No matter who your students are or what subject areas you teach, adopting anti-racist teaching strategies can help you support every student. But this work can be challenging for any educator, even those who have been pursuing it for some time. That’s why we’re sharing seven strategies from the fifth webinar of TpT’s Teach for Justice speaker series, Content and Curriculum: What, How, Why of Anti-Racist Teaching. In the webinar, Kelisa Wing shares how teachers can create content and classroom environments that decenter dominant perspectives, reflect diversity, equity, and justice, and support learners of all backgrounds. Informed by her extensive experience as a speaker, educator, author, and activist for racial justice and school discipline reform, Kelisa shares insights and strategies to help educators like you pursue anti-racism in your teaching. 

Keep reading to learn seven of the strategies she outlines, and be sure to watch the full webinar for even more.

7 strategies to apply to your teaching:

1. Give students “windows” and “mirrors.”

In the webinar, Kelisa references Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s work by highlighting the importance of providing “windows” and “mirrors” in lessons and instruction. What does it mean to do so? 

  • To provide a window, your instruction should show your students diverse people and experiences that they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to see in their day-to-day lives. By doing so, you give students exposure to many ways of living, and you may show them a future they hadn’t previously considered. “When we give students a window, we give them an opportunity to look outside of their present condition,” explains Kelisa.
  • To provide a mirror, you should ensure your lessons reflect your students. “So many times, our students who are not of color get a lot of mirrors within their curriculum. [. . .] I remember being little and feeling like, did our history start at slavery? Because that’s all I saw,” Kelisa explains. Students of color in particular don’t often see people who look like them — their history and their accomplishments — in what’s taught at school, so it’s critical to actively ensure they’re reflected.

Learn more at around the 16-minute mark of the webinar.

2. Consider the many dimensions of diversity. 

Pointing to examples such as gender, religion, and job title, Kelisa shares, “When we think about what makes us truly diverse, it is not just our race. It is so many different things.” She emphasizes that, to truly get to know your students, you should ask what dimensions of diversity resonate most with them. Additionally, you should ask yourself why certain parts of your identity are most important to you, how they influence your life, and how they shape the decisions you make in the classroom.

Learn more at around the 26-minute mark of the webinar.

3. Draw from students’ culture.

For the next three strategies, Kelisa highlights some of New America’s 8 Competencies for Culturally Responsive Teaching. First, she emphasizes the importance of drawing from students’ culture. “Our students’ first teachers are their parents, are their community members, are their grandparents. There is a way in which they were able to learn [. . .] before they ever even showed up into our classrooms,” Kelisa reminds educators. She advocates that you should seek to understand how a student best learns, what motivates them, and what knowledge they already bring to the classroom in order to shape instruction in a way that better supports their learning.

Learn more at around the 38-minute mark of the webinar.

4. Communicate in linguistically and culturally relevant ways.

In order for all students and caregivers to feel welcome in the school environment, Kelisa explains that it’s important to communicate in ways that are relevant to them — whether that’s by translating communication into their native language, or by reaching out in ways that make them feel most comfortable. For some caregivers, school was not a positive experience, so it’s important that teachers take initiative to bridge any existing divide. For example, Kelisa shares how an educator she knows went out into the community to share information with caregivers about college and careers rather than asking them to come to the school.

Learn more at around the 40-minute mark of the webinar.

5. Model high expectations for all students.

Kelisa emphasizes that you must set high expectations for every student and believe in their ability to achieve, no matter their backgrounds. “Too many times I’ve heard, well, my students just can’t do that,” she says. She instructs teachers to avoid watering down curriculum or standards and to provide growth-producing feedback in order to push students to the next level. “I believe, if we provide them access to what we need them to do and we meet their needs in an equitable way, that they’ll be able to achieve whatever goal you set in front of them,” she says.

Learn more at around the 42-minute mark of the webinar.

6. Give students opportunities to cooperate and collaborate.

Kelisa advocates that students should have opportunities to cooperate and collaborate with each other. For example, you could ask students to work in pairs or small groups, to practice taking turns, or to explain their answers to one another. When students are asked to cooperate or collaborate with each other, they learn to work together, communicate, problem solve, and more. Explains Kelisa, “When we have our students working together to figure things out, [they’re able] to get to know more about each other, to break down walls, to break down barriers. We are teaching in a way that disrupts and dismantles the system of oppression.”

Learn more at around the 45-minute mark of the webinar.

7. Decenter Whiteness.

To create a space where all students feel welcome, it’s important to decenter dominant White culture to create space for all people to be represented and valued. This comes into play in what curriculum you choose, what windows and mirrors you give your students, and even in moments when you’re not actively thinking or talking about dominant culture, such as the day-to-day actions you take and decisions you make. Says Kelisa, “It doesn’t matter what grade level you teach. It doesn’t matter what content area you teach. It is your personal decision to show up and be a person who’s going to interrupt this White dominant culture that our education systems have been built upon.”

Learn more at around the 47-minute mark of the webinar.

Stay in touch with Kelisa

View recordings of previous Teach for Justice webinars and register for the next installment here. The next webinar — “Diversity, Privilege and Leadership: Are We Making Any Progress in the 21st Century?” with Dr. Eddie Moore Jr — airs on Thursday, October 15th, at 7pm ET.