For Joanne Barber, a second grade teacher at Crestwood Elementary School in Kent, last year’s Black Lives Matter protests presented an opportunity for her to teach more about race.
“I am willing to be that teacher that has those hard conversations,” she said. “I would be doing a huge disservice to my students if I didn’t give them information that they could see themselves in.”
For Barber, teaching students about racial history is just as important as reading or math.
Her class starts with defining social justice and talking about slavery, which led to institutional racism and implicit bias. Barber also weaves race and equity into every subject. Whether it’s learning about scientists or mathematicians of color, sharing social justice facts or reading about civil rights movements, every day in her class is filled with race education. She also provides resources and other useful information for her students’ families in case students have any questions.
This approach to teaching is something Barber frequently talks about with her colleagues around the Kent School District. She said the teachers often discuss how to help kids navigate difficult conversations and push through discomfort in discussing race.
One of her friends, Manuel Cadenas, a teacher at Kent-Meridian High School, said he tries to lead class discussions with honesty.
“I hope to keep it real. Like the scholars, I need a break from ‘keeping it together,’ ” he said in an email.
While teachers aren’t required to discuss racial equity, specifically, they can still choose to include the history of race or social justice in their own classrooms. The Washington State Board of Education recently announced plans to add an ethnic studies graduation requirement.
Bethany Spinler, the principal of Bellevue Big Picture School, said she is unsure if there are required teaching standards on race.
Although teachers aren’t required to teach about race and equity in their classes, they do go through mandatory diversity training, which covers implicit bias, anti-discrimination, inclusion and cultural responsiveness. In the Bellevue School District, teachers are required to attend one full day of training every three years, according to the teachers union’s collective bargaining agreement.
Some local school districts have taken additional steps to bring in more equity-related topics in other classes like science, English and history.
“In Bellevue, we have been working very hard in grades 5, 8 and 11 to de-center the traditional ‘white’ perspective and to center the voices of people of color,” said Patricia Shelton, a curriculum developer in the Bellevue School District.
Credit: Source link