Sharing the Sandbox

Inviting Diversity in Through Ancillary Materials

DeRay Mckesson Helps Stephen Address His Privilege

It's okay to have hard conversations...

Often we worry, as teachers, how to handle discussing issues in these politically charged times. It's important to remember we may have different opinions than our students, but it is our duty to set those aside and help them find truth and meaning through discussion.

Some guidelines when tackling difficult classroom conversations

  • Don't "recreate" or "whitewash" the truth of a student experience.
  • Don't "recreate" or "whitewash" historical truth (Example: "The South went to war over states rights, not slavery" is a recreation. The South went to war over state's rights to hold slaves.)
  • Be honest with your own experiences. If there is a teaching moment you can bring from your life, don't shy away from that. Even if it may be difficult to share. This creates a perception of authenticity - students want you to "be real" with them.
  • Don't disparage the heroes your students have simply because they are unpopular with you.
  • Hold students accountable for providing facts when they make claims or assertions that are questionable (One great way to do this is to have a research moment in the discussion - pull out phones, iPads, Chromebooks and look for answers online, see what opinions are being shared and evaluate them.)
  • Get on their level. Sit in a circle, bring yourself closer into them, or sit in the desks with them.
  • Here are some excellent ideas for classroom discussion formats.

Go the Extra Mile

Use your privilege to give students opportunity by being a mentor. For our Lit Lab and Innovative students, many lack someone who can or will advocate for their rights as students. Check in with them about their grades, email your coworkers on the behalf of the student, and attempt to fill roles that a traditional parent may not be able to.

Supplementing the Curriculum

What about the quiet ones?

It is often our quiet kids who feel most ignored, most hidden, and most disconnected. Calling on them in the middle of class isn't always the best way to get time with them. These students do want to engage with you, but they need one-on-one, or small group conversation. These more introverted students are often shying away simply because school can be so overwhelming. Don't let them hide from you!


How Teachers can Nurture the Quiet Power of Introverts