Black Lives Matter Week of Action - FAQ

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These FAQs have been excerpted and adapted from the Philly Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools website.

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Why is this important right now?

Black Lives Matter is currently in the news. Most students are aware, to some degree, of this movement. Addressing this in the classroom is acknowledging an important current events topic. Bringing issues of racial justice into the classroom not only affirms the identities of our students, but is crucial to fostering critical engagement with the world.

Where can I find the BLM Week of Action in our schools curriculum?

Each day during the BLM week of action will focus on two to three of the Black Lives Matter Movement thirteen guiding principles. Teachers will be provided with a list of recommended lessons, resources, and books for all subject areas that will support teaching these principles in their classrooms. Learn more.

What are the thirteen guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter Movement?

The thirteen principles are Diversity, Restorative Justice, Globalism, Queer Affirming, Unapologetically Black, Collective Value, Empathy, Loving Engagement, Transgender Affirming, Black Villages, Black Women, Black Families, Intergenerational.

Where do I purchase a BLM week of action in schools t-shirt?

Educators and community members will be encouraged to wear their BLM week of action in schools t-shirt on February 5th. Click here to purchase a National Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools t-shirt.

What is the difference between hosting an event and collaborating on an event?

If you choose to host an event, you agree to organize and sponsor an event that aligns with the principles/themes of the Week of Action. Alternatively, you can collaborate on an already scheduled event with the local BLM Week in Schools organizers.

I am interested in attending an event. Where can I find the list of events for the week of action?

Events for the week of action will be posted on the Washington, D.C. Area Events page. Important note: The full list of events for the D.C. Area Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools has not been finalized. 

How do I engage in conversations with people in my network about racial and social justice issues?

Prior to engaging in conversations with people in your network, you are encouraged to explore some of the suggested readings for educators.

What does it mean to endorse this week of action?

Educators who sign on are expected to participate in AT LEAST ONE of the following ways:

  •  Implement BLM lessons in my classroom

  • Share a lesson I created for the BLM Week of Action with other educators

  • Encourage my colleagues to get involved. Tell at least one other person in my building about what I'm doing!

  • Attend an event during the week of action

  • Share the story! (Invite a visitor, social media, etc.)

 For whole school partnership the school community agrees to participate in ALL of the following ways during the week of action:

  •  Endorse: Your school is publicly listed as supporting BLM in Schools

  • School Leadership is publicly supportive of the Week of Action

  • Week of Action is on the school calendar

  • Parents are informed of the Week of Action

  • School shares the BLM lesson plans with teachers

  • Every student engages in some type of activity related to BLM

  • Share the Story! (Invite a visitor, social media, etc.)

Organizations who sign on agree to participate in AT LEAST ONE of the following ways.

  •  Endorse: Your organization is publicly listed as supporting BLM in Schools (REQUIRED)

  • Share a public statement

  • Promote teacher/student work; share stories and elevate their voices

  • Host/cohost an event

  • Align your events and or programming with BLM Week of Action / tailor to your goals & work

Community members who sign on and are expected to participate in AT LEAST ONE of the following ways:

  • Have a conversation at your dinner table

  • Share a public statement (on social media or other platform)

  • Attend an event

  • Promote teacher/student work; share stories / elevate the voices

  • Donate your space for an event

  • Donate your skills

What place does Black Lives Matter have in my daily curriculum?

The integration into your daily curriculum of culturally diverse opinions allows students to gain deeper understanding of pertinent issues affecting our students and their classmates. The principles associated with Black Lives Matter highlight a concern about the historic exclusion of people of color that recognizes the value of human life regardless of racial and gender identity. In addition, the thirteen guiding principles of Black Lives Matter define a multifaceted approach to justice that can create the conditions for improving relations between people of different races.

We encourage teachers to look through our recommended resources(More coming soon.)

I’m an elementary teacher and I’m not used to openly raising issues of race in my classroom. What are some actions I can take and what kinds of materials can be helpful?

Does your classroom have students of more than one race? Do your instructional materials include people of different races? Are you a different race than some (or all) of your students? If any of these are true — and likely all are — then issues of race are already present in your classroom. You can raise awareness about this omnipresent aspect of our society without triggering conflict or anxiety in your students — take a look at some of our elementary-specific resources to find a lesson that suits your environment. (Coming soon.)

Can I integrate this into my teaching beyond the week?

Absolutely! One of the goals is to provide deeper connections between educators, parents, students, and community organizations. We encourage you to use these materials, resources, and ideas throughout the school year.

How can I get my colleagues on board with this at my school? How can I reach out to parents and get them on board?

The best way to get anyone on board is through conversation—encourage all parties to ask and answer questions. When talking with colleagues, encourage them to consider that these are issues that affect the majority of our students on a daily basis. Teachers and parents share the common goal of helping our children navigate the difficult conversations that they will inevitably confront in this world. Reach out to parent networks in your school and let them know what your building is planning. Consider an informational picket on a morning before school to speak to parents directly if many drop off their children.

What are my rights when teaching materials parents might find inappropriate?

Many items that teachers include in their curriculum are considered to be controversial. That is one of our jobs as educators: to raise our students’ awareness to issues that affect the world around them, and to consider potential solutions. If you are not sure about whether or not parents will object to a topic you will be teaching, then write a letter home and explain your goals in teaching the material. Use responses from this FAQ to help jump start your letter.

I teach math and science. How can I integrate this into my teaching?

There are a lot of ways to integrate justice driven curriculum into science and math lessons. Science and math are based in problem solving, research, and use of numbers to understand the world. We encourage teachers to look through our recommended resources. (Coming soon.)

I do not feel like my principal would be okay with me participating, but I’m totally down with this cause. What are other ways I can get involved?

If you do not feel safe to participate fully in this campaign, there is an incredible amount of important work to do. Finding time to have conversations around racial justice, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other issues with your coworkers is invaluable. Building strong relationships and organizing in your building can be very helpful in dealing with a tough principal.

I’m afraid of retribution from parents and/or students? How can I explain what we’re doing in a way that they won’t feel threatened and will be supportive?

Let your students and parents know that you are doing this to encourage critical thinking and awareness of current event issues that are directly impacting communities of color. Also, allow for them to voice their concerns and ask them plenty of questions. Read through this page, many of the FAQs can be helpful.

Isn’t this too emotionally stressful for students? Can we really open up a sensitive conversation even though we can’t devote legitimate time to this issue?

Students are confronting these issues on a daily basis in the world at large. It’s our obligation and role as teachers to create safe environments for our students to process tough issues. Helping students begin the conversation by framing their feelings and questions is the first step toward them identifying their own values and worldview regarding these tough issues.

Isn’t Black Lives Matter just about black rage at the police?

No, the police are also victims of our society’s push towards mass incarceration and under-funded schools and social services. What we’re all dealing with is systemic breakdown that leads towards increased violence across the system. Policing is just a tiny part of what we’re talking about–so let’s start the discussion. Check out all thirteen guiding principles of Black Lives Matter, as a starting point.

Isn’t Black Lives Matter racist against white people?

No, Black Lives Matter helps us to analyze the quality of life for marginalized groups in our society. Though these conversations can sometimes be provocative, bringing up these conversations strengthens our community. Relationships deepen and hidden truths become sites of understanding.

As a white teacher, I feel like it’s not my place to have conversations around BLM/police shootings/etc. in my classroom with students of color.

This is a conversation for everyone. Everyone has a right to understand the historical context that has led to this moment. If this is something you want your own child to know, then your students, too, will understand that this comes from an authentic place. And remember—choosing not to have these conversations is also making a stance. If you’re not ready to wear a shirt or teach a lesson at this point, that’s OK. However, we are asking you to be willing to engage in this important conversation about racial justice.

The Black Lives Matter message is embedded in the way I teach already–everyone is valued. So why set aside time for one group of people and not others?

That’s so important! But this is not about respect and kindness. This is about unpacking your backpack of privilege with your students, which will help them understand their own identities and how that shapes our society. Relying on colorblind rhetoric around kindness and tolerance only perpetuates the issues at hand and does nothing to challenge structural racism and white supremacy.