Black Lives Matter (Secondary)
Parents and community members are rightly asking questions about what's on the curriculum in school in light of the Black Lives Matters movement. In Woodmansterne Secondary's English department, representation is at the forefront of how we choose texts both for the classroom and the library. We also take a broad and inclusive approach to our teaching of the context for our chosen topics.
A guiding principal in choosing books for our students is that all children should see themselves and people who look and live like them represented in the books at school. Furthermore, all children should be exposed to people who look and live differently than they do to build understanding empathy. We call these two ways of categorising books 'mirrors and windows', where available books should reflect a child's life back to them in a familiar and affirming way and other books may offer them a window into someone else's lived experiences.
To give you specific examples of representation in the English curriculum, here is a partial list of authors, people and topics we study:
- 'The Red Pencil' by Andrea Davis Pinkney
- 'Booked' by Kwame Alexander
- 'Out of My Mind' by Sharon Draper
- 'Orleans' by Sherri L Smith
- 'Africans In Tudor England' by Onyeka Nubia (an article from AQUILA magazine's Elizabethan issue)
- Chef's Table, Season 6, Episode 1: A Profile of Mashama Bailey (Documentary available on Netflix)
- 'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- 'The Flowers' by Alice Walker (short story)
- Poetry by Benjamin Zephaniah, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, John Agard and Grace Nichols
As you may also know, we are currently working to build our library collection. Titles are chosen from a wide variety of sources with all staff and students invited to suggest titles for our shelves. One resource used to help ensure a representative collection is We Need Diverse Books, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting literature that honours the lives of all young people. We also refer to reviews and reading lists published by A Mighty Girl and Round Table Books in Brixton. If you have a suggestion for an author, title or topic you think should be on our library shelves, please feel free to email Sarah Thomas, Head of English (email@example.com).
The following linked resources have been produced by Votesforschools and forwarded to us by Lambeth School services.
Votesforschools explain the content of their lessons:
The lessons explore the impact of systemic racism & the changes the current Black Lives Matter protests hope to prompt. We focus primarily on the USA, particularly on the role of protesting, social media, and Government response. While these are serious themes, please rest assured we introduce students to them in an age-appropriate way. They will also be provided with ways that they can safely take a stand through our Call to Action, so we hope they feel empowered to make themselves heard.
We are keen to stress that we too still have much to learn about the true extent of these issues but hope that we have provided voters with a good grounding in what is happening and why things need to change.
While it may not be a subject that pupils have looked at in depth before, we believe it to be a necessary conversation. Whether it is in the classroom or at home, we hope that the topic will prompt interesting, insightful, and impassioned discussion.