Tag Archives: Sara K. Ahmed

Dismantling Racism in Education

SaraCornSonja_2Not talking about racism is not a solution. How do we have this conversation and how do we unravel assumptions about racism? Even if you don’t have the expertise we can create safe space for the conversation. How do we get started and move forward? How can these talks bring us together? 

The Heinemann Fellows recently hosted a panel about racism in education facilitated by Heinemann authors Sara Ahmed, Sonja Cherry-Paul and Cornelius Minor. After the panel we sat down, alongside Heinemann General Manager Vicki Boyd, to talk about what racism looks like and how do we breakup the assumptions we make about racism. 

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Upstanders: What to Share with Your Students

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Upstanders: How to Engage Middle School Hearts and Minds with Inquiry is a new book from Harvey “Smokey” Daniels (@smokeylit) and Sara Ahmed (@SaraKAhmed). Upstanders invites you into the classroom of Sara Ahmed to see her teaching in action. With Smokey Daniels as your guide you'll see exactly how Sara uses inquiry to turn required middle school curricular topics into questions so fascinating that young adolescents can't resist investigating them. In our Upstanders blog series, Sara and Smokey will highlight topics in the book related to middle school and helping kids go from bystanders to upstanders. In this blog, Sara looks at what to share and what not to share with students. 

Identity Webs

by Harvey “Smokey” Daniels and Sara K. Ahmed

While there is merit to establishing a positive and respectful rapport with your students from the get-go, I always lean toward mutual respect and letting them know you are also a human being who doesn’t sleep under her desk at night. In his infinite wisdom, Donald Graves reminds us to always know our students in facts and actions; to really know who they are before we can teach them (1983). There should be an expectation that we are sharing our lives with the students the same way we are asking them to share their lives with us. We do this by sharing our reading lives and our writing lives in workshop lessons and book talks, and in those first weeks when we ask them to create “Me” projects that share pieces of their identity.

I introduce identity webs and create my own in front of the kids the first day or two of school. I talk about why I have National Geographic, Time for Kids, and Sports Illustrated for Kids bursting out of the baskets in the classroom. I am a reader, I love to travel, and I love sports. I notice what the kids are wearing and find ways to connect with them via jerseys or shoes, or by offering validation for a fashion risk they decided to take. There are some personality and style liberties that I take as well. I am a sports fanatic, I love fashion, and I would rather read YA and watch YA television and movies than anything else. My family and friends will tell you that I also have YA eating habits. I share these things in snippets and I ask questions to empower kids to reciprocate. I share how important my relationships with my family and friends in Chicago are to me. I have already lived middle school and I don’t plan on living vicariously through them, but I often talk about my middle school experience when it is appropriate. My favorite thing to tell is that my best girlfriends today became my best girlfriends when I was eleven, in middle school.

There is a balance between overexposure and opening a window into who you are.

I reveal personal information when it makes sense to strengthen a rapport or extend an olive branch, or if the kids simply ask. There is a balance between overexposure and opening a window into who you are. I work to find that place each day, a place where I gain a piece of them, and they have a takeaway of me. I am approachable, open, and friendly, but not their friend. Walking this fine line appropriately makes me available to them as a teacher, but also as an adult they can connect with on any given day. Being able to recommend great books or magazine and newspaper articles on the things we love in common is a plus.

Things I don’t share include any love stories, from middle school to present day, and in turn, I don’t ask about their budding romances either. And if they ask me for love advice, I let them know I have a little schema about this, but I don’t go any further than asking, “Well, would you rather continue talking to them and be friends, or say you are ‘going out’ and then pretend to ignore each other and act super weird when you are in the same room?” The kids laugh, but I have seen more teddy bears thrown in the garbage on Valentine’s Day than Gund would care to know about.

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Sara K. Ahmed has taught in urban, suburban, public, independent, and international schools. Harvey "Smokey" Daniels has been a city and suburban classroom teacher and college professor, and now works as a national consultant and author on literacy education. 

Upstanders: History and Ourselves

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Upstanders: How to Engage Middle School Hearts and Minds with Inquiry is a new book from Harvey “Smokey” Daniels (@smokeylit) and Sara Ahmed (@SaraKAhmed). Smokey is your guide to Sara’s classroom. Together they’ll show you exactly how Sara uses inquiry to turn required curricular topics into questions so fascinating that young adolescents can’t resist investigating them. Units that meet all the literacy and research complexity that standards call for as well as teaching critical thinking, citizenship, and compassion.

In our Upstanders blog series, Sara and Smokey will highlight topics in the book related to middle school and helping kids go from bystanders to upstanders. Before all of that, Sara talks about the influence behind Upstanders.

Facing History and Ourselves

by Sara K. Ahmed

There’s one other important influence on my work that I should mention here: Facing History and Ourselves (@facinghistory). Facing History “combats racism with history,” helping secondary teachers and students see history through the eyes of the victims, perpetrators, bystanders, and upstanders. My mentor in this organization, Chuck Meyers, showed me how to view history as the human story. This lens rocked my world, and I’ve seen it give my students the gift of perspective.

The term “upstander” and the Facing History and Ourselves resources described in this book were developed as part of the Facing History and Ourselves sequence of study. This powerful sequence begins with identity—first individual identity and then group identities with their definitions of membership—and then moves to a case study of the failure of democracy in Germany and the steps leading to the Holocaust as well as other cases of mass violence in recent history. It ends with examples of responsible participation, urging students to find connections and think about how they can make positive differences in their own worlds. 

Facing History reaches more than 90,000 educators and nearly three million students in 150 countries each year via educator workshops, community events, online resource, and a catalogue of lessons. Facing History brings students’ empathy to a new level: perspective and wonder lead to critical reading and thinking, awareness, advocacy, and action for those who may not have the opportunity to speak for themselves.

Click here to see more of Upstanders 

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Sara K. Ahmed has taught in urban, suburban, public, independent, and international schools. Harvey "Smokey" Daniels has been a city and suburban classroom teacher and college professor, and now works as a national consultant and author on literacy education.