Welcome to the Teaching Tolerance blog, a place where educators who care about diversity, equity and justice can find news, suggestions, conversation and support.
Every year, Teaching Tolerance hears from teachers who are going the extra mile to support students from diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. These teachers deserve to be recognized—which is why we created the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching.
Years ago I worked with a child named Justin. A bright, happy child, Justin was a wonderful artist. He loved to create, exploring shapes and colors with crayons and markers and paints.
One day, when he was 4 years old, we were coloring together in his big notebook. We had been at it for some time when I picked up a purple crayon and began to add purple to the dazzling array of colors on our page. Almost as soon as I’d begun, Justin dropped his crayon and stared at me.
I am in awe of young people.
Today, for example, I read about a group of teens in Louisville, Ky. who continued to speak on LGBT issues. High school students from duPont Manual High School were censored for writing about gay issues, but they refused to let their voices be silenced. They decided to run an underground paper, The Red Pen, and won the annual Courage in Student Journalism Award.
Bullying has reached epidemic proportions in U.S. schools. About 1 in 4 students report having been bullied. Tens of thousands of students stay home each year to avoid being bullied. Educators struggle to create bully-free school environments.
Social media platforms have great potential to build community, support just causes and call attention to inequity. They can also be used to encourage stereotypes and offend. Applications like the like the Android photo-altering “Make Me…” series on Google Play are troubling. Once you download the app, you’re able to alter your face instantly. There are about a dozen apps in this series. “Make Me Asian” and “Make Me Indian” are the most offensive. The description says that uploading your pictures to this app will cause you to “laugh heartily” as you “turn yourself and your friends into” Asians, or Indians.
We are teachers and problem solvers. We are learners. What can we learn from this, we ask. We think ahead, look for the lesson in every situation, find solutions. We do this every single day in our classrooms. When lessons fall flat or when we can’t reach our students, we demand to know why so when the next class comes in, 6 minutes later, we make the immediate fix. It’s the way we survive; the way we feel we can control something.
A couple of years ago a student approached me after history class. Avoiding eye contact, he trembled a bit before speaking. His voice was shaking.
“I am sorry, teacher,” Armando began. “I could not finish my project. My parents were killed a couple days ago.”