Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Talking About Race in the Classroom

This upcoming school year the college I teach at has chose Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy as our common read. This means, for us, that as many students in as many classes (across disciplines) as possible will be reading this book. We plan lectures around it and more.

This book is a memoir about Stevenson's experiences trying to help people who were wrongfully convicted get off of death row. Or help seek justice for people who, while they may be guilty, were perhaps over-punished or are being denied basic rights in prison.  It is a tough book. And a lot of the issues brought up within it deal with race and class and other issues of privilege.

Because of this, and because I'm on the common read committee a colleague and I put together a training course for our faculty to take via Blackboard about how to talk about race and other tough issues in the classroom. But why make it so only our faculty can access the resources we pulled from around the internet?

Here are the resources we're using below. I'll mention the assignments as well. Feel free to comment with your responses to the assignments if you would like. If you have other resources we haven't listed I'd love to see those too.


1. What skills or techniques can I use to facilitate better classroom discussions on topics related to racial and ethnic identities as well as other "tough topics."
2. What tools can I use to build an inclusive classroom environment where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions.
3. How does privilege and positionality relate to my role in the classroom? How does it relate to my students?
4. What will tool, skill, or lesson will I use in my classroom in Fall 2017 to foster a healthy and safe space for my students and I to converse in?

  • Do you have concerns about addressing privilege in the classroom? 
  • How might you approach these concerns? 
  • Do you think your privilege or your students' privilege will help or hinder discussions about race (and other sensitive topics)? [Consider the results of your the assessment that you completed here.]

Harvard Implicit Bias Tests- Take one or many!

Assignment: After reading, watching, and taking an assessment write a journal entry responding to these questions:


30 Ways to become a culturally sensitive educator.

10 Tips for Facilitating Classroom Discussions on Sensitive Topics

Assignment: Write a discussion board post addressing: Which of these techniques and tips do you think are the most applicable to your courses? Which do you think could be problematic for your? Are there any you don't understand? 


Assignment: Make a plan for your course. Using everything you've read, watched, and participated in come up with a list of 5 things you can do this fall to make your class a more culturally sensitive space where students feel comfortable discussing tough topics. How will each of those changes improve your classroom? When can you implement each of the changes by?

** The QUEST set up is an idea I stole from Dr. Harrold's blog- I've adapted it slightly.

Thanks for reading!

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