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What Educators Need: Anti-Racism Education and Training

Insights from Educate., 6th Edition

Photo by kalei peek on Unsplash

As a former HS English teacher, I taught To Kill a Mockingbird nearly every year to freshmen students. I was born and raised in the deep south. To me, the characters and setting feel familiar, in an overly nostalgic, and sometimes negative, way. Every year that I have taught the novel, my cheeks would flame in indignation at the treatment of Blacks in the novel.

Looking back, I really didn’t know how to teach anti-racism to my students. I never received training in how to approach diverse texts. Reading the article, “How Do We Teach ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and Honestly Confront Racism?” by D.J. Cashmere, I realized again that I could have used more direction, specifically standards, in how I approached diverse texts with perspectives that I did not understand.

As Cashmere reflects in the article, Atticus is unfairly put on a pedestal as a White man coming to save the black man, while Whiteness is fairly centered with the exclusion of the Black voice. What is missing in lesson plans for the novel includes an exploration of identity. Where do stereotypes originate? How do students see themselves? How can we, as educators, help students safely explore their identities without trodding on each other’s identities and needs in the process?

Last month, the North Carolina Board of Education took one step towards anti-racism education in public schools by voting in favor of new K-12 standards aimed at addressing diverse perspectives.

The new standards call for educators to specifically teach students about “races, religions, and other groups” moving away from previous standards that merely used the word “variety” to describe perspectives.

Although the board voted in favor of specifically addressing anti-racism education, members removed the word “systemic” to describe racism and discrimination. Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (R) stated, “The system of government that we have in this nation is not systematically racist.”

Regardless of his statement and beliefs, North Carolina is boldly making steps to finally address anti-racist education by including it in the curriculum, and I am hopeful that other states will do the same.

Anti-racist work means acknowledging that racist beliefs and structures are pervasive in all aspects of our lives — from education to housing to climate change — and then actively doing work to tear down those beliefs and structures. Those beliefs and structures don’t just exist in primarily white/and or privileged institutions — they thrive there. — Christina Torres, Learning for Justice

Students deserve an education that addresses the hard realities of our past and present. We can’t move forward until we acknowledge what is and work together to create what can be.

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Education News and Research

  • The National Center for Science Education continues to support Florida in the teaching of climate change in public schools. The NCSE reports, “67.8 percent of Floridian respondents strongly or somewhat agreed — comparable to 2020, when 70.4 percent agreed…” in a sample of 500 Florida respondents.
  • In a study titled, “Not Too Late: Improving Academic Outcomes Among Adolescents,” researchers delved into the question of whether students that are behind can improve their academic skills with individualized, in-school tutoring. In two randomized controlled settings, researchers found that student math scores increased, and effects persisted into future years. Students that receive targeted in-school tutoring benefited.
  • The Hechinger Report is a weekly newsletter reporting on research and news in education. In a recent article titled, “Four ways to rebuild a better early ed system,” Jackie Mader, dissects four high-quality and equitable policy changes to help salvage a fledgling early childhood system.
  • Four recent studies conclude that project-based learning, specifically in science and social studies, helps students achieve higher scores. One major caveat: teachers were trained and coached in how to properly implement PBL. This is a major pitfall in many schools where districts lack the funds to properly educate teachers on how to successfully utilize PBL in the classroom. However, the studies do lend credence to the fact that PBL is still a desirable method for many students.

Professional Learning and Inspiration

5 Ways Parents Can Help Kids Avoid Gender Stereotypes

Although this article is aimed at parents, teachers can also take the time to avoid stereotypes that can be inadvertently perpetuated in a classroom. Throughout the article, Assistant Professor Kyl Myers, provides tips on how adults can support children who are struggling with identity. Teachers can and should be aware of gender marketing in stories and books that are taught in the classroom and strive to use gender-neutral language.

The majority of Americans believe there is more work to do on gender equality. As a genderqueer sociologist, a parent of a kindergartner and the author of a book on gender creative parenting, I study the importance of disrupting sexism in childhood. Here are five ways I’ve found that parents and caregivers can fight gender stereotypes in kids’ lives.

5 Ways for Teachers to Build a Good Rapport with Their Students Online

Professor Meredith Aquila acknowledges the hard work teachers are putting in to connect with students in a virtual environment. She recommends working with students synchronously when possible and fostering collaboration among students during lessons. It is also essential to practice classroom management techniques to ensure structured lessons, and to work to acknowledge each student on a personal level to foster connection.

As a community college instructor who has studied teachers’ perspectives on what it takes to establish a good rapport with students, I have observed five actions that I believe all educators should take to build better relationships in their online classes.

5 Ways to Support Students Who Struggle With Reading Comprehension

Nina Parrish spends time walking teachers through this article designed to illuminate the struggles some students face in the literacy classroom. Some struggling readers learn to decode text without actually understanding, or comprehending, the meaning. Parrish recommends teaching vocabulary and thinking strategies aimed at increasing complex thinking. In addition, Parrish recommends students teach each other through reciprocal teaching, often used in literature circles.

As children get older, if they are decoding text well we assume they are reading well. Once a person learns to decode, reading comprehension becomes more about language comprehension and focus. At this transition, starting around third grade, teachers may begin to notice some students who decode text fluently but are not understanding.

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About the Editor

Jennifer Osborne is an experienced educator with graduate degrees in Educational Leadership and Guidance and Counseling. She has taught in five countries across a wide variety of classrooms and schools. Jennifer is passionate about authentic education for students and personalized professional learning for teachers.

Read her Educator’s Bio at Jennifer Osborne Writes.

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