Creating an equitable and respectful school climate where students from all backgrounds, races, and cultures feel welcome, listened to, and encouraged to learn at high levels is fundamental to our school change efforts. One of the most important ways to ensure that all of our students will thrive in diverse workplaces and communities is to create opportunities for conversation between and among teachers, students, parents, and community members. Burlington High School’s “Getting Real About Race” event is one such opportunity.
On January 10, 2013, all BHS ninth grade students and teachers participated in a community-based day of learning on race and identity. The day, which took place at ECHO Science Center and Lake Aquarium, Maglianero Cafe, and Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center, was the focal point of a cross-curricular unit on the same topic.
Burlington High School held its second annual “Getting Real About Race” event on February 12, 2014. Again, ninth grade students joined their teachers and dozens of community partners in city spaces to engage in challenging conversations about race and equity. The 2014 event featured small-group discussions and storytelling workshops at Fletcher Free Library, as well as a technology-rich activity on school culture in City Hall’s Contois Auditorium. Throughout the day, students were supported to think deeply about four guiding questions:
- How does race affect me?
- What labels do I use and why do I use them?
- How do I have conversations about race?
- How do I acknowledge the ideas and opinions of others without making judgments?
Want to learn more? Check out the video and student artifacts below.
Video: Getting Real About Race 2013
Student Reflections: Digital Self Portraits
At both the 2013 and 2014 events, students screened a documentary about the culture of peer pressure and stereotyping in high schools. The students then responded to the video by creating “selfies,” or digital self-portraits, using their iPads. All of the reflections were collected and published on these blogs: