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I decided to hold off on publishing this post until today, June 19th, or Juneteenth. I thought today in particular would be a good day to talk about ways to do anti-racist work in our classrooms. As educators, we are in the position of being able to create safe learning environments for our BIPOC students, though many of us will likely need to reflect on and act against our own racist or biased beliefs and practices (like microaggressions). We are also in a position to help white students acknowledge their own conscious and unconscious prejudices and learn ways to disavow them and turn towards allyship instead. In today’s post, I just want to create a starting point of ideas on how we can do this anti-racist work in our teaching practices. I’ve also added some amazing resources I’ve seen created by others with more experience and expertise.
Ideas for Anti-Racist Teaching Practices
I created a video a couple weeks ago that focuses on how to increase BIPOC representation and support in the classroom. I’ve embedded it below and have also listed each point underneath the video in case you prefer to read about these suggestions instead. Note: The video description on YouTube includes a lot of links to other resources, like amazing TedTalks and BIPOC academics with YouTube channels.
If you have your own suggestions to add to this video, you can do so in the comments section of the video or in the comments section of this blog post. I’d love to learn more about how to do this anti-racist work.
My Suggestions from the Video:
- Include required readings and videos that have non-stereotypical/racist representations of BIPOC. If some texts do have stereotypical/racist portrayals, make sure that you discuss this problematic aspect of the texts with your students during class discussions.
- Important Note: Make sure the majority (at least) of these texts that feature BIPOC characters are actually written by BIPOC authors. In my field of children’s literature, many books with BIPOC main characters are written by white authors. This doesn’t help decrease stereotypical portrayals nor does it help support authors of color.
- Similarly, assign scholarship written by BIPOC authors, including female, trans, queer, and disabled BIPOC. You might depend on certain white (and likely male) canonical scholars when teaching, but don’t only depend on them and ignore the important work being done by other amazing scholars.
- Make space for discussions about race and racism in your classroom and work to make your classroom a safe space for BIPOC students. In the video, I suggest having students fill out “exit cards” at the end of certain class periods that included difficult discussions about race-related topics (an idea I mention in my post about communicating with shy students). This is a way for students to be able to provide feedback to you in a more private manner, in case they are not comfortable speaking up in class or speaking to you face-to-face.
- Research ideas for making your class anti-racist, but don’t ask BIPOC to do all the hard work for you. There are plenty of people offering tons of insight and advice about how to be anti-racist. Twitter is my go-to place for this kind of information. But, you can also search on Google for other resources to help with this type of work. Don’t put pressure on BIPOC to do all the emotional labor. Put in the work yourself. Again, I’ve listed some resources in the video description on YouTube and also at the end of this post.
- Design activities and lesson plans that are specifically created to be anti-racist. Consider how past assignments or activities you’ve created might be unintentionally creating disadvantages for your BIPOC students. Work to fix these issues for future classes. Also, design activities that acknowledge and value the knowledge and experiences brought to the classroom by BIPOC students (like a version of this autobiography activity).
- Take the time to reflect on your prior teaching experiences and consider how you can improve yourself as an anti-racist educator, coworker, friend, and family member. Work to not shy away from your flaws and instead face them and work to eradicate them from your beliefs and actions.
Other Ideas for Anti-Racist Work in the Classroom
- I created a video tutorial on using the edtech tool, EdPuzzle. EdPuzzle allows you to insert questions and notes into a video that students are assigned, so that they have to pay attention and answer the questions in order to watch the complete video. If you’re unsure about creating your own resources about race-related topics like Black Lives Matter, the Civil Rights Movement, Black activists, police brutality, etc., look for videos already available on YouTube, Khan Academy, or other websites. Assign those to your students, and if you want to make them more engaging, add question to them using EdPuzzle.
- Include a current events element to your classroom that connects to your course topic. Through this element of your course, students can learn more about systematic racism and the work that is being done/needs to be done to fight back against it. This type of activity can also be used to teach about finding credible sources, as well.
- Include at least one anti-racist learning outcome on your syllabus and make sure to overtly point it out to your students when going over the syllabus. Make clear what it means for the community that will be built in your class throughout the semester. [Here’s a post about creating a syllabus.]
- Don’t overlook smaller problematic behaviors done by yourself or your students, like microaggressions. Here’s a video you can use to explain this concept to your students if they are unfamiliar with what it means.
Some Resources to Check Out:
- Questions Academics Can Ask to Decolonize Their Classrooms
- A Guide to Equity and Anti-Racism for Educators
- 10 Ways for Non-Black Academics to Value Black Lives
- Black American Feminisms: A Multidisciplinary Bibliography
- Cite Black Women Collective
These are just a few ideas that I’ve been thinking about in the past few weeks. While I’ve been doing some of this work since I started teaching, there’s plenty more that I’ve been lazy about or completely ignoring. There’s no time like the present to become a better ally. I’m a white Latinx woman, so I have a lot of privileges not available to BIPOC academics. If you’re also an ally dedicated to doing this work and have your own ideas on how to do it, please share in the comments below. And if you’re a BIPOC academic and are open to sharing your own advice, I’d love to learn from you.