The racial justice movement ignited in communities across the country has propelled teachers to think about ways to better support students of color (now identified as Black, Indigenous and People of Color [BIPOC]). For these students, returning to a classroom that is emotionally safe may be just as important as returning to one that is physically safe. No doubt as educators begin prepping for the first weeks of school, they are asking important questions like, “How do my students of color experience school? How can I support not only their academic needs, but also their emotional, physical and mental health? How can I be an ally in the fight for racial justice?”
If you are hesitant or unsure about how to dive into this tough topic, we get it, but silence isn’t an option. Lean into the uncomfortable and start somewhere! There will be missteps, but as you learn and grow you’ll gain the confidence needed to engage in conversations around race and inequality in the classroom. The 3 guidelines that follow will leave you better equipped to support your BIPOC students in the Fall.
1. Know Yourself.
When you have done the hard work to examine your own racial identity you are better prepared to understand and help students examine their own. Get to know yourself by reflecting on your racial socialization. Identify the messages you’ve received and beliefs you’ve held over the years. Root out the blind spots and biases that all of us inevitably have, then make a commitment to share your insights with students.
Learn More: Teaching Teachers to Reflect on Race
- Who, Me Biased? | Great series of 6 short videos to help spark awareness and conversation around bias with your secondary students.
- Teaching First-Graders About Microaggressions | This article offers strategies for discussing identity-based putdowns, or microaggressions, with young students.
2. Know Your Students.
Cultivating authentic connections with your students and the communities in which they live should always be a focus as you begin a new school year. Before engaging students in academic endeavors, first get to know them, going beyond generalities and stereotypes to cultivate deep, trusting connections. This is what teaching is really about, so have fun with it!
- A Focused Practice for Relationship Building | This daily 5-minute strategy will help you build capacity to notice, understand and connect with students.
- Connecting with Student Communities using Community Walks | To gain a better understanding of the community that students come from, teachers can engage in a community walk.
3. Be an Ally.
“Being an ally means recognizing oppression broadly and standing in solidarity with anyone who experiences oppression—whether or not the ally also belongs to a targeted group.”
-- Carrie Gaffney, Teaching Tolerance
Once you have a clear understanding of your own identity and how some identities are disadvantaged, you can then leverage the privilege and power you hold to engage further with the school community. Teacher allies should proactively listen and—whenever possible—empower students to lead the action.
Learn More: Anatomy of an Ally
- Be an Ally Lesson | Activity for grades 3-5 that helps expand thinking about ally behavior.
- Becoming an Ally Toolkit | This toolkit includes activities to help introduce secondary students to the concept of allyship and strategies to become a more effective ally.
Take your commitment one step further with a deep dive into supportive strategies and applicable classroom practices focused on equity, community and culture.
Check out the following courses for continued learning:
- Course 5107: Empathy and Social Comprehension for a Compassionate Classroom will help to deepen skills in the areas of empathy, listening, awareness and identity. You’ll learn to create a space where students can honestly and respectfully ask questions and have discussions about meaningful topics that affect us all.
- Course 5058: Building Strong Relationships in the Classroom: Care to Connect provides support for building relationships in a classroom with and among students of different cultural, language and life experiences. You’ll explore research-based strategies for developing strong individual and community connections.
- Course 5111: Mindsets and Skillsets for a Culturally Responsive Classroom focuses on both the mindset shifts and skills necessary to be a culturally and linguistically responsive educator. It will help you develop strategies using the Validate-Affirm-Build-Bridge (VABB) framework to acknowledge and honor your students’ diverse experiences, and then build a bridge to rigorous academic and social standards.
Learners Edge Offers 100+ Self-Paced, Online,
Graduate Credit Continuing Education Courses for Teachers