conversations in school related to the Black Lives Matter Movement and other specifically black issues tend to be muted in school due to the sometimes perceived controversial nature of the subject. This is discussed in the webinar and I agree that teachers need to learn how to discuss these issues in the classroom. Ignoring these issues is ignoring a topic that is prominent in our society and it also silences a portion of our student population. As an aspiring history and political science teacher I see these issues as opportunities to discuss the 1st Amendment. However, it is important for all teachers to be able to discuss these issues so they can understand the thoughts and feelings of their student. One of the most important aspects of being a teacher is having a personal understanding of all of one’s students. Being able to discuss black issues makes one relatable to that population in one’s class.
      You convey that during your observation of a current teacher that the impersonal nature of their teaching methods left you frustrated, and I imagine the students were most likely uninterested in the topic. Even worst is that the teacher did not believe in the students. I believe teachers must set high and achievable standards for students, relate the material to their lives, build relationships with students and be fair across all demographics. Part of this is being able to relate to black students, discuss the issues they care about and make school material relatable to their lives.
      Great post

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    • Hi Vicky,

      I really enjoyed reading your post! I agree with so much of what you said, and I think the idea that our students should be able to look at the broader context they’re a part of is really well-put. Making spaces to have uncomfortable conversations about relevant issues for our students is so imperative to making sure they feel seen, heard, and supported in the classroom. As teachers, we definitely need to make sure that we’re connected to these conversations and also committed to actively trying to make a difference in the school lives of our Black students (and really all marginalized groups). Having pre-formed negative opinions on students, like the teacher you observed in Philadelphia did, is something that’s so disappointing and damaging to these communities. Shifting our mindsets as teachers from the traditional cannon to one of disruption, change, and challenging the norm is essential to making all students feel at home at school.

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  34. Hi everyone! My name is Eric Seamans, I’m a grad student at PSU working toward my master’s in curriculum and instruction with a focus in secondary English education. I’m also student teaching a twelfth-grade college writing class at State College Area High School on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

    I see the Black Lives Matter movement as a mindset, ideology, and expression created to bring attention to the murders of Black people, often at the hands of white police. Specifically, I see the movement as a response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in his murder of Trayvon Martin—an event I wasn’t able to understand as a fourteen-year-old eighth-grader. My school never taught us what happened; we never learned about it. I remember thinking there was no way someone could murder a Black person (especially a teen) just for being Black; I thought Trayvon Martin had to have posed a serious threat to Zimmerman. I see now how deluded I was, but have forgiven myself. Fourteen-year-olds aren’t the best in terms of critical thinking, especially when in the bubble of a liberal school. In summer of 2014, I remember Eric Garner’s murder on the news. I remember almost a sense of denial, the same denial I experienced after Trayvon Martin’s murder. “OK, there’s no way that was just because he’s black,” I thought. “Something had to have happened that we don’t see in the video.” And then Michael Brown. And then Laquan McDonald. And then Tamir Rice. At that point, I knew something was wrong. I knew I was wrong.

    I realized Black Lives Matter was a way to put focus on Black people murdered, not only at the hands of police, but the general public. Since 2014, though, my understanding of Black Lives Matter has been immobile. I’ve understood the movement as a call to action, a way to work against the Eurocentric, white-supremacist structures in place in society. Throughout my college career, throughout the thousands of reckless, racist murders of Black people, throughout Donald Trump’s tragic election and disastrous presidency, I have understood Black Lives Matter as a focus on the murders of Black people. Only recently have I come to understand the full scope of the movement. While it does focus on, and did originate from, the murders of Black people, it has so many more layers—layers that are weaved together to create a blanket of protection for BIPOC. Black Lives Matter focuses on families, LGBTQ+ communities, women, justice, empathy, and community. There is so much within the scope of Black Lives Matter that I hadn’t realized was part of the movement, that I grouped with anti-racism, in the same vein as Black Lives Matter, but still separate. The realization that these issues are all part of Black Lives Matter, that these issues—exclusion, homophobia, misogyny, and division—are just as dangerous to Black people as cops are and often lead to the murders to which we have grown numb.

    For that reason, Black Lives Matter must be weaved into schools. Black students—Black children—have a right to feel safe, loved, and welcome in schools. To achieve this, to create these safe, loving, welcoming communities, we must go further than including Black literature in English classes. We must stop ignoring these murders and injustices against our students and their families, friends, and communities. We cannot pretend they don’t exist and let students navigate them without us. Instead of not being racist, we must be anti-racist and take an active stance against racism and injustice in our communities. Students need to know we are on their side, and they need to know that we solve these issues by talking about and taking action against them. I wish my teachers in eighth grade had this philosophy. I wish I was taught about the injustices around me, so I didn’t have to go two years before learning the truth by myself.

    I think enacting this change in our classes is difficult and intimidating; I feel nervous thinking about talking with students about this, especially in a central-Pennsylvania, relatively rural town. I worry about parents having a problem with me filling their kids’ heads with “liberal lies,” “fake news,” and “reverse racism.” But I’m covered. I’m backed by NCTE, I’m backed by Teaching Tolerance, ELATE, and anybody else with a moral compass. I know standing up for the right thing will pay off, and I know standing up against racism, racists, and hate is always the right thing.

    I plan on using the thirteen principles of Black Lives Matter as standards in my lesson plans the same way I use Common Core’s standards. It’s not enough to not violate the standards, though. We must promote them. It’s not enough to not be racist. We must be actively anti-racist.

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    • Hi Eric. I appreciate your honesty throughout the post. Growth is a part of the process. I’m happy that you were able to educate yourself on matters that did not directly impact your life. I agree with what you said about BLM being a call to action, and more than a movement against police brutality. It is important to understand the full scope of the movement. I won’t lie to you as an Black man I giggled when I clicked on this discussion board, but I understand the importance of engaging in conversation. I also value positive change no matter how small. Reading your post was very encouraging. Thank you Eric.

      Like

    • Hi Eric,

      My name is Michelle, and I’m in CSULB’s Single Subject Teaching Credential Program.

      First, I want to thank you for your vulnerability and willingness to share. It’s not always easy to share what you did, and I am grateful for it. I think that it’s important to recognize that we’re always growing and changing, and that while we may have had mistaken beliefs in the past, as long as we’re willing to think critically in the present, that’s what matters most.

      I really like this quote from your post: “We cannot pretend they don’t exist and let students navigate them without us. Instead of not being racist, we must be anti-racist and take an active stance against racism and injustice in our communities.” I think that this is probably the most important takeaway from the readings / webinar we were assigned. Thank you for that articulation!

      I also see how you find enacting changes in the class to be potentially difficult and intimidating, as I grew up in a somewhat conservative school district and have seen how careful progressive teachers must be. However, I think that there are ways to strategically push students to think critically (i.e. asking students questions rather than giving opinions). Hope this helps!

      Best,

      Michelle

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  35. Hi all! My name is Kirsten and I am currently a junior at Penn State, working toward a Secondary English Education degree! The Black Lives Matter Movement is extremely integral to education as a whole, as it signifies a significant shift in how classes will be taught from here on out. One thing that we’ve discussed here at Penn State, and that I’ve noticed in my educational career, is this determination to teach students that racism ended after the Civil Rights Movement. Not only is this damaging to our POC students, but this is also detrimental to our white students. When teaching that racism ends at a certain point, we are not teaching our students to think critically and responsibly. When we are faced with systematic racism that still exists today, our students will turn away as they are assured that “racism no longer exists”. As teachers, it is our responsibility to take a stand and teach students to be better than we are. I wholeheartedly believe that the Black Lives Matter Movement will create a significant shift in the education system and refocus teachers to real-world issues within the classroom. This discussion is proof of that, where many teachers can come together and discuss the Black Lives Matter Movement!

    One of the most important shifts that I wish to include within my own curriculum is a decentered literary canon for the classroom curriculum. One of the best things we as English teachers can do is to incorporate more voices within the texts we teach in the classroom. When POC students see the literature list for a class, there is often not much representation beyond white male authors and the occasional white female author. While there are important texts within the current canon, I wish to introduce more diversity in the pieces my future students read, to try and eliminate the elitism found in the established canon. This engages students who can see themselves in the texts they read and enforces more interest and participation from the classroom. Melissa Jogie is a primary researcher on this; she studied the effects of the current curriculum and the effect it had on students of multiple ethnicities and identities. She found that students are highly disengaged with the current curriculum, specifically because of the lack of diversity in the authors and age of these texts.

    There are many things we as teachers can do, and we should strive to make the classroom a safe place for all our students. We need to be the people who shape the generation of tomorrow, and lead the demolition of systematic racism implemented in many systems of today.

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    • Hi Kirsten. I agree that this movement is going to change the education system for the better including refocusing teachers on matters that may be out of their initial comfort zone. Racism and social inequities has become a big issue and it is not just a local or state problem, it’s obviously a national problem because as you said, we are all here talking about it.

      While I am going to be teaching a much younger population (pre-k – 3rd grade) I believe that literacy is paramount to a student’s education. Many students first begin learning when their parent opens a book for them and takes them to a whole another world. I myself am an avid reader and I notice as well how the books in school are mostly from white authors. I know when I was in school I cannot remember too many books at all about African Americans in a positive light. Not that I am saying the lack of literature is fixed but now I see more African American being represented in school lessons and books in the library. I just really hope that this movement continues to provide the change that we all see and seem to think we need but it is going to involve a lot of conversations and protocol changes at all levels.

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    • Hello Kirsten, I appreciate your thoughtful response, and wished to build upon your thoughts regarding a decentered literary canon. I myself am studying to be a History/Social Science teacher in California, and one of the topics we discuss in our teacher education curriculum are the variations in curriculum and textbooks around the country. One of the great injustices in History education is the way that textbooks water down the learning process, and push certain narratives that end up being Euro-centric and heroifying of a problematic American past. Decentering historical canon, and teaching history ‘from the bottom,’ from the perspective of the oppressed, teaching of their strengths and agency throughout an oppressive history and present, is to me, a key component to teaching for Black Lives.

      I imagine that there are similar issues with English content standards, and so I believe that your thoughts on decentering the canon are completely valid, and something to be explored further.

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    • Hi Kristen. I like the point you made in regard to some individuals believing racism ended after the civil rights movement. I agree that this is destructive and false. I would like to add that I personally do not like when people say “we have made so much progress”. Progress is nice, but we can’t become complacent or content. I intended to teach my students that everyone plays a role in creating a society free of discrimination. Additionally, I want my classroom to be a place where students feel safe and free to express themselves.

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    • Hey Kirsten!

      I read your comment before I wrote my own. I wanted to also talk about diversifying classroom curriculum and disrupting literary canon in my classroom, but after reading your own beliefs and explanations, I didn’t think I could write it any better. The idea of “incorporat[ing] more voices within texts we teach” is so important to building POC students’ identities that it is a necessity at this point. I like that you give credit to the current canon because I, too, agree that there are important pieces of literature that students should learn about. However, I think if we are to incorporate a diversified classroom curriculum, we as educators need to be transparent with our reasonings. Humanizing ourselves helps engage students. Your ideas are great and will definitely help “eliminate the elitism found in the established canon.”

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  36. Hi,

    My name is Kevin and I am a Special Education English teacher in a suburb of Boston and am getting my m.Ed. at Framingham State University. The BLM movement feels omnipresent throughout class albeit virtual and the webinar validated that this is going on throughout the country. Diane’s letter set the tone and reminded me of a conversation I previously had with a student of mine. In a support class at the beginning of the year, I asked a freshman, black student how he performed in middle school and what he wants to improve on in high school. He told me that he wanted his teachers to like him this year. His statement hit me square. Not having an adult in the building you can count on is a novelty I’m not familiar with and can be completely devastating. This forced me to reflect on my own school experience. As a white student with good grades, I always felt like I could turn to an adult if I had to. Diane says in a letter to her son, “I want your teachers to know you, so they can help you grow”. I hope to be that teacher for this student who became isolated in the classroom.

    The violence against black students expressed in the webinar and in the Johnson piece was extremely heart-wrenching and completely gutting. Because of the insular nature of a school and how voiceless some of these students can be, it’s our job as teachers to advocate any wrongdoing at the bare minimum. These students are susceptible to crimes without any sort of accountability. Our way to create a culture of being seen and heard is for it to exist in the classroom and end the “Symbolic Violence”. By validating their lived experiences and halting our rejection of the multiple personalities, we not only stifle them as students, but we also stifle their identity. By creating an enriching and open environment in class, I hope to continue to teach antiracist values and open more channels for discussion so we can learn to live in the necessary discomfort.

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    • Hi Kevin
      I too thought the portion of the webinar where Dyan Watson reads a letter to here son was one of the most compelling portions of this the video and of the readings associated with this discussion. Her description of her struggles in school as a minority and her desire for her son to have positive experiences in school are very relatable. As someone who is not yet a teacher, I think it is great that you were able to relate this to a conversation you had with a black freshmen student. His hope for his teachers to like him this year indicate that he had experienced the opposite in his middle school education. High school is giving this student a fresh start and his simple goal of having adult affirmation is something I would never think is going through a student’s head. Students should feel that their teachers care about them and teachers should be able to communicate this care to students. Teachers should also be able to see educational and personal struggle and be a reliable caring adult in their students lives. Race should not matter! Teachers should be approachable for students so they can get the best out of every individual student in their class.
      Great post

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    • Hi Kevin,

      It is interesting to see your desire to implement relational vulnerability in your classroom. I absolutely want to do the same thing. I feel like treating them like humans before students is always the way to make relationships with them first. I feel like our students will be more willing to learn from us if we are personable and comfortable with them and the classroom. Your comment about your student saying he wanted “his teachers to like him this year” is a HUGE comment to be making to a teacher. I would have also taken that as a reflection opportunity, and also an opportunity to make relational vulnerability a priority in my classroom.

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  37. Hello,

    Black Lives Matter is a social movement to fight injustice, social justice for Black Communities around the country. With the recent events, the empowerment and meaning of this movement plays more significant role in the classroom. Therefore, as teachers, we need to educate ourselves on the issue, be absolutely fair and unbiased regarding the issue. I do not encourage discussing politics in the classroom, however, there are certain things we need to be aware of once we enter the classrooms.
    Therefore, teaching for Black lives is an important part of our practices as teachers in general.
    I liked how the webinar “Teaching for Black loves during the rebellion” talks about staying away from victim mentality, I believe that is important as we do not want to raise our future generation as victims. In the same time, the webinar talk about generalization of the social justice and equality movement in the Black community. We can’t live off of generalizations in our classrooms as there is more history behind each movement. And honestly, as I have not been raised in this country, I am still learning myself.
    Also, in the webinar I like when the discussion board made the comments about approaching Black community students with intersectionality. It is important, as we are all different and there are many layers affecting our background and cultural views. We cannot have same approach for the third generation born in the USA African American student and an ELL student from Ghana or Somali. Their historic and cultural backgrounds are different, therefore making generalizations can be damaging for the students’ integrity. I believe we, as future educators, have responsibility to learn about those differences, make those differences work in our classrooms.
    As for the last question, for my own belief, any change starts with the small steps. To integrate Black community culture in our classrooms is one of the first steps. Teach about the issues through authentic materials and non-victimizing approach. Here I want to circle back to generalization many schools take as an approach, like the made examples in the webinar that teaching general facts is not really covers the whole issue, such as routes of slavery trades, etc. I agree, that education in general needs to do more to integrate learning about black community in general and in more details: Who is Gwendolyn Brooks? Or Edmonia Lewis? Or John Henrik Clarke? We can start with simple little steps in order to expand our knowledge and our classroom knowledge about the Black Lives Matter, the people behind the movement, the people who had impact on Black Communities and the country in general.

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    • Hi!
      As a future educator, I completely agree with the points you are making regarding the importance of intersectionality, the dire need for social justice, and the dangers of generalization. In teaching about the injustices Black lives have faced through our history, we must also teach Black joy and Black excellence so that we are not buying into the dangerous narrative our misleading textbooks have purveyed for so long. I also think about intersectionality as a really understated part of the equation. There are so many discrepancies against Black lives, and I would argue that the Black woman is most frequently under-protected and disrespected, which is why it is so important to keep intersectionality at the forefront of our social activism.
      I really like your final point, that by simply teaching more stories and more accurate history and by having difficult conversations with our students, colleagues, friends, and family, we can start to make so much important change. Thanks for sharing!

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  38. Hello! My name is Alyssa, and I am a junior majoring in Secondary English Ed. at Penn State University. Creating an inclusive and transformational classroom is something that we have talked about a lot in my education classes this semester. I think that reimagining our classrooms as spaces that disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth aligns closely with the idea of a culturally sustaining pedagogy. In a culturally sustaining pedagogy, instructors strive to not only include student backgrounds and cultures in the classroom, but to center their backgrounds and cultures within the curriculum. A culturally sustaining pedagogy considers young people to be producers of culture, and works to join the classroom with the interests and culture of youth. This belief system requires that educators think critically about what it is that they are seeking to sustain. Within an English classroom, teachers have traditionally perpetuated and sustained the European literary canon. As the article explicates, this rejection by omission is an act of symbolic violence against Black students. Centering curriculum around the European version of history demonstrates that the experiences of Black people throughout history are secondary to Europeans and white Americans, and perpetuates the racist underpinnings of American society.
    In order to disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth, it is essential that educators are aware of these issues in order to effectively reimagine the classroom. As the article states, it is important to foster linguistic and cultural pluralism as a part of the project of schooling. Diversifying the texts used within the classroom or supplementing canonical works with diverse works that focus on Black struggle and liberation to teach in conjunction with Eurocentric texts. Another example is incorporating pop culture such as social media and music into the curriculum to counteract violence often manufactured out of Eurocentric histories. Most importantly, as many others have commented, educators need to be aware of the common belief expressed in education that the United States is a post racial society and actively work against this belief. This is an essential step to validating and humanizing the lives of Black youth and creating a classroom that is based in activism.

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    • Alyssa
      Great point in relating Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to how one will reimagine classrooms to become more inclusive for black students. We discussed Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in my class last night. Coupled with your post I can now see how it relates to the topic of becoming more engaging with black students.
      Teachers are supposed to be role models for students. They should encourage students to achieve high academic standards, be culturally aware of students lives outside the classroom and have sociopolitical consciousness. Having high academic standards is probably easy for a teacher. However, encouraging students to achieve high standards takes more than simply reciting material for students to retain. Having cultural competence allows a teacher to connect with students. It makes a teacher relatable and creates shared understanding and perhaps even enables the teacher to bring in unique curriculum ideas to motivates students to learn the subject at hand. The hardest of the three subtopics to understand and achieve as a teacher is sociopolitical consciousness. This was described to our class as “why things are the way they are”. Depending on the topic, I obviously have personal opinions of “why things are the way they are”. A teacher must support students in creation of their own opinion and must encourage curiosity. Students should be figuring out “why things are the way they are” for themselves. I think this academic concept is relevant to this topic. Teacher should not ignore the black live matter movement. They should be willing to talk about it with students, allow students to develop their own opinions while having healthy discussions supported by facts.
      Good Post

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    • Hi Alyssa,

      I appreciate your use of the articles we read to contextualize your understanding of culturally sustaining pedagogy. I think it’s so great we get to read about these pedagogies, as communicating about them with other teachers helps to unpack what they actually look like in practice. As a sort of meta point, though, I do wonder what so many pedagogies that emphasize the centering of minoritized students’ experiences have the word “culture” in them. In one sense, it’s obvious why. In another sense, it’s not so obvious. It is true that students with multiple culture populate classrooms, and that most of those cultures will likely not make up major parts of ELA curricula. But these cultures that are thought of as peripheral and Other are for the most part non-EU cultures. I feel like somewhere along the way, the EU/Anglo-Saxon traditions & cultures that compose the dominant ELA culture today … stopped being seen as ethnic cultures themselves.

      I definitely agree with you that part of reimagining classrooms as key challengers of societal inequality involves a framework of cultural pluralism. I wonder about ways that the classroom can go beyond cultural pluralism too … and into a space where the dominance of EU traditions today becomes leveled within the curricula to being just one of other traditions/cultures.

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  39. Hi! My name is Ellie Crumpler. I am a junior at Penn State, and I am studying secondary English education.

    To me, the Black Lives Matter Movement is a call to action. It demands that we shed the idea that racism ended in America with the Civil Rights Movement. It demands that we re-educate ourselves in order to see the systemic racism embedded in the world around us. Most importantly, it demands that we analyze our own roles in these systems and that we find ways to make lasting change. Teachers are some of the most important people to respond to this demand, for we have a large potential to make change. School is one of the first places in which children experience society and learn their place in that society. It is up to teachers to make every child feel worthy and powerful. It is also up to teachers to expose children to different experiences and perspectives so that children can learn empathy. English teachers can accomplish this by using literature as a mirror that reflects students’ own experiences and as a window that reveals the experiences of others. This requires an expanded version of the literary canon that includes diverse and contemporary writers. As the authors of the article “Loving Blackness to Death” say, “To deny Black youths’ literacies is to dismiss their humanity” (p. 62). Denying Black students representations of themselves in literature teaches them that their experiences and perspectives are not valued by schools and society as a whole. This is also a disservice to white students, for it denies them the opportunity to learn about the experiences of others and to develop empathy.

    Teaching for Black lives means teaching to affirm Blackness. In the webinar, Dyan Watson’s letter to her son sums up a lot of what I think it means to teach for Black lives and to affirm Blackness. She says, “I hope your teachers will love you for who you are and the promise of what you’ll be.” I agree that this should be the goal of all teachers when encountering all students. We must work to shed the stereotypes our society has taught us so that we can love all students for exactly who they are. We must appreciate students for all of the unique knowledge they bring with them into the classroom and teach them that they are brilliant. As Baldwin says in “A Talk to Teachers,” the way to teach a Black child is to teach them that their oppression is criminal, that they are stronger than the oppression they face, and that they’re capable of changing the world.
    In my future classroom, I hope to disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth through the use of a diverse body of texts. I hope to teach students that their lives and perspectives matter and that the lives and perspectives of others matter. When reading the traditional literary canon, I’ll use a critical approach that encourages students to form their own opinions.

    Teachers have the potential to be some of the most powerful agents of change. We must all actively work to affirm Blackness throughout our teaching careers and not just in this current moment.

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    • Hi Ellie,

      Thanks for your thoughtful post! I appreciated reading your comments and learning more about your perspective. I think your point that the Black Lives Matter Movement is a call to action is a crucial one; it emphasizes the importance of moving beyond thinking. Critical awareness is certainly important, but we will only meet the Black Lives Matter at School: Week of Action National Demands by transforming our current practices. Also, I appreciated your thinking about the quote, “To deny Black youths’ literacies is to dismiss their humanity” (Johnson et al., 2017, p. 62). Black students have a right to culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy, so this quote made me think more deeply about the implications of such denial. I’m also interested in how we can hold one another accountable to make sure we’re fulfilling our actions and making transformational changes in our classrooms. I think Professional Learning Communities will be crucial here. Thanks again, Ellie!

      Best,
      Taylor Marie Young

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    • Hi, Ellie! First of all, great name! Ellie is my daughter’s name. On to your post, I appreciated your perception on the “Loving Blackness to Death” article. The affirmation of blackness is more important now than ever and we have to make that known as the future teachers of America. It seems that most of us all agree on the idea that incorporating BLM into our curriculum is a must. Can you imagine if all future teachers felt this way? We would teach this type of inclusiveness which would mold the minds of our students who would then teach the same when they become teachers. Obviously, this would happen in a perfect world, but I think our generation is the perfect group to be able to start this type of inclusivity. The thing that stuck out to me most in your post was your use of to “humanize the lives of Black youth.” This is such a powerful statement that I can’t believe we even have to use. The use of this means that black youth lives have been dehumanized and, unfortunately, this is often times true. I’m with you, I will work hard to make sure that my black students know their worth and their abilities. Thank you for your post.

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    • Hi Ellie, my name is Michelle, and I’m in CSULB’s Single Subject English Teaching Credential Program.

      I really like this quote from your post: “As Baldwin says in ‘A Talk to Teachers,’ the way to teach a Black child is to teach them that their oppression is criminal, that they are stronger than the oppression they face, and that they’re capable of changing the world.’ This reminds me of portions of the webinar in which the speakers pointed out how the US educational curriculum often portrays the Black community as victims, which is a narrative that disempowers. Instead, we future teachers must intentionally choose to select material that shows Black folks as agents of change so that our Black students feel empowered rather than demoralized.

      Additionally, I like how you wrote, “When reading the traditional literary canon, I’ll use a critical approach that encourages students to form their own opinions.” I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. I remember reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn when I was in 9th grade but not reading about slavery from the point of view of Black folks until college. I wonder if perhaps a potential solution would have been reading both Huckleberry Finn and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in the same year.

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  40. I’m responding to the question “How can we reimagine our classrooms as spaces that disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth?”. I think the way future teachers can commit themselves to social justice and anti-racist violence is by thinking about curricular violence, and how that violence can happen at the hands of teachers even when we intend no harm. To what extent are we failing to create a classroom culture that affirms Black and other minoritized students’ identities, by allowing it to channel symbolic violence causative of spiritual deaths? One way of actively reimagining the classroom as a disruptive space is by having students think critically, in the sense of presenting new information about how new forms of anti-Black violence is occurring – and requiring students to engage, reflect on, and respond to such presentations. In “Loving Blackness to Death: (Re)Imagining ELA ”, one of the main arguments is that “ELA classrooms must become revolutionary sites for racial justice by shedding light on Black lives and creating classrooms where Black youth are em- powered through Black literacies and tools that up- lift and support the humanity of Black people” (62). If we are to love i.e. competently serve our Black students, we must resist againt Eurocentric pedagogies/practices/curricula. We must resist against the lingering Whitestream. We must teach through literacies and texts that represent Black students in the sense of where they come from and what their individual hopes for their futures are.

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    • Trina, I enjoyed reading your post. I like the idea of “having students think critically”. One key component to enable students to think critically is they need to have several different data points or perspectives to form their own conclusions and opinions. Essentially, students need to know the truth, the whole truth, so they can think critically about a topic. In reality though, students are presented one side of history which completely neglects other, often conflicting views of the same event. Presenting more than just one aspect of Black history, helps not only Black students to see Black history as more than slavery, but it also helps the other students in the classroom to understand that Black people are more than the racist stereotypes represented in textbooks.

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    • Hello Trina,

      I want to echo an argument you made: a classroom that competently serves all students, especially those who are minoritized, needs to be actively maintained. While we can take steps in the right direction like straying away from the Eurocentric classroom, as educators we must be reactive to our students’ needs. The Eurocentric classroom allows white students to not engage critically with race’s role in the current system as well as creates a false pretense of what is worth studying/writing for all students. I like how you also emphasize the multiple aspects of the classroom that anti-blackness can find its way into the classroom; it is not just at bringing in texts from a wider range of authors, its looking holistically at our curriculum and identifying patterns across the texts to see how black voices/lives are treated within the texts.

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  41. Hi! My name is Kimmie Nordeman, and I am a senior at Penn State studying to become a high school English teacher. More than ever this semester, the College of Education has been putting due focus and priority into readings, conversations, and actions involving and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. At the forefront of our education is teaching for reform, equity, and activism, teaching for marginalized students, teaching for Black lives, and teaching for Black joy. In order to do this, we must reimagine our classroom spaces as safe spaces where students can be seen, heard, nurtured, and honored exactly as they are.
    From different readings and webinars, I’ve seen so many opportunities for change within our curriculums, our textbooks, and our language. I attended a webinar on teaching during the revolution where panelists discussed the danger of teaching from textbooks that first introduce the existence of Black lives as slaves being brought into America—supporting the systemic dehumanization of Black lives. Furthermore, our textbooks hardly show pictures of Black people, unless they are posed and poised with MLK Jr. or shackled, mutilated, or dead.
    As I mentioned before, teaching for Black lives also means teaching for Black joy. One of the most pressing issues in our education systems is that we rarely teach Black excellence or teach students about multiple and diverse examples of Black role models. Yes, we must teach the injustices of our history and the centuries of marginalizing BIPOC people, and we must teach this accurately. In doing so, we have to be equipped to have difficult conversations with our students. But, to teach only the injustices would be to erase the Black brilliance and contributions to today’s world and culture.
    There is so much work we need to do—in addressing systemic racism and institutionalized segregation, in dismantling systems of power that keep marginalized people oppressed, in reforming our curriculum to accurately examine our history, listen to and read from Black voices, and honor different cultural assets that play important roles in our classrooms and lives. As educators, I believe the foundation for beginning this work is creating safe spaces in our classrooms, listening to and really hearing and seeing all of our students, but especially our BIPOC students, asking for and accepting student input regarding our curriculum and classroom community, having conversations with our students both about the injustices of our world and history and the brilliance of different cultures, and always keeping in mind that teaching Black lives must also mean teaching Black joy and Black excellence.

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    • Hello Kimmie, I enjoyed reading your post. You highlight several areas of opportunity for teachers to focus on. One area that particularly caught my attention was your point that we “the danger of teaching from textbooks that first introduce the existence of Black lives as slaves being brought into America” and would like to add some additional thoughts if I may. It is interesting to me that whenever Black lives are portrayed in books it is often in forms of slavery. I never really thought about the effect that has on how people view Black lives, and the treatment Black people receive because of it. In the “Teaching for Black Lives Video, Diane states that “If you always show me as something to be helped then I can’t be human (41:27). In the constant depiction of Black lives as someone that needs help, the counternarrative, one of strength, excellence, prosperity, is never discussed. Teaching Black children that their history is more than just a history of slavery is an important step to help Black children feel valued, appreciated, and respected. It is important for teachers to take the opportunity to teach their classrooms about the historical contributions of Black people instead of just focusing on the slavery aspect of Black history. As you mention in your post, it is important to have conversations with our students and present the other side of the narrative they are reading or hearing.

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    • Hello Kimmie! I liked how you stated that teaching for Black lives also means teaching for Black joy. We have to use context accurate. I do agree that there is little teaching of Black role models. This does not create a safe place. We have to look at all diversities as role models. While teaching for Black lives, we have to show the injustice with showing excellence. The information you shared is the right direction for reconstruction a Multicultural curriculum that show all the diversities’ contributions.

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  42. Hello! I’m Logan, a senior studying Secondary English Ed at Penn State.
    As an English educator, I feel a good first step in disrupting racial injustice and humanizing black lives is to be hyper aware of the stories we are presenting to our students. Being sure to include texts that are not just using black lives as a narrative tool — that they have fully realized characters beyond the color of their skin. Giving students access to texts outside of the outmoded cannon is very important in this process. In my own high school education, all but two authors were white and very few were women. This gatekeeping in what texts were brought into/excluded from the classroom gives students a false sense of what texts are deemed worthy of study as well as a very narrow range of what the entire literary world has to offer. I did not graduate high school with a vocabulary equipped to properly engage with these systemic issues that face any minoritized person. Sure, I read Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” which brought up discussions around race and how it conflicts with societies unconscious assumptions, but much more time was spent with Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” with out viewing the very prevalent systemic oppression through a critical lens.
    I need to invite that critical lens of the assumptions a text makes on race to prevent the “two sets of notes” that M.K. Asante mentions in his poem. Decolonizing the classroom bookshelf is not enough if not accompanied by ‘tough’ discussions about what the text says about race and critically question our own assumptions. As educators we have the responsibility to give students the tool box able to critically engage with the world and as an ELA educator I have the responsibility to give students the tools to critically engage with all forms of media students come across.

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    • Hi Logan,

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughtful response. I really appreciate you bringing up the idea of “gatekeeping,” because this is a reality. As educators, we hold a lot of power. It’s not enough to simply acknowledge such power; we must ensure that our actions are working to equalize and distribute power in a more equitable way. One way to do that certainly aligns with your point about not only “giving students access to texts outside of the outmoded canon,” but also providing “students the tool box [to be] able to critically engage with the world.” This reminds me of a Schreyer Honors College talk I attended given by Dr. Ashley Patterson, a faculty member in the College of Education at Penn State. Her talk was titled, “Thinking & DOING Justice & Equity: A Conversation with Dr. Ashley Patterson.” As educators, it’s not enough for us to think; we must DO! And when we model this DOING, our students will see it as well. We need to normalize action and participation in schools in important movements like the Black Lives Matter Movement. Thanks again for your post, Logan!

      Sincerely,
      Taylor Marie Young

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  43. “And the question is: when are you going to decide that someone’s life matters enough for you to move with a sense of urgency? And if you really have to take a long time to wrestle with that question, then maybe this profession and maybe some other industries are not for you,” Dr. Erica B-Rivera, Educator and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer of a K-12 district in Indiana. When I attended the 2020 Leading Equity Virtual Summit hosted by Dr. Sheldon L. Eakins, Founder of the Leading Equity Center, I had the privilege to learn from educators like Dr. Erica B-Rivera. Dr. B-Rivera’s words prompted my main takeaways from the Summit: urgency and accountability.

    Dr. B-Rivera’s words have stuck with me since that summit, and they resonate with me now as I respond to this post. The Black Lives Matter Movement is urgent, and I hold accountable to participate in this Movement. Why wouldn’t I? The Black Lives Matter Movement is demanding justice and humanity for Black people. It undoubtedly ought to play a role in schools, because our Black students’ identities matter and exist in our schools. Black students’ lived experiences must be brought into, validated by, responded to, and sustained by our schools. On an individual level, educators not only need to have a critical awareness of their positioning and advocate for Black students, but also adopt anti-racist pedagogies and lenses. On a systemic level, schools must transform existing systems and structures to align with the Black Lives Matter Movement, if they don’t already.

    With that said, I certainly see the principles of the Black Lives Movement guiding my teaching practices. Thinking about the Black Lives Matter at School: Week of Action National Demands, I see myself being able to respond to “end zero tolerance” and “mandate Black history and ethnic studies” most directly. For example, I’m actually going to complete a Restorative Circle Training on December 5th and 6th and fulfill responsibilities on my campus to serve as an additional “conflict management” resource. I can transfer this training and my future skills in the classroom and advocate to transform existing policies and structures wherever I go.

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    • Hi Taylor, Dr. B-Rivera’s quote really strikes the problem at the heart. Popole in the field of education should be ready for this kind of mindset, if they haven’t already adapted this kind of mindset. This society is changing rapidly and we as educators should be ready to look at social issues and respond according to it, so that we can teach students lessons that are useful for their lives. The Black Lives Matter Movement is urgent, people’s lives are on the line. All educators and school administrators should be participating in some way, because our Black student’s lives matter, our Black staff’s lives matter. I also agree with “end zero tolerance” and “mandate Black history and ethnic studies.” A lot of what we are seeing in this country needs a change. However, I don’t have a lot of the rights that Americans have in this country, all I can do is to tell my friends to go vote.
      I also hope I can adequacy implement BLM ideologies into my teaching, especially in the school that we are teaching in which has a large percentage of White student population.

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  44. Hello, I am an undergrad student and an elementary education major. In the instance of teaching younger elementary levels, incorporating the principles of BLM in an age appropriate manner will be essential to giving them a safe, inclusive space to learn with an empathetic and understanding mind. The article “Loving Blackness to Death” mentions the metaphorical bullets educators can unconsciously promote. It is important for teachers to be aware of these so that we can be sure to no longer promote a singular “European centered” perspective but interconnected, diverse global perspectives. Personally, I feel that is essential to be mindful of practices in our classrooms as students that were harmful and that we can be sure to discontinue in our own. For example, when I was in elementary school, my teachers seemed to emulate the idea of being “colorblind” or attempting to ignore racial differences. Instead of ignoring racial differences, we should celebrate and embrace each student’s identity in the classroom affirming the power of our individuality. This way we are actively modeling anti-racism. Our youngest students will undoubtedly ask innocent questions and observe differences between themselves and classmates. If we hush their questions or make them feel shamed for bringing up these differences, we are sending the message that it is not ok to discuss differences thereby prolonging race stereotypes or “us vs. them mentality”. Instead of “shushing” the conversation, we should use these as teaching moments, to discuss how our differences bring multiple perspectives and talents with them, and how all humans should be celebrated and affirmed.

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  45. Hello, my name is Jonathan. I am an international student who is majoring in secondary education for English. I am currently a student teacher and is considering about becoming a teacher in the U.S. I grew up in China, but I spend my high school and college years in the U.S. Since I am from China, I don’t really know what it feels like to be a member of the minority group until I came to the U.S. Though I am not Black, I have learned, through experience, that White supremacist is a very big problem in the U.S. I don’t feel justified to say anything for the Black community, but I can see that the hate and discrimination against Asian people in the first half of this year was worse than before. People were treating me as if I am the virus when I started wearing masks early on. However, this is nothing comparing to what the Black community is going through. Black people can be accused of loitering when they are waiting for friends; 911 can be called just because they exist in a public space; when the police come, people can get their spines crushed for doing nothing. People were losing lives because of police brutality.
    The Black Lives Matter movement has really taught me a lot about racial injustice in the U.S. Though I have been seeing police brutality against Black people on different media channels and learned about racist treatment towards Black people in my history classes, I have never thought about standing up against it until recent years. My friends, classmates and professors who taught me about this movement have really helped me to see this problem in a wholistic way. I am really glad that all people of color and ethnicity are coming together to fight against white supremacism and white nationalism.
    Oppression against minority groups, especially African American people, has always been a problem in the US. And now it is under the spotlight; it is time to fix it. As teachers We are on the frontline as we educate the next generation. We can contribute to this change. To do that, we need to be actively anti-racist (like many have already said before me). The first step we can do to contribute to this is to start with ourselves. Sometimes I also caught myself thinking with biases. I sometimes think of Chinese students as exactly as when I am young, ignoring the fact that Asian Americans can have a very different life than I had as a kid. Sometimes I think in a way that is very limited and Eurocentric, especially when studying text that are Eurocentric to begin with. I have to remind myself that I need to be embracing culturally responsive pedagogy, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and historically responsive pedagogy. As teachers, we can actively free ourselves and our students from racist ideas and biases, by treating them like different individual students who each bring to classroom their own culture and historical backgrounds and teach them about how to be actively anti-racist.

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    • Hey, Jiaming. I find your insight about the Black Lives Matter movement to be helpful as an educator. Hearing about your experience during the pandemic is awful, and I’m sorry you were targeted because of your race. The discussion you bring up about white supremacy is incredibly important to discuss, as we need to reflect on the state of our social as well as systematic dynamics. Acknowledgement of the issue is one of the first steps to working towards a solution. I also appreciate your ideas about the various pedagogies we need to incorporate in the classroom. Though the process may take time, using the methods you describe are a great start for finding a solution.

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    • Jonathan,
      Reading your personal experience as a Chinese student in America was very interesting. It is enlightening to hear about your own experience and perspective on racism in America. Your own lived experiences with racism, and awareness of your own biases that have been covertly taught to you will make you an amazing, and understanding educator one day soon! Thankyou for the vulnerability and authenticity of your post, it was was easy to tell how genuine and passionate you are. Your realization of biases about your own race, because of Eurocentric teaching stuck out to me. As I am a white American, with European heritage, I never had to stop and think about what it would be like if it was not the heritage or history of my own ancestors that was being taught. I never had to worry about feeling underrepresented, or that my appearance or way of speech would be considered unacceptable in the classroom. When my classmates struggled with “proper” grammar in English, I never stopped to realize the “proper” English I was being taught was the same I heard at home, giving me an advantage. I guess what I am trying to say, is you had mentioned unconscious bias against your own race, and this is something I can’t say I had to experience. Your post really did make me consider deeper other’s experiences. Thankyou for your insight.

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  46. Coming from a rural area, I wasn’t exposed to a diverse classroom as well as the fundamental components of a diverse classroom. With the recent discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement, I began to question how this has affected my views as an educator. I never knew about the preparations I should take as a teacher to make all students feel like they have a place and a voice, which I find to be especially important in an English classroom. If students don’t feel as if they’re culture is incorporated in their education, why would they feel as if they should be passionate about their studies? Even more importantly, how are they supposed to feel comfortable in the classroom when they’re severely underrepresented in comparison to their classmates. For this reason, I’ve really appreciated the discussion we’ve been having about allowing students to find their own material that allows them to discuss what makes them feel comfortable in the classroom.
    One method we’ve discussed to incorporate everyone’s voice in the classroom is choice books. Though this does not tackle the serious issues of systematic racism in education, this is a starting point for making all students comfortable in the classroom. When students can discuss materials they find representative of their culture or interests, they can shape their education to a way that I may not understand as a white man. During my preservice student teaching, I was happily surprised to hear that my teacher used choice books in his curriculum, and he was looking forward to getting into the choice book unit. This enthusiasm towards learning about the texts his students find interesting inspire me to use similar methods as well as other inclusive methods I learn in the future.

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    • Hi Nick!

      I had a similar experience coming from a non-diverse area, especially the idea that I didn’t know all of the ways that students could feel under-represented in a classroom. I, too, think Choice Books are a great way to individualize a student’s learning experience. It motivates students in a way that most reading assignments are unable to do.

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    • Nick, I can absolutely relate to your situation of growing up in a rural area and not getting a diverse education. As future educators it is important for us to be able to recognize the areas where our own teachers failed us. Not to condemn our past teachers, but to see where we ourselves can improve.

      I like your idea of using choice books. It not only incorporates more diverse literature into the classroom, but also gives students a greater degree of agency in their lives and the works they are reading, something that I think will benefit all of your students.

      Your willingness to expand beyond what you learned for the betterment of your students will no doubt lead you to becoming a great teacher.

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    • Hello, Nick! First, I’d like to say that I am like you as I came from a very rural are where there was, not only a lack of diversity in the school, but a lack of diversity in the whole town. There wasn’t such a thing as multicultural education because there were only white students; however, I think this was a huge disservice to all of us. We weren’t taught to be inclusive or sensitive to other races or cultures, we had to form those opinions in our own minds. It wasn’t until I got to Austin Peay that I was around diversity and began to learn about different cultures and ideals. I’ve become very aware, thanks to Facebook, that a lot of my fellow students never got the chance to be subjected to diversity and inclusion like I was. I agree with you that it is nearly impossible for multicultural students to become excited and interested in the curriculum if they cannot relate to it. As a white woman, I have never had to worry about not feeling inclusive or not being able to relate to certain things in school. As teachers, we have to realize this and make sure that we create an environment where representation is one of our main goals.

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  47. Hello. My name is Jonathan Conley, and I am a MAT student at Austin Peay State University. I think the most effective ways I can help my community are teaching, coaching, personal training .I got my B.S. in Health and Human performance, and currently work as a trainer and coach while completing my masters. BLM is a political and social movement that advocates for fair and equal treatment of black people. The movement also advocates for fair and equal treatment of all people regardless of gender or sexual orientation. I believe education is a powerful tool against discrimination; therefore, BLM will naturally find its way into schools. The value BLM places on diversity and inclusion will be something that I use in my classroom. Growing up as an African American male I felt as if my teachers didn’t acknowledge me. The only things I could do to get their attention was fit the stereotype. My sporting achievements were expected, but my intelligence was always questioned. I never want to put my students in a box. I want to create an environment that values diversity, and encourages students to be the best version of themselves.

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    • Hi Jonathan,

      I appreciate your incorporation of your own experiences and the expectations that were held for you as a sort of guide of describing how we need to improve for our future students. I really enjoy your last two lines: “I never want to put my students in a box. I want to create an environment that values diversity, and encourages students to be the best version of themselves.” This idea is so important for the safety, growth, and confidence of students. Creating a classroom where there are no stereotypes to fit or break is a great goal for each of us.

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    • Hey Jonathan!

      I appreciate you including personal experiences and how they have impacted you and your view on the movement. This idea you bring up regarding not wanting to put your students in a box is such an interesting concept because I totally agree with you that many teachers, coaches, adults, and frankly irrelevant people constantly expect certain outcomes of students based on race. How dehumanizing is it to put societal pressures on students simply because of stereotypes? I think making sure we don’t put students in boxes is a challenging idea considering how many other things we view them as. Some of the boxes we put students in include things like how they have less world experience than ourselves, how they are not rational or free thinking, how students are consumed by social media and other forms of stimulus. I feel as if teachers do this without realizing the harms they are causing, but nevertheless, students can still feel and understand the boxes they’re in.
      I like your solution of creating an environment that “encourages students to be the best version of themselves” so that they have every opportunity to break out of those boxes and share with the world their potential!

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  48. My name is Julia Davin, and I’ve elected to respond to the following question: “How can we reimagine our classrooms as spaces that disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth?”

    As a Secondary Ed (English) undergrad in my final year at Penn State University, I’m grateful for the foundation of education I’ve received thus far. I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn from profound professors and to meet and interact with peers from various backgrounds. We are introduced through our (good, but not perfect) programs and classes to diverse lifestyles and individuals.

    It is our responsibility as educators to create and support a safe, inclusive, and adaptable environment. I came from an extremely non-diverse community and school system, so I’ve utilized my time at Penn State to become more aware of the lives my peers, of my future students, of my subconscious biases and how they affect those around me, of how I can grow and learn more, and of how I can communicate my knowledge to others.

    In the English field, we cannot keep using the same texts written by racist, White authors. The White Savior is not a necessary trope to incorporate into the classroom. I hate it because I really do love some of these Classics, but they harm our students or the perspective of our students. We need to hold ourselves accountable for the systematic racism that is indoctrinated into these texts.

    The language that we use affects our students. We need to be aware of how we are speaking. The language that our students use is oftentimes directly correlated to their identity; we cannot limit them as individuals. Our students of minoritized groups are extremely underrepresented (and misrepresented) in media, politics, etc. We need to use the classroom as the first step to be inclusive, to offer representation when so much of society fails them.

    There is so much more still to learn. I’m grateful for dialogues like this.

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    • Julia! Hello! I agree with the points you make about making the classroom an environment where all students feel included and safe, and I also like how you mentioned the fact that you’re using your education at Penn State to become more culturally-aware. I’m in a similar situation coming from a small town. I think the discussion about replacing these texts we constantly see in the classroom is one we need to have as English educators, and I’m glad we’re talking about methods like choice books in our classes. Thanks for your ideas.

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    • Julia,

      I cannot express how much I agree with and appreciate your comments on our responsibility as educators. We cannot expect children to learn in an environment where they do not feel included, where there backgrounds are not respected. It is something that so many people take for granted as members of a majority population. But those of us who can recognize the imbalance between these groups are better equipped to shift the scales.

      Thank you for your input.

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    • Julia,
      I noticed what you said about how we need to be mindful of how we are speaking, and that the language we use affects our students. Such a good point! It’s often overlooked, but language is indeed part of one’s identity, and trying to make everyone uniform or correct their language to conform into what is “right” does deny many their right to their individuality and acceptance of their culture or place in the world. Thankyou for sharing your thoughts!

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    • Hi, Julia! Congratulations on it being your final year of undergrad! You make great points in your post, but the one thing that stood out the most was the idea of needing to change the curriculum. I learned a lot about the use of The Great Books when learning about the philosophies of education and I was almost astonished at the lack of diversity among these books that you find in almost every school. To me, not only are these outdated, but the lack of multicultural curricula makes it nearly impossible for all students to be able to relate to the learnings. If we can change our ideas on only using these types of teachings, we can grow beyond whitewashing and, in turn, be inclusive of all of our students.

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  49. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, diversity wasn’t something that I had a lot of exposure to as a child, either in my community or in my education. And unfortunately, diversity and inclusivity weren’t aspects of teaching that I put much personal thought into, because they weren’t things that my education focused on. The recent events in our nation, and the discussions of these events that have happened in my classes have led to me re-evaluating my thoughts on these parts of our lives.

    When I was in school, I never worried about not being represented, about not being able to relate to the characters in the books we were reading. Yet for our black students, this isn’t the case. So much of the literature has gone unchanged for so long, and the vast majority of it focuses on white men. I think that one of the simplest, but most effective changes schools could make to try and help black students would be to include more diverse literature. It’s a small change, and there are absolutely larger issues that need to be tackled, but I think that giving our students the choice to read books that they feel represents their cultures and their lives in a way that the “classics” don’t, will lead to a classroom environment where they feel more comfortable and more included.

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  50. How can we reimagine our classrooms as spaces that disrupt racial injustice, transform the world, and humanize the lives of Black youth?

    To preface my comment, I don’t have answers for this question. I want this to be a question that I look at to improve my future classroom.

    I am a senior at Penn State University and am currently preparing for student teaching in the spring. I hope to be a secondary education English teacher, and that is not by accident. I feel as if English is a classroom built around thought and discussion, where students dive deep into morals and introspection. Along with teaching students the importance and power of written language, English classes (should) allow students to think freely and critically on topics ranging from religion, race, SES, sexuality, and so much more. With this, I think an English class is a fantastic place to begin to reimagine safe, informative classroom environments where Black youth can openly discuss anything they feel comfortable sharing. I think with an English class and the common core standards required of students to cover/practice with, the vagueness and flexibility of the curriculum (at least in PA) should be taken full advantage of as we can present students opportunities to share lived experiences. Activities not focused on furthering their academic knowledge should be fostered and encouraged. To humanize Black youth, I want to consider the space in which they are being listened to and respected. The culture in which these students have grown up in and live in currently need to be credited. That includes things that were discussed in the webinar, even down to cultural ties like music and news coverage. Include all types of readings of multiple forms of texts from differing backgrounds, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc. as well as writing prompts that allow Black students to discuss emotions on situations including rage, sadness, contempt, etc.
    Want to disrupt racial injustice? Be vulnerable with not only your students, but with those you come in contact with daily. Putting on a brave face or acting as an all knowing authority figure in these students’ lives only discredits their take on the world. Admitting gaps in your knowledge of current events or injustices and allowing students to teach and advocate on behalf of whomever they align with helps validate students. Allow time for discussions and if I, for example, am not sufficiently educated on a certain subject, then I must become a facilitator of discussion instead of the center of attention. Once a safe space for such discussions are created, it is important to allow students who feel comfortable sharing their ideas the platform and spotlight they are praying for.

    Again, I don’t have the answer to this question. I feel as if all those who have commented (and many more) have endless thoughts regarding this topic and how to better bring balance and equity to disadvantaged minority groups of students. As someone without having their own classroom, this question and my attempted answer are only conceptual and have not been put to practice as of yet. The goal is to change lives and transform the world. To fix the entire problem is not going to happen over night and won’t be the fix for all Black youth. There are multiple answers and each answer relies on context. I hope wherever I end up student teaching and one day teaching, that I aim to find the answer that best benefits and humanizes the lives of the Black youth and other oppressed groups in that community I’m in. “Helping one person might not change the world, but for the one person, the world is changed.” I think all of us should keep this quote in mind as we go into these communities we look to transform.

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