Inside: Ideas for Black History Month in Spanish class, and beyond.
The year 2020 shook us up, in many ways. And here in 2021, Black History Month has many Spanish teachers thinking much harder about representation and equity.Some Spanish teachers have always made an effort to honor times like Black History Month or Martin Luther Jr. Day, but are now seeing that they’ve treated racial justice and representation as a “topic” instead of an issue infused into all lessons. For some, it’s meant rethinking their curriculum entirely.
This post links to great resources for all educators, but I wrote it with non-Black teachers in mind. They– we, I’m here with you!– have the responsibility of continually educating ourselves in anti-racist work and growth.
Black History Month should serve as an exhilarating time to fill in the gaps left by textbooks and state curriculum standards. It should also inspire teachers to continue this education beyond February, teaching black and non-black students how they can affirm the existence and humanity of black lives year-round.
It’s OK to teach about the resilience of black people despite the structures in place to uphold a racial hierarchy; we already know, for example, that more work is needed to help students learn the history of American slavery and the civil rights movement accurately.
But it’s also critical that teachers show that people of African descent have contributed more than forced, free labor to U.S. history. Students deserve opportunities to examine black literature, art, innovations and customs that have helped shape the culture of the United States—and the world.
– Cohsandra Dillard, Teaching Tolerance
Before we dive in, let me be clear: I understand that most teachers are basically drowning right now.
Teaching in 2020-2021 is insane, and I am not here to tell you “this is the year you need to rewrite your entire curriculum,” That’s a recipe for burnout right now!
Instead, I’d like to offer some very simple ideas to work towards a more equitable classroom. Maybe Black History Month here in 2021 can be your personal springboard for learning and growing. After all, the most vital resource in any classroom is the teacher.
Anti-racism is a lifelong commitment. Thankfully, there are some wonderful resources at your fingertips to help you along the way!
Anti-Racism Resources for Spanish Teachers
Spanish and world language teachers uniquely positioned to explicitly address social justice in their classrooms, as many of our lessons involve culture and everything from identity, to interpersonal communication, to global issues.
We also have the chance to examine less explicit ways our classroom can be anti-racist: how well all students are represented in the media, literature, music, and materials we use.
Consider challenging yourself to pick just one format for February: podcasts, books, articles– whatever’s your jam. Read or listen to one thing each week. (Unless it’s a book– one book read during Black History Month in Spanish or English would be great.)
Sit with it. Listen. See what you can do about it.
The more we grow in becoming anti-racist, the more anti-racist our classrooms and curriculum will become. It starts with us, so… let’s start with us.
5 Podcasts for Equity in the Spanish Classroom
- Language Latte: An Interview with Dr. Hines Gaither, Professor and Director of Multicultural Education
- We Teach Languages Episode 143: Highlighting Black Communities and Culture in the Spanish Classroom with Regina O’Neal
- Inspired by Proficiency: Promoting Equity in the Classroom with Kia London
- We Teach Languages Episode 82: Social Justice and Representation with LJ Randolph
- What in the World? Language Podcast: Beyond febrero- Black History is more than just a month.
(31 minutes. This is a series with several episodes and the podcast has MANY more episodes on racial justice.)
5 Anti-Racism Books for Spanish Teachers
We know 80% of teachers in America are White females. There is no way around it; white teachers are teaching black and brown kids through their white lens, myself included… let’s break the cycle of racism with our most powerful weapon that we use in the classroom everyday– one book at a time.
Anti-Racism Books in Spanish:
- Y Tú, Porque Eres Negro?
por Ruben H. Bermudez
- Cómo ser antirracista
por Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
Anti-Racism Books in English:
- Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
by Beverly Daniel Tatum
- Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students
by Zaretta L. Hammond
- Me and White Supremacy
by Layla F. Saad
5 Articles on Inclusive Classrooms
- Setting the Tone for an Inclusive Classroom: Some Practices to Consider
from the University of Michigan (2 pages)
- An Inclusive Classroom Climate
from Yale University (blog post)
- Diversifying Language Educators and Learners
by Uju Anya and L. J. Randolph, Jr. (5 pages)
- Facilitating Difficult Race Discussions: Five Ineffective Strategies and Five Effective Strategies
by Derald Wing Sue, PhD (7 pages)
- Let’s Talk! Discussing Race, Racism and Other Difficult Topics with Students
from Teaching Tolerance (24 pages)
10 Anti-Bias Social Media Accounts
It may sound kind of stupid-easy to do something like follow someone on Instagram as a way to fight racism. And yeah– it’s not exactly moving mountains. Personally, though, I’ve found that expanding my intake of voices really does make a difference, especially as current events unfold and I have real-time help in how to think through and address new topics.
If you want to make a concrete impact, many of these teachers have paid PD or materials, and you can support them by purchasing their resources.
(Naomi O’Brien, elementary educator and advocate)
(Wanderer. Antiracist. Abolitionist. Educator. Teacher educator. Researcher. Writer. Cat lady. Wannabe chef @eatwellforcheap. Venmo: @Dena-Simmons)
(M. Ed, Consultant & Speaker, Anti- bias educator)
(Parenting and Education through a Critical Race Lens. Diverse #OwnVoices Books. Black and Brown Owned.)
(Putting on a pot of coffee and getting to work: homeschooling & teaching fill my days.
My Insta fills my heart.
Rooting For You)
(Linguist. Writer. Presenter. Passion for arts & cultures by way of #equity and #diverserepresentation. she/her/hers/ella.)
(Ambivalent Anthropologist, Ardent PR@StanfordEd & @StanfordCCSRE Prof | Author of Looking like a Language, Sounding like a Race)
(ATN’s mission is simple: develop and support educators to fight injustice within their schools and communities.)
(Assoc professor of Spanish & Education. Social justice/tech/games. ACTFL Board of Directors. Past president of FLANC & AATSP-NC. He/They/Él. Views=mine. #BLM)
(How to make Latin comprehensible and inclusive for all)
4 Ways to Promote Equity in Your Spanish Classroom Today
These can be part of your celebration of Black History Month, or (ideally) a starting place for the entire year!
- Pay attention to *who* is represented in the videos, media, and visuals you use, and *how.*
(This Google Doc has a spreadsheet for finding diverse videos and images.)
- Include Afro-Latino musicians in your Spanish music selection.
(See a list of artists here and grab a TpT resource here).
- Stock your classroom library with books featuring Black protagonists and empowered Black characters.
(Here’s a list of 100 titles in Spanish, from picture books, to learner novels, to authentic chapter books.)
- Read and reflect on these 28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors.
(By Debra Leigh – save this for summer if you don’t have time right now!)
I’m going to say it one more time: 2020 and 2021 are not the years to throw your lesson out the window and rewrite your curriculum. Most of us are in survival mode. I simply encourage you to pick a few baby steps that will have a big impact, and let those baby steps grow every year.
If you have more ideas and resources for Black History Month in Spanish class, please let us know in the comments below.
Everyday you walk into that classroom, you are changing the world. Let’s do this together!