Here’s a little glimpse into the origin of a Teaching Tolerance feature story. Every time we consider a topic, we use a decision matrix to determine if it’s a good fit for our magazine and our audience. One of the most important decision points: How will our readers use this information?
Enter TOOLKITS, a crucial but unsung feature of our feature stories. A toolkit might take the form of a lesson you can use or adapt with students, a reflection exercise you can do yourself or a PD activity that can help you put the topic on your departmental agenda. Toolkits provide a way for educators to become advocates and put anti-bias concepts into practice.
Here are five toolkits from our Summer issue.
“Ask Angy” In this feature story, TT interviews Angy Rivera—a leading activist for undocumented youth and immigrant rights—about growing up without a green card, her activism at a young age and what educators need to know about their undocumented students. The toolkit, which offers a set of short videos created by Rivera and discussion prompts, help educators bring Rivera’s voice into their classrooms.
“Browder v. Gayle” Is this court case part of your civil rights teaching? The feature story explains why it needs to be and how the “60th anniversary of Browder v. Gayle offers an opportunity to get to know this critical case, the unheralded women behind it, and its wider relationship to the [Montgomery bus] boycott and the crusade for racial equality.” The accompanying toolkit walks educators through a special version of Civil Rights Done Right, a detailed set of curriculum improvement strategies for teaching the movement and this court case in particular.
“Flagler County: A Case for Suspension Abolition” Flagler County, Florida, is a pioneer in school discipline reform and may do away with out-of-school suspensions altogether. Read about the how and why of this county’s road toward suspension abolition. The toolkit, a printable A-Z list, helps educators learn more about this concept. For example, here’s what ‘A’ stands for: “Identify and use alternatives to suspension, expulsion and arrests that have been proven effective in addressing student misconduct.”
“The New Sex Ed” A more inclusive model of sexuality education is gaining traction. Is it at your school? Read this story to learn how schools can make the transition to comprehensive sex ed—a model that is, among other features, age-appropriate, medically accurate and LGBT-inclusive. It also addresses consent. The accompanying toolkit helps educators assess the current state of sex education in their schools and plan for ways to adopt a more inclusive approach.
“Teaching at the Intersections” Intersectionality is a buzzword and with good reason: An intersectional approach is crucial to understanding people’s multi-faceted identities and experiences. This feature story breaks down the word, its origins and its relevance to educators and students. The toolkit offers a set of suggested readings, essential questions and grade-level outcomes from Perspectives for a Diverse America that support teaching about multiple identities, oppression and privilege.
Interested in “opening up” more toolkits? In the print issues of Teaching Tolerance, follow the URL listed next to the toolkit icon at the bottom of a feature story. When reading a story online, you can access the toolkit by clicking on a hyperlinked sentence (for example, “Put this story into action.”) near the bottom of the page.
Author’s note: The basis of the Beaverton School District’s mentoring program is to establish trusting, confidential relationships with mentees. This blog post was written and shared here with the permission of the teacher.
"Buenos días," greeted the veteran third-grade teacher as the students piled into the classroom. The smiling kids entered bright-eyed, excited to learn on this cloudy Monday morning. Upon seeing my mentee and me sitting at a round table in the back of the classroom, they stopped and stared, wondering who these two strangers were.
My mentee Kelly, a Spanish two-way immersion teacher in third grade, was ready for a day of learning. As part of our mentoring program in Beaverton, Oregon, we arrange for our new teachers to observe master teachers in the field. Kelly, a first-year educator, requested that she see teachers using language supports for students new to the language they are learning. Our first visit was to a third-grade Spanish immersion class at a neighboring school.
After putting away their backpacks, the students eagerly sat on the carpet, and the teacher started a lesson on making inferences while reading. She directed the students to look at an anchor chart, written in Spanish, explaining the process. She modeled a few inferences with a picture book using the chart and then paired the students to practice making their own inferences with each other. The teacher asked a few students to share out. Kelly took notes on everything, all written in Spanish.
As a white monolingual teacher, I worried that the day’s observation would be lost on me. I lament the fact that I speak only English. As in many school systems across the country, Beaverton is increasingly diversifying in terms of race and culture. I hoped this experience would be rich for Kelly, but I wondered if I would gain much from it, not speaking the language. Turns out I was totally wrong.
The inference lesson looked like lessons I'd taught my own third-grade class, and this lesson was delivered in the first language for many of the students in the room. I knew exactly what the teacher was teaching by the intentional scaffolds she used throughout the lesson, despite my lack of knowledge of Spanish. Clearly, her students benefited from these multiple approaches.
After watching a writing lesson with similar supports and language use, Kelly mused, "It felt like I was watching a well-oiled machine. The teacher clearly and intentionally scaffolded the learning, designed for student success."
We closed out our morning in the Spanish classroom and, after a quick lunch, headed into Portland for our second observation of the day in a third-grade Japanese immersion classroom. While I was excited to experience a second foreign language, I wondered if Kelly would glean as much from our afternoon now that she would experience instruction in a language she didn't know.
What we saw was impressive! Most of the 25 or so students in the room were white, and only two had Japanese heritage. All of them were new to Japanese coming into the school, and by third grade, they were fluent and comfortable using Japanese. The instructor taught primarily in Japanese and only used English when talking with Kelly and me.
The teacher began her literacy lesson with her students on the carpet, reading a picture book about the 2011 tsunami in Japan. During the storytelling, the teacher modeled different types of reading responses, and the students turned and shared their thoughts orally in Japanese. After the teacher finished the book, students returned to their desks to write their thoughts.
Next, the teacher used a structured protocol written on a poster with illustrations, laying out the steps for the students to share their writing. Kids engaged in these conversations wholeheartedly. Then the students completed a "gallery walk" in which they roamed around the room looking at everyone's writing and shared their favorite examples afterward. Students used both oral and written Japanese constantly in authentic, high-engagement activities.
Kelly reflected on her experience in the Japanese classroom: "It was so nice to see the teacher constantly encouraging kids with a positive, optimistic and welcoming demeanor. By using sentence frames and specific language supports, it creates a comfortable atmosphere where learning is truly supported."
Kelly and I discussed some of the support we saw in these two highly successful classrooms, and three stand out.
Use of visuals, combined with words, for processes and speaking
Not knowing the language in either classroom, I began to look for supports to help me with the lessons. The use of pictures and visuals was essential to my inclusion. Without those supports, I would not have understood what was going on. They clearly supported the students as they used their new languages.
Modeling of the skills or language
We saw extensive modeling by the teachers before students were asked to produce anything. The teachers made their modeling explicit and tied it in with visuals to support learner development.
Structures to use the language verbally either with a peer or small group
Each teacher intentionally used protocols or planned structures for the students to use their language. And each teacher tied in expectations for speaking and listening, allowing students ample time to practice in a safe environment.
As we were leaving the Japanese classroom, Kelly commented, "I just wish that every pre-service educator would experience learning in a new language, whether it be for a day or a week. They would experience a range of emotions and the constant unfamiliarity that our English language learners encounter on a daily basis. It would allow new teachers to walk a little bit in their English learners' zapatos."
Hiller is a mentor to first- and second-year teachers in Oregon and a former member of the Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board.
The Atlantic: "Anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that teachers of color can help disrupt what are often one-sided portrayals of the world and offer invaluable insight to students from different backgrounds."
Disability Scoop: "Everything about public education must be rethought for children with autism. Some have above-average intelligence. Others struggle to read. By high school, some can be integrated into classrooms. But even then, they have barriers to overcome, many of them social."
The Hechinger Report: "If we viewed students as learners and not uneducable criminals, then we wouldn’t kick them out of schools. We certainly wouldn’t shuttle children through an adult justice system."
The Huffington Post: "The law no longer condones segregated schooling like it did in the days before Brown, but an insidious system of stratified schooling exists all the same. What’s more, the report says governmental agencies such as the Department of Education and Department of Justice are not doing all they could to dismantle this system."
Los Angeles Times: "The experience of the girl, identified using her first initial, 'T,' to protect her privacy, provides a number of lessons, among them: how to train staffers and designate 'safe' people on whom a student can depend. Teachers and principals will want to know how to deal with notes like the one that slipped out of T’s homework folder one day: 'You’re a boy not a girl get it throu (sic) your head.'"
The New York Times: "It comes down to whether the federal government will require states and districts that voluntarily accept federal funds to use their own money fairly, a crucial question as students and teachers are held accountable for meeting exacting new educational standards like the Common Core."
Nieman Reports: "There is an urgent need for more investigative reporting on Native American issues, but such projects are hampered by a lack of press freedoms on Native American lands and a shortage of journalists―Native American and otherwise―who understand the culture as well as the politics and legal intricacies of Native American life ... ."
smartmusic: "... [T]olerance and the skills that accompany it are learned attributes and ones that I believe can be readily accessed through the act of musical collaboration. By learning to work together as an ensemble, we can discover that we have more in common than not."
Teacher2Teacher: "My struggle wasn’t because no one looked like me, my struggle was that many students looked like me, but none of my teachers did. Why does that matter?"
The Washington Post: "According to some African American male teachers, the “invisible tax” is imposed on them when they are the only or one of only a few nonwhite male educators in the building. It is paid, for example, when these teachers, who make up only 2 percent of the teaching force nationally, are expected to serve as school disciplinarians based on an assumption that they will be better able to communicate with African American boys with behavior issues."
If you come across a current article or blog you think other educators should read, please send it to email@example.com , and put "What We’re Reading This Week" in the subject line.
Teaching Tolerance recently traveled to Seattle, Washington, to work with local K-12 educators and support their efforts to include the modern civil rights movement in their social studies instruction. The summit, organized by Seattle University’s Poverty Education Center, grew from our Teaching the Movement (TTM) initiative—a multi-year project prompted by the 2010 NAEP report card showing that U.S. students knew little about the modern civil rights movement. The one-day event included diving into our TTM reports and unpacking lesson-planning tools with participants.
As often happens in teaching, we got more than we planned for.
What we didn’t plan for was witnessing, firsthand, this student sit-in calling for the resignation of the Matteo Ricci College dean and a full review of the “Eurocentric curriculum.” Some people think student activism like this is “extreme” and “uncalled for,” when, in fact, student-led protests have facilitated progress and change throughout the modern civil rights movement. The recent increase of student-led protests across the country on university campuses (Missouri, Ithaca, Yale) and high school campuses (Oakland and Los Angeles, California; Des Moines, Iowa; Parker, Colorado) has had our staff watching and thinking about the complexities of and resistance to collective action.
bell hooks says, “There must exist a paradigm, a practical model for social change that includes an understanding of ways to transform consciousness that are linked to efforts to transform structures.”
Educators spend a lot of time in classrooms and communities on prejudice reduction and improving intergroup relationships, helping students learn how to express comfort with people who are both similar to and different from them. But what space have we created to challenge systemic inequality? Have we facilitated conversations about ways to eliminate injustices that privilege some and disadvantage others? Have we prepared our students and ourselves for the conflict that comes when we directly challenge inequality?
We recognize injustice when we see it.
From a young age, our students recognize unfairness, but do they have the language to describe it? Do they understand that unfairness hurts everyone? Social justice goals and objectives drive us to help students analyze the harmful impact of bias and injustice on the world. When teaching about injustice, we should encourage our students to consider how power and privilege—on personal and institutional levels—affect them directly. When we do this, we must also anticipate that they’re going to want to do something about injustices they see.
Are we prepared to accept what happens when students tell us they are hurting?
Disruption is often necessary when challenging systems of inequality. Collective action can be chaotic, but it’s often grounded in strategy that requires critical thinking. Students should know how to question, debate, consider other perspectives and dialogue about social issues through writing, artistic expression, public service, public speaking, organizing and collaboration.
The Teaching Tolerance Anti-bias Framework can help us include language about justice and action in our instruction. Below, you will find the anchor standards for the Justice and Action domains in the framework. These anchor standards recognize—and help educators put into action—the idea that students need knowledge and skills to stand for justice, even in the face of resistance.
We know, for example, that high school and college students—including the students at Matteo Ricci College in Seattle—are expressing concerns about curricular materials that do not reflect our diverse classrooms and communities. Including essential questions like these may help:
- How do educational experiences influence identity development?
- How are my educational experiences similar to and different from those of people from backgrounds different from mine?
- What kinds of biases and privileges are challenged or perpetuated through the academic content we use?
- What can we do to address racial prejudice and to advocate for racial justice through education?
How we respond when students share their perspectives can make all the difference in our progress as a country. Let’s encourage, support and listen to our kids.
Wicht is the senior manager for teaching and learning at Teaching Tolerance.
One thing we at Teaching Tolerance consistently hear from educators: “We do so much, but we always feel like we should be doing more.” The Summer issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine is full of stories that we hope will inspire you, not to do more, but to build on the equity and inclusion work you’re already doing. This means looking within and finding small ways to adjust your practice, your reactions to students and your actions in moments when injustice and inequity rear their heads.
Our cover story, “Anatomy of an Ally,” looks at what it takes to move beyond being a caring teacher to become a teacher ally. It includes concrete examples from educators who are committed and experienced, as well as a list of helpful do’s and don’ts that can guide you during moments of uncertainty.
Given the recent federal announcement on the rights of transgender students, including their right to use public facilities that match their gender identities, we’re excited to offer a feature that focuses on the many ways educators can support students who do not fit gender binaries. The story highlights the voices of nonbinary youth and advocates, and offers suggestions for how to reassure families who may not understand the issues at hand or agree with the role schools must play in protecting transgender youth.
We were honored to have the opportunity recently to talk to activist Angy Rivera about how educators can support undocumented youth. Rivera writes a groundbreaking advice column called “Ask Angy” in which she helps young people navigate the challenges and fears that come with being undocumented. Her inspiring story will motivate you to look for ways to support this vulnerable population.
There’s lots to love in this issue—from exploring “The New Sex Ed” to adopting “A New Frame of Mind” when thinking about autism to reflecting on the question, “Why Talk About Whiteness?” We hope you’ll take time this summer to rest and play, but also to learn from and reflect on these stories. You may be “up to here” with doing more, but this issue will help you focus on what you already do through the lenses of equity and intersectionality. Small changes can go a long way toward letting all your students know: You’ve got their backs.