A study group of 20 educators from Dr. E. Alma Flagg School (pre-K–8), in Newark, New Jersey, meets monthly to “use the Teaching for Black Lives chapters as a springboard to build events . . . where we share with families and student leadership groups (PTA, Student Council, and Peer Leadership) highlights from our discussions.”
In a recent meeting, members reflected on their study group participation. They said:
Participation in the Teaching for Black Lives study group has given me a clearer lens on how to help our students navigate through these times and what’s happening in our world. I truly appreciate the perspectives that are shared in this space and how they propel me to think and sometimes move differently.
I feel better prepared with resources to be a more effective educator and social justice advocate. It has helped me better shape my next steps towards being anti-racist.
This group provides me an opportunity to think aloud with my peers about issues that impact our students and how I can work to ensure student cultures, life experiences, and needs are discussed — to explore what we can do as a school community to address students’ needs by being culturally responsive.
This group has allowed me to be more mindful about my words and views about the past, present, and what I would like the future for my students to be.
Participating in this group has given me the opportunity to share my thoughts and hear other people’s viewpoints and experiences. It also made me think about what role I play in my students’ lives and what I can do differently.
Teaching for Black Lives book study allowed staff an opportunity to engage in conversations about racial justice. The study group allowed staff to empower students to understand the context for how we got to where we are today and a deeper understanding of the issues society still faces.
Unpacking the Power of Mrs. Rosa Parks
In March, Joyce McCree, the Newark study group’s coordinator, organized a watch party for a virtual screening of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. McCree reported:
This viewing was an energizing experience for our group. It was a time to show the power of this Teaching for Black Lives experience on a more global scope. Such a powerful story and powerful person. Added bonus, it was International Women’s Day — so empowering.
Study group members shared some of their reflections:
I found the movie inspiring and jam packed with knowledge. It allowed me to see how history is distorted. It opened my eyes to the true “sheroes” that have helped to shape our society.
Rosa Parks has done so much in fighting injustice that she does not receive enough credit for. It is sad that most of her doings were credited to someone else and being the humble person she was, she never allowed these things to stop her mission.
Rosa Parks was fearless and such a natural leader and ally to social justice issues. She did not hesitate to walk into harm’s way on behalf of herself or others. She used her power to lead.
While watching the film, the study group members stayed connected via group chat and started making plans for a student based forum “to unpack the power of Rosa Parks” in celebration of Women’s History Month.
That plan came to fruition a couple of weeks later when families, staff, and community leaders were invited to a special screening of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks at Dr. E. Alma Flagg Elementary. After the screening, the audience was asked: Who is ready to stand up and be rebellious in life like Rosa Parks? McCree said:
The movie viewing has made a positive impact on our school. It was very powerful when the students’ hands slowly went up and some of their explanations were so insightful.
A week after watching the film, McCree’s 7th-grade class participated in a mixer lesson, adapted from The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks activity by Bill Bigelow. Students shared stories about different rebellious moments in Rosa Parks’ life.
In April, McCree’s class started reading the young readers edition of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, thanks to receiving a complimentary class set from the Zinn Education Project.