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
Sometimes teaching at my magnet arts school in Alabama, I can imagine the worst days of racism and intolerance are behind us. Most of the roughly 500 students have genuine, deep friendships across racial lines and very rarely do the old racist memes and tropes raise their ugly heads.
Every year our school conducts what has come to be known as “The Bully Poll.” Teaching Tolerance also offers an activity to open the discussion about bullying. Our poll is an anonymous questionnaire that enables the students to answer questions openly and honestly about incidents of bullying in our school. Where does bullying most often occur? What do you think about the way in which the school handles bullying? Who is the biggest bully?
I stood beside Samara, my appointed student leader, with my lips shut tight, overly expressive eyes and a dry-erase marker in hand. I was ready to respond to my students in writing on the 13th annual National Day of Silence.
The morning of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I logged in to Facebook as I do most weekend mornings to see the status updates of 200 or so acquaintances. Many had posted links to news articles and patriotic photos or comments about their memory of that day in 2001. I was not prepared, however, to read a blatantly xenophobic post by someone I had gone to high school with. He called for the extermination of Islam and the strategic bombing of all countries in the Middle East.
Teaching is a tough profession. We know it. It comes with a lot of responsibilities and challenges. Nevertheless, teaching is a very rewarding life path. Perhaps equally as tough is teaching teachers to be culturally competent. For the last six months, I’ve led a book study at my school on Gary Howard’s We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know, which looks at cultural competency programs.
When my daughter pulls hard on the heavy glass doors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Laboratory School and races upstairs into her fifth-grade classroom, she is living my dream.
We are happy to announce the selection of the 2011 Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board. We received more than 500 applications from outstanding multicultural educators across the country. We selected teachers from each grade category. It was extremely difficult to select just a few teachers from such a remarkable pool of applicants. Please join us in congratulating this year’s advisory board members.
After reading a Teaching Tolerance Facebook post asking how we would be marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I started to think about how I would address this in my classroom. My new group of sixth-graders will be 10 and 11 years old. What they know about these events will not be from their memories but from what they have learned from their parents and teachers. And given the proximity of our school district to New York City, it is quite possible that I will have students who lost a family member on that day. However I decide to approach it in the classroom, it isn’t going to be easy.