Monday, July 16, 2018

Teaching for Black Lives

The Children are Watching

Teachers love summer! It is a great time for learning, for gathering up new ideas for our students, for planning new ways to engage children in powerful learning.  Rethinking Schools once again makes that learning exciting, that planning inspiring. Their new title is Teaching for Black Lives.  It is a comprehensive compendium of very timely information and instructional plans for teachers of Black students.  The authors are all educators, most of them in public school classrooms.  Many are themselves African American or teachers of color.  Many teach in challenging schools; others teach students whose toughest challenges are outside the school in their communities.

The entries are beautifully written, themselves the kinds of compelling prose we hope to model for our students.  The topics bridge the historical, the personal, the political, the literary, and, frankly, the urgent. Each chapter includes substantive background information for teachers, and for teachers to share with their students.  That level of substance provides a level of credibility and honesty seldom evidenced in traditional textbooks, assuring a foundation for the lessons that will engage students in research, investigation, personal reflection, writing and analyzing issues of vital important to Black lives.

Such real life issues as the interactions of Black youth and police officers, and the justice system itself, are dealt with in ways that invite critical thinking and open dialogue, as well as deeper probing into historical factors at work over time.   The impending (or already experienced) loss of homes or neighborhoods through the absurdly named “gentrification” is explored in depth through readings, oral histories, mapping, and personal stories.  Like housing, the abundant resources in this volume have relevance to students who are not African American but who experience many of these same displacements or marginalizing forces, or who don’t and need to learn about them. If these lessons were taught in all schools, youth in varied circumstances and cultures could come to know and make common cause with each other.

I can’t end this plug for this amazing book without congratulating its editors on the brilliant art work throughout.  The exuberant cover hints at great visuals throughout, gripping in themselves and perfect as writing prompts! Congratulations again to everyone at Rethinking Schools for this book we’ve been needing.  If you’re a teacher, order it today! If you know a teacher, buy it for her beach reading!   

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