Teaching Ferguson

City Garden Montessori School, St. Louis
City Garden Montessori School, St. Louis

Christie Huck, the Executive Director of City Garden Montessori School, a racially and economically diverse neighborhood charter school in St. Louis, is graciously sharing an email she sent today to her staff.  In the message, Huck encourages her staff to talk with students and shares resources about the grand jury verdict of no charges against Office Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

As we return to school tomorrow, I want to ask each of us to be thoughtful and intentional about how we reengage with our students and parents, following the grand jury announcement.  This is simultaneously a poignant, painful, exciting and historic moment in our region, nationally and even throughout the world.  And, the events that have occurred in our city have a very direct impact on our students–in very different ways for some than others.

Before the grand jury announcement last Monday, that afternoon I stopped by the corner market on Shaw. As I was driving away I saw two of our African American sixth grade boys. When I pulled over, they asked “Ms. Christie, what’s happening? There are police everywhere, and they keep looking at us like we’re doing something wrong! One of them stopped us and asked us what we were doing.”

I asked if they knew about the Michael Brown case and the grand jury, and they did. I told them that the grand jury announcement was going to be made within a few hours, and that people were getting really worked up, and that they needed to go inside and keep themselves safe. They nodded and told me they’d go inside right away and tell their moms what was going on.

This highlighted again for me the reality in which our City Garden children exist, and the importance of acknowledging the events happening around us, helping them to process, giving them tools to both support themselves and to have a strong sense of identity, fairness, respect, compassion, helping one another, staying safe and standing up for what is right.

I know the Anti-Bias Anti-Racism committee will be working on how to support guides in the classroom. In the meantime, however, I wanted to share some incredible resources that are available and ask each of you to plan some ways to incorporate these discussions/ these issues into your work with students this week and in the coming weeks. Resources are listed below.

Principal Nicole Evans and I are happy to support and help you think through this. Remember, none of us is alone in this work! Thank you for your courage and commitment.

Christie Evans

Some recommended resources:

http://perspectives.tolerance.org/ – an INCREDIBLE new resource: an entire anti-bias curriculum free
http://zinnedproject.org/2014/11/teaching-about-ferguson/ – specific resources for teaching about Ferguson

Additional list of resources compiled by Teaching Tolerance Staff on November 26, 2014.  This week’s edition features stories about recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.

  • Chicago Sun Times: A transcript of President Barack Obama’s Monday-night remarks on the situation in Ferguson.
  • Huffington Post: It’s not just in the Ferguson area that teachers are trying to figure out how to explain these events to young students.
  • LA Times: A mother reflects on her daughter’s experience teaching in a Ferguson kindergarten classroom.
  • The New York Times: Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, reflects on how she told her son about the grand jury decision.
  • PBS: Give students context for understanding Ferguson with a timeline of events and educational resources from PBS.
  • Reuters: The “I Love Ferguson” campaign lifts morale and offers fundraising opportunities for damaged businesses.
  • The Root: Do’s and don’ts for teaching about Ferguson. An older post, but highly relevant given the grand jury decision and widespread demonstrations this week.
  • Talking Points Memo: The Ferguson library opened its doors to the community—and to unprecedented donations—the day after the grand jury decision.
  • The Washington Post: Media outlets around the world are reporting on Ferguson— and providing a window on global perceptions of race relations in the United States.
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