We believe it is critically important to harbor a deep commitment to equity—not just in terms of access to education, but as a fundamental aspect of our belief in the value of every human life. With particular urgency due to our current political climate, we believe it is the responsibility of every citizen to make their voice heard and take action in support of equal rights and equal treatment for all races, religions, genders and sexual orientations. We originally published the below piece in July of 2016, and are republishing an updated version now in light of recent events nationwide.
“If the structure does not permit dialogue, the structure must be changed”
― Paulo Freire
We need to have dialogues.
Dialogue within and outside of our communities. Dialogue that pushes us outside our comfort zone. An internal dialogue about our own assumptions and biases. We need dialogue about who we are as people.
Most importantly, we need progress.
Progress in our communities and schools, to focus on people and the issues and choices they face every day. Choices and issues that we may not know of, readily see or want to accept to be true.
We need change.
As Carlos Moreno writes, we also all need to commit to being a part of that change, and “we must not be afraid to engage…in a discussion of these issues.” All of us at Getting Smart personally feel that, too many times, we have allowed ourselves to become stagnant or one-dimensional in our thinking, complacent with how things are (the world seen only through my eyes), or that we have not been engaging in purposeful ways that help the world to move forward.
However, there are many educators who we think DO help keep the dialogue, movement and charge going–teachers committed to change and authentic conversation about the world today—who remind us that change is possible. Even when what we are doing doesn’t feel like it is helping, “…it is something” says Christine Newgard Hardigree, Assistant Professor at Iona College. “Keep writing. Keep filming. Keep sharing.”
When we need a reminder or encouragement, here are some of the people we turn to (many of whom are current classroom educators) who have written books and articles, given speeches or presentations, and/or created and led organizations or groups of people dedicated to change. They consistently are a part of the ongoing effort to help empower others.
People To Pay Attention To (Adult Audience):
Long time educator who has been dedicated to the small schools movement for decades. She has spent a great deal of time in New York City schools, specifically in East Harlem. Meier is the author of several publications and books, including The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem and In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization.
Renee is originally from Detroit, but has spent most of her life teaching & learning in the Mississippi Delta. She is an English teacher at Mississippi Delta Community College, a National Board Certified Teacher and 2001 Mississippi Teacher of the Year. Renee is an active member of the Center for Teaching Quality Collaboratory.
José is an educator for a middle school in New York, NY. He is an avid writer, regularly blogging on his own site. He is an author of several publications, including This Is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education. He’s also a committed activist, web designer and father.
Ashanti is from Oakland, California. Ashanti studied Civil Engineering and worked as a construction project manager in his first career before turning to teaching. In 2004, Ashanti started The Ever Forward Club, to provide a support group for African American and Latino males, who were not achieving to the level of their potential. Branch continues to lead and mentor youth at the Club and is currently a Project Fellow at the Stanford d.school.
Based in New Orleans, Rhonda’s education career has been built on “ways that we are increasing access and opportunity for all students to connect with the world outside of their local neighborhood: multilingualism, cross-cultural and intercultural competencies, international perspectives, peace-building, youth action and agency, socioeconomic diversity”. Her blog “One Good Question” demonstrates this commitment with insights from a variety of EdLeaders.
Pedro is a Distinguished Professor of Education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences at UCLA. He focuses on a variety of influencers on the quality of education, especially on social and economic factors. He is the author of over a dozen books and even more publications. He regularly engages with national media sources to share and talk about current trends in education. He has also been faculty at New York University, Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley.
Gia was a teacher for eight years and currently leads Envision. She is dedicated to providing all students with high expectations and equitable learning experiences. She has worked in both public and charter schools, many of which have been in California.
Nathan is a current AP Government & Politics and Human Geography teacher in the state of Washington. He is a 2016 National Teacher of the Year Finalist, 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year and 2014 Milken National Teaching Award Recipient. He has been acknowledged for his ability to facilitate meaningful conversations with students, tied to his course objectives and goals, about about the world in which they live in.
Richard is a Professor of Education, Editor-in-Chief of Urban Education and Director of the Center for Urban Education. An avid writer about Urban Education, Milner has been dedicated to addressing the racial disparities that exist in public school systems.
Melinda is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and has a special interest in race, class, educational equity and educational justice. She serves on the steering committee for EduColor, a grassroots movement bringing race and class to the forefront of education policy discussions, and elevating voices of color in education conversations and decisions. Melinda started the hashtag #CharlottesvilleCurriculum.
Rusul Alrubail is a social justice advocate, and the Executive Director of The Writing Project. She has taught English composition and literature to high school and college students.
We also appreciate these others who are sharing books, people to follow and resources that they look to:
- Dr. Christopher Emdin — Talks and books on reality pedagogy, including For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood
- Teaching for Tolerance — Social Justice Standards for Teachers
- Participate— Sustainable Development Goals Courses
- Global Dignity— Focused on encouraging young people to learn about and practice dignity for themselves and others
- Alliance for Education — Federal Flash: Race, Equity, and Inclusion
- The Washington Post — Teaching about race, racism and police violence: Resources for educators and parents
- nprEd — Where’s The Color In Kids’ Lit? Ask The Girl With 1,000 Books (And Counting)
- The Huffington Post — Read These 23 Books And Authors When The Injustice Is Overwhelming
- EdWeek — Resources for Discussing Police Violence, Race, and Racism With Students
Discussing the Issue with Kids
Starting the conversation with students earlier to develop a sense of awareness about themselves and others is of equal importance. We’ve written about activities to promote diversity, inclusion and empathy. Another small stepping stone that’s even easier is reading relevant books with our students. Books that present all angles and stories, encouraging children to learn empathy and how to look at things from another perspective. Some great lists that we’ve found have been provided by Teaching Tolerance, NNSTOY and Citizenship and Social Justice.
Additionally, while the following are children’s books, they aren’t just for children–we often find myself re-reading the following titles.
This book is about culture and background. In this book, students are asked to examine their own stories and backgrounds.
Students learn about how despite the fact that we may be different in many ways, that love, pain, and feelings are common amongst all members humanity. A great book to remind students that there are different meanings of these commonalities, too.
A young girl wanting to paint a picture has a revelation that there are many different shades of brown. The message of this book is empowering, that while we all may identify with a certain race, that even within those races we come from varying backgrounds and heritages.
This book reminds young women and men about the beauty in our bodies and backgrounds. A young girl learns to appreciate her hair and where she is from.
In this book written for, and by, primary-aged children, differences and similarities amongst classmates are shared and discussed.
This novel for young adults is a powerful story about the journey of a girl and her mother who were forced to flee their home. An accurate portrayal of what many students in schools today face, this read will certainly engage readers and gain possibly help others who have not experienced the types of trials and tribulations Esperanza goes through to understand and gain perspective.
Our commitment is to work to be active, not just reactive. This means continually educating ourselves, especially about issues that we are less familiar with or tend not to agree with. This means regularly reflecting on our own behaviors and dissecting our inherent values and learned biases. This means consistently being involved in, and dedicated to, meaningful work with people (like those included in this post) and organizations that are acting in ways that move us forward.
What is your call to action? Share them below in the comments, or tweet them and tag us @GettingSmart.
For more, see:
- 14 Quotes to Remind Us We Are Changemakers
- Step Off the Direct Path, Service Something Larger Than Yourself
- 15 LGBTQ Books From Preschool To High School
- Making Sense of it All
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