This weekend, Joan Gallagher (Director of Science at Niles North High School in Skokie) reached out to colleagues for advice and solidarity in how to How to Teach Kids About Ferguson.
Her e-mail is important for all of us, whether we interact with students, children, adults or everyone in between. As she said, silence sends a negative message. In order to foster welcoming and inclusive communities, everyone’s voice must be heard and “radical empathy is needed”.
We hope this encourages you to have more discussion. For a list of dialogues and events happening in your community, e-mail Jes Scheinpflug or call (847) 501-5760 ext. 502.
From: Joan Gallagher
Date: Sun, Nov 23, 2014 at 10:21 PM
Subject: A Note Regarding Ferguson, Missouri
To: [29 addresses removed]
I wanted to touch base with you regarding the upcoming Ferguson grand jury decision. Although we have a plethora of current events worthy of our focus on any given day—immigration, Ebola, drought, Rosetta comet landing, election results, etc.—Ferguson has me on high alert. I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but the possibility for serious unrest seems to be looming. And I happen to know that at least a few of our students are feeling the same.
I reached out to some colleagues whose professional focus is in the arena of social justice and equity. I thought I’d pass along some of their resources, as well as my two cents.
Some thoughts for the upcoming weeks, whatever they hold:
- Check In With Yourself—We are all in different emotional and intellectual places when it comes to discussions and opinions regarding race and racism, topics firmly embedded in this particular event. We must be mindful of this as conversations surface both in the classroom and in the “lunch room.” Radical empathy is needed. Listening with your whole being is necessary. And deciding what/whether to share or respond requires reflection.
- Be Informed—I am sharing a couple of resources that might allow you to catch up with information.
(A) Timeline of Events.
(B) Historical Context (This is a lengthy video, but informative.)
(C) A St. Louis School District’s “Talking Points” List
(D) A presentation on Grand Juries
(C and D are likely for a social studies classrooms, but helpful nonetheless.)
- Be Prepared—The outcome of this decision could result in complete indifference, civil disobedience, massive riots, and anything/everything in between. Unfortunately, the null curriculum—silence—sends a particularly strong message to our students. And in this case, I believe a negative one. IF the conversation is raised in your room, please do not dismiss it. Validate the fact that it is an important conversation. If you don’t feel comfortable facilitating the conversation and/or you don’t think it belongs in your science classroom, I respect that. But please give your students something to hold on to. That you’ll talk to them after class. That they can talk with their counselor. That they should ask their history teacher. That they should write you a letter with all their thoughts and you’ll get back to them. Or another option that provides equal consideration.
Thanks for listening. Hoping that my worry is completely off and that empathy and compassion rule the upcoming days in Ferguson and elsewhere…
Any questions or concerns, please come see me.
Director of Science, Niles North High School
None of us has gotten where we are solely by pulling ourselves up from our own bootstraps. We got here because somebody…bent down and helped us. ~Thurgood Marshall