or sexist, or misogynistic, or xenophobic, or homophobic, or any other term that describes oppression or hate for people that aren't exactly like you, while teaching children. We are also not going to celebrate historic figures (past or present) that exhibit these beliefs. We are going to request, and demand if we have to, trainings that eradicate this type of toxic culture that has never allowed America to actually be great. And lastly, when we see this disgraceful behavior in action, we are going to CALL PEOPLE OUT and report them until they are no longer able to teach again.
1. Do Not Celebrate Oppressive Historic Figures
If you are worried that I am trying to "erase history" or that someone else will accuse you of the same, don't be. While I do WISH some of the events in American History NEVER took place, they unfortunately did and it is vital for you to know your history. As Marcus Garvey stated, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Roots help to keep a tree anchored in the ground and absorb the nutrients it needs to grow.
Be grounded in truth. Don't white-wash the history of the United Stated in an effort to make it more palatable for children. Children are complex and curious and shouldn't be deceived for the sake of pushing an agenda or making you feel more comfortable. There are age appropriate ways and analogies that can be used to address every part of history. Tolerance.org is a highly recommended website that has FREE lesson plans for K-12 teachers to use as a supplement to their current curriculum in order to create civil and inclusive school communities where children are respected, valued and welcome participants. The image below displays various topics that Tolerance.org covers on their site.
Pay attention to what is in the history curriculum. I know that many curriculums are scripted, which should be even more reason for you to be skeptical and fact check. I, just like you, learn new things about our history and my own implicit bias on a regular basis. It is ok to make mistakes, as long as you are sure to correct them with yourself and your students. When you arrive upon days like Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, or Independence Day don't immediately pull out your wallet and start decorating for a "fun" room transformation or simulation. Consider the fact that some of the holidays and people we have celebrated for many years are actually rooted in oppressive ideologies and genocide, the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.
2. Request or Demand Specific Anti-Racist & Anti-Bias Trainings
I'm a huge advocate for providing educators with relevant training. There was once a time when I thought my voice was actually heard and a behavior specialist was brought in to provide teachers with strategies for diffusing negative student behavior. However, from the globs of white spit that formed in the corner's of this white man's dry mouth, I could tell he was nervous and not really familiar with how to meet the needs of our students. Shortly after, for reasons unbeknownst to me, he was even hired and assigned to two students. One of those students had previously assaulted a parent liaison and broken into a nearby military base with a few other students from the school --- which allegedly resulted in upwards of 1 million dollars worth of damage. This particular student, a black boy that had been retained for two years, said, "Oh! So you're my new dog?" The behavior specialist replied, "I'm not your dog." The student then responded, "Oh yea? I bet you are going to follow me around like one." And until he quit, the behavior specialist followed the boys around, just like a puppy dog, while doing nothing more than documenting the behaviors.
Why do I share this story? Because, it is not enough to just request or demand the professional development your school needs. You must be specific and well researched when you bring this information to your administrators. Do not allow them to draw a random name out of a hat to facilitate these trainings. If you do, you may end up in a situation similar to mine, where you are left returning to the drawing board, alone and hopeless.
A few educators and organizations I recommend seeking out for suggestions or courses on effective anti-racist and anti-bias trainings are:
* Gloria Ladson-Billings is widely recognized as the founder of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. She focuses on student learning/achievement, cultural competence of one's own culture and at least one other culture, and critical consciousness/"The So What? Factor." Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Office: 608/263-1006
*Dr. Theresa Perry has consulted with school districts (urban and suburban) and schools (public and private) on the development of policies and practices that support academic achievement among African American students. Her current writings and work are focused on the development of a theory of practice for African American achievement and an analysis of educational environments that normalize high achievement for African American students. Email: email@example.com Office: 617-521-2564 Ext: W303C
*Teaching Tolerance provides a range of materials for educators—from learning modules that make you think to publications and presentations you can share. These resources help teachers improve their practice and help K-12 leaders shape their schools into strong, equitable communities. In addition to their free resources and webinars, Teaching Tolerance now offers open-enrollment professional development workshops in various cities. In each location, the teaching and learning team will host two daylong workshops: Social Justice Teaching 101 and Facilitating Critical Conversations.
*The Safe Zone Project (SZP) is a free online resource providing curricula, activities, and other resources for educators facilitating Safe Zone trainings (sexuality, gender, and LGBTQ+ education sessions), and learners who are hoping to explore these concepts on their own. The Safe Zone Project was co-created by Meg Bolger and Sam Killermann in 2013. https://thesafezoneproject.com/
3. Communicate & Report
Look. It's really easy to turn a blind eye when injustice occurs. I sympathize with you not wanting to "get someone in trouble/fired" and I'm well aware that "Snitches get Stitches." But, what happens to the students when a teacher continues to be able to work in a school system while making discriminatory remarks, perpetuating stereotypes, and fueling a system of oppression? Is it something worse than getting in trouble, or fired, or stitches? I believe so. I believe a little part of that student dies each day, especially if they don't have an external support system to rebuild their spirit and bring light to the truth.
So, this is where you come in. Have mercy. Remember, some people do/believe things because that is the way they were taught and they honestly don't know that they were taught wrong. Tolerance.org offers a free webinar: Speak Up at School that will help you identify biased language, provide you with the tools to speak up against prejudice, bias and stereotypes at school, and explain how to prepare your students for speaking up against prejudice, bias and stereotypes.
Teaching Tolerance's 4 Speak Up strategies are: Interrupt, Question, Educate and Echo. You can Click Here to register for their free course.
Now, if you really put those strategies to work. I mean REALLY put them to work. Yet, the person continues to insist on being blatantly racist, homophobic, bias, sexist, etc. then feel free to catch them in action! Pull out that handy dandy smart phone of yours and start recording. Get a voice or video recording of them and share it with your administrators. If your administrators aren't receptive (aka they don't care because they are part of the problem too), blast it on social media and tag every social justice journalist and news reporter you know. (Note: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS protect the identities of any students involved. Be sure to check your local and state laws on recording people without their permission. You may also need to blur out faces and names to protect yourself from litigation.)
*This post is not sponsored. All views and opinions are my own.*