Academics

Black History Month

Whitman Middle School 
Black Lives Matter Week and Black History Month 

Whitman Middle School staff are intentional about celebrating Black lives throughout the year.  During Black Lives Matter (BLM) Week (Feb. 1-5, 2021) and throughout February and March for Black History Month, our students participated in lessons celebrating Black lives in their weekly Advisory classes.  In addition, teachers integrated Black history within the regular curriculum.  Below, you can see an outline of what students are engaging in around BLM Week and Black History Month. We love each of our students and unapologetically work to prioritize the needs of our students of color furthest from educational justice.  This effort is in line with our district’s  Strategic Plan – Seattle Excellence.   

Staff are trained to start EVERY lesson by setting the tone and reviewing classroom agreements. Staff also are invited to participate in weekly support sessions to prepare for these lessons.  Our staff recognizes that not all students feel safe to participate in conversations around racial equity, especially our black and brown students and especially when they are outnumbered by white students and staff. Staff members are reminded to know the student voices in their classes who we want to be sensitive to and support.  We are mindful to de-center conversations around white voices, address misconceptions, and be intentional with inviting the voices of our students of color.

Examples of classroom agreements:

•           Respect others’ feelings and points of view.

•           Speak from your own personal experience and don’t speak for others.

•           Do not judge the feelings and thoughts of others.

•           Respect confidentiality.

•           Share “airtime” so one person doesn’t monopolize the discussion.

•           Agree to disagree if you cannot find common ground.

Classroom Resources:

1 – Establishing a Safe Learning Environment when Speaking on Social Justice Issues -  https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/establishing-a-safe-learning-environment

2 – Dr. Jennifer Harvey on Raising Anti-Racist White Kids – https://youtu.be/FS2rwHsqrg4

Staff share history and set the tone:

In 2016, Seattle educators began the Black Lives Matter at Schools (BLMAS) movement, which is a national committee of educators organizing for racial justice in education. In October 2016, SPS staff, families, and members of the community wore t-shirts, planned classroom and school-wide educational activities, and greeted students in a celebratory way as they arrived at school. Since then, Seattle Education Association (SEA) members have developed BLMAS classroom lessons in alignment with the 13 guiding principles of the National BLM movement.

Black Lives Matter at School Movement

Black Lives Matter at School is a national coalition organizing for racial justice in education. The coalition and Seattle Public Schools encourages all educators, students, parents, unions, and community organizations to join the annual week of action during the first week of February each year. This work is happening year-round across the country.

Black Lives Matter has a rich local and national presence.

WEEKLY LESSONS – THEMES – CONCEPTS – VOCABULARY
Lessons taught during weekly Advisory Class

Week 1

Restorative Justice, Empathy and Loving Engagement 

Text:  ‘I’m Prejudiced,’ He Said. And Then We Kept Talking by Heather C. McGhee 

Video:  What can I do to change? You know? To be a better American?

Respond to discussion questions

Introduce this week’s Character Dare from Character Strong program

Concepts and Vocabulary

  • Restorative Justice: We are committed to collectively, lovingly and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension all people. As we forge our path, we intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting.
  • Empathy: We are committed to practicing empathy; we engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.
  • Loving Engagement: We are committed to embodying and practicing justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another.

Week 2

Diversity and Globalism  different parts of the world

Text:  Being An Undocumented Black Immigrant In America Is A ‘Lonely Experience’by Esther Yu Hsi Lee

Video:  The Danger of a Single Story by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Discussion and questions can also be used with Centering Black Women and Femmes)

Videos and text followed by a serious of classroom discussion questions

Black History Month Video:  Introduce Historical Icons: Dorothy Height, Shirley Chisholm

Concepts & Vocabulary:

  • Diversity: We are committed to acknowledging, respecting and celebrating difference(s) and commonalities.
  • Globalism: We see ourselves as part of the global Black family and we are aware of the different ways we are impacted or privileged as Black folk who exist in different parts of the world
  • The goals for this in relation to these themes include the following:
  • Highlighting Black Immigrants
  • Connection with Black Alliance with Just Immigration
  • Opal Tometi making connection with BLM Week to release report
  • Connections with Diversity in the Workplace.

Week 3

Queer Affirming, Trans Affirming, and Collective Value

Text A: Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is from Teaching Tolerance, a lesson based on the text by Abigail Garner

Text B:  Meet Andrea Jenkins, the first openly transgender black woman elected to public office in the U.S. by Marwa Eltagouri

Video:  What Do You Know? An award winning 13-minute film produced by HRC Welcoming Schools for elementary school educators and parents/caregivers.

Text and videos followed by a series of classroom discussion questions

Concepts & Vocabulary:

  • Queer Affirming: We are committed to fostering a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking or, rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual unless s/he or they disclose otherwise.
  • Trans Affirming:  We are committed to embracing and making space for trans brothers and sisters to participate and lead. We are committed to being self-reflexive and doing the work required to dismantle cis-gender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
  • Collective Value: We are guided by the fact all Black lives, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status or location.

The goals for this in relation to these themes include the following:

  • Highlighting Inclusiveness of Black Lives Matter
  • Stonewall Documentary – Marsha P. Johnson
  • Gender-affirming Bathrooms
  • Queer Push Out in Schools

Week 4

Intergenerational, Black Families, and Black Villages

Text:  Civil Rights Activism, From Martin Luther King To Black Lives Matter from All Things Considered

Video:  Americans are Skeptical of BLM Today, as they Were of the Civil Rights Movement

Text and videos followed by a series of classroom discussion questions

Concepts & Vocabulary

  • Intergenerational: We are committed to fostering an intergenerational and communal network free from ageism. We believe that all people, regardless of age, show up with capacity to lead and learn.
  • Black Families:  We are committed to making our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We are committed to dismantling the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” that require them to mother in private even as they participate in justice work.
  • Black Villages: We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.

The goals for this in relation to these themes include the following:

  • Communal Healing Spaces
  • Language and Communication
  • Black Educators and 
  • Community Schools, What is a community school? What is community control?
  • Ethnic Studies
  • Discuss criminalization of Black men

Week 5

Centering Black Women and Femmes

Text:  Poetry in a Time of Protest by Edwidge Danticat

Text followed by a series of classroom discussion questions

This date includes time to loop back to any conversations that were incomplete in previous lessons

Concepts & Vocabulary

  • Centering Black Women: We are committed to building a Black women affirming space free from sexism, misogyny, and male‐centeredness.

The goals for this in relation to these themes include;

  • Themes: Anti-Misogyny and Dismantling Patriarchy

Seattle – Town Hall Forum, Cultural Performances