Events like the killing of George Floyd and ensuing worldwide protests for black lives, have thrust racial justice and equality to the forefront of many educators’ minds. Educators, families, and even students themselves are calling for a closer look at educator bias, classroom curriculum, as well as school practices and policies that may be perpetuating these inequalities. Action is needed but navigating the pathway toward real and lasting change can be a challenge.
We’d like to help! Our new course, Creating an Anti-Racist Classroom, responds to teacher needs with concrete strategies and tools to understand and engage in racial justice work. Throughout the course, participants will:
- Examine their own racial socialization
- Learn about the complex history of race in America
- Explore how to engage in age-level appropriate, critical conversations about race
- Develop anti-biased/anti-racist approaches to classroom instruction
- Identify active ways to root out racism through allyship work
To support educators as they take the first steps toward anti-racist teaching, we’ve included a helpful application that explores ways to facilitate productive dialogue around race, identity, inequality, and justice with students (or among colleagues). Talking about race, even though it’s challenging, is necessary, regardless of our background, racial identity, or comfort level. Anti-racist scholar Ibram X. Kendi likens racism to cancer, arguing that if we don’t talk about it (and ultimately treat it) it won’t “just go away.”
An Interview with the Course Writer, Marcee Harris:
Take a look at this sneak peek at one of many applicable assignments presented in our new course! We know you’ll come away with concrete strategies to engage with students around the consequential topic of race in your classroom.
Application: How to Talk about Race in the Classroom
Unpacking your own biases and socialized racism is one thing; figuring out how to facilitate this self-reflection with students and colleagues is an entirely different challenge! Opening up dialogue about race and inequality, even with young children, is an important step in anti-racist education. There will likely be reluctance, discomfort, and fear of making mistakes. At the same time, there will likely be breakthroughs, affirmation, and growth. Remember, tackling tough topics is the only way to move through them.
Pause and Reflect
Take a moment to describe the thoughts and feelings that come to mind as you consider starting conversations about race with your students. How do past experiences play into those feelings? What kinds of responses have you encountered in the past?
Learn and Grow
The key to productive dialogue is preparation. To get yourself ready, review the resources below geared toward your students’ developmental level.
- For older grades:
- Helping Students Discuss Race Openly-- Learn how to prepare yourself and your secondary students for discussions about race.
- Speaking Up Without Tearing Down-- Instead of using shame to “call out” mistakes that occur during discussions, author Loretta J. Ross proposes a technique entitled, “calling in” which allows students to speak up without tearing others down and encourages growth.
- For younger grades:
- How to Talk "Taboo" Topics with Young Students-- Educator Liz Kleinrock shares how she creates a trusting and respectful learning environment for elementary students to begin tackling “taboo” topics with grace.
- Talking Race With Young Children-- While this 20 min podcast is geared for parents, there are many great takeaways for educators looking to address race, racism, diversity and inclusion with very young children.
- For all grade levels:
- Let’s Talk!: Discussing Race, Racism and Other Difficult Topics with Students-- This comprehensive guide from Teaching Tolerance is filled with specific strategies to help you prepare for and facilitate challenging conversations.
There are several guidelines for productive dialogue that emerges from the resources, including:
- Start with personal reflection and consider sharing your own thoughts as a model for helping others to share theirs.
- Create a safe space for discussion by establishing some ground rules and by acknowledging that some topics are complicated.
- Be prepared for discomfort, questions, and pushback by having factual information and being an active listener.
Apply and Act
With these and other guidelines in mind, you will now develop a plan for discussing race and inequality in your classroom. Respond to each of the following prompts in one paragraph or more:
- In the previous application, you examined your racial socialization. In preparation for a discussion with students, describe your comfort level with facilitating a dialogue on the topic of race, racial bias, and inequality. Include at least one idea for moving beyond any discomfort.
- Using the resources provided above, identify 3 or more strategies you can engage in to help build and sustain strong relationships with all of your students.
- Using the resources above (or your own), select and describe one strategy to either check-in with students during discussion, debrief at the conclusion, or leave a pathway for continued conversation or questions.
**OPTIONAL: If you have access to students (or other school community members) and are able to facilitate a discussion, please reflect on the process. What went well, what would you like to have done differently, and what insights did you gain to help guide your next one?
In addition to learning about how to facilitate critical conversations, this course will guide you through:
- Evaluation of your classroom environment including texts, materials and teaching strategies for evidence of bias.
- Implementation of new teaching strategies using anti-bias/anti-racist approaches.
- Preparation of a collaborative lesson that introduces anti-racist ally behaviors and actions.
- Development of a unit of study, professional development plan, or student group proposal that challenges the status quo related to anti-bias/anti-racist approaches to education.
If you are ready to begin the work to make real and sustainable change in addressing racial inequality in the classroom, register for Course 5128: Creating an Anti-Racist Classroom to learn more about this essential course and register now!
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