“Sixty-five years ago, on May 17, 1954, the U.S Supreme Court declared that segregated public schools were ‘inherently unequal’ and unconstitutional, smashing a 1896 ruling that permitted ‘whites-only’ and ‘Negroes-only’ schools. The historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision ordered that public schools must be integrated, launching a decades-long struggle to end systemic inequality in American life.” The decision was unanimous, but much like today with any given social justice issue, the reaction was not.
Linda Brown (front row, right) and her sister Terry Lynn (far left row, third from front) who, with their parents, initiated the landmark Civil Rights lawsuit ‘Brown V. Board of Education,’ in their classroom in Topeka, Kan.CreditCarl Iwasaki/The LIFE Images Collection, via Getty Images
Integration, of course, did not guarantee a great education. The Hidden Cost of Brown v. Board: African American Educators’ Resistance to Desegregating Schools causes us to think about the displacement and dismissal of Black educators post-Brown. “While Brown enabled children of all races and backgrounds to have equal opportunity and access in education, poor integration implementation policies and widespread white backlash presented problems for many black students and teachers. Black students lost role models who not only knew them on a personal level, but had a unique understanding of their communities, cultural identities, and individual situations. Many blacks believed that ‘without the principals, the members of the African American community lost their voice in education, and the students also lost role models whom they were able to trust and emulate.’ Because education was one of the only well-respected career paths open to blacks, there was an abundance of well-trained, talented black teachers. The presence of skillful teachers resulted in many all-Black schools as places where children received an excellent academic education, along with schooling from their Black elders in ‘the ways of the world.’ Despite the saturation of talented African Americans in the national teaching force before the Brown case, this would change drastically after 1954. Over 38,000 black teachers in the South and border states lost their jobs after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. Well over a half-century after Brown, black teachers make up a minuscule fraction of the teaching force, which has negatively impacted many black students in terms of test scores and graduation rates. Losing tens of thousands of black teachers in the teaching force in the mid-twentieth century has had lasting effects on today’s teaching force. In 2000, only 14 percent of teachers were persons of color.”
“When black schools were [shut down] or absorbed, celebrated black principals were demoted or fired. By some estimates, nearly a third of African-American teachers lost their jobs. Those who survived the purge were sometimes selected on the basis of a lighter skin color that made them more palatable to white communities.”
In the article, Why School Integration Matters, the question was raised: “Is integrated schooling in the United States a goal still worth pursuing? This is neither a cynical nor a hypothetical question. As we contemplate the significance of the 65th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown decision, this basic question carries special pertinence. Today, all the evidence shows that even as American society is growing more racially and ethnically diverse, many of our schools are headed in the opposite direction… Across the country, many schools today are characterized by growing racial and socioeconomic isolation. Moreover, no major political leader has stepped forward either to call attention to this trend and its implications, or to offer ideas on what might be done to reverse it….We should all be concerned. At a time when our nation is becoming irreversibly more diverse, our lack of commitment to racial integration poses a major threat to the cohesiveness and stability of American society.”
Across the country, due much to “white flight”, Black and Latino students live in segregated, urban neighborhoods and attend overcrowded, under-funded, low-achieving schools, while most of their white counterparts attend affluent, nearly all-white schools in suburban America. Separate and unequal continues: “More than 80 percent of Black and Latino segregated schools are in high-poverty areas, compared with 5 percent of segregated white schools. These schools are traditionally associated with fewer resources, fewer advanced course offerings, more inexperienced teachers and lower average test scores. At the same time, despite the unequal resources that are traditionally associated with high poverty and minority schools, students in these schools are being subjected to increasingly rigorous testing that can have serious stakes attached for student promotion and graduation ( Brown v. Board; Where Are We Now?)
There is undeniably a hyper-segregation by race and class that is common in most urban areas. To illustrate, think for a minute about what school populations look like within our own district? How do Brody and Merrill’s demographics differ from Harding and Hiatt, for example? What about Hoyt’s population? In our district are students separated by race? Are the poorest and most disadvantaged children in certain schools? (If students are separated by race and class, is this “double-segregation”?) Now think about what public schools look like in Des Moines' suburbs? How do schools in Ankeny and Waukee look different from schools in Des Moines, not only with race and class, but also resources available to their districts? When school funding is tied to property taxes for example, what are the implications for students in the public schools in Des Moines versus the students attending school in the suburbs of Des Moines?
“Because of our lack of will to enforce Brown, too many children, white and Black, are growing up unprepared to participate in our increasingly diverse society.”
– Pedro A Noguera (keynote speaker at the 2019 DMPS Culture Climate Summit)
While Brown's promise remains, it can be argued that it is unfulfilled, but it surely does not mean that Brown was a failure. Most legal scholars still regard Brown as a historic, groundbreaking decision --The Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in the case is credited not only with starting the process of eliminating racial barriers in education, but it also helped in the fight for desegregation of everything from public golf courses to public buses. It also set precedent for the elimination of racial barriers to voting, housing access, and employment. It is also thought to be the fuel for other movements like, feminism, LGBTQ rights, and the rights of people with disabilities.
On the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Brown decision, it is important to remember that civil rights and educational opportunity are deeply intertwined. Pedro A. Noguera, author of Why School Integration Matters says, “I think it is essential that those of us who went to integrated schools let people know about the benefits of our education.” Yet, Noguera encourages us to acknowledge that his experience with racially integrated schooling, like that of many other Black and Latino students, was not entirely positive. “The prejudice and bigotry I encountered were very real.”
Despite its flaws and limitations, the effort to racially integrate our nation's schools continues to be important to the health of the diverse nation we are becoming. “Would the United States be as racially polarized and divided as it is now if more individuals had had the experience of learning together? What if our society had gone even further than merely placing children from different racial and ethnic backgrounds in schools together, but had also committed to equality of opportunity in accessing the curriculum and the supports needed to be successful? What if we had made a concerted effort to integrate the teaching force, and were more intentional about the need to prepare teachers to work in racially diverse classrooms and build learning communities rooted in respect, trust, and empathy? We live in a multiracial society so we have good reason to speak out on our commitment to integrated educational opportunities for all. "Decades of social science research has found that racially diverse classrooms improve student experiences: enhanced learning, higher academic achievement for minorities, higher educational and occupational aspirations, increased civic engagement, a greater desire to live, work, and go to school in multiracial settings, and positive, increased social interaction among members of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Significantly, these benefits affect both white and minority students.” (Brown v. Board: Where Are We Now?)
During the next days/weeks, while we are still in the anniversary month of the Brown decision, consider reading/discussing articles (found HERE) with your students before engaging them in a discussion, using the following questions:
1. What do you think segregated schools were like in pre-1954 America? In what parts of the country were schools segregated? Were schools in your state segregated? How was the experience of a black student in public school different from that of a white student?
2. The Brown decision called for school desegregation to happen with "all deliberate speed." How quickly — and how fully — do you think schools de-segregated?
3. The Supreme Court decision has come to be known, in shorthand form, as Brown v. Board of Education. But that one name represents several cases. What other cities and states were involved in court battles to end public school segregation? How were these cases alike? How were they different?
4. What is segregation? Does it still exist? Other than schools, where have segregation battles been fought?
5. Different groups in the United States reacted differently to the Brown decision. How did African Americans react? Were all African Americans in favor of the decision? How did white Americans react? Where in the United States was the strongest reaction felt against Brown?
6. Is your school segregated? In what ways? What could you do to work against that segregation, bringing more integration to your school?
7. Do you believe in what Brown v. Board stands for? How close to — or far from — fully embracing the Brown decision are we, as a society? What else needs to happen for us to move closer to the ideals of Brown?
8. How would schools have looked in your area had the Supreme Court not ruled against segregation in 1954? How would your life, and the lives of other students, be different?
Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner. We all have heard of this day, of course, and some of us have had more than our fair share of margaritas, guacamole, and tacos (Mmmm. Gimme all the tacos!) in the name of this holiday.
“Unfortunately, the holiday has been commercialized by the food and liquor industry and in the United States, Cinco de Mayo (similar to St. Patrick’s Day) has become an excuse to imbibe spirits and help Corona and Dos Equis beer companies improve their market share. Bars offer half-price margaritas and Tex-Mex fast-food chains see an increase in sales while sombreros and piñatas fly off the shelves of big-box party supply stores. Chicana/o youth are exposed to strong alcohol marketing campaigns with damaging stereotypes. Some groups have resisted, sponsoring Cinco de Mayo con Orgullo (Cinco de Mayo with Pride) celebrations. These nonalcoholic events focus on heritage and empowerment rather than on Mexican hat dances and drinking games.” ("Rethinking Cinco de Mayo")
“Mexican culture cannot be reduced to tacos, oversized sombreros and piñatas.”
So what IS Cinco de Mayo, and what is it NOT? And why can this day be harmful if we aren’t mindful of our actions.
Teaching Tolerance encourages us to “Teach [our students] what Cinco de Mayo is—and what it is not. Teach them the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. They need to know where the line is. Cultural appropriation occurs when a person or other entity—a sports franchise, for example—claims as their own an aspect of a culture that does not belong to them. Doing so can, knowingly or unknowingly, deny the authenticity of that culture, particularly if it belongs to a marginalized group, and it can send harmful messages rooted in misinformation, prejudice and stereotypes.”
“Let’s change the narrative on Cinco de Mayo and Mexico by teaching our students the facts.”
How about we clear up one common misconception up right away? Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day celebration. Mexico celebrates their independence on September 16th.
"Cinco de Mayo is the day in 1862 when a small, largely outnumbered group of Mexican soldiers took on an invading French army, who came to take over Mexico City, at the Battle of Puebla--and won! General Ignacio Zaragoza and his troops inspired Union soldiers who were fighting in the American Civil War. These Union soldiers celebrated with parades, folklórico dancers, bull fights and traditional music honoring the Mexican soldiers and people." If you want even more specifics click here: The Historically Accurate Way to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
Take time to teach your students the rich history of Mexico and help to de-bunk some of the myths and stereotypes of Mexican/Mexican-Americans.
“Teach them about the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores) and how Mexico asserted its independence on September 16, 1810. Teach them about Mexico’s ancient civilizations, including those that built enormous pyramids and used hieroglyphs to create calendars. Teach them about the long history of struggle in Mexico, a country that has been at war many times to protect its land and its people from conquistadors and the politics of Manifest Destiny. Teach your students about the rich, multifaceted culture that thrives in the different regions of Mexico, and the scientists, activists, artists and change makers who hail from this country.”
While this day is important in Mexico, it’s actually celebrated more here in the United States than in Mexico. No one in Mexico is getting the day off of work or school, for example. If anyone in Mexico celebrates the day in a big way, it’s likely the city of Puebla. But just because Mexico doesn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo in a big way like we do, it’s still a good opportunity to celebrate Mexican American culture.
So celebrate! Enjoy all the delicious food and drinks you can get your hands on from local, family-owed places that are celebrating. After all, there are some pretty great food deals out there if you really know how to look. (I know one restaurant with amazing, authentic, Mexican food here in the Des Moines area, El Fogon, that happens to be co-owned by a colleague in DMPS. They are intentional about handing out/having information on tables about the true history of Cinco de Mayo.) But remember, always be respectful (i.e. don’t wear sombreros, mustaches, ponchos, carry maracas, etc). One event to consider attending is the Cinco de Mayo Celebration in Valley Junction (See the Community Events tab) to enjoy Mexican foods, artwork, live music, dancing and family activities. They will be celebrating the Mexican heritage of many railroad workers during the establishment years of Valley Junction. This festival is an opportunity to recognize the Mexican community who helped James Jordan (a settler in 1846 who founded Valley Junction) and his vision of bringing the railroad to the Des Moines area so it could become a reality. In honor of their strong heritage, they will also present a proclamation and announcement of their Cinco de Mayo King and Queen.
If you want to be a part of something BIG, drive an hour west to Omaha, where you’ll find the BIGGEST Cinco de Mayo celebration in the Midwest
Do any of you have good resources to share about this day? (If so, send them my way and I’ll get them added to the “Resources” page) Have you considered asking your students if their families celebrate Cinco de Mayo? If so, what do they do on this day? I wonder if your Mexican/Mexican-American students know about the history of this holiday? So often we assume our students of a particular race/ethnicity know everything about “their home country” but keep in mind, they are socialized too and see all the images, good and bad. You could have some really empowering conversations with your classes around this day and uplift the Mexican community while instilling pride in your Mexican/Mexican-American students.
By: Echo Gates
Hello everyone! I am writing the blog post this week to give an over view of what I learned at the White Privilege Conference over Spring Break. While there were many things that I took away I am going to share just a few of the “gold nuggets” that I took away. One thing that the “hype” guy in the morning (because 8 am on Spring Break was a tad early) said as a group of students got off the stage was, “Our students have voices, we just need to give them the chance, space, and empowerment to use it.” This was something that I thought was very interesting and really challenging. I found myself questioning if the things I am doing in the classroom are empowering my students to use their voice or stifling it?
The next thing I am going to talk about was my all-day institute that I took part in. The title of the session was, “Teaching While White.” This session focused on how teachers, specifically white teachers need to be aware of their own implicit biasis that may come into the classroom as well as those of our students. The session started with talking about us first. In order to become an ally, we need to be aware what biases we are bringing to the situation and do work on us first. They recommended talking this test (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html) to see what those may be. Once you are aware you are more likely to make a change.
“A consistent predictor of academic success
is teacher expectation.”
The two ladies that ran this session have a blog that they post to (where you can access podcasts, articles and many more wonderful things), a Twitter, and a Facebook page. Check out their blog here: teachingwhilewhite.org/blog and find more links to their resources on the "Podcasts and People to Follow" page. This session was packed full of wonderful things that were said and shared. A statement that really has stuck with me is, “A consistent predictor of academic success is teacher expectation.” We as classroom teachers need to make sure our expectations are the same for EVERY STUDENT that comes in the door. I assume some of you reading are saying in your head, “they are the same, so what do you mean.” This goes back to knowing yourself and those implicit thoughts and feelings you may have and not even be aware of. When you are not aware you can not change. Another thing that the ladies talked about is how sometimes in our classrooms things come up that we as teachers need to get the whole story of or that are a sensitive subject and we need to set up that conversation. When this happens, they mentioned having a response ready to use so our students know we WILL address it at another time. They suggested saying “I’ve heard it, I’ve marked it, and I will address it.” These three little statements then let our students know that what is happening in the room has been heard and that when time allows you will come back to it. After this statement is made we then as the teacher NEED to come back to it. Sitting on the statement or the action and doing nothing may come across to the students it offended that we do not care, and we must stand up for them! We must be an ally and make sure that those students in our rooms know it will not be tolerated.
Finally, a blog post that Teaching While White posted in January entitled, “What if Being Called “Racist” Is The Beginning Not the End, of the Conversation? Learning What it Really Means to be A White Teacher” has some very good insights. This particular post is from January, but I encourage you to read through some of their other posts as well-- SO MANY other great reads along the way! An overview of the post is that a white female teacher put herself in situations that involved race and then when it was brought to her attention she did not address it. This happens in classrooms all over. So what if when we are called racist by our students we explore that with them what was done to make them feel that way -->ask them what needs to change. Doing this not only allows us to have conversations with our students and to hear them out. It also allows us to be real which in turn allows them the space to be real with us. It also provides us with a learning opportunity and a chance to change what we can in regards to our biases. There is so much more that I could write and I have MANY notes! Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions! Thank you, Echo
As we head back from Spring Break and “PLC’ing” gets up and running again, I encourage you to keep asking yourself: How do I ensure the best lessons for the learners in my room?
Reflect on your equity goal (on your IPDP) and consider ways to continue to strive for a culturally responsive classroom where you empower your students by capitalizing on their uniqueness and individualism, nurture a love of diversity, and encourage student voice and choice.
As shared in this article, “Teachers, See Learning as Students Do” here are some ways we can learn to see through our students' eyes:
Also keep close in mind that “culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is not about one day of celebrating a certain culture. It’s about daily practices that bring students’ cultures into instruction, valuing each student and what they bring, teaching them as people first in order to maximize their potential as students.” Take a minute to read this short article and the straight-forward ways to be mindful of CRT in your classroom: Culturally Responsive Teaching in Today's Classrooms
“Culturally responsive teaching is not a strategy. It’s more of mindset for teaching that embraces, values, and incorporates culture into daily instruction in order for learning to connect with students. Students feel valued, respected, and linked with instruction.”
I've yet to meet a teacher who doesn't convey that he/she believes all students can learn. In fact, I think it's fair to say that we all have high expectations for students, but do we have high expectations for ourselves? Do you feel there is a collected efficacy at our school for educators to understand the equity needs of our diverse population? Do you believe you are an 'agent of change'?
Like a broken record, you have likely heard and will continue to hear: equity is interconnected to all aspects of school, it is embedded in all the work we do in education.
There are many definitions of equity in education. but at the heart of them is the same outcome for students.
These past days the New York City Leadership Academy (NYCLA) shared their definition with DMPS leaders: “Children and adults should receive what they each need to achieve their potential, and their race, culture, and other characteristics of their identity should not prevent access to opportunities and resources.”
The National School Climate Council defines an “equitable school climate” as “The quality and character of school life that fosters children’s, youth, and families’ full access to:
(1) Appropriately supported, high expectations for learning and achievement (2) Emotionally and physically safe, healthy learning environments (3) Caring relationships with peers and adults (4) Participation that meaningfully enhances academic, social-emotional, civic, and moral development. An equitable school climate responds to the wide range of cultural norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, leadership
"All work on equity concerns begins with one’s own self-reflection. Most of us grow up within cultural 'bubbles' of race, ethnicity, class, ability, gender, sexual orientation, and first language. These 'bubbles' create worldviews. Sometimes the experiences of where we live, socialize, emigrate, go to work or school help us see that others may have very different worldviews from ours. For educators, unbroken 'bubbles' are particularly troublesome. Our worldview becomes a paradigm that too often typecasts different as deficient...We carry with us value systems, expectations, and unrecognized stereotypes of our worldview into our work with children and families, seeing their deficits rather than their strengths."
It's paramount to become aware of our 'bubbles' and to break out of them! A thought from a colleague in DMPS resonated with me yesterday when he stated we can't use ignorance as a crutch any longer, and went on to say "Ignorance is the luxury of privilege."
So how do we stop "being ignorant"? Where do we begin? Consider high quality "diversity trainings" and taking advantage of public speakers/presentations. (l try to keep the "Community Events" updated for you, but there are so many more opportunities that you can take advantage of that I'm surely missing and have not been sharing in that space.) Consider being a part of a social justice group like SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice) that meet reguarly and welcome all! (Again, info on this is under the "Community Events" tab) Another way to help become aware of the 'bubble' we've been living in is to read books to challenge our deepest assumptions (let me know if you need some suggestions) and simply being open to noticing subtle thoughts and behaviors rooted in unacknowledged stereotypes.
While many strategies support fostering equitable school climates, there are some broad categories that can help for the foundation for more equitable classrooms. Check out this article:
SCHOOL CLIMATE AND EQUITY for the specifics on these SIX promising strategies for creating more equitable classrooms:
"Black history is American history...Observing Black History Month in February gives us a chance to be intentional about learning that history."
Here we are a full week into February-- I didn't want too many more days to get past us and not share some information that will hopefully give some support for you in your classrooms as we move forward with Black History Month. I also hope that there will be some resources (see below) that you might find helpful to reach a goal of figuring out how we can include Black History in our lessons this month and beyond. Remember Black History Month doesn't just have to be our civil rights leaders (but be sure to include them too, of course!) There are many of ways to go beyond the typical inventors and sports heroes (although they are important as well!) so that every child can connect to and learn from the amazing contributions of the African American community.
Finally, like this site shares, "Black History Month has been the subject of criticism...as some argue it is unfair to devote an entire month to a single people group. Others contend that we should celebrate Black history throughout the entire year. Setting aside only one month, they say, gives people license to neglect this past for the other 11 months. Despite the objections, though, I believe some good can come from devoting a season to remembering a people who have made priceless deposits into the account of our nation’s history."
-->Here are five reasons why we should celebrate Black History Month:
--Read on to learn why Black History Month began and to snag those resources I mentioned--
First, let’s briefly take a look at the start of Black History Month, also called African-American History Month. Carter G. Woodson—educator, historian, writer, and the “Father of Black History”--established Negro History Week in 1926. He believed that celebrating the achievements of Black Americans and others of African descent would instill racial pride in Black people, especially the children. Woodson's original Negro History Week took place during the second week of February because it coincided with the birthdates of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
In 1976, the bicentennial of the United States, President Gerald R. Ford expanded the week into a full month. He said the country needed to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
“If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”
—Carter G. Woodson-
-taken from Black Children's Books and Authors
Now I realize that there are those all over who are telling us that we must slow up. … But we cannot afford to slow up. We have a moral obligation to press on. We have our self-respect to maintain. But even more we can't afford to slow up because of our love for America and our love for the democratic way of life. … We must keep moving. We must keep going.
—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
From "The Montgomery Story," an address to the 47th annual NAACP Convention, San Francisco, June 27, 1956
We are a few days away from MLK Jr. Day. I know many of you are thrilled at the thought of the three-day weekend, but leading up to this special day, I encourage you to do a couple of things. One is to take time with your students to do something to discuss Dr King’s work and those that worked alongside him in the Civil Rights Movement. Be sure your students leave for their weekend, knowing WHY they have no school on Monday. My hope is that all students will know why the district and the nation set this day aside to honor and remember the work of Dr. King.
I'll drop one resource here that is chock-full of great ideas for you (discussion, writing prompts and extension activities) to lead conversations and reflection in your classes : Dr. King and the Movement
The second thing I encourage you to do is to find something to do in your community to be a part of in enriches your learning around the work in civil rights. I’ve included a couple local events that I think you will LOVE under the "Community Resources" tab. (There are many more events around the city that you can search for that I did not share, so find one that interests you and go! If you have kids of your own, take them too.) I took my son, Zion, last year to the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Forest Library and we both enjoyed ourselves. It is important to me that he learns why he has no school on this particular Monday of the school year. Along with a keynote speaker there will be students from DMPS sharing their art work, poetry, and creative writing.
Another amazing opportunity is to hear Dr. Yusef Salaam speak (for FREE!) He is one of the Central Park Five and has an amazing story of being wrongly convicted as a teen for a rape and murder, and as a result, was imprisoned for years. He shares that story, but also one of love, forgiveness and redemption. I had the privilege to hear him speak and I have no doubt if you hear him, your spirit will be moved.
*All the details of these two events are on the “Community Events” page on this weebly.
ENJOY your long weekend, but please consider taking some time before the week ends to think of ways you can teach your students more than they might already know of Dr. MLKing Jr.
When I think of celebrating holidays the first one that comes to my mind is Christmas. It is my favorite holiday. A big part of it has to do with how "magical" my family made it during this time of year. It still is a big celebration within my family, but it has always centered around religion, traditions and family. In the classroom, so often I wanted to create the same excitement and magic for my students around this time of year; however, I had to be mindful that I was an educator in a public school, not a Christian school, so my thinking had to shift.
Maybe you are like me and you have gone through feelings that range from: we should celebrate holidays, to we should not celebrate ANY holidays, to we NEED to celebrate holidays but need to look at the approach we are taking to do so. This article which discusses three common pitfalls to avoid with holidays is a great way to start the conversation . It shares how some teachers may really hit holidays hard in December and try to teach about Christmas around the world and the different traditions or "versions" of Christmas. With a quick Google search you’ll find that Hanukkah is not an equivalent holiday to Christmas. Instead Rosh Hashanah and Passover are holidays that would be the more important holidays within the Jewish community. And we must, of course, consider students at our school who are Jehovah’s Witnesses and talk with them about how they feel in regards to their beliefs/practices too.
“…teachers believe they are doing a good job of treating holidays equally, but there are still problems, usually arising from lack of awareness or information.”
I know a common theme that occurs before and after break is asking students what they want for Christmas or what they received for Christmas. I would be lying if I said I had never done this or asked students to tell me about all of the exciting things they’d be doing/had done over their break. I did this my first years teaching, and quickly learned that I would not do it again. I had some students who had long extravagant lists and received every item on the list. I had other students who had high hopes & received very minimal items. Break from school for some students is an exciting time of traveling, celebrating, and doing fun activities with the family. Other students' breaks may look a little differently and their break may cause them anxiety for reasons known or unknown to us.
To help support you with holidays: I have shared a few ideas below to help you through the month of December and all year long:
"Help students understand that although not everyone celebrates the same events, all holidays are equally valuable. There are no right or wrong holidays.”
Finally, remember to always center students around the 4 anti-bias goals.
These goals are:
1. Nurture each students' self-identity within a context of a group identity.
2. Promote each students' comfortable interaction with people who are different from them.
3. Foster each students' ability to think critically about bias.
4. Cultivate each students' ability to be an activist and to stand up for himself or herself and for others in the face of bias.
Have you heard of the term, “School to Prison Pipeline”? It is a phenomenon that pushes students, disproportionately minority students and students with disabilities, along with LGBTQ students, out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system at alarming rates—it favors incarceration over education.
When I first started teaching 16 years ago, students were suspended all.the.time, every single day. Administrators and teachers (myself included) never really thought twice, it seemed, about sending students home for the day or even for days on end. Ask anyone that's been in DMPS for a long time and they’ll tell you too how “times have changed” with discipline and suspensions. I can imagine, even if you’re a few years into this career, you’re already seeing how things have evolved. Truth be told, at first it was really difficult for me to understand why administrators didn't just send kids home, but eventually, after digging a little deeper into statistics and the negative effects of suspension and the benefits of restorative justice, I’ve been able to make a shift in my thinking.
This article, Race, Discipline and Safety in U.S. Public Schools explains how it is not only systemic policies harming our students. It is the biases and practices enacted in individual classrooms, and it begins as early as pre-school.
"In 2010, more than 3 million students [in the US] were suspended from school, or double the level of suspensions in the 1970s. Meanwhile, more than a quarter-million were 'referred' to police officers for misdemeanor tickets, very often for offenses that once would have elicited a stern talking-to." Not only do children miss out on learning when they are at home, but a suspension can be life altering. Did you know suspension is the number-one predictor— more than poverty—of whether children will drop out of school, and walk down a road that includes greater likelihood of unemployment, reliance on social-welfare programs, and imprisonment?
“For many young people, our schools are increasingly a gateway to the criminal justice system- a direct consequence of a culture of zero tolerance that is widespread in our schools and is depriving many children of their fundamental right to an education.”
Zero-tolerance policies may seem like the answer to bad behavior in the heat of the moment, but they're not; This short-term fix is based on fear. It focuses only on the rule that was broken and the punishment deserved. Instead of trying to make things right, it responds to the original harm with an additional harm. It doesn't get at root causes, doesn't try to repair the damage to relationships, and fails to prevent recurrence. “The apparent expediency of a punitive approach is typically attractive to teachers and school administrators. In fact, it makes our schools neither safer nor smarter, and has a disproportionately negative impact on students of color.”
So how do we get to root causes? One place to start is restorative justice, which might look like reentry circles/conversations after a suspension did take place or "circle groups" to problem-solve to avoid a suspension. Restorative justice empowers students to create a safe and respectful space to talk through concerns instead of fighting through differences. Adults can share power with youth and recognize the opportunities where youth can work in authentic partnership with adult allies to improve the effectiveness of the school's restorative justice initiative. The goal is to elevate youth voice!
To learn more about working being done locally with restorative justice as an alternative to punishment, check out these links. You’ll notice DMPS’ beloved, Mary Decker quoted on THIS PAGE. The same organization has created a video sharing the “Let’s Talk” program. (At minute 4:40 you’ll see Hoyt's very own, Mr. Goodhue): LET'S TALK VIDEO
In addition, access this toolkit for combating the school to prison pipeline: TOOLKIT
Finally, take a few moments to watch this spoken word poem, "Simon Says". It's a pretty heavy poem about the school to prison pipeline. See if this doesn't do something to your teacher-heart and minds. Every time I watch it, I get goosebumps. *Warning: there is one profane word
When I think of how Thanksgiving was taught to me I have some clear memories of elementary school. We dressed up as pilgrims and Indians, and we put on a play for our families. I also remember drawing pictures that I was so proud of that looked a lot like the skit: pilgrims and Indians sharing corn and pumpkin pie and turkey. When I reflect on these common activities that happened in schools (I hope they still don't) when I was young I cringe to think about what was taught to me and how I believed that to be truth for so long. Do you have memories of lessons in school or at home that are similar to mine? When did you finally learn the truth around Thanksgiving? Today think about what you know/don't know as the truth around the “First Thanksgiving” and reflect on how you interact with your students around the content. Simply put...when we know better, we do better.
What my teacher asked us to do was not right. We appropriated a culture by dressing in stereotypical outfits as we created headbands to wear. The Wampanoag people did not wear the elaborate headdresses depicted in European paintings of the “First Thanksgiving” (The depiction of them in headdresses breaking bread with the pilgrims is not historically accurate). There is a difference between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. In order to appreciate, students must understand the historical context of such dress, the religious and cultural significance, the ways in which Indigenous peoples have been oppressed and their culture appropriated. Without such understanding, students cannot appreciate the culture for what it is. While my elementary teacher’s goal may have been to engage her students and have “fun” dressing up as First Americans to help us relate to history, it was not the right way to go about it. Objecting someone’s culture is not about being politically correct--it’s about recognizing that wearing someone else’s culture as a costume diminishes the significance of their cultural dress, and is particularly harmful when there is a history of oppression related to it.
I think it’s important that we accurately teach history- especially so our student don’t end up like me (or maybe you too?) who felt as though I was misinformed/lied to by my teachers/adults in my life. Students are forming their ideas about how they interact with the world, and how the impacts of historical events ripple through to today. Presenting a false narrative about the “First Thanksgiving” and the Wampanoag people allows students to frame the relationship between Indigenous peoples and white European colonizers in a way that softens or outright erases the unconscionable violence and destruction of nations that took place in the 1600s and beyond. While November is Native American History Month there is trouble in only teaching about Indigenous peoples for one month. We perpetuate the idea that they shouldn’t be taught/discussed year round. This also goes for Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and others. With all of this being said I have a some resources both for teachers and students and below I have share some tips as you move through this topic.
This resource has a ton of links within it to support your learning as well as your learning with students:
Decolonizing Thanksgiving: A Toolkit for Combatting Racism in School
Lesson Ideas and Resources: