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RESOURCES FOR TALKING WITH CHILDREN

During the school year, we find ourselves in close proximity to one another — popping into each other’s classrooms to see an interesting lesson; walking by each other in the hallways to say “hello”; or waiting by the copy machine and discussing the latest news story we’ve heard on our drive into work.

But, during the summer, we find ourselves in this absence of community. And, yet, in times and days like these, community is precisely what we need. During this week, there were times when I was thankful for colleagues who checked in on me and who were interested in discussing violence in our communities. At other times, I was grateful for my morning run when I tuned out the world and simply listened to my heart and my own breath.

3045915-poster-p-1-how-do-i-get-long-winded-job-candidates-to-stop-talking-during-interviewsAs educators, we have the privilege of engaging in dialogue around meaning and purpose. In many ways, we seek the comfort of our classrooms, hallways and offices where we can more easily find community. But, the summer time brings about new challenges — challenges to connecting, to seeking predictability, and to experiencing our comfort.

If you are a parent reading this list of resources, know that we, as teachers, struggle with how to have conversations with our students about the recent tragedies in our world. Children look for predictability. Children look for comforting responses from adults. Children look for cues that they are going to be alright. But, as adults, we have been forced to question these for ourselves. Know this this is difficult. Know that this is a struggle. Know that you are human and will experience conflicting feelings. And, know that these conversations with our children are important.

Over the past few weeks, I have heard from parents who are seeking resources about how to talk to their children about recent events in our country. I have provided resources for parents and caring adults; for children in our lower division ages (ages 4-8); for children in our middle division (ages 9-11); and for children in our upper division (ages 12-14). It is not an exhaustive list; rather, it is a simple list. I wanted to provide you with some activities or questions that you can “do now” rather than overwhelm you with feelings of “when do I have time to do this?” I have provided a few follow up discussion questions to each activity.

But, parents and families and caring adults, this list doesn’t do anything unless you have the conversation. I’m asking you to have these conversations. Note that the list below doesn’t explicitly prompt you to discuss mass shootings or racism in America or protocol for when you encounter law enforcement with your children. But, those are important, too. If you are just wading into these waters, I’m asking you to engage in conversations — early in the lives of children — where we normalize difference. I’m asking you to engage in conversations — early in the lives of children — where we highlight that people are treated differently and that we must work together to create equity (that people have access to resources and opportunities for success). I’m asking you to engage in conversations — early in the lives of children — where we co-create tools for ourselves to include the humanity of others in our own lives.

Diversity is who we are. Equity is what we strive to provide. Inclusion is how we get there. 

The other day, I dropped off one of my children at a sleepover. I was talking to the host parent about the incidents in our communities, and she simply asked, “So, what do we do? Where do we start?” I looked over her shoulder at the small group of children who were gathered for the sleepover, giddy over the fact that they hadn’t seen each other since June 18th, our last day of school. They were hugging and smiling and making plans for how late they would stay up that night. Looking deeper, they were children from different racial backgrounds; children from different family structures; children of same-sex parents; children of parents from different racial identities; children from different socioeconomic backgrounds; children with different interests and likes; children from different towns and communities; children with different abilities and disabilities. And, they were all going to spend time together.

I’m not implying that simply bringing together diversity helps our world. Just having diverse groups doesn’t change our world. I am saying that these children — early in their lives — have developed close relationships across identities. They see each other as people. They see each other as humans. They see each other as friends. They see each other’s differences and have come together across, not despite of, these differences. They have parents who have invited children to their homes and who have welcomed them for who they are. They have parents who have committed to driving across three or four towns to encourage friendships. They have parents who are proud of their cultures, families, class, and abilities and who have invited these difference into their lives.

I turned to the host parent and said, “This is where we start.” I’m not sure if she saw the tear roll from my eye. In the midst of writing about so much hate and violence, I had forgotten that this, too — this joy of friendship — exists.

Where will you start? What are you willing to do to invite difference into your life? What must you do in order to create a welcoming and inclusive environment in which others want to join you? 

Below are some resources where you can begin. I hope that these resources springboard you into other areas of literature, social media, conversation, dialogue and experience.

I continue to keep all of the families and communities that are affected by tragedy in our hearts. I hope you will engage in conversations with your children, your family, and your loved ones. And, I hope we commit ourselves to building community, compassion, and connection to all.

With peace,

Liza Talusan, Ph.D., Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

For Parents and Caring Adults

  • An article about how to talk to your kids about race
  • An article of by a mother reflecting on the lessons she hopes to teach her sons about #BlackLivesMatter
  • A StoryCorps about a White mother and a Black son (graphic warning included)
  • A NYT article highlighting structural class inequity and health
  • An article about how we inadvertently send negative messages about race to our children
  • An article about why it is important to talk about Whiteness
  • A TED talk from Bryan Stevenson titled “We Need to Talk About an Injustice”
  • A list of ways that well-meaning allies are counterproductive
  • The manuscript on the impact of racial trauma
  • Video of sports announcer Dale Hansen of WFAA TV as part of Hansen Unplugged talking about the tragedy in Dallas

 

For Students in Lower Division

  • A YouTube version of The Sneetches (by Dr. Seuss)
    • How do you think the different characters felt in this video?
    • Have you ever felt left out? What does that feel like?
    • How did the Sneetches change from the beginning to the end?
    • Do you think characters were peacemakers or troublemakers? What would you have done?
    • What things can we do to promote fairness?
    • How can we include everyone?
  • Activity: Crack eggs together for scrambled eggs, cake or meatloaf. Use brown and white eggs and discuss how even though they are different colors on the outside they are the same on the inside.
    • What type of eggs do we tend to buy for our house? Do you think we can try other eggs? What difference would that make? What kind of lesson do you think that would teach us in this house?
    • How might this example of the eggs relate to our friends or classmates or family?
  • Reading Rainbow (Season 1, Episode 24, free with a Prime membership)
    • “A simple misunderstanding almost kept the boys from becoming friends.” What are some examples where this has happened to you?
    • When you met the two girls, one said, “I just got kind of nervous because I was wondering about all the kinds of things in her house.” How do you feel when you meet someone new? What types of cultural things do we have in our house? What are some examples of cultural items you have seen in other houses?

 

For Students in Middle Division

  • A YouTube version of The Sneetches (by Dr. Seuss)
    • How do you think the different characters felt in this video?
    • Have you ever felt left out? What does that feel like?
    • How did the Sneetches change from the beginning to the end?
    • Do you think characters were peacemakers or troublemakers? What would you have done?
    • What things can we do to promote fairness?
    • How can we include everyone?
  • Video featuring children ages 8-11 talking about their reactions to Dr. King’s speech
    • What is your dream for our country?
    • People in our country experience inequality. What are 3 ideas you have for making our country more equal?

 

For Students in Upper Division

  • Video of sports announcer Dale Hansen of WFAA TV as part of Hansen Unplugged talking about the tragedy in Dallas
    • What are your reactions to this?
    • What is something the announcer said that you have heard before? What was something new?
    • What do you have questions about?
  • A video called “Which games are culturally insensitive”
    • Do you play these games? Have you noticed this occurring?
    • What can we do as a family to help you understand stereotypes?
    • What should we do when we encounter racial stereotypes in things that we enjoy, like video games or comic books or movies?
    • What impact do you think this is having on you? What kind of impact is it having on your friends or peers?
  • A series called “Being 12” which has a few areas addressing race
    • As a family, do you think we talk about race? What kinds of things have you learned from our family about race?
    • What do your peers say about race? Are they aware of racism?
    • If there was one thing you would tell your peers about racism, what would it be?
  • Rising Grade VIII students have summer reading assignments that lean into issues of race. We invite you to ask your child about their reading and to engage in conversations that connect their books to our real-world experience.
    • How does the topic of your book relate to what’s happening on our world right now?
    • What types of solutions are offered in your books?
    • What types of challenges to the characters face that are similar to ones we have heard about in the news?

 

 

WHAT BECOMES ROUTINE

It’s summer time here at The Park School. 

Summer time brings about summer schedule. Summer schedule brings about summer environment. Summer environment brings about summer attitudes.

Relaxation. Comfort. Peace. Quiet.

For some.

Just two days ago, I woke up to the news that a father named Alton Sterling had been shot by individual police officers. I wept. I watched his widow make a statement to the press. I watched his son, now fatherless, weep next to his mother and be removed from the podium so he could grieve privately. 

But, nothing about his grief was private. His crying and screams for his father were public. 

Just as his father’s death, broadcasted on social media. 

I woke the next morning to learn of the killing of Philando Castile, a man who worked in an elementary school, by an individual police officer. 

I heard the voice of his partner recount what was happening. I heard her say all the right things, all the things I have said to fellow Black and Brown men in my life (all of which they had heard from their caring adults growing up). I heard the familiar sounds of a young child. 

Friends, I have started and stopped this entry so many times, figuring, “When I stop crying, I’ll come back and write the rest.” And, each morning, I have woken up to a new need to write, to grieve, to scream, and to find a way to put words to any of this. Even now, as you read this, your eyes scanning a newly edited version. #Dallas happened. 

The other day, I received an email from a parent asking what we can do as a school and as a community to support and encourage our families who are deeply impacted by the tragedies of these last two days.

And, you know what my response was to her?

It’s summer.

I typed “It’s summer. I’m not sure how many people are paying attention.”

Because, you see, that’s what routine does to you. Routine makes you forget that out-of-the-ordinary things happen. Routine makes you forget that life goes on despite your own life slowing down. Routine makes you wonder if anyone else is thinking, feeling or angry about the same things. 

During the school year, in times of tragedy, my office revolves with faculty and parents who simply need someone to talk to, to process with, and to check in. During the summer, there are only a handful of us here, and my conversations about these deep issues become distant. Silent. Quiet. 

Writing this, I have mixed emotions. I feel something as an educator. I feel something as a parent. I feel something as a mother to a brown-skinned boy. I feel something as the wife of a man who lives in dark brown skin. I feel something as the daughter-in-law of a Pastor. I feel something as the cousin to Latino police officers. I feel something as the granddaughter of a police detective. I feel something as an Asian American woman. I feel something as a student affairs practitioner who held the hand of a young Black man who found out his friend was shot and killed while sitting in his car. I felt something as a director of a multicultural office who sat in the silence of young Black men as we read the names of their kin who had been killed. I feel something as a practitioner who works in an elementary school. I feel something as a sister-scholar to Black academics, professors, and researchers who have been using their agency to dismantle structures of oppression. 

And, I’m asking that you do the same. 

What do the events in this world have to do with your identities? What does this all mean for you as a parent? As a student? As a racialized person? As a teacher? As a neighbor, relative? As a person of faith or a practitioner of humanism? What does this mean for you as someone who lives in a town, city, community? 

By now, you’ve probably seen your fair share of social media posts. And, in different ways, I imagine you are digesting them. Through my multiple social identities, I am providing a brief list of ways that you might want to consider to move forward. This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive. It’s meant to just get you started however you want or need it. 

I’ll post the list below my sign-off. But I wanted to close with a request. A request to hold each other in the light of goodness. A request to hold each other’s humanity in the light of love. A request to hold each other in the act of care, in the act of good, and in the act of warmth. A request for you, individually, to reconcile both the hate you know and the hate you are unaware of in your own mind and in your own heart. I’m not naive to believe that “love heals everything.” I know that love is the stepping stone. And, I’m asking you to take those first steps.

Holding us all in the light of goodness. 

Peace and Park, 

Dr. T

  • Listen. Listen without judgment. Listen to hear. Listen to heal. Listen to connect. In times of hurt, we often think of ourselves and of our own judgment. I’m asking you to listen. 
  • Read. Not just social media blogs, but read books and scholarship and critical information. Read why Ta-Nahisi Coates had to write his book Between the World and Me.  And read that book. Read Blindspot by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald.
  • Hold up that mirror. Figure out your hidden biases. Take Banaji and Greewald’s Harvard based Implicit Assumptions Test and better understand your own biases. 
  • Believe that it’s different. Many of us grew up getting different messages about what it means in our society to be a “boy or a girl.” I ask this question all the time in workshops and it’s one of the easier questions people can answer. So, I beg you to understand that we also grew up with different messages about what it means to be “Black and not-Black.” Why do I phrase it like that? Because people who are Black in this country have been given very explicit messages about what/who/and how they are valued — and not valued — in our society. Believe that these messages have been different, have been pervasive, and have been destructive. Believe that if you are not-Black, then you (we) have been given those same messages about the value — or not — of Black people in our society. That means something. 
  • Believe that talking about race matters. Here is a powerful StoryCorps (3 minutes) of a son and mother talking about race. It doesn’t help us to be color blind because the world isn’t color blind. For parents of older children, I believe this is a video that is helpful to start an honest dialogue. 
  • Ask questions. Find out what your community police department does related to anti-bias training. Ask/request that the officers have extensive training in anti-bias work. Write a letter or email. Many responsible and responsive police departments are already doing this and have role modeled its effectiveness. It is important to signal, as a member of the community, that this means something to you. 
  • Awareness in public. Be mindful that a community has memory. For example, though not all of us were in New York, many of us hold a community of memory around 9/11. For many Black and Brown people, the community of memory is filled with anxiety about violence; experiences with being targeted and questioned; and assumptions about goodness. Be aware that there are Black and Brown friends, colleagues and strangers who are experiencing a deep sense of anxiety at this time. Given the individually-acted killings in Dallas, there are police officers and families of police offers who are also experiencing a deep sense of anxiety at this time. Those can both exist. Act with compassion. 
  • Express love. Each night, I ask my son, “What are the three things I love about you?” And, depending on the day, he answers two of those differently. It might be “You love me because we had special time together and that we went to the movies today” or “You love me because I was kind to others today and that I tried my best today.” But, the third one, the third one is always the same. It’s always the same. “And, you love me because I am Brown.” As the mother of a son with brown skin, he needs to know that he is loved. He needs to hear, from his early age, affirmation that his brown skin has meaning. And, though the world may eventually tell him that his brown skin means something less, he’ll remember that, somewhere, at some time, someone told him that he is loved. How do you express this? How do you signal to the Black and Brown community that you believe in their lives? 
  • Take care of yourself. For people of color, for people who are Black, take care of yourselves. For years, months, and especially these past few days, you have woken up each morning to see someone who looks like your brother, your father, your sister, your auntie, your mother, your uncle on the news and on your social media feed. Half-awake, you may have even thought it was someone you knew. Maybe this human being was someone you did know. All of that is working it’s way through your own body, your own heart, your stress hormones, and your mind. Take care of how you need care. Ask for help. Give help to others if that’s what you need. Keep yourself in the light. For those of us who are not Black, we must participate in the care of communities in ways they need or want. I can’t tell you how each and every Black person needs or wants care — that will require you to listen, talk, share, and observe how others want you to show up. Remember when you called yourself an “ally” or put up that “ally sticker” on your door? Yeah. It’s time. 
  • Say their names. They are people. They are people. They are people. You are a person. You share a humanity. Do not distance yourself. When you are talking with your children, don’t just refer to Philando Castile as “the guy who was shot in Minnesota.” Be sure to talk about him as a partner, as a school employee, as a human being. Alton Sterling was a father and a husband. 
  • Seek resources. Finally, because so much is shifting beneath us, there has been an emergence of posts about how/when to talk to your children about these events. I found this resource to be helpful (and note that it’s still ongoing) about “How to talk to your kids about Dallas

 

I am asking that you individually and collectively adopt these above items as a part of your routine.