A Fight Worth Fighting: Use Your Skills to Address Systemic Racism

by Vernita Mayfield

“There’s a fight in the girl’s bathroom!” As a middle school administrator, I knew all too well the urgency of this frantic call.  I dropped the basketball mid-game and raced toward the restroom. The assistant principal, already on the scene when I arrived, had the situation well under control with both girls spraddled, tearful, and breathless on opposite ends of the bathroom. I breathed a sigh of relief. A squabble over “talking stuff” had somehow escalated to a physical altercation that could have resulted in serious harm to one or both fighters as one of the participants wielded faux fingernails sharpened like blades. But the assistant principal had used her professional skills, personal relationships with the students, and “teacher voice” to dismantle and deescalate an otherwise volatile situation. More to the point, absolutely no one was shot or killed in the process. This conflict was deescalated without a single weapon discharged—an outcome that happens in schools across the nation.

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School Isn’t Equitable for Trauma-Affected Students

This post is an excerpt from Alex Shevrin Venet’s new book, Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education (W. W. Norton).

Once students have experienced trauma, how is their access to and experience of their education affected? Based on what we know about how trauma impacts student learning, we can see that school isn’t equitable for trauma-affected students. Schools can be indifferent to how trauma affects children, even outright retraumatizing and harmful. If we want school to be equitable for students who have experienced trauma, we need to rethink how common practices in schools are failing our trauma-affected students.

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Teaching Young Learners About Slavery, Part II


By Noreen Naseem Rodríguez and Katy Swalwell

This week, K-12Talk presents the second of a two-part excerpt from a forthcoming book by social studies educators Noreen Naseem Rodríguez and Katy Swalwell, Social Studies for a Better World: An Anti-Oppressive Approach for Elementary Educators, part of the Norton Series on Equity and Social Justice in Education. In this second excerpt, the authors provide creative solutions for teaching the painful history of slavery to young learners without reproducing trauma.

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Teaching Young Learners about Slavery, Part I

By Noreen Naseem Rodríguez and Katy Swalwell

At a time in our nation’s history when systemic racism is a focal point of increasingly volatile political and societal divisions, it is more important than ever to think deeply about how Black History Month is celebrated in our classrooms.  To further that conversation, K-12Talk is pleased to offer a two-part excerpt on the blog this week and next, from a forthcoming book by social studies educators Noreen Naseem Rodríguez and Katy Swalwell, Social Studies for a Better World: An Anti-Oppressive Approach for Elementary Educators, part of the Norton Series on Equity and Social Justice in Education. In this first excerpt, the authors explain how teaching the painful history of the enslavement of Black Americans–so often a central part of the social studies curriculum in February–is important and necessary but must be handled with extreme care to avoid retraumatizing BIPOC students.

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Teaching for Social Justice

By Lorena Germán

Social justice is not a book that you teach. It is not a unit you explore with students. It is not a week-long, school-wide celebration during which you acknowledge diversity. These are all too often superficial attempts at having in-depth conversations that require nuance, time, and pause. While well-intentioned, this type of teaching may lead educators to think they’ve done the work because they spent an hour or day teaching one idea in a one-dimensional way. However, social justice is not a topic or a content area, but an ongoing action and fight for a better quality of life for all. Therefore, it requires actionable and tangible steps.

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As Schools Reopen, A New Inclusive Paradigm is Needed

By Debbie Zacarian and Becki Cohn-Vargas

As one school year ends and we plan for the next, we see the glaring inequities that the pandemic has amplified, and we recognize that steps must be taken to address them.  Beyond adopting new guidelines for hygiene and reducing our schools’ exposure to potential infection, it’s urgent that we focus as much if not more attention to an inclusive paradigm of schooling.  This calls for a renewed focus on the global wellbeing of students. We propose four guiding principles:

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Summer Reading: Learning About Race

We have all heard that collaborating is an opportunity to stretch our thinking by hearing what others have to say, or have read, or are reading on a topic that we are exploring.  That is what is occurring as I co-write a book with Ivannia Soto; I am learning about resources from my writing partner, in addition to reading what she has to say, and the combination makes collaborating a powerful experience.  One book Ivannia recommended is Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race.  A self-proclaimed “internet yeller,” Oluo brings a fresh, current, and serious look at racism in ways that are on the one hand personal and on the other generalizable.  She helps us to see, in today’s climate, how it comes in many subtle, but no less-damaging forms than overt racism.  

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