5 Ways Teachers Can Improve Racial Equity
June 2, 2020
One of the founding principles of TIEs is that teachers benefit by collaborating with educators from different backgrounds. We can learn about different histories/education systems, foster an appreciation for diversity, and better prepare ourselves to teach in today’s diverse US classrooms. However, TIEs recognizes that travelling abroad to co-teach is a privilege and an opportunity that not everyone can afford. Therefore, we are making it a priority to share resources/ideas that all US teachers can use right now to become better ambassadors of racial equity.
In response to the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and others, TIEs is calling out to teachers to recognize that we are in a position to affect positive change, and that we have a responsibility to take anti-racist action in our schools. Here are 5 things teachers can do to get started:
1. Diversify Your Bookshelves
This is perhaps the least that teachers should do. Look at the books in your classroom and the required readings in your curriculum. Are a diversity of voices represented, or does it reflect a mainstream, Euro-centric point of view? Do not deny your students the opportunity to hear the voices/stories of different groups of people, particularly marginalized groups.
2. Use Critical Pedagogy
It is not enough to simply have books in your classroom that tell the stories of marginalized groups, we must plan lessons/discussions around these materials. In particular, use critical pedagogy: “a teaching approach which attempts to help students question and challenge domination” (k12academics.com). Be honest about history, and provide safe, structured opportunities for students to be critical of oppression. Look up the work of Paulo Friere, the founder of critical pedagogy.
3. Analyze Your School’s Recruiting Practices
Almost 80 percent of public school teachers are white. We need to recognize that this is a shortcoming of our field. It is imperative that staff demographics reflect student demographics, and that students have role models of color. Talk to your admin about this. Is your school partnering with any alternative licensure programs or attending any virtual job fairs? These practices can help reach a more diverse candidate pool. Look here for more ideas about recruiting diverse educator talent.
4. Start an Equity Committee
Equity work is not a box that can be checked off and considered “done”. True equity work becomes a part of a school’s culture. Form an equity committee at your school to make sure that this work is ongoing. This committee should analyze your school’s curriculum, spark critical discussions about our unconscious biases, throw schoolwide events to celebrate diversity, and provide professional development on equity. Check out the work of Sonia Nieto, a leading voice on equity in education, for more ideas.
5. Use Culturally Responsive Teaching
Do not say “I’m color-blind” or “I see all my students the same.” This mentality denies that students bring their unique racial and cultural experiences to the classroom, and that these experiences influence the way they learn. Instead, use Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT): an approach that uses students’ backgrounds as an important source of their learning. Learn the individual learning preferences of your students, and differentiate your instruction to reach kids in different ways. Find ways to bring their cultural backgrounds into the classroom. Look here for more ideas on CRT.
As teachers, we must remember this quote by Angela Davis:
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Being anti-racist means taking action. The above list are just a few of the ways that educators can start taking action today. What other ideas do you have? Join the conversation here or on our social media pages.
Thanks for reading.
-Tim Kobus, Founder/Director, TIEs with Teachers