At Cordley Elementary (K–5) in Lawrence, Kansas, 15 teachers meet monthly to discuss Teaching for Black Lives. They describe their group as “a community that is moving from consciousness to disrupting of racial inequity.” The study group formed after several teachers observed Black Lives Matter at School’s Week of Action in their classrooms in 2022 and committed themselves “to grow this movement and include more staff.”
In 2023, Cordley celebrated their first schoolwide Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action with a kick-off assembly, daily activities, and questions to deepen the conversation with students.
Once a month, students visit their Hawk Families, which are cross-grade level groups of kindergarten through 5th-grade students. During the Week of Action, students read the book I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes in their Hawk Families. After reading, students discussed what it means to matter and wrote three positive affirmations with their group. Some positive affirmations that were brainstormed included:
- I am kind
- I am brave
- I am strong
- I can make a difference!
The next day, students worked on posters that showed what they believed mattered and what they stood for. Students discussed current events and the many forms of injustice people face.
On Friday, students participated in a “Continue the March” walk and rally that called for equality, kindness, and acceptance.
The students had a lot of local support, including the purchase of “Black Lives Matter at Cordley” t-shirts by the PTA and coverage in both local papers (The Lawrence Times and LJWorld). They were the only local school to participate, but they had overwhelmingly positive feedback from the parents in their community. Rebecca Reaver, Cordley’s principal, and Christina Smith, a learning coach, co-coordinate the Teaching for Black Lives study group. They wrote:
We are so grateful for the way our participation in a Teaching for Black Lives study group has inspired us to take the next steps and be intentional in our anti-racist work! Education and empowerment has to start early!!