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Powerful BLM Week of Action in Schools
Inspired Teaching envisions a world in which every child is able to thrive, through an authentically engaging education. We spearheaded the Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools along with Teaching for Change to pursue this powerful vision and further our mission of cultivating changemaking educators who actively engage students as empathetic, critical thinkers.
In a world of systematic oppression and discrimination, it is our duty as educator to address inequity and build empathy in classrooms and schools. The Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools aligns with our commitment to partnering with the teacher as the leverage point for change and equip educators with tools and resources to be changemakers.
The D.C. Area Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools from February 5-10 built off the momentum of the National Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Our Schools to improve the school experience for students of color. The week of action sparked an ongoing movement of critical reflection and honest conversations in school communities for people of all ages to engage with critical issues of social justice. Over 100 institutions endorsed the week of action, including The Washington Teachers’ Union, the DCPS Office of Secondary Learning, and local universities. Inspired Teaching was part of a larger movement of educators and advocates working to bring social justice into the classroom. Read Stories from Black Lives Matter in Schools Week to learn about how individuals and organizations engaged in the movement.
Under a shared commitment to promoting social justice in the classroom, Inspired Teaching teamed up with Teaching for Change to unite a diverse group of changemaker educators to organize the first DC Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools. Starting in October, a core group of educators and community members began regularly meeting to plan events, manage outreach, and develop curriculum.
In addition to promoting a set of local and national demands, each day corresponded to two or three themes based on the thirteen guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement. In classrooms across the D.C. area, teachers implemented Black Lives Matter Week of Action curriculum. In the evenings, a variety of events gave educators, students, community members, and stakeholders opportunities to engage in the movement.
Inspired Teaching hosted three events to engage students, educators, and community members in the movement. On Wednesday, February 7th, Inspired Teaching sponsored a #MoonlightInSchools Twitter Chat led by Latoya Hankins that built off the movie Moonlight to facilitate a rich conversation about how to elevate the voices of LGBTQIA+ students in the classroom.
Aligned with Thursday’s focus on Intergenerational, Black Families, and Black Villages, Inspired Teaching hosted a Black Lives Matter Interschool Seminar where both students and adults engaged in thought-provoking and authentic conversations about race and society. Students and adults initially broke off into separate rooms to begin their text-based conversations. The student-selected topics included Gentrification in the DMV, Mental Illness & Race in the U.S., What’s Now and What’s Next for the BLM Movement, The War on Drugs, The Intersection of Gender & Racism, and #BlackLivesMatter Social Media & the Movement. After exploring the themes separately, adults joined the student-facilitated conversations to share perspectives and listen to one another.
After adults joined the student-facilitated conversation on Gentrification in the DMV, students share personal anecdotes about how gentrification has affected their lives.
Students and adults alike were able to question and unpack racial justice with a diverse group of peers and community members with whom they wouldn’t otherwise interact. The student and adult participants recognized the importance of creating space for civil discourse. At the end of the evening, one student noted that Interschool Seminar is “important because in order to change people’s perspectives we have to start talking and expressing ideas.” Another adult explained that conversation leads to action, stating, “the freedom to explore and learn through authentic conversations is really engaging and pushes both reflection and action.”
For all topics, participants were deeply invested in conversation, recognizing the urgency and significance of promoting racial justice. One student eloquently described the importance of the night, explaining that “it is imperative to bring these issues into the classroom; cultural and social literacy is a must-have for all young people.” To learn more about the evening, read this article in The Afro that details parts of the event.
On Friday, Inspired Teaching co-hosted an open mic, Love Poems to Black Women, with Teaching for Change and Split this Rock. MC’d by the talented Joseph Green, the culminating celebration and open mic took place at Wilson High School and was connected to Friday’s theme, Centering Black Women and Femmes. Over 150 community members attended and 25 poets, including students (even one five year old!) and adults, shared eloquent and powerful poems. The inclusive evening showcased the importance of creating space to celebrate and honor the voices of people of color. The open mic was a beautiful way to bring together community members and close the week of action and served as a reminder that #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool every day, all year long.
Inspired Teachers Incorporate Black Lives Matter Curriculum into their Instruction
Building on their commitment to be changemakers in the classroom, Inspired Teachers incorporated Black Lives Matter curriculum into their classrooms. This article in The Afro highlights how Inspired Teachers engaged their students in important lessons and dialogue about racial justice.
Inspired Teaching Fellow Brittney Henderson (‘13) One Read Aloud
For the DC Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools, Inspired Teaching Fellow Brittney Henderson (‘13) and her kindergarten students at West Education Campus (DCPS) read One by Kathryn Otoshi, a book that addresses the importance of inclusion in a diverse community. Afterwards, the class discussed why everyone must be kind to each other even when people aren’t kind to them, and created posters to demonstrate how to be kind.
One is a favorite book among parents participating in Teaching for Change’s Roving Readers program. Parent readers act out the book with students and emphasize standing together in solidarity against a bully, while also showing compassion for that person.
Brittney incorporates Black Lives Matter into her classroom “to teach her students how to value every person and help them understand that being a good citizen means respecting all voices and valuing all people, regardless of their identities.”
Inspired Teaching Fellow Jay Banks (‘15) Crossing Bok Chitto Read Aloud
Inspired Teaching Fellow Jay Banks’ 2nd grade classroom at DC Scholars PCS focused on Black Lives Matter by discussing resistance and advocacy. The class read Crossing Bok Chitto by Tim Tingle, the fictional story of the friendship between a young Choctaw girl and and enslaved African boy. The students attentively listened and asked questions about how members of different cultures persevere in the face of discrimination and oppression. After the read aloud, students had the opportunity to write their own stories of time they helped somebody or sparked change in their community.
Through addressing Black Lives Matter in the classroom, Jay has learned that the students have so much to say and giving them the opportunity to discuss these critical topics invigorates them and helps them develop into well-rounded people. Jay chooses to be a part of this movement to help students recognize their agency and help them understand that can make change, even as a young person. Jay believes that engaging students in conversations about Black Lives Matter build empathy and shows each student that “no matter how they identify, they are included.”
Humanities Hub Teacher Topher Kandick #Last Words Lesson
As a part of Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools, SEED Public Charter School educator Topher Kandik did a powerful lesson on the last words of victims of police brutality. Students started out the class by reading the poem “Bell Canto” about Sean Bell by Derrick Weston Brown. Students took turns reading the poem and stopped after each stanza to discuss imagery, tone and meaning of the poem. A student stated that the poem make them think “about exhaustion because [police brutality] is something that happens so often in so many places and people are beyond tired, they are exhausted.” Next, students were given a paper that had the following quotes in boxes:
“Mom, I’m going to college.”
“I don’t want to die young”
“I love you, too”
“I didn’t do nothing.”
“Please don’t let me die”
“What are you following me for?”
“Officers why do you have your guns out?”
“This isn’t real.”
As Mr. Kandik discussed the quotes, he asked students to draw pictures to represent the quotes but didn’t give context as to what the quotes were about. Students were enjoying drawing images and coming up with creative ways to convey the messages of the quotes. When students finished drawing pictures for every quote, Mr. Kandik revealed that those quotes were actually the last words said by people before they were killed. There was a heavy sigh among students, realizing what these images and quotes represented. A student stated he wanted to “redraw the pictures” now that he knew what the quotes meant. The students had a discussion about how they felt re-reading the quotes and expressed reactions of frustration, anger and disappointment thinking about the stories of the victims. Students then looked at the Last Words Project by Shirin Barghi and matched the quotes with the actual victims. Students asked questions and discussed the different scenarios each victim was in when they said their last words. After going through the project a student stated “every person that is victim of police brutality is another chapter in the sad book that is American history.” This was a powerful activity in imagery and poetry. Next, students will write their own poems.
Continuing the Movement
As we celebrate the depth and breadth of the Black Lives Matter Week of Action, we recognize that this is just the beginning. We are committed to enabling Inspired Teachers to be changemakers who incorporate civil discourse and build social justice in the classroom. Thank you to the hardworking individuals and organizations who helped implement the week of action and spread its message far and wide. The week brought together advocates of all ages from across the D.C. are and the stories that have come out of classrooms, conversations, and events throughout the week show the undeniable importance of engaging in civil discourse and incorporating Black Lives Matter in schools.