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The Black Lives Movement In Your Classroom

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Black Lives Matter In Classroom Education

The Black Lives Movement In Your Classroom

by Terry Heick

In lieu of the unprecedented (in my lifetime) civil rights events of the last two months, I’ve resisted writing about it all–the Black Lives Movement, specifically–so far because rather than merely creating a digital gesture for the sake of public alignment and ‘PR,’ I wanted to have a more clear sense of what was actually happening.

While I’m not sure I do understand this very nuanced and crucially important circumstance well enough to say anything worth knowing, today–Juneteenth, the formal recognition of the end of slavery in the United States–seems to be as good a day as any to at least try.

On Movements In General

It’s unsettling and disappointing but perhaps not surprising to see the number of companies, social media influencers, brands, and organizations spending millions of dollars on campaigns meant to align themselves with ‘the movement’ (i.e., the Black Lives Movement) rather than to bring their resources and talents to bear on the cause for the need of the movement to begin with.

Insufficient behaviors (e.g., ‘gestures) and appearances and generalizations are a part of what got us in this position. Apparently, previous movements involving the environment, war, organic food, alternative fuels, and more have not helped us see the failures and limitations of ‘movements.’ Eventually, movements stop once our energy wanes or another ‘movement’ demands our attention.

In regards to the Black Lives Matter movement specifically, if we are going to see it all as a ‘thing’ or system of things, we have to also see its scale and context and history–and then describe it all with language that honors that scale and context and history with unflinching accuracy.

That is, we have to see ‘it’ in its entirety: causes and effects, characteristics and nuance, truths and red herrings, explicitness and implicitness, art and science, grace and violence, past and future.

My fear is that we are unwilling to do the careful and clear thinking necessary to do so.

My hope is that other means (beyond careful and clear thinking) can produce similar results.

On Our Unwillingness To Tell Our Story Of America As It Is

Why is the Black Lives Matter movement necessary? Because as a nation, we don’t share the same reverence for black lives as we do for white. The sanctity of the lives of African Americans has never been fully realized in America. To say that it wasn’t restored after slavery would imply that it was there before slavery.

While Christopher Columbus often symbolizes our collective failure to teach American history clearly, his relative vileness is a small wound compared to the legacies of slavery and institutional racism in the United States.

For example: That it’s even remotely possible that lynchings continue to occur in 2020 is a useful setting for our thinking.

That there were more than 6500 documented cases of African Americans being lynched between 1865 and 1950 further reveals our circumstances and clarifies that ‘this’ isn’t merely a ‘stain’ or ‘shameful historical footnote,’ but clear and compelling data that racism and violence are as much a part of our history as freedom and democracy.

Slavery, lynchings, segregation, Jim Crow–these are all part of our collective ‘story’ and every bit as American as baseball and free markets and shopping malls and the automobile.

Like any story, the American story can be both told well and not well–and we, as a nation, have not told it well. Juneteenth and Emmett Till and Black Wall Street and George Wallace and countless other stories make many Americans the wrong kind of uncomfortable.

In the selectiveness of our stories, we fail to keep our story intact.

That is, we fail to communicate with any completeness or honesty where our nation has come from and thus, where it might be going.

On The Incomplete Story Of America

I. Historically, the story of America has been, in part, our unwillingness to tell our story.

II. We instead have a preference to tell many (carefully selected) stories as vignettes.

III. This is in contrast to telling our complete story.

IV. The story of America remains, then, untold and thus unknown.

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V. This is further complicated by the fact that the story of America continues even as we tell–or fail to tell–it.

VI. At any time, we can tell our story–though never free from bias and interpretation because these are inherent in the human condition.

VII. The effort to tell a more complete story can then become part of our story. This can be seen as a kind of cycle of self-realization.

On The Threat Of What’s Specific Becoming General Again

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, many have responded that ‘all lives matter.’ Of course, all lives do matter. However, the sanctity of white lives isn’t in question in the United States.

This is especially true for white, heterosexual lives and becomes even more true for rich, white, powerful, English-speaking heterosexual men. And so on. There are levels to everything and in America, being transexual or black or poor or Hispanic or homeless or jobless isn’t just less safe than affluent and white and employed and English-speaking, it’s downright dangerous (something Public Enemy, Brand Nubian, Jeru the Damaja, Ice Cube, 2pac, NWA, Ice T, Arrested Development, and scores of others have been saying for decades in hip-hop).

And while the ‘All Lives Matter’ response egregiously misses the point, a related threat is shifting the focus from African American safety and opportunity and well-being to a more general ‘return to basic human dignity’ or ‘respect’ or ‘kindness.’ To hear someone wonder why we ‘have to’ focus on Black lives and race only underscores their privilege. To hear them ‘disagree’ that racism is an issue—especially when they believe that opinion is supported by data—only further demonstrates the scale of race and racism in the United States. It’s so pervasive that it’s nearly invisible.

Zooming away from the centuries-old tragedy of ‘race relations’ in the United States to focus on more general categories of ’empathy’ or ‘equality’ is a refusal to honor the complexity and urgency of the issue. It’s trading the comfort of the majority for justice of the minority at the cost of everyone.

Moving from ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated’ is as useful as standing outside of a house fire giving a speech about leaving candles unattended. To confront the issues of race in the United States, we have to first not look away. Then, suitably informed, we have to describe what we see as clearly as we can without resorting to age-old verbal reflexes about the things you personally believe are and are not true about race.

As with any cultural ‘thing’ that endures, a challenge here is trying to see what’s actually going on from multiple perspectives–historically, culturally, socially, politically, technologically, etc.–without losing the thing itself.

On Equity In Education

And now I realize that I haven’t even really gotten to the idea of equity in education, specifically. So here are a few thoughts:

I. Ideally, the pursuit of equity is both a cause and an effect–the natural product of a child-centered curriculum designed to promote wisdom and critical literacy. By helping students see and think and act and hope and design and restore and protect, we can help them live better lives in the places that are important to them. This is equity as a cause.

II. Equity as an effect is the long-tail outcome–or countless outcomes–where knowledge applied with careful scrutiny and care and affection yields itself again: Equity yields equity.

III. In public education, it is common to honor equity as a vague hope and desirable characteristic of our work as a whole–on ‘schooling,’ for example–but we might be better served to emphasize it as both an input and output for (or cause and effect of) curriculum, teaching strategies, learning models, reading lists, and countless other bits and pieces of what we do as teachers.

IV. That is, we might pursue equity and in doing so seek out opportunity, affection, justice, and knowledge.

V. Academic knowledge is to critical literacy as teaching students to saw wood is to designing and building homes.

VI. That is, critical literacy seeks equity and academic knowledge should serve critical literacy (defined here as the ability and tendency to recognize the parts of the world that need changing, and then knowing how to change them).

VII. Equity is insufficient as a singular goal for the work we do–a bare-minimum quality that precedes realizing our collective potential as a society.

VIII. For now, helping students know and tell their stories and know and change and care for their ‘places’ is part of your job as a teacher in the era of the Black Lives Movement. This has always been true but is simply now more visible.

IX. As one is wounded, we are all wounded.

X. As others become healed, we all become healed and all become healers.

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A Framework To Support Schools In Preparing For Coronavirus

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A Basic Framework To Support Schools In Preparing For Coronavirus

by TeachThought Staff

TeachThought is going to gather the latest news, data, resources, and recommendations for Coronavirus/COVID-19 and share that information here. We will continue to update the information as often as is relevant to support teachers, schools, and districts in responding to the virus.

What is the Coronavirus/COVID-19?

According to the CDC, “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.”

The Role of Schools In Preparing For Coronavirus

As a global entity, the concept and practice of public education gathers hundreds of millions of students together in small spaces every day. This makes it an easy way for viruses to spread, which is why on March 4th, 2020, Italy announced that all public schools would be closing until at least March 15th, 2020.

While schools face challenges every year in keeping students, teachers, and staff healthy due to viruses like the flu, the common cold, and other diseases, viruses, and infection, the Coronavirus represents a unique challenge due in part to misunderstanding of the virus (including misinformation, propaganda, fear, etc.) but also the fact that while not a ‘global super bug,’ it is indeed nearly three and a half times more deadly than the already deadly common flu strains schools experience every year.

“Schools, working together with local health departments, have an important role in slowing the spread of diseases to help ensure students have safe and healthy learning environments. Schools serve students, staff, and visitors from throughout the community. All of these people may have close contact in the school setting, often sharing spaces, equipment, and supplies. To prepare for possible community transmission of COVID-19, the most important thing for schools to do now is plan and prepare. As the global outbreak evolves, schools should prepare for the possibility of community-level outbreaks. Schools want to be ready if COVID-19 does appear in their communities.”

The role of schools, then, might include four main parts: Prepare, Communicate, Educate, Support

General Overview Of Recommendations For Schools To Prepare For Coronavirus/COVID-19

The following info is sourced in part from research overviews and summaries of data and information provided by the Center for Disease Control in the United States, the World Health Organization, and the US Department of Education.

Prepare

Have a clear and science-based plan for your school that responds to the most recent scientific data about the most urgent needs (i.e., public health and safety). This obviously includes everything from communicating with families and transporting students to curriculum and instruction delivery, online learning, and more.

Communicate

Communicate with families now to begin preparations for an outbreak in your school and community, then and update that message continuously with new information as it emerges. School and district websites and social media platforms like twitter and facebook are obviously effective methods of doing this but you will likely need a multi-facted approach as not every family is likely to be on a single platform where they can all access critical data.

Educate

Clearly communicate the evidence-based facts and data about the Coronavirus–the mortality rate and how that compares to the common flu, how the COVID-19 virus is spread, what they should do if they feel sick, etc. In other words, stick to science and medicine rather than worry, social media, news, and policies.

For example, the most evidence (as of March 14th, 2020) shows that COVID-19 is more dangerous the more common seasonal flu (with a mortality rate 3.4% compared to the seasonal flu which is around 1%) and so far seems to spread more easily spread as easily. This helps contextualize what’s happening biologically. Then, help the students (who are children and lack life experience) to frame that data as well–not over-reacting to it but also seeing it as a very real threat to the health and well-being of anyone in contact with the virus.

Support

Reduce potential transmission of virus and support teachers and students throughout the process with resources and information about how to stay healthy and what to do if they become ill.

Do whatever possible to limit the spread of the virus (from educating communities to closing schools when appropriate).

Encourage staff and students to stay home if they’re sick. Obviously this is complicated for teachers who may lack paid leave days at this point in the school year, and even more complicated for many families who don’t have access to childcare.

Everyone in the school should turn away from anyone around them and cover their mouth and nose with the crook of their arm when they cough or sneeze.

Teach students how to properly wash their hands and make sure they have the resources (e.g., soap, paper towels, etc.) and access to bathrooms to do so especially before eating.

Encourage students to keep their hands out of their ‘T-Zone’–their eyes, nose, and mouth. This is how the COVID-19 makes its way into the body. Make sure they understand that.

In the next post, we will provide more specific CDC recommendations for preparing for COVID-19 in your school and district.

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50+ Specific Recommendations On How Schools Can Prepare For Coronavirus

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Specific Recommendations On How Schools Can Prepare For Coronavirus

by TeachThought Staff

TeachThought is going to gather the latest news, data, resources, and recommendations for Coronavirus/COVID-19 and share that information here. We will continue to update the information as often as is relevant to support teachers, schools, and districts in responding to the virus.

What is the Coronavirus/COVID-19?

According to the CDC, “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.”

The following info is sourced in part from research overviews and summaries of data and information provided by the Center for Disease Control in the United States.

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For Schools Who Do Not Confirmed Cases Of COVID-19

Childcare and K-12 school administrators nationwide can take steps to help stop or slow the spread of respiratory infectious diseases, including COVID-19:

  • Review, update, and implement emergency operations plans (EOPs). This should be done in collaboration with local health departments and other relevant partners. Focus on the components, or annexes, of the plans that address infectious disease outbreaks.
    • Ensure the plan includes strategies to reduce the spread of a wide variety of infectious diseases (e.g., seasonal influenza). Effective strategies build on everyday school policies and practices.
    • Ensure the plan emphasizes common-sense preventive actions for students and staff. For example, emphasize actions such as staying home when sick; appropriately covering coughs and sneezes; cleaning frequently touched surfaces; and washing hands often.
    • Ensure handwashing strategies include washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
    • Reference key resources while reviewing, updating, and implementing the EOP:
    • Develop information-sharing systems with partners.
      • Information-sharing systems can be used for day-to-day reporting (on information such as changes in absenteeism) and disease surveillance efforts to detect and respond to an outbreak.
      • Local health officials should be a key partner in information sharing.
    • Monitor and plan for absenteeism.
      • Review the usual absenteeism patterns at your school among both students and staff.
      • Alert local health officials about large increases in student and staff absenteeism, particularly if absences appear due to respiratory illnesses (like the common cold or the “flu,” which have symptoms similar to symptoms of COVID-19).
      • Review attendance and sick leave policies. Encourage students and staff to stay home when sick. Use flexibility, when possible, to allow staff to stay home to care for sick family members.
      • Discourage the use of perfect attendance awards and incentives.
      • Identify critical job functions and positions, and plan for alternative coverage by cross-training staff.
      • Determine what level of absenteeism will disrupt continuity of teaching and learning.
    • Establish procedures for students and staff who are sick at school.
      • Establish procedures to ensure students and staff who become sick at school or arrive at school sick are sent home as soon as possible.
      • Keep sick students and staff separate from well students and staff until they can leave.
      • Remember that schools are not expected to screen students or staff to identify cases of COVID-19. The majority of respiratory illnesses are not COVID-19. If a community (or more specifically, a school) has cases of COVID-19, local health officials will help identify those individuals and will follow up on next steps.
      • Share resources with the school community to help families understand when to keep children home. This guidance, not specific to COVID-19, from the American Academy of Pediatrics can be helpful for familiesexternal icon.
    • Perform routine environmental cleaning.
      • Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, light switches, countertops) with the cleaners typically used. Use all cleaning products according to the directions on the label.
      • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (e.g., keyboards, desks, remote controls) can be wiped down by students and staff before each use.
    • Create communications plans for use with the school community.
      • Include strategies for sharing information with staff, students, and their families.
      • Include information about steps being taken by the school or childcare facility to prepare, and how additional information will be shared.
    • Review CDC’s guidance for businesses and employers.
      • Review this CDC guidance to identify any additional strategies the school can use, given its role as an employer.

Childcare and K-12 administrators can also support their school community by sharing resources with students (if resources are age-appropriate), their families, and staff. Coordinate with local health officials to determine what type of information might be best to share with the school community. Consider sharing the following fact sheets and information sources:

  • Information about COVID-19 available through state and localexternal icon health departments
  • General CDC fact sheets to help staff and students’ families understand COVID-19 and the steps they can take to protect themselves:
  • CDC Information on COVID-19 and children
  • CDC information for staff, students, and their families who have recently traveled back to the United States from areas where CDC has identified community spread of coronavirus:

For questions about students who plan to travel, or have recently traveled, to areas with community spread of COVID-19, refer to CDC’s FAQ for travelers. Schools can also consult with state and local health officials. Schools may need to postpone or cancel trips that could expose students and staff to potential community spread of COVID-19. Students returning from travel to areas with community spread of COVID-19 must follow guidance they have received from health officials. COVID-19 information for travel is updated regularly on the CDC website.”

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How To Wash Your Hands Properly

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How To Wash Your Hands

How To Wash Your Hands Properly

by TeachThought Staff

Washing your hands is something we’ve all done since we were children.

As a result, it’s a mostly thoughtless reflex and process that hopefully works but—well, it’s hard to know for sure. Aside from visible ‘dirt,’ it’s nearly impossible to know exactly how clean your hands actually are.

According to the CDC, it’s not terribly complicated; it’s about washing your hands properly—every millimeter—thoroughly, then drying with a clean towel. (Then, further, not touching any contaminated surfaces like faucet handles or door knobs, afterward.)

The CDC explains, “Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.

5 Steps For Washing Your Hands Properly

1. “Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. (See image above.)

“To date, studies have shown that there is no added health benefit for consumers (this does not include professionals in the healthcare setting) using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap 910. As a result, FDA issued a final rule in September 2016 that 19 ingredients in common “antibacterial” soaps, including triclosan, were no more effective than non-antibacterial soap and water and thus these products are no longer able to be marketed to the general public. This rule does not affect hand sanitizers, wipes, or antibacterial products used in healthcare settings.”

3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.

Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. (TeachThought Ed note: Be thorough and ‘big picture’ oriented when teaching this trick to children because, while useful, in our experience with younger students it can encourage them to focus on the song and ‘having sung the song twice’ rather than the actual cleaning process itself.)

4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.”

You can also see the video below for more information.

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