How to build anti-racism into your way of teaching | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: June 22, 2024

Unfortunately, the childhood classroom is one of the earliest places where inequalities, oppression, and racism begin to become ingrained in the lives of students of color. Fighting this cycle of injustice means becoming actively anti-racist, whether you are a parent, fellow student, administrator, or teacher.

So, how does a teacher build anti-racism into their classroom? Pirette McKamey was the first black principal of Mission High School in San Francisco and spoke to The Atlantic about how teachers can do just that. 

McKamey has seen students of color thrive or struggle in different classrooms based on the support they get from instructors. Teachers who design a curriculum with black students in mind, acknowledge the integration of systemic racism in schools and learning materials, and strive to cultivate a deeper understanding of the specific barriers holding black students back from reaching their full potential create a classroom where those students feel supported and empowered to achieve. 

So what does this look like? First, it means reading articles and books and attending workshops centered around black pedagogy. For example, strategies such as integrating oral language into curriculums and analyzing the work of black students carefully to identify differences in discourse style can help those students feel more engaged in what they are learning.

Anti-racist teachers also examine how their teaching is, or isn’t, reaching students. Looking for patterns in performance and ethnicity can also help identify areas where their teaching style isn’t adequately reaching all students. 

Reaching out to not only black students, but also black parents and community leaders on how to most effectively be an educational resource for students of color is also critical. Confronting the way racism has been so deeply ingrained in our society can be uncomfortable, but the only way to correct it is to communicate with those who experience racism and ask, “how can I do better?” 

When students feel heard and supported, they are far more likely to become actively engaged in their learning environment. Under the leadership of anti-racist teachers, students of color are more likely to participate in class, ask questions, and seek clarification. They feel valued for the intellect they bring to the classroom.

Education is one of the strongest factors in determining success in our society. Creating equal and just spaces of learning are vitally important for rectifying inequalities that plague our world. Taking steps to become actively anti-racist is a great solution for teachers looking to contribute directly to racial justice. The good news is, while it will be difficult to revolutionize a discriminatory education system, the strategies to do so are numerous if we commit to constantly working to educate ourselves and do better.

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