February – Black History Month – is over, but that doesn’t mean it truly needs to be the end! I’m a big believer in the fact that every month should be Black History Month—meaning that Black history should be incorporated into everything that we do as educators.
After all, our students essentially get 12+ years of white history in schools. Very rarely do we hear about Black history, Indigenous history, women’s history, Asian-American history, etc unless it’s during months that are directly related to them. Quite frankly, this practice is damaging to students and puts education and representation in silos when it should be incorporated into everything that we do.
Many educators want to incorporate Black history into their academic curriculum and instruction, but a question I often get from fellow educators is, “Where do I even start?” I was part of the African American Studies Group for the state of Washington in 2020, where we worked to incorporate African American Studies into K-12 curriculum. From working with that group and my personal experience, here are four strategies for getting started with incorporating Black history into your classroom, regardless of department, grade level, or area.
1.) Start each day with Good News – when I was a classroom teacher I would begin my day with what I called “Good News.” During our Good News time, we would share positive things that were happening in our lives and I would also share positive news stories and things that were happening in our communities. I did a mix of stories but specifically highlighted those in our local Black community, as well as Black communities across the nation and the world.
2.) Seek out authentic voices – who is better to speak on Black History Month than Black voices? Feel free to reach out to your local community, internal network, and beyond to see if folks would be interested in speaking about their experiences in their careers and their lives. Depending on your school site regulations, folks can either come in person or virtually (I’ve found more success virtually, because then they can videoconference in from multiple different locations).
3.) Examine your curriculum – When I was a high school mathematics teacher I realized quickly that so much of our curriculum was filtered through a white male lens, which was problematic for a whole host of reasons. Particularly, that not all mathematicians are white and male; women and people of color also deserve to be elevated within the profession of mathematics. I made it a point in my classroom to elevate Black mathematicians and speak heavily on their contributions to the world of mathematics.
4.) Further our own education and understanding – outside of the classroom, it is important to continue your education and understanding of Black history and Black achievements. There are many books, podcasts, and resources that can help you on your journey. And, remember, baby steps are still steps! To get started, here are three of my favorites:
- Book: Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo, which examines the dangerous legacy of white male mediocrity in America in MULTIPLE spaces, including schools.
- Film: 13th, which speaks about prison culture in the United States and, in particular, the imprisonment of Black people
- Podcast: 1619 from the New York Times, which chronicles how Black people have been instrumental to the growth and development of America
Victoria Thompson is a STEM Integration Transformation Coach at Technology Access Foundation–a nonprofit leader redefining STEM education in public schools–and a consultant for Ignite EdTech. She has been in education for five years and began her journey teaching fifth and sixth grade math and science in Summerville, SC. After completing her masters degree in curriculum and instruction she moved to the Seattle, WA area in 2018, where her career has pivoted to focusing on STEM integration in schools, K-12 mathematics instruction with research on decolonizing mathematics curriculum for teachers and learners, creating inclusive math environments, and using technology to bridge equity gaps in math education. She has presented at ISTE, ImpactEducation, CUE, and DigCitSummit on topics such as creating inclusive math classrooms, culturally responsive STEM education, and equity in educational technology.