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
My student Belinda got into a fight last year. It wasn’t a prissy, slappy, name-calling fight, either. It was a reality television-worthy, punch- throwing, eye-bruising fight that didn’t end until Belinda’s opponent had ripped the weave out of her hair and waved it around in front of the student spectators.
We all want our schools to be safe and orderly. Our teachers should be able to focus on teaching and our children should be able to focus on learning. Sadly, though, the effort to instill greater discipline in our schools has backfired.
Sherise was beautiful, outgoing and athletic. But at the age of 10, she was also pushed to the brink.
“They call me names all day and make me feel like I don’t belong. It never stops.” Her pretty face dissolved in sobs. Then, the words I feared the most. “I can’t face another day. Those kids who committed suicide ... that’s what I’m ready to do.”
It happens in every class. We’re discussing a text, a publication, a current event, a poem. The content doesn’t matter. It’s the phrase that counts.
A student comments and uses the phrase “African American” or even “black people.” The student is white. The reaction of the class – almost all white – is swift. As if choreographed, all eyes turn to the one student of color. The spotlight of eyes shines down and he or she blinks back as if staring into the sun.
The teacher should use this moment to open a discussion.
One reason there are so many incidences of anti-gay bullying is a simple lack of understanding. Introducing kids to LGBT topics at an early age, in a comfortable and open environment, rather than allowing them to discover the subject at a later age where they may also pick up prejudicial and inaccurate information can help prevent such violence. This approach can also help LGBT children–or those with LGBT family members—feel safer and more accepted within the classroom.
Earlier this year I spoke with a group of teachers who reported seeing a dramatic increase in the number of Spanish-speaking English language learners (ELLs) in their school district. Among their common concerns was a fear of not being able to effectively communicate with the students and their families. These teachers wanted to reach all their students and make them part of their class communities. And, they were very concerned with meeting the adequate yearly progress (AYP).
Recently, after reading a story about a bike messenger in a big city to my kindergarteners, I asked the students if being a bike messenger was a job they might like. I also asked them to clarify why it would or would not be.