Nationally, the United States honors the month of February as Black History Month. While we at Park strive to provide inclusive engagement of communities all year, this time allows us to pay particular attention to Black and African American communities and the history of the African diaspora.
Below are some helpful resources that you might try in your classrooms. It may even be small changes like adding a book from the list, including an activity during the week, or having a brief “conversation circle” in your class.
- Play jazz excerpts and ask students to use words to describe how they feel when listening to it. Have students draw while listening — what do they notice? What does the music make them feel? Profile just a few jazz legends like Louis B. Armstrong or Dizzy Gillespie or Ella Fitzgerald or Dinah Washington.
- Read aloud a great book highlighting Black or African American main characters — some which might make race central or peripheral to the story.
- Quick game on “Who discovered or invented it?” and connect famous inventions with their inventors. This list here highlights famous inventors who are Black or African American. There are fourteen listed here, and you can read one each day or every other day.
- Try out a Conversation Circle topic! For less than 20 minutes, you can facilitate a conversation about a current event and racial identity. See ideas and questions at the DEI Blog
How might you include issues in math or science? Highlight researchers, scientists, scholars and inventors of Black of African American heritage. Use examples that impact Black and African American communities as you create math problems or problem sets (e.g., demographics, cultural references). Check out the profile of Dr. Mae Jemison (who some of us got to see at the PoCC!) and her work on integrating Arts and Sciences.
What are some great ideas you have tried?
Peace and Park,
It’s that time of year again. Well, at least every four years.
And, it is during this time when I am usually thankful that I do not have a television. Yes, not having a television means that I miss all sorts of great shows. I never know who won American Idol. I am constantly on the receiving end of “spoiler alerts” about Downton Abbey. And, I almost never get what was so funny about Saturday Night Live …. I have to wait until Monday to watch it on YouTube.
But, during election cycles, I am thankful I do not have television.
Let me explain.
My parents immigrated to this country in 1974, mostly to achieve a better life for their growing family. They knew it was the land of opportunity. It was the land of freedom. And, as we discovered, it was the land of free speech and democratic politics. Yes, I watched the Presidential debates growing up — back when you had to get up and change the channel on a dial knob and tilt the wire antenna until the fuzzy, grey lines disappeared. I remember, fondly, watching these debates with my family.
But, these days, I am much more guarded when it comes to my own children watching the news or debates. In the 30 years since I first started, everything has changed (yes, I realize this is the equivalent of when parents say, “When I was your age, …..”). Frankly, watching the debates used to be a highlight of what makes this country great; now, it just feels like an extension of a reality show that has been overly produced.
While it is very important that we engage our young(est) ones in dialogue about our world, our society and our communities, we also need to be aware that there is a great deal of negativity and fear that is put out there. Now, if you know me, you know that there is very little I have shielded my own children from. My husband and I have open conversations about our world and society with our 6, 9, and 12 year olds. We also do it in the context of who they are and what they can understand.
As the season of election ads is heating up, I wanted to share a few quick suggestions for parents who are interested in engaging their children in dialogue about our country in an age appropriate perspective. These are, by no means, what will work for you; however, these are some suggestions for what might work for you.
- Be mindful about unsupervised television time. Television ads are popping up everywhere and during every time slot. These ads are meant to be quick, succinct, and get your attention. And, yes, they have gotten the attention of your child. Be there. Be present. Be there to ask your child questions about what they just saw or heard.
- Assume they are paying attention. Some parents like to “wait and see” if their child caught the message on television. Don’t wait. Likely, if they were watching or listening, they caught it. I’ve used phrases like, “Well, that was something interesting I just heard. I don’t agree with what I just heard because ….” Or, “Well, that was something interesting I just heard. I really liked that idea because …..”
- Come up with solutions together. If you and your child hear something you disagree with, find ways to make connections to their own lives. If you hear “we need to exclude this group of people”, ask your child what it feels like to be left out. When they feel left out, what do they like that their friends do to help them feel included? If you hear something hateful or hurtful, what are some ways we might spread love or show kindness to each other?
- Check the facts. For our older children (and, yes, even for our younger ones), work together to discover if statements are true or not true. You can go to different fact checking websites together and have a conversation about “why do you think that person chose to tell that story differently?” or “What are examples of when that is not true or is true?” Encourage them to become critical thinkers.
- Be affirming. Children are often looking for reassurance. While I, as a parent, have too often said to my children, “It’s that way… just because. It’s … just because,” this is a great teachable moment to find facts and explore facts together. What are people allowed to do? Is there a disconnect between “what people say they are going to do” and “what people can legally do?”
As we enter into a vibrant time of American politics, it is important that we remember that we, as parents, are our child’s greatest teachers. Together, in a home and school connection, we can continue to encourage our children to approach difficult topics in appropriate, developmental, curious and affirming ways.
Peace and Park,
I’m deviating a bit from the usual post-Conversation Circle round up and instead giving you a preview of what is to come. We started out hosting Conversation Circles, an opportunity for our faculty and staff to have a conversation, in real time, about topics that have been trending on social media. With the increased demand to host more, we expanded the Conversation Circles from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday mornings. This week, we have added “lunch table” Conversation Circles.
For our readers outside of Park School, I hope you get a sense of the commitment to social justice that our faculty and staff have. They bravely engage in dialogue that, in some circles, is viewed as impolite (we talk openly about some pretty tough issues!). But, at Park School, our community wants to be a part of the national dialogue.
We are offering so many more options to fit the busy schedules of our Park community; however, if you are not able to join us in the room, we encourage you to grab a friend and check out the following Conversation Circle topics!
For readers outside of Park looking for a way to get your community involved, the Conversation Circle model is a great one!
Peace and Park,
Tuesday, January 26th, 2:05-2:25pm in The Shire (hosted by Katrina and Ethan)
Wednesday, January 27th, 7:35-7:55am in The Library (hosted by Dorothea)
In a recent Washington Post article,
the authors write that Harvard is creating more measures and opportunities for their applicants to write about kindness, service and outreach as part of their admission folder.
- How would you describe your college application experience? What has changed? What remains the same?
- Do you believe that colleges (and even secondary schools) are really committed to looking beyond the transcript? What else might be driving this change?
- What new benefits and challenges do you think might result from this change? How does this impact diversity, equity and inclusion in the admission process?
Thursday, January 28th, 7:35-7:55am in DEI office
AND 12:05pm-12:25pm at a lunch table
Water Justice: What is happening in Flint, MI?
“Lead is a potent known neurotoxin. The CDC, the AAP, everybody tells us that there is no safe level of lead,” she says, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Yet, officials in the city of Flint had knowledge that there was a danger of lead in the water. To learn more about the crisis in Flint, check out this video here.
- As educators, what concerns must we have not only about the health of all people but also children?
- What can we do as witnesses to a crisis happening in our own country?
- Some have called this an act of genocide, the intentional killing of people. What does this terminology mean to you?
Friday, January 29th, 7:35am-7:55am in DEI Office
12:05-12:25pm at a lunch table
This year is a second year in a row that the nominees are all White for the Academy Awards. This sparked activism on social media with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and left many chiming in on a range of issues, including lack of roles for actors of color, lack of diversity in the Academy itself, and whether boycotting is an effective response. Check out Idris Elba’s response here
and a NYT piece here
- What movies do YOU think should have been nominated this year?
- How does structural racism impact roles for actors of color?
- What, if any, are examples from your own life in which you have used boycotting or protesting as an act of defiance?
The Conversation Circle Series is an opportunity for Park School faculty and staff to come together and discuss a current event related to diversity, equity and inclusion. These topics tend to be the ones that are “trending” on social media or in the news, and these conversation circles allow us some time and space to talk about these issues face to face.
My sister Grace is a writer. Her work is beautifully poetic and lyrical, creating powerful images that dance around in her reader’s mind. Grace was often lost in her books. She took them everywhere we went — to the beach, family vacations, in the car ride to an amusement park. I’m fully convinced that my sister Grace would have rather read a book on a bench than gone on Space Mountain or the Corkscrew or the Flume back when we were kids.
Grace’s interest in writing was inspired by her love of poetry. But, back when we were little, there was no forum for spoken word poetry. In our small, predominantly White, suburban town, I did not have any exposure to slam poetry or activist poetry or poetry that ignited my soul. I was far too young to go into the city and sit in a cafe and there were not any spoken word records or tapes (yes, that is how old I am) that I could buy from my local record store (yes, I am pre-Amazon.com).
While we often go back and forth about the benefits and challenges with technology, it is clear to me that technology, specifically platforms like YouTube, have given me more access to poetry, speeches, lectures, keynote addresses, and music from all around the world. So, when I see young people performing on stage with poetry that hits me right in my core, I know that it’s something important to share.
This video titled “Somewhere in America” features three teenagers, Rhiannon, Zariya and Belissa who perform their iconic poem. Fair warning before you click on it, they use some profanity.
As a mother, I feel they are talking to me. As an educator, I know they are talking to me. As a woman, I echo that they are talking about my own childhood and messages about being a girl.
In our Conversation Circle, we posed the following questions to consider:
- How has your own schooling mirrored or differed from the words shared in their poem?
- How has race, gender and class shown up in your own upbringing?
- What are they calling for us, as educators, to do?
Participants in the circle shared their reactions to the video. Most of these reactions used words like “brave” and “powerful” and “amazing.” Others could only find We must find ways to encourage vulnerability in a climate and culture that does not always model being brave and outspoken. We must find ways for people to be courageous in conversations. We must find ways for our young people to express their anger, their frustrations and their expectations for us as adults.
We must find ways to connect that “somewhere in America” may just be right here.
Peace and Park,
A Day On, Not a Day Off
It’s Friday. Oh, yes, it’s Friday!
This weekend is not quite a long weekend for me. On Sunday, I’m flying out to Tennessee to join an independent school as they host an assembly to talk about race and racism. While I’ll be away from my family and their celebration of Dr. King’s birthday, I know that my calling in life is to have difficult conversations around the country. So, it’s off to Tennessee, I go!
When I think about my own schooling and education, the life and legacy of Dr. King was always present. I knew the name “Martin Luther King” before I learned about Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Ceasar Chavez, Larry Itliong, Maya Angelou, or Yuri Kochiyama. I knew parts of Dr. King’s message of peace and justice before I could read or write. Whenever I prepare a keynote address or a talk on race and racism, quotes by Dr. King are the first ones that come to my mind.
As we seek to honor Dr. King’s legacy all year and throughout our lives, we can begin by engaging our youngest scholars to learn life long lessons about equality, peace, and friendship. If you are in the Boston area, here is a great list of events happening in Boston. You might also check the calendars of local colleges, organizations or communities who will likely be hosting events to celebrate Dr. King.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Dr. King: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of education.” It is simply not enough to teach facts. Rather we must teach our young people – and ourselves – to think deeply, to question structures and practices, and to find ways to solve some of life’s greatest challenges.
How will you spend you Day On?
Peace and Park,