A place for educators to find thought-provoking news, conversation and support for those who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools
Alma wanted to put milk in her children’s bottles. In her native Mexico, she could only afford to fill them with coffee. Like many recent immigrants to the United States, Alma came here to spare her children such grinding poverty. “I’d like to live [in the United States] for my kids,” she says, “for them to study and not live the life I lived in Mexico, because it was very hard.”
Once here in the States, though, Alma could only find employment as a farmworker in Florida. She still lives in poverty as one of the country’s estimated 10.8 million undocumented immigrants. These laborers do the backbreaking work that puts billions of dollars of food on our plates.
For Judy Dodge Cummings,
social justice teaching takes students through the lyrics of American folk
songs. She uses antique tunes such
as Hard Times at the Mill and Weave Room Blues to teach her Mauston,
Wis., students about unfair and dangerous work conditions.
Meanwhile, in Bucksport, Maine, Carolyn Coe asks students to celebrate diversity through the creation of peace flags.
My students are too young to remember the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Just
four years before their birth, they refer to them as something from
“back in the day.”
But the themes of police brutality, poverty and racism are all too familiar. And most drew an immediate connection between the Rodney King verdict that sparked those riots and the 2009 fatal shooting of Oscar Grant. Grant was shot in the back by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle less than one mile from our school in Oakland.
Mix It Up at Lunch Day is all about diversity. It celebrates the diversity of America’s classrooms. And it shows the diverse ways teachers can tackle cliquishness in schools. We were inspired by some of the great stories the day has generated. We thought we’d share three of them with you here.
I arrived to school ready for our morning staff meeting and took a seat among my colleagues. But today was different. There were about 30 student leaders joining us. As a newer staff member at the school, I had little idea of what to expect for our planned Culture Day, which was based on Teaching Tolerance’s “Mix It Up at Lunch Day.” The students were there because they were instrumental in planning and pulling it off.
The news today brought yet another tragic story of a teen suicide related to bullying. The world lost a promising young man who had seen his share of teasing—like the time he’d dyed his hair pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
But this time, he was on the other side of the equation. He was the bully. Along with two other boys, he stood accused by his elite prep school of harassing a fellow student because of that student’s sexual orientation. The school sent the boy home and pressured him to withdraw rather than face expulsion.
It was a whirlwind day, and yet it was entirely typical of what happens at our high school—in most high schools, probably. I just thought it was worthwhile to put this day down as an official mark that this is what regularly happens.
First thing in the morning my secretary called me on the radio to tell me that I had a visitor. This could be anybody: former students, current students, teachers in other buildings who are visiting and wanted to drop by to say hello. It was Janelle. Janelle graduated early this year, so I never get to see her much anymore. She brought her month-old daughter and wanted to show me that she had all ten fingers and all ten toes. Of course, I said, “You know I’m going to hold her, right? And smell her? And kiss her? And then I’ll steal her.” She laughed and looked at me sideways because I’m always joking with her. If I keep it light enough, I sometimes think I can force her to stay in school.
It was meet-the-teacher night at my elementary school. The room was ready for a new class of second-graders. The rubric for grading paragraphs and stories was on the wall around the writing center. A scientific method poster hung on the wall in the science corner. Essential questions for numbers and operations were on the chalkboard in the math area. And a picture commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education was on the social studies wall. I was ready to help my children become successful students.