For the last six months I have been photographing students and teachers from all over the world and asking them two questions:
What do you have in common with your teachers/students?
Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
The project is called ROLL CALL, because it’s about seeing who’s present in our schools, and counting everybody in. This is my 2017 TED-Ed Innovation Project. Each week new portraits and responses from teachers and students are being published at RollCallProject.com. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using #RollCallProject.
ROLL CALL’s mission is to humanize the gaps currently separating students and teachers. The project is focused on three main divides in our schools based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. The facts:
Over 80% of our teachers in American public schools are white, even though the majority of our students are kids of color.
Nearly 80% of our teachers are female, while about half of our students are male and visibility of transgender students is on the rise.
While it’s still complicated for LGBTQ teachers to be out, one study published last spring showed that the majority of young people ages 13-20 now identify as “something other than 100% heterosexual.”
To dive into this project, I turned my camera to the teams I am lucky to be a part of. In December during TED’s first TED-ED Weekend in New York, I was thrilled when almost all of my fellow TED-Ed Innovative Educators (there are 30 of us from 11 different countries, meet everyone here) volunteered to be the first teachers to respond to the roll call. At our January Kickoff Celebration, my fellow 2017 Washington State Teacher Leaders patiently lined up outside in the cold so that I could to shoot their portraits. And over the last semester, my own colleagues from the International School have made time to pause and smile during rushed passing periods so that I could take their pictures.
I have been humbled by the willingness of so many busy and camera-shy teachers for the portrait sessions, but nothing could have prepared me for how blown away I would be by their responses.
RollCallProject.com launched in January with Washington State Teacher Leader and 2012 Regional Teacher of the Year Lynne Olmos; TED-Ed Innovative Educator and Founder of STXi Marcos Silva; and my International School colleague, math teacher Regen Lorden.
Inspired by these teachers’ powerful stories, my own former and current Humanities students were excited to join the call too. Using personal narrative and analytical writing themes from our curriculum, I created a lesson plan to engage my 6th graders with ROLL CALL’s two questions. Their responses stunned me. Release forms were organized posthaste.
I am deeply grateful to the brave and reflective teachers and students (and their parents who signed our permission slips!) who have shared their stories through ROLL CALL so far. My emerging optimism is fueled by all of you.
Are you interested in joining the roll call?
Meet all of our teachers and students who have joined already at RollCallProject.com. Soon you will be able to sign up for notifications when new teachers and students are posted.
Are you far away from Seattle? Share your own picture and responses to our two questions on our Roll Call Facebook page. Follow ROLL CALL on Facebook and Instagram and join in the conversation in the comments. Spread the word on Twitter using #RollCallProject.
Are you interested in getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse into ROLL CALL? I will be delivering a TEDx talk about the project on Saturday, March 4 at Western Washington University in Bellingham. Tickets and more information here.
Citations for the facts:
Latest posts by Kristin Leong (see all)
- Mostly Appropriate Resources: Looking Back with Kristin Leong - March 26, 2017
- ROLL CALL: Two Simple Questions Connecting Students & Teachers - February 17, 2017
- #IgniteEdLab Returns! Feb 8 at Town Hall Seattle - January 1, 2017