Recent events refueling the Black Lives Matter movement have some parents asking how to facilitate or deepen conversations about race with their children. As parents ourselves, we understand the importance of normalizing conversations surrounding race with our youngest learners as we all strive toward being antiracists. Research shows that children as young as three months are able to discern faces of different races, and these children look at the race of the caregiver for a longer time than other races [Kelly et al, 2005]. Children as young as two years old use race to explain behavior [Hirschfeld, 2008]. By five years old, children show many of the racial attitudes of the adults in their culture. They have already associated some groups with higher status than others [Kinzler, 2016]. It is, therefore, never too early to have direct conversations with children about race, racism, and antiracism.
The National Council for History Education describes twelve practices that make up what they term History’s Habits of Mind, which are the skills that students develop when they are deeply engaged in rigorous history learning. While all of the skills are valuable, there is one that seems especially relevant during Black History Month: Utilizing multiple perspectives for comprehensive explanations. Incorporate this skill in the classroom by:
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Throughout the school’s history, Sanford has celebrated and respected the unique talents of our community members. We continue to create an inclusive, nurturing environment that instills a healthy respect for differences. Sanford values diversity at our core, including, but not limited to: culture, ethnicity, race, spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, learning styles, socio-economic status, and interests.
It is widely accepted that there are significant benefits for all who are immersed in a diverse community, from learning how to appreciate and respect differences to acquiring lifelong skills like communication and listening for understanding. Achieving a diverse community, though, does not inherently lead to a community which values inclusivity and equity. Within any organization that values differences, there is work to be done to help each individual feel important, valued, known and respected. This requires high levels of empathy and a commitment to having difficult conversations. So, what are some ways to work towards this ideal? Where there exist challenges, there are also opportunities for education, self-reflection, and growth. Below are four suggestions to take advantage of the opportunity
As any former adolescent can tell you, teenagers can be defiant at times. This resistance often comes from being constantly told what they can and can't do. We are evolutionarily wired to push the boundaries during adolescence, when, more often than not, we hear “You can’t do that!” rather than more positive enforcers. The article, "Can Teenage Defiance Be Manipulated for Good?", supports that defiance can be harnessed in a way that allows for enlightening learning opportunities and avenues for inquiry.
With Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in January and Black History Month in February, I have spent the past few weeks talking to my children about classic figures in Black history. However, this time of year also reminds me how necessary it is that my kids see themselves in the world even when it’s not Black History Month. Sometimes this can feel like it’s easier said than done. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that of the 3,400 new children’s books published in 2016 only 287—less than 9%—featured Black main characters.
Many schools take the time to highlight the amount of diversity on their campus, and with good cause: time and again research shows that all students benefit when the student body is diverse. Below are four reasons that it’s worth your while to take notice when schools affirm that diversity matters.
Reason 1: Working with people who are different than you builds problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
It’s easy to have a conversation if everyone agrees with you, but when classrooms include students from many different backgrounds and lifestyles then all of a sudden discussions get more interesting. Different people think differently and it takes significant mental work for students to listen and respond to those whose experiences aren’t the same as theirs. Doing these kinds of cognitive gymnastics—forcing themselves to consider new ideas and understand unique perspectives—means that students have more opportunities for intellectual growth.
What if you had to choose whether your child would learn to understand algebra or be a kind person, but not both? Fortunately, we don’t have to make those kinds of decisions because good schools teach both academic skills and interpersonal skills. Most parents have an understanding of the academic concepts taught at schools and can find more specifics in a curriculum guide or a set of grade-level standards. But, where do you look to find out what schools are doing to help kids grow up to be kind and responsible adults? How do you get a sense of how kids treat each other at a particular school?