Welcome to Mostly Appropriate Resources. Usually, here is where I offer teachers ideas for ELA curriculum that might inspire a few parent emails. This month I am sharing resources from my Socratic Seminar workshop for teachers focused on race and education. Check out my post on how Socratic Seminars prepare students for dinner parties here.
This column was inspired by this list.
TPEP: Criterion 8: Exhibiting collaborative and collegial practices focused on improving instructional practices and student learning.
BACKGROUND: My hope for this workshop was rooted in my strong belief that discomfort leads to learning, and learning leads to progress. As I opened the workshop with the facts that 83% of teachers are white even though the majority of public school students are kids of color, a subtle wave of awkwardness passed through the room. The teachers who gathered from across the state on a Saturday came for a workshop on Socratic Seminars. My surprise to participants was that we would be practicing this student-led assessment tool by having a seminar of our own around themes of race. (I teach middle school. Students usually love surprises.) This event was not advertised as a celebration of diversity or as a conversation about culture because I think schools’ race problem is so glaring that we should assume that it is on the table at every professional development opportunity. Equity shouldn’t be a subheading or a selling point.
Subject: Race in schools, Socratic Seminars
- Explore resources around themes of race and education.
- Learn strategies for using Socratic Seminars in classrooms across disciplines.
- Anderson, Melinda D. Why Schools Need More Teachers of Color—for White Students. The Atlantic. August 5, 2015.
- Data on staff and student comparison by ethnicity/race in Washington public schools from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
- Balk, Gene. Seattle Schools Have Biggest White-Black Achievement Gap in State. The Seattle Times. May 9, 2016.
- Alexie, Sherman. Indian Education. “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” 2007.
- Video on Marley Dias’ 1000 Black Girl Books campaign.
RESOURCE OVERVIEW: By including five different kinds of resources—an editorial, data tables, a local news article, a short story, a video—the hope was to provide something to reach all of the diverse learners in the room to fuel participation in our seminar. Teaching and learning by doing. Because teachers are students too.
RESOURCE 1: Anderson’s Editorial Essay. This was our longest read of the day and it is fierce. Anderson opens with staggering statistics about the glaring disconnect between students and teachers based on race and gender and then deftly explores what it means to humanize—not just diversify–curriculum through including people of color at the front of the class.
RESOURCE 2: OSPI Data. Organized tables without commentary from Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. This resource was a favorite among the STEM teachers. OSPI’s site is a goldmine of charts and percentages; some saddening, some hopeful. We focused on five tables: State dropout rates by race; Staff/Student comparison by race for the State; Staff/Student comparison by race for the Bellevue School District, Seattle Public Schools, and the Highline School District.
RESOURCE 3: Seattle Times article. Recently Seattle Public Schools won the dishonorable distinction of having the fifth largest achievement gap between black and white students in the country. Gene Balk hits the ground at a sprint: “White kids in Seattle public schools are doing great….”
RESOURCE 4: Excerpt from Sherman Alexie’s short story. We read the Second Grade, Third Grade, and Fourth Grade sections of Indian Education. I performed the first section aloud and then I called on teachers to take over. And just like what happens when I bring this story into my middle school classroom, the room became quickly silent and serious, first sad and then angry. “Indians, indians, indians.” She said it without capitalization. She called me “indian, indian, indian.” A teacher in the back raised her hand after the piece was over and held back tears relating the story to her own students up against so much before they even set foot in the classroom.
RESOURCE 5: Video on Marley Dias’ 1000 Black Girl Books. My hope with ending with this 6th grade revolutionary was that we would be moved to use our Seminar to start talking about ideas for creative and community-minded solutions.
Thank you very much to the Puget Sound Educational Service District for inviting me to share my zeal for Socratic Seminars and for responding enthusiastically, oh yes, do your thing, when I proposed organizing the day around topics our mothers warned us never to bring up at dinner parties. My gratitude is deep for being a part of a team that includes “antiracist” as a single word in our mission statement and encourages hard conversations to better serve our students.
Did you attend the workshop? I welcome your feedback in the comments below. Ideas for more resources to keep this conversation going? Let’s get this list going.
Kristin’s project Half on biracial identity was nominated for a USA Today Outstanding Academic and Intellectual Endeavor Award. See portraits from Half here.
Previously in Mostly Appropriate Resources by Kristin Leong:
Latest posts by Kristin Leong (see all)
- This Teacher Can’t Be Neutral: PHOTO ESSAY - November 10, 2016
- The Birth of Queer the Curriculum & Why I Instigate Awkward Conversations - September 30, 2016
- WHY OUR FREE 10/8 WORKSHOP IS CALLED “QUEER THE CURRICULUM” - September 27, 2016