Greetings Teacher Family and Happy Black History Month!
For many of us, January was a heavy month for personal and worldly reasons. Heightened tension around U.S. policy in the Middle East, terrifying natural disasters like the Australian wildfires, stressful presidential impeachment hearings, and the death of important cultural figures like Kobe Bryant are just a few things that kept people shaken up. Personally, January made me reflect on the daunting idea of mortality and what it really means to live in the present moment. So, I’m looking forward to what February brings, particularly as a time to celebrate Black History.
As I was sitting, contemplating what would be fitting to write about this month, I felt pressure and anxiety not to make an insufficient choice. In the end I decided that while it could be meaningful to share a personal story or two, it is also helpful to provide a list of tangible suggestions that might help a hesitant or “stuck” teacher move into action. I know from experience that it can be hard to feel confident that you are making the right teaching moves. As a note of encouragement, it’s always more respectable and courageous to try and learn there are things you can still improve than to not try at all.
When it comes to teaching about Black History, teachers are uniquely positioned to send or withhold messages about what we value and who we value depending on how we choose to spend time engaging our students and school communities in recognition. I encourage us all to ask questions, listen, and put worthy ideas into action. It’s an important time to be reflective. You are not alone if you feel unprepared or unsure where to start.
As a reminder, being Black does not necessarily make an educator an expert on this topic. We have to remember that even if we share Black identity, many of us were still educated in a system that left key stories and people out. So, we are all pushed to do the work to see how we can learn and celebrate this month! I know I’m certainly learning new things I didn’t know or wouldn’t think to do in my first five years of teaching.
Here are some potentially helpful suggestions for all teachers to browse through:
On what to talk about during Black History Month
Anti-bias/anti-racist educator Britt Hawthorne gave some integral guidance by offering, “Just a reminder, we focus on the positive contributions and accomplishments Black people have made to the U.S. Teaching hard history such as police violence, segregation, slavery, etc. is reserved for US history and that happens all year long.”
On what is age appropriate
- Try to focus on the deep cultural aspects, since children 3-6 are not developmentally thinking abstractly yet where they can grasp the concept of socially constructed race. Make it concrete and experiential.
- Avoid identifying your 3-6 year-olds’ race and don’t ask them to identify with a racialized identity. If they’re wondering what race they are, encourage them to take such a great question home to discuss with their family. If they ask what makes somebody Black, you can tell them it’s a shared group of characteristics that binds a community together
- Here’s a comprehensive document of Black History Month resources and lesson topics for K-12 from Kiddom (covers and includes hyperlinks ideas for the why, when what, and who)
- The Most Searched: A Celebration of Black History Makers (video) is a great way to kick off Black History Month!
- Teachingtolerance.org is one of the most reliable resources I use for teaching reference. This month, the site is focusing a ton on Black Liberation. Lots of strong resources here.
- I learned a ton and paraphrased many ideas in this blast from this informative live video stream with Britt Hawthorne [takes 1 min to sign up to watch the recorded livestream video]
- Some interactive lessons from Nearpod.com on a variety of Black Leaders. Lessons differentiated by grade level/range.
Start somewhere. If you have questions or things you are feeling iffy about, I’m here as a sounding board/thought partner if anyone would like to explore together. I hope we each finish this week strong!
With love, respect, and solidarity,