What Can Teachers Do to Become Anti-Racist Educators?

By Melody Mann, CEI Intern

Note: This blog is part 4 of a series on supporting Black students in schools. Part 1 covered what bias looks like towards Black girls in schools can be found here. Part 2 brought to light what changes can be made on a school-wide level and can be found here. Part 3 brought awareness to implementing empathetic disciplinary intervention can be found here

Racism runs deep in American history (Love, 2020). In order to make a change in the dominant narrative as educators, we must take steps in changing our content delivery and altering the way we teach our students to be more inclusive and sensible (Schwartz, 2020). By teaching to all learners, we are working actively to improve ourselves, diminish biases, and be respectful of students from racially marginalized backgrounds (McKamey, 2020). Racially minoritized learners (RMLs) are valuable to the classroom and atmosphere of learning (Curenton et al., 2020). Educators can focus on broadening our own horizons as we begin to sculpt an understanding of what it means to be an Anti-racist Educator. 

Anti-racist Curriculum Resources are not Enough

Teachers who engage in identity work understand that inclusive education is a process in which they must proactively partake. An EdWeek Research Center nationally representative survey found that 83 percent of teachers said they were somewhat or very willing to teach an anti-racist curriculum (Schwartz, 2020). In light of our current political climate, it is important to expand our lesson plans to address the inequity and inequalities faced by Black students in the classroom (Curenton et al., 2020).

When presenting historical accounts, events, and narratives, there is a danger of teaching students about “both sides” of a story (Collins, 2017). When an educator works to present one perspective of a story or event, he/she has to decide which details to include or exclude. This process can reveal assumptions and biases as to how the individual came to decide which parts they wanted to share. By having this “both sides” perspective, there is a notion of false equivalence that creates a false comparison between two or more contradicting sides (Gold, 2017).  Here are some tips from Collins (2017) that educators can use to present accurate accounts of major events:

  1. Address the imbalances of power that exist in our systems

  2. Acknowledge how this imbalance has fueled systematic racism and the differential treatment of students of color

  3. Encourage students to discuss bias and bigotry as it is

  4. Make content relatable so students can connect their experiences to the lesson

Examine Internalized White Supremacy

Only 22 percent of nonwhite teachers and 9 percent of white teachers felt they had the training and resources to effectively teach Black students (Scwartz, 2020). Continuing in the era of virtual instruction and distance learning, it is now more important than ever that we equip teachers with the tools they need to be successful. Anti-racist education should be required for teachers as we continue to face challenges in the political conditions of our nation. Anti-racist education is a journey that districts can promote in tandem with the materials that are already available.

White educators must unlearn the stereotypical racial messages they have internalized about their own race and ethnicity and the race and ethnicity of others (Love, 2020). It is important to recognize the wound that racism has created in each person and in students of color. Educators can work to promote discussions and curriculum that address the inequalities faced by racially/ethnically diverse students and take them seriously as learners and important contributors to the classroom.

Communicate Anti-Racist Values to the School Community

It is not enough to work towards anti-racist practices internally. Teachers can also look at how they are communicating with stakeholders in the school community to ensure that their message is being articulated across the board (McKamey, 2020).

By not discussing racism, we are enabling the cycle of oppression to continue for racially marginalized learners. Through incorporating anti-racist pedagogies in our curricula, educators can collectively:

  1. Recognize biases towards racially minoritized learners.

  2. Create a dialogue to voice concerns, pains, and opinions regarding differential treatment of these students in our classrooms.

  3. As a classroom, brainstorm action steps to alleviate this discrepancy that exists in the education system.

Taking steps towards decolonizing education is important for us to evoke as we continue to nurture the next generation of scholars (McKamey, 2020). Acknowledging our shortcomings and collaborating to address differential treatment of students of color in our classrooms will help create an anti-racist educator pedagogy that is adoptable, employable, and sensitive for all.

By using inclusive teaching strategies, educators can meet the needs of students from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds.

References

Collins, C. (2019). Why “both sides” of a story aren’t enough. Teaching Tolerance.

Curenton, S., Iruka, I., Humphries, M., Jensen, B., Durden, T., Rochester, S., Sims, J., Whittaker, M., & Kinzie, M. (2020). Validity for the assessing classroom sociocultural equity scale (ACSES) in early childhood classrooms. Early Education and Development.

Gold, J. (2017). The danger of the story of “both sides”. Teaching Tolerance. Love, B. (2020). White teachers need anti-racist therapy. Education Week.

McKamey, P. (2020). What anti-racist teachers do differently. The Atlantic.

Schwartz, S. (2020). You have anti-racist curriculum resources. Now what do you do? Education Week.