Making Voices of D.C. the Text: Workshop for DCPS Curriculum Team
“We want our texts to provide mirrors and windows for our students,” said Brian Pick, chief of teaching and learning for DCPS, in his introduction. “We want to make sure that they see themselves reflected in the curriculum and that they have texts that allow them to see beyond the 61 square miles of DC.”
On March 17, DC Public Schools (DCPS) held a 2-day work session for educators to review current texts and develop a culturally responsive curriculum as part of the Empowering Males of Color Initiative. Teaching for Change and Teaching Tolerance were invited to facilitate portions of the session.
Teaching for Change led the team through three activities designed to highlight D.C. history and culture—focusing on voices and stories that are often marginalized from the curriculum. As with all Teaching for Change professional development, the session began by inviting the participants to bring their own histories into the room. In the Big Shoes to Fill activity, participants were asked to reflect on whose footsteps they are following in, and why. They then shared their stories with one another and posted them to create a “Path for Justice.”
Participant Danielle Bierzynski shared,
I walk in the shoes of my mother Magalie Hoo-Chong, a Haitian immigrant. She moved to the U.S. when she was a child—about 11 years old. I remember the stories she told me about trying to learn the language here. She told me that, for her, the single most important way for her to learn this culture and English was through reading. She would read all kinds of books, even cheesy romance novels, just so that she could talk to the other kids in her class. Her experiences in schools are partly what bring me to this work of teaching and educating others.
The Teach the Beat: Go-Go Gallery Walk introduced participants to ways to bring D.C.’s decades old, unique music form, go-go, into the classroom. While go-go is not in the D.C. history textbook, our Teach the Beat resources helps fill that gap. Participants listened to go-go music as they walked around the room to view images and read quotes about go-go. They reflected on what they learned, what surprised them, and what questions they had after seeing the images. Said one educator,
It’s very important to include cultural history like this. It’s especially important for students of color to see this—to realize that music has been one way for the people who came before them to express how they feel about social injustice.
The final activity invited participants to step into the shoes of a figure of note in Central American history. It is an introductory lesson for high school classrooms and part of Teaching for Change’s campaign called Put Central America on the Map in Schools.
Each participant read a short bio and then took on the role of a person of significance in Central American history or literature including people who fought for democracy, politicians, poets, teachers, and representatives of the U.S. government. One participant said,
It is interesting and important to expose children to people of note—both positive and negative influences.
Another remarked that,
The workshop was illuminating regarding our collective ignorance about Central American culture and history. This is key as we begin text auditing: we must identify areas unknown before we begin.
Training participants especially appreciated the interactive approach of Teaching for Change’s lessons.
I love the style of activity; these are fun formats to use to have our students up and moving.
The learning, movement, speaking, and listening encompassed a whole brain approach. All learners will be reached.
Dr. Robert Simmons, chief of innovation and research at District of Columbia Public Schools, reflected on why he invited Teaching for Change to facilitate,
When looking back on my career in education, Teaching for Change has made a profound difference not only in the way that I approach teaching but also in the way I think about curriculum. Because of this and the impact a curriculum that embraces the multiple cultural dimensions of young people has, not only on their academic growth, but also their identity development, Teaching for Change is an ideal partner in support of all of our students in DCPS, especially as we embark on the Empowering Males of Color Initiative.