moving forward

5 key anti-racism resources for teachers, courtesy of #CharlottesvilleCurriculum

PHOTO: Ted Eytan / Creative Commons
A candlelight vigil at the White House on Sunday, after the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Looking for help addressing Charlottesville in class? Dozens of other educators have your back.

In the wake of the racist violence in Virginia that left one protester dead this weekend, teachers took to Twitter with #CharlottesvilleCurriculum to share resources for addressing racism, hate, and history.

The hashtag, started by journalist Melinda Anderson, spurred a crowdsourced list of anti-racist resources. From podcasts to lesson plans, here are a few highlights:

For teachers who are on the fence about what they should discuss in the classroom: This NPR interview.

Paula McAvoy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Ethics and Education co-wrote a book about the right role for politics in the classroom.

“Young people need to see these as moments within their historical context – need to understand some of the history,” she told NPR. Although talking about current events can be difficult, McAvoy says that good teachers don’t shy away — they start building curriculum.

For white teachers unsure how to handle conversations about race: This podcast episode.

This episode of Truth for Teachers, a podcast for educators, provides advice for those who want to talk about inequity but need help getting started. Read the full transcript here.

For teachers looking for a comprehensive history lesson: This report.

“This is a history of hate in America — not the natural discord that characterizes a democracy, but the wild, irrational, killing hate that has led men and women throughout our history to extremes of violence against others simply because of their race, nationality, religion or lifestyle,” starts a Southern Poverty Law Center’s report on the Ku Klux Klan.

The report, from SPLC’s Klanwatch initiative, is a critical reminder of the group’s influence on modern racism and terrorism in the U.S.

For teachers who are ready to spark deep conversation: This series of lessons.

These 17 lessons, a unit called Decision Making in Times of Injustice from the group Facing History and Ourselves, are helpful for middle through high school teachers looking to connect the Holocaust with modern racism. They aim to outline the rise of the Nazi party while also pushing students to question their own decision making and beliefs.

For teachers curious about how others have addressed Black Lives Matter: This school district profile.

The story of how one New York school district created a “Black Lives Matter” day explains how officials prepared teachers and offers advice for educators looking to do the same.

“To encourage staff participation (which was voluntary) and to showcase that Black Lives Matter is a teachable topic, the committee worked with Stephen LaMorte — [Rochester City School District’s] executive director of social studies — to develop an online instructional resource toolkit.” That toolkit is here.

The story is produced by Teaching Tolerance, which offers free resources for educators looking to discuss race and ethnicity as well as gender, sexuality, class and immigration.

Teachers, we’d love to know if or how you’re tackling these issues. Tell us what you’re up to and we’ll share a collection of your ideas with readers.

Activist Art

This Brooklyn middle school student hopes her winning T-shirt design will inspire racial justice

PHOTO: Reema Amin/Chalkbeat
Emma Pichardo, a student at Brooklyn middle school, holds up her winning design for a Black Lives Matter t-shirt contest.

Eighth grader Emma Pichardo, a student at M.S. 50 in Brooklyn, didn’t know what the Black Lives Matter movement really was until a teacher showed her a documentary about 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year.

Six years ago, Floridian George Zimmerman fatally shot Martin, his neighbor, as the unarmed teenager was walking home. Zimmerman, who is white and was a neighborhood watch volunteer at the time, was widely thought to have racially profiled Martin.

The documentary was the backdrop to Emma’s decision to participate in a local T-shirt designing contest, open to all New York City students, for the national Black Lives Matter Week of Action. The event encourages teachers and students to engage with the 13 principles of the social justice movement born from incidents of black men and women having fatal encounters with white police officers.

Those 13 principles are diversity, restorative justice, globalism, queer affirming, unapologetically black, collective value, empathy, loving engagement, transgender affirming, black villages, black women, black families, and intergenerational.

The local contest is largely organized by city public school teachers, and the winning T-shirt design is sold online.

Emma’s design last year — a silhouette of a black woman, surrounded by bright splotches of colors and the words “Black Lives Matter” — didn’t win. So she tried again this year, with a slightly different approach: an all black-and-white design with the same silhouette in the center, surrounded by the 13 principles.

Last week, local organizers cast the most votes for Emma’s design among a total eight submissions. It was notable that Emma won, said her art teacher, Brittany Kaiser, who provided feedback as Emma worked. Her teacher encourages students to enter these contests but has found with high-school participants, it’s tougher for middle-schoolers to come out on top.

Emma wanted the winning design — now on a T-shirt for sale online — “to show people that we should all have the same rights.” She hoped people would see it and find a positive outlet for their anger, sort of like she did.

The key part of the silhouette, she says, is its large afro.

“I want black women to see themselves for what they are and not what the social media shows them, because a lot of women are going through that phase that, like, they see women in social media and they want to be that type of person,” Emma said. “I want them to be themselves and be confident about their body shapes and their features and all that.”

Emma’s designs, according to Principal Benjamin Honoroff, are part of the school’s larger culture of connecting art to social justice. One example of that is an elective activist arts course that’s open to students.

Parents and staff have been supportive of the culture, Honoroff said. When the school’s Twitter account tweeted about Emma’s winning design, there were a few responses, almost all positive. But one user replied, “Shouldn’t we be teaching ALL LIVES MATTER?” — a reference to the slogan created in backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Honoroff and Kaiser said they haven’t received any complaints about the contest.

“If I did, I would explain that most students are already aware of Black Lives Matter as a current event — it’s in the news, it’s a current event, it’s a social movement — and bringing issues of racial justice into the classroom acknowledges and affirms students identities and also engages them in critical conversation about the world around them, and I think that engagement is always beneficial to students,” Kaiser said.

For Emma, the contest is one step down a career path she hopes to follow. She has auditioned for elite LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and wants to make a career out of visual art — painting and sketching for now and maybe dabbling in photography.

I want my art to have the power to change people’s mindsets,” Emma said.

Student Voice

Want to improve schools? Chicago students have messages for the city’s next mayor

Money for arts programs.

A Spanish teacher at the start of school — not midway through the semester.

More paper.

More teachers.

Free public transit for students — all year long.

Ask students to list the education priorities for Chicago’s next mayor, and many of them will start in one place: more funding for their schools.

But they have plenty of other ideas, too, on ways that City Hall could work to improve conditions on the ground at the district’s 600-plus schools, from free public transportation to and from school to solutions to teacher shortages.

In advance of a December public forum we hosted on the topic of the mayor’s race and the future of schools, Chalkbeat spent a day talking to the people affected most by the politics of education: Chicago students. To hear more of what they said, watch this video, filmed on location at the Mikva Challenge 2018 Project Soapbox competition and produced by Chalkbeat reporter Yana Kunichoff and Scrappers Film Group.