Welcome to the Teaching Tolerance blog, a place where educators who care about diversity, equity and justice can find news, suggestions, conversation and support.
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.”
In Oakland, Calif., there are a lot of homicides especially for a fairly small city of about 400,000 people. Last July, there were seven homicides in seven days. Victims ranged in age from 15 to 84. Six of them occurred near the school where I taught. One was a friend of many of my former students and a cousin of a little girl I mentor.
When the news about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School broke on Friday, we quickly issued some advice for teachers heading back to school on Monday.