6 Classroom Strategies that Work for Generating Student Discussions about Race Online

Dear reader,

 We are in our penultimate installment of answers to your questions about race and racism in schools. This week, our experts share anti-racist classroom management and school discipline policies. They also share strategies for communicating with educators who are racist and the role unions can have in making things better or worse for students. You’ll see the Q&A after the “Popular Around the Web” section. ⬇️
How Systemic Racism Infiltrates Education | Ben & Jerry's
6 Classroom Strategies that Work for Generating Student Discussions Online

Once virtual classes got rolling for Cicely Woodard, a middle school math teacher, she was gratified to see that familiar classroom techniques she used in person worked to get kids talking online, too. “I was very intentional about continuing to use (these strategies), because I wanted to keep as much normalcy as possible,” said Woodard, a former Tennessee Teacher of the Year. In an interview after her final virtual class this year, Woodard shared six strategies to generate student discussions online.Check in as a classInclude private think timeAsk, “What do you notice?”Validate student thinkingMake use of small groupsBe OK with awkward silenceLEARN MORE
How Fan Fiction Inspires Kids to Read and Write and Write and Write

For many students, writing can be tedious, especially after years of boring grammar, spelling and structure drills. But for kids who have discovered fan fiction, writing about something they’re already passionate about can ignite countless hours of creative writing, music and art. Hear why teachers, librarians and adolescents are so excited about fan fiction and the worlds they create.“The fan fiction that I have read or seen, most of it deals with the imaginative world,” said teacher-librarian Julia Torres. “And something very hopeful is that the imagined worlds that I have read are free of a lot of the oppressive structures that we have in the real world. So that’s a place where our students escape from all of that, and they might do that through their favorite fantasy characters.”Listen on Apple PodcastsSpotifyTuneInStitcherNPR One or wherever you get your podcasts!
Popular Around the WebDeemed ‘Essential Workers,’ Some Teachers Told to Skip Quarantine After COVID-19 Exposure via Education WeekYoung Adults’ Pandemic Mental Health Risks (In a new C.D.C. survey, 18- to 24-year-olds reported the highest levels of symptoms of anxiety and depression, and a quarter of them said they had seriously considered suicide.) via The New York TimesA thousand little things I miss about teaching via The Hechinger Repor8 Strategies to Improve Participation in Your Virtual Classroom (Educators share their best synchronous and asynchronous strategies to boost student participation during online learning.) via EdutopiaHow do you teach antiracism to the youngest students? (Educators are finding tools to teach young kids about America’s racist past and present in age-appropriate ways) via The Hechinger ReportNew coronavirus cases are emerging at schools. How much you know depends on where you live. via USA Today
Your Questions About Racism, Answered, Part 5

Earlier this summer, as protests against racism spread throughout the United States, dozens of you asked questions through this email newsletter about race and racism in schools. These questions and answers are especially relevant now. We are fortunate to have three former school teachers who are now professors of education answer your questions: Tia Madkins, Ramon Goings and Shannon Waite. This is the second to last set of answers that we’ll be sharing in this email newsletter. Many similar questions have been edited to address the same concern.  

Q: How do we communicate with white educators and administrators who demonstrate racist behaviors and attitudes towards teachers and students of color? A: Creating the conditions to do the work of active anti-racism involves committing to growing, stretching, and sitting in discomfort. Another part of that process is committing to receive feedback and being held accountable for your words and actions regardless of intention. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and all educators need to understand that one’s intentions cannot justify the impact of words and actions that injure teachers and students of color. Examining whether the behavior is consistent with the culture present within the school may help guide the approach to addressing the behavior. For instance, if the behaviors are seen across classrooms and are deemed appropriate by members of the school community then concerns about these behaviors might first be voiced to school administration. This may be necessary in order to disrupt the ideology permitting those types of behaviors in schools. In instances like this the work is needed across the school as reimaging an actively anti-racist school culture will be a collective goal.In instances where the behaviors are antithetical to values of the school community one suggestion is to implement protocols and/or practices to address the issues with the individual(s) demonstrating the racist behaviors. Establishing a protocol about addressing perceived racism can become a practice adopted by the school community. Restorative justice circles may also be a practice schools adopt to bring awareness to the behavior, give voice to the victim, an opportunity to reflect for the perpetrator, and attempt to repair the harm inflicted upon the school community.-Shannon Waite

Q: Do you have examples of anti-racist classroom management and school discipline policies? What schools have transformed into a culture of antiracism?A: A persistent problem in education is that schools and districts find themselves seeking examples of best practices that have worked in some other school or district with the expectation that those practices and results might be replicated. This idea is counterintuitive to the best practices the field purports around individualized instruction and caring for the social emotional needs of the whole child. While best practices can be shared and it is plausible that districts with similar demographics may be able to employ a similar strategy and experience success, the history of education reform in this country indicates that this notion is false. Each school and every district have to commit to adopting an actively anti-racist school culture. For those interested in learning about a school that has worked diligently to create an antiracist culture, I suggest you read the book, Culturally Responsive School Leadership by Dr. Muhammad Khalifa . In the book, Dr. Khalifa chronicles the work of one school leader in how he uses culturally responsive school leadership practices to transform the culture of his school. It is important to start with leadership as school leaders set the tone as to how antiracism looks and its value in the school. For teachers this book also provides poignant and tangible recommendations as to how you can restructure your mindset and practices about how school discipline should look in your classrooms with the individual teacher in each individual classroom. An additional resource classroom teachers may want to consider reading to redress their beliefs about teaching is  We Want to Do More than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and The Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Dr. Bettina Love. To strengthen classroom teaching practice, which we know will reduce classroom management issues, consider reading For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too by Dr. Christopher Emdin.-Ramon Goings & Shannon Waite

Q: What is the role of teachers’ unions in protecting and enabling racist teachers? How can we change that? A: There are often mixed feelings about the function and necessity of teachers unions. On one hand teachers unions ensure that teachers are fairly compensated and have optimal working conditions which in the long run impacts their decisions to remain employed in a school district. On the other hand, teachers unions have been criticized for their ability to block administrators from removing ineffective teachers from their schools. This becomes especially concerning once a teacher has earned tenure (in some cases starting day one of their fourth year teaching). Despite a history of teachers unions protecting teachers who engage in  racist behavior under the guise of due process, the increasing use of camera phones to capture racist acts in the classroom has put a spotlight on this issue. As a result, we are seeing many more instances of teachers being fired for these acts and the teachers unions condemning the racist behavior. For example, in 2016 a teacher in Baltimore was fired due to using a racial epithet against a Black child and the teacher’s union responded on record sharing their discontent with the action.Although the camera phone as pushed K-12 institutions and teachers unions to condemn racist actions by teachers, my concerns are about the Black children who continue to experience racist acts by their teachers that go uncontested due to the children and their families not receiving information about how to file a complaint or when the egregiousness of the incident does not catch the eye of the local and national media. While teachers unions should ensure teachers have adequate working conditions and pay, they cannot serve as barriers to racist teachers being directed out of their teaching positions. What is a solution to fix this? Teachers must ensure that their school union representatives are individuals who have an anti-racist lens as the cycle of protecting racist teachers will continue if teacher union representatives do not challenge the bureaucratic policies that impeded on removing ineffective teachers. -Ramon Goings
Ramon Goings is assistant professor in the Language, Literacy, and Culture interdisciplinary doctoral program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Tia Madkins is assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin; Shannon R. Waite is clinical assistant professor of Educational Leadership in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University.
@MindShiftKQED on TwitterThanks to @ValentinaESL for this sketchnote on tips for teaching English learners online. You can find more of Valentina Gonzalez’s work at English Learners.
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See you next week!
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About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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