The D.C. Teaching for Black Lives study group, made up of 14 educators from Brent Elementary (ECE–5), meets monthly. According to Jon Berg, the study group’s coordinator, they started the group “to help educators reflect on their practice and to identify resources that center our Black students in our classrooms — with an emphasis on what is taught and how classrooms are set up to help students engage in civic life.” They also hoped to “encourage school wide participation in the Black Lives Matter at School Year of Purpose and Week of Action 2023.”
They were successful! Below are just some of the ways they participated in the Week of Action:
- Every grade focused on two of the guiding principles. The principles will remain at each grade level year-to-year so students who matriculate through Brent for all of elementary school will have deeply engaged with each of the 13 principles by the end of 5th-grade.
- Kindergarten and 1st-grade hosted a Teach the Beat assembly to celebrate Black culture specific to D.C. and center Black joy.
- A Historically Black College and University (HBCU) day was held in which students were encouraged to wear the colors of the HBCU assigned to their homeroom, classes discussed the history and importance of HBCUs, and some classrooms invited family members to talk about their HBCU experience.
- Students created a multi-grade collaborative art piece inspired by Sam Gilliam, an artist who was part of the color theory art scene in D.C.
- 5th-grade and early childhood students worked together to write and perform shadow stories that honor the lives of Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, and Serena and Venus Williams.
In March, the study group meeting reflected on the week of action. The members agreed that on the whole, teachers, students, and their families embraced the 13 Principles and accompanying lessons and experiences.
Some families raised questions about whether Black History Month would be eclipsed or replaced by Black Lives Matter at School. The study group discussed how to better delineate the differences and common ground between Black History Month and Black Lives Matter at School in years to come — recognizing the importance of both, not only during the month of February but throughout the year. The study group is currently gathering feedback from other faculty members.
The group plans to create a reflective tool for grade levels to use as they build on their experiences integrating the 13 Principles this year and plan for next year.