In a world where Black and Brown lives are threatened and topics such as racial inequality are taboo in schools, Ms. Kelly, an 8th grade English teacher at Roger Williams Middle School, challenges the status quo and I am lucky enough to be a part of her classroom. Our students were familiar with the Black Lives Matter movement dating back to the 2014 shooting of 18-year-old Mike Brown. Last year, students participated in the movement by sending letters to the police department in Providence, asking them to wear body cameras, a controversial policy that’s gaining national attention.
The Black Lives Matter movement continues well into 2016 and its still fresh in my students’ minds. In the fall, the academic calendar calls for the preparation of a definition essay about heroism. Ms. Kelly considered the prompt and decided to take a radical and unique approach to tackling this issue in a way that would be most relevant to the students.
Students were introduced to Ferguson protestors as examples of heroes. We read an article about activists such as Deray McKesson and Netta Elzie. They also watched clips of protests from Ferguson October, the four-day weekend of resistance in Ferguson, MO.
Ms. Kelly used the academic calendar as a way to discuss the nuances of heroism and simultaneously give students an opportunity to learn about current events. My favorite aspect to this lesson was giving students a platform to express the ways in which systematic racism affects them. This was done through discussion in class, a response to a prompt asking students what the movement means to them and how can they see themselves playing a role through a visual project.
For the visual project, we took pictures and printed them out in black and white. The students then used crayons and markers to decorate their pictures explaining why their lives matter.