Creating an Anti-Racist Classroom
Overview and Purpose
The power of representation has been underestimated in our educational system. Students need to feel that they are seen and heard. That their voices and cultural identities are valued, validated, and celebrated. This mini-course was designed to help educators create an anti-racist classroom. One in which all students, students of color and white students, are exposed to the significance and importance of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) all year round.
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." - Frederick Douglass
This hybrid course will explore what it means to be anti-racist, how our identities affect how we relate to the world, the importance of valuing and validating diverse cultural identities and celebrating identities through our classroom library. Participants will write a reflection after each unit. Using these reflections as foundational resources, we will make commitments about the actions we are willing to undertake by creating an Action Plan. The Action Plan will detail a goal and necessary steps to begin creating an anti-racist classroom.
The instructional problem: The recent murders of unarmed Black men and women, at the hands of the police and in the case of Ahmaud Arbery ( and the not so recent murder of Trayvon Martin) “concerned citizens,” has seemingly led to a great awakening. People took to the streets to protest the injustices that are too frequently occurring. Although there are many who are choosing to remain in a deep slumber and ignore the ugly truths plaguing our country, many educational institutions have begun to take a look at their practices and curricula. Administrators and educators are taking a deep look at the racist history of our nation’s educational systems and how our schools continue to perpetuate these inequalities and inequities today. This leaves us with the question, how do we address the needs of BIPoC students and their families, whose voices have been ignored and unheard for so long? How do we teach tolerance of diverse identities to ALL students?
“Anti-racist work in all schools is essential. It is the exercise of hope, the practice of undoing and dismantling systems of oppression, the practice of freedom and of truth-telling. Anti-racist work is the practice of healing and of restoring; it is a practice of love” (Pitts, 2020).
About the learners: The participants in this course will be K-12 teachers. This course is not specific to any particular subject. The content and experiences created for this course are essential across disciplines. The participant must have an open mind, be prepared to stretch their thinking and current understanding of racism and anti-racism, and be willing to participate in open, honest, and at times difficult dialogue.
Instructional content: Through the use of videos, articles, and self-reflections participants will begin their journey of creating an anti-racist classroom. This journey begins with an introspective look at one's educational background as well as current prejudices and biases. We move on to take a look at our own identities and how they are constructed. Then how our constructed identities, as well as our students’, affect our relationships in the classroom. Lastly, we take a thorough look at our library to see if our students are represented, in an authentic way, in the books and materials we share. We reflect on how the lack of representation affects our students and how we can ensure that our students are valued and celebrated in our libraries.
Intended change: Upon completion of this mini-course participants will have an action plan for creating an anti-racist classroom. This will help in creating a safe environment that welcomes, values, and celebrates the voices and identities of all students. This environment will build a solid classroom community and foster critical thinking and learning. Ultimately empowering our future.
• Participants will demonstrate their understanding of anti-racism
• Participants will be able to define identity and explain how identities are constructed
• Participants will understand the role identity plays in the classroom; how it affects classroom relationships
• Participants will be able to choose books, written from an authentic perspective, that values, validates and celebrates diverse identities.
• Participants will begin their journey to creating an anti-racist classroom that celebrates BIPoc all year round
• Participants will empower their students by making them feel seen and valued
This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.
In Unit 1, participants explore Dr. Kendi's definition of antiracism and what it means to be an anti-racist.
Our identities affect the way we see and interact with the world, as well as how the world sees and interacts with us. In Unit 2 we dive into what identity is, how it is constructed, and how it affects our relationships in the classroom.
In the final unit, participants will be asked to explore their classroom libraries and reflect on the diversity of the authors and protagonists. Participants will then read and discuss the importance of exposing students to literature that is written from an authentic perspective and represents diverse identities.
References and Resources
Pitts, J. (2020, September 11). What anti-racism really means for educators. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/what-antiracism-really-means-for-educators