Poetry and Self-Determination


In preparation for their first year participating in Black Lives Matter at School week of action, educators at the Georgian Forest Elementary School (Montgomery County, Maryland) started with a professional learning session the week prior. Staff were able to learn the "why" of the work of the Black Lives Matter at School week of action, as well as explore the resources available. Each staff member who attended received a packet with all of the lessons from the DC Area Educators website as well as additional lessons from Baltimore and Philadelphia. Each day, announcements were given to inform staff and students of the guiding principles for the day. Pre-K-5 staff development teacher, Asashia Martin was able to go to multiple classrooms to support and/or co-teach lessons. Mrs. Martin shares:

On Thursday, I was the co-teacher for the lesson based on the book about George Moses Horton. Students explored what it meant for Mr. Horton to be free using his poetry — with his freedom first starting in his mind and eventually being freed from enslavement through law. We began by exploring the phrases "slaves vs. people who were enslaved." Students had various comments like "they had a whole life before they were brought over," and "how would life be different in Africa if they weren't disrupted." Students also had the opportunity to chart his emotions throughout the story so that they could then create poems about the meaning of the word freedom based on the events of the story and using figurative language.

At the end of the lesson, one student commented that reading this story made him feel both sad and happy — sad that the entire system of enslavement of people happened, and happy that they were eventually freed. We talked about why it's important for us to remember the hard times so that we can develop a sense of pride for all the people who came before us accomplished before, during, and after enslavement.

Another staff member in our building created a social justice challenge where students had to read an article about the meaning of "Black Lives Matter at School" and then write about how they, other students, and the administration could truly demonstrate that Black Lives Matter at school. Students turned in their responses, and we will have a "Justice Jam" session. In this session, students will engage in a collaborative art project about Black Lives Matter at School. Specifically, they will focus on current civil rights issues manifested in schools such as the need for replacing traditional behavior management approaches with restorative justice, wider representation and diversity of curricular materials, gender equity, and the hiring of more teachers and counselors of color.

Read students responses to the social justice challenge below (click to make larger):

On Wednesday of the week of action, students engaged with a lesson titled "Beyond Gender Stereotypes." Read a student's poem in response to the lesson below.

Thu2019Mykella Palmer