Black Teachers Matter. Black Students Matter. Black Lives Matter.

Voices | Diversity and Equity

Black Teachers Matter. Black Students Matter. Black Lives Matter.

By Kristin Leong     Jun 3, 2020

Black Teachers Matter. Black Students Matter. Black Lives Matter.

This article is part of the guide: Exploring the Classroom Experiences of Black Women Educators.

We’re in the midst of an uprising, a global pandemic and an economic depression.

Meanwhile, schools have been closed since March.

Teachers, you’re frontline workers too. And I see you. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Marching on.

I see Black teachers logging on today without missing a beat to teach their students in the midst of this historic nationwide reckoning with our racism.

I see white teachers educating themselves on white fragility and courageous conversations and then sharing resources and strategies with colleagues all over social media.

I see teachers who are also parents incorporating anti-racist education in the homeschooling of their own children, while navigating this shift to “online learning” with their students without enough (or any) training or support from their school districts.

I see compassionate administrators taking time to personally check in with their teachers, students and families while developing new assessment strategies that acknowledge that our teachers and students are experiencing these current crises as human beings, too.

I see educators marching in the streets for #BlackLivesMatter in the face of coronavirus and public pressure to remain politically neutral.

I see so many of you rising to this moment. Like teachers do.

Starting today, the international TED-Ed Innovation Project I founded, ROLL CALL, will be re-sharing the project’s portraits and stories of Black teachers and students to demonstrate our support for the Black Lives Matter movement—and for Black teachers and students specifically.

If you’re a white teacher, sharing these stories is one small way to show your support of Black teachers and students right now. However, there are Black teachers and students in your real life that could use your direct support that goes beyond posting on social media.

Here are three actionable ideas for white teachers who would like to support Black teachers and students right now.

Bring current events into your curriculum, no matter what subject or grade level you teach. George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Christian Cooper—say their names in your virtual classrooms. Invite critical analysis of the coverage of the protests. Talk about the literal and symbolic suffocation of Black Americans. Assure all of your students—no matter their age or grade level—that they’re ready for frank conversations about racism, rage, mourning and revolution.

Give Black teachers a break. Reach out to your Black colleagues who teach the same subject you do and share lesson plans and resources so they might be able to pause from their curriculum planning right now. Offer to take some grading off their plate. Volunteer to combine their online classes with yours and give them a day off.

Identify yourself as a teacher while you protest. It matters that you’re visible. It matters that the world sees white teachers declaring without hesitation that Black Lives Matter. Show them this movement is not an “Antifa” stunt. Show them that understanding that racism is real is common sense, and not the ideology of a terrorist group. Show them these are not paid protesters, but teachers who love all of our students and have so much hope and cautious optimism for the future.

Show up. Speak out. Don’t leave the activism to people whose very existence means they’re already doing so much heavy lifting.

Do you have other actionable strategies or resources for showing the world that Black Lives Matter? Share them. Share what’s most impactful on your social media channels instead of posting another #BLM graphic. And then share in your real lives too. Talk to your grandmas and uncles. Reach out to your friends who have become uncharacteristically quiet over the last few days. Tell your own stories if racism has hurt you or harassed you or endangered your life, too.

The responsibility for closing the cultural and achievement gaps in this country lie in the hands of teachers, administrators, parents, young people and community members with privilege who will use their voices and their platforms to amplify and uplift the educators and students who have been sidelined by an education system that has claimed to “celebrate diversity” while failing marginalized communities for far too long.

In short, ROLL CALL stands with Black Lives Matter.

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