I love what Bryan Stevenson (founder of the Equal Justice Initiative) says in his Ted Talk, “We Need to Talk about an Injustice.” He pushes for Ted to pair the flashy worlds of innovation, technology, design and entertainment with care and compassion for all people, using their skills to make a difference in other people’s lives. He talks about how identity and accomplishment are intertwined. His life’s work has been to fight mass incarceration, the death penalty, and the sentence of life without parole for minors. And while he makes a powerful and important case for his own work, the Ted Talk is also about using your gifts in a way that shows you care about other people.
What a powerful message to share.
Of all the resources, Ted Talks, podcasts, websites, and Instagram accounts that I looked at this week, I’d say the gold standard resource online for confronting hate and talking about equity is Teaching Tolerance, an incredibly comprehensive and impressive website full of lesson plans, toolkits, podcasts, and curriculum to help you as you approach equity and inclusion in the classroom.
I wish every school could give teachers a professional development day just to explore this site, watch videos, participate in webinars, and download curriculum. (Instructional Coaches and department chairs, maybe you can make this happen at your school!)
Once you create a free account there, you can watch webinars, browse their video library, subscribe free to their magazine (which I did, and I hope you will too), and order film kits.
Here’s a very small sampling of examples of their resources:
- Let’s Talk! Discussing Race, Racism, and other Difficult Topics with Students
- Extreme Prejudice: A Webinar to help you teach about extremism accurately and safely
- Being there for Nonbinary Youth
- Teaching Hard History: A Framework for Teaching American Slavery
- The Queer America Podcast
Here are some booklists to help with filling your independent reading library shelves:
- Powerful and Real: YA Books about Immigration
- Best of Young Adult Fiction (from Teaching for Change)
- Female Native Authors for your Booklist
- Ten Books The Hate U Give Author Angie Thomas Thinks Everyone should Read
- A Children’s Booklist for Anti-Racist Activism
- 8 Must Have Books that Make Muslims Visible in your Classroom
- 50+ YA Books about Mental Illness
- 10 Must-Read YA Books by Asian-American Authors
- 30 Essential LGBT+ Books for YA Readers
This week I’ve been reading Internment, by Samira Ahmed, in which she imagines a dystopia set in the very near future with Muslim-Americans interned as a supposed threat to the country. As so often happens for me, reading fiction made me more powerfully aware of reality. If you feel Islamaphobia is an issue at your school, check out the classroom resources from Teaching While Muslim This site provides a roundup of informational sources for learning more about Islamic history and culture, as well as links to specific lesson ideas like “Commemorate 9/11 by Combating Islamophobia.“
If you’d like to encourage students at your school to be more involved politically, you might consider starting a Youth Empower Chapter. This youth branch of the Women’s March is all about empowering young people to make a difference in their communities.
According to their website, “Young organizers can start Youth Empower Chapters all over the country. To date, there are over 200 youth-led Youth Empower Chapters, focusing on a range of issues from reproductive justice, racial justice and environmental justice to gun violence prevention, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and more. Start a Youth Empower Chapter in your high school, college or community. Join a community of change-makers who are defining what they want this country to be, one chapter at a time.”
If you teach older students, you could also share the website Rock the Vote with them. Here they can register to vote, sign petitions, and contact elected officials.
If you’d like to make your classroom walls reflect a vision of equity and empowerment, Radici Studios offers many beautiful images on its website as free downloads. You can also buy t-shirts, posters, and postcards, but below you’ll see just two examples of images you could download and print as posters for your classroom. You choose the free downloads at the bottom of the store page and put them in your cart, but when you “checkout” all you do is share your email address. You don’t even have to go to your inbox to get the images, they’re ready to download right on the studio checkout page once you’re done.
A member of our Facebook group, Creative High School English, shared a powerful article with me this week that she plans to use while teaching Dear Martin. Consider reading Privileged, by Kyle Korver, with your students. It’s about his experience as a white man in the NBA learning about race, equity and privilege. It’s beautifully written and drives home some very big points. It reminds me of a somewhat more academic article that I read this week for myself as I did research for this article, Why It’s so Hard to Talk to White People about Racism.
Another resource to consider is Teaching for Change , which has sections with ideas and information for teaching students about the Black Lives Matter movement, for challenging Islamophobia, for teaching about civil rights, for exposing students to more of the culture and literature of Central America, and more.
If you are reading any stories, poetry, or literature set during genocide, you might examine Genocide Watch with your students and talk about the ten stages of genocide and how to recognize them. Or look at the levels in the Pyramid of Hate and reflect in writing. @Lovealltheblues recommended these great resources to me over on Instagram.
The National Education Association’s free Social Justice Lesson Plans feature the stories of the NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards recipients. By spending a unit exploring the lives and actions of people and groups who have worked successfully in civil rights, students can begin to see types of actions that can make a difference and brainstorm what types of actions they might be able to take in their own lives.
Or take a look at the online magazine “Let’s Do This,” from dosomething.org, “a global movement for good” that shares articles and ways for youth to get involved on a number of issues.
These are just a handful of the possibilities out there. There is so much to learn. So much to talk about. So much listening to be done. But I hope this post will help. In the coming months, I’m looking forward to talking to an amazing librarian on the podcast about great texts to bring more diverse voices into our classroom reading, and to interviewing Liz Kleinrock about what she has learned in almost a decade teaching about equity with her students.