Thoughts by Kris
Yep, that's what is happening here
As I sat down with my son the week before he was the star of the week, I was struck with a profound statement by him. See we were trying to fill out an "all about me" poster that will be shared with the class during his special week. They often ask things like what is your favorite food, tell me about your family, and offers the student to sketch a self portrait. We were sitting just chatting about his life and the things he likes when he suddenly looked up at me and said, "Dad, there isn't a crayon to match my skin".
Now my son is white, he is just tans very easily and has some olive undertones but we could not find a match for his skin. He sat there and pulled out crayon after crayon from our giant bin and compared it to his arm skin. After a quick check he would put them back. After doing his for a while he just declared that there was not a crayon to match his skin.
In our shoes, this is not a big deal but what if my son wasn't white? What if the color of his skin did not match a crayon, or a colored pencil, or a marker? What if our ethnicity was not represented in mainstream consumerism?
This is reality for far too many students. We ask them to share about themselves but limit their ability to do just that. We provide them a task with a ceiling on how they see themselves and skew the lens of how they see their self portrait.
This limitation is not strictly to "all about me" posters. Think about any task where you ask students to create something where they would need to represent themselves.
-Write a step by step book about something you built
-Draw how you connect with this book
-Draw your family tree
-Share a family story
-Share how you would look in this novel
The more that we ask students to create these misrepresentations of themselves, the more we are chipping away at their very identity. They are losing the value of who they are and how they see themselves. Although this is accidental, it is real and it happens everyday in our schools.
Luckily there is a solution. Crayola released a multicultural color pack a while ago that is your answer. This pack will allow you to provide students the opportunity to create an accurate representation of themselves regardless of the task. You are bound to still have a student who chooses to represent themselves in a different color, but you are not putting a ceiling on their choices.
We did manage to finish our poster that night with some creative colored pencil work. Please be the teacher who has these in your classroom. Please open the options to ensure that no student looses their identity because of the crayons you provide them.
Education today needs to change. The last months have been a challenge for so many and has certainly pushed me to do more! We as educators are one of the few groups that can actually change systemic racism. We have the wonderful privilege to interact with students day in and day out. We get to teach them the difference between right and wrong. We have the ability to change the conversation that should be taking place in schools.
In this post, I share 5 things that educators should look out for and some simple steps on how to prevent issues in the future. I will not sit here and tell you that I am an expert and that these ideas will fix the world but I do know that sitting on my hands and doing nothing is the wrong choice.
1. Suppressing Messages
Let's speak the truth. There are very few, if any curriculum companies that publish 100% historically inclusive content. There is always a lens put on how they are published, and the audience they are catered for. For example, how many educators have taught about the 13th amendment and how it was designed to reinstate slavery in a legal way? This is one of countless examples of how important messages in learning can suppress voices. Without allowing students to discuss and wrestle with the actual systemic issue, this these messages will never be heard.
What can you do? - Do your best to identify these and to have honest discussions with your students. As always, make sure that these messages are age appropriate but ignoring these pit falls only reciprocates the issues of racism that we see today.
2. Hypersensitivity or Spotlighting
As the conversations change in your classroom and more and more discussions circle around issues, it is important to not become hypersensitive. This can happen accidentally and is often done without ill intent. For example, if you were discussing the trail of tears, you should not rely on the voice of Native American students in the room to speak for their race and be the few voices defending their history. You should not put the weight of an event on the shoulders of any one student or race.
What can you do? - Ensure that the conversations never make a specific student or race uncomfortable with defending or questioning during a discussion. The goal of any conversation is to understand why things happened and learn from the impact that it had and not to belittle a race or a student.
3. Curriculum Faults
As mentioned above, there are few companies that publish 100% historically inclusive content. As you dive into some published work, you can even find some examples of racial preference. Glancing through history books, you may see language that generalizes the conversation. It leaves out key details or combines the content in ways that can swing the users thinking. There are also countless examples of how this content misses information when you just glance through the images. Some examples are very blatant and are opening backing a system of racism in schools, while some examples are simply leaving out important historical facts.
What can you do? - Identify pit falls and host open conversations. This is a very generalized thought, but please do not use personal teacher created content. The large publishing companies have some of these faults in them, but personal teacher created content will have more. There are less regulations on how and why content is chosen and designed which could result in worse discrepancies.
4. Conceptual Thinking
This is one of the hardest things to identify, especially if you are a teacher in an affluent school district. The background knowledge that your students come into your classroom with is directly connected with the socioeconomic status that they were raised in. The vocabulary that they hear and the values that are instilled create the gateway for learning. If the content that student are learning does not connect to their background knowledge, the students cannot access this and hit a roadblock.
What can you do? - Embed multiple vocabulary structures in your classroom. Rather that assuming that students know the term, teach it systematically allowing you to educate those who have never come across it before and extending those who already know it. Bridge the gap while pushing those who need it.
5. Meshed Privilege
This is the most straight forward of my recommendations. It is basically a call to action asking that we keep the fire burning. It is summer right now and it is a time to take a break. But it is not a time to forget. The systems of racism are clear and present in our schools today. We can choose to do nothing and continue what is happening, or we can use the power that we have and teach our students to think and act differently. This will create a ripple effect that can end the systemic racism what we see today.
I will close with what I said in the opening. I will not sit here and tell you that I am an expert and that these ideas will fix the world but I do know that sitting on my hands and doing nothing is the wrong choice.
For many countries and states, distance learning is here until this school year is out. This is a very hard pill to swallow especially for those who would be celebrating milestones. Non the less, there are alternatives that can provide families with a positive memory of this time. These unique ideas all share a common thread and that is one of celebration and positive memories. By all means, you should always try to replicate the same speech, words of affirmation, and awards that were handed out in the past. Your delivery will just need to be changed! Here are 5 ideas for how you can still have a graduation ceremony during distance learning.
Host a meeting that allows for families and students to attend. Dress up in your best attire and ask students to wear their cap and gown if applicable. Begin with your typical commencement speech and words or recognition before calling on each student one at a time. You could have them stand, walk into the screen, or simply wave as they are recognized. Be sure to record this meeting so that it can be saved and shared for the future.
Create a grid that is all about your students. Create one topic that is a celebration of each student. Spend some time talking about their positive contributions to the class and about what they meant to you as an individual. Create other topics allowing students to share their favorite memories. Open this grid up so that families can view, and download the recordings.
In Seesaw you can voice over content and splice together pages to create a flippable eBook. Create a page or a series of pages that talk about each individual student and voice over it with your words of recognition. This video can be shared, and opened up for families to download and save as a memory.
4. Google Slides
Create a slide or a series of slides that is all about each individual student. Embed videos of their work and embed an audio recording of you talking about their positive attributes. Take the time to create a positive monument that will stand for each student for many years to come.
Use this tool to record yourself talking about each individual student. Pull up some of their WOW work and be sure that your turn on the front facing camera. This tool allows for personalization that can be felt as a parent. when you are done with them all, combine them into one video to share with your class as a memory of this year
Google docs is a very commonly used tool. It is one that is often a go to for many teachers. It is easy to get started, quick to understand, and accessible by students. This post is designed to help you squeeze the juice out of your next google doc project. Take it to the next level and teach your students some of these tips and tricks!!
1 - Publish the Doc
Publishing the doc is a phenomenal way to quickly showcase your project. When you publish, you are essentially creating a website! I have used publish to create Professional Learning schedules, share structures outside our network, and create parent friendly newsletters.
2 - Embed GIF's
For sure a Jake Miller favorite!! You can take any GIF and copy this onto your google doc and have it still run. This option allows you to embed self help, random number generators, or even step by step directions! PRO TIP - Use screencastify to make your own GIFs!
3 - Headers/Footers
The headers and footers for google docs are often extremely underused. This is a great place to add your own drawings to create visually appealing formats. Customize this section with your tag line or your logo to make a real splash with your next meeting!
4 - Button Drawings
Links are boring, so why not make a custom button out of drawings! This button will look just like a clickable button and can still be a link and putting its money where its mouth is.
5 - Default Font
Nobody likes to type in arial and if they do, they haven't looked at the fonts that google offers. There are ways that you can change the default font on all google docs so that you dont have to change it every time you open a new doc. Find me on YouTube to solve this problem!!
6 - Use Bookmarks
Long documents don't have to bother you anymore if you use Bookmarks. Mark the spots and titles that you want with bookmarks and create a table of contents at the top. This organization will save your life on your long meeting agendas, or curriculum documents!
7 - Template Link
When handing out templates to your students, there is a trick you need to know. Change the URL from ending with "edit" to ending with "template/preview". This will allow your students to see what they are copying before they make a copy!
8 - Use Docs.new
Making new google docs is easier than every. Go to your chrome browser and type in docs.new. Believe it or not, this will open a new google doc for you that is saved in your drive!!
Brush.ninja is a drawing based GIF creator. Simple open the website and start to draw. You can literally create anything in a matter of minutes from a complex artistic creation to a simple educational purposed tool. The ability for you to import your own images allows you to use this tool to create so many more tools for your students.
This free website offers many drawing abilities including the standard pen, shapes, background chooser and stroke changer. There is also an eraser and a formatting tool that allows you to zoom, rotate, adjust, and move items that you have already placed. All of these tools are accessible on any device and allow for quick creation and seamless exporting.
One of my favorite sections on this website is the gallery. There are hundreds of ideas here ranging from artistic creations to teacher created projects. You can find the link to those here.
Here are some other ways that you can use this tool:
Hopefully one of these ideas, or the example pictured help to convince you of the power found in this tool. Not only is it easy to create, it is easy to export, and easy to come up with countless ideas. Enjoy brushing with the ninjas!