By teaching our students to think, care, and act, we empower them to build a peaceful future.

Welcome to Think, Care, Act, where teachers and students can find rationales and resources to infuse required curricula with peace, character, global, and multicultural concepts throughout the year.

To act in a world whose problems seem overwhelming requires being able to use the powers of critical and creative thinking and compassionate and inclusive care. Employing these tools, adults and youth alike can work effectively and conscientiously to solve problems big and small, global and local.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Preparing our Multicultural Selves to Teach/Reach All of our Children in the Era of Black Lives Matter

“I believe one of our primary roles as educator is to interrupt the cycle of inequality and oppression.
Sonia Nieto

This summer I had passionate discussions with people I love in which we disagreed over the words, “Black Lives Matter.”  They say, “The phrase is isolating and discriminatory.  We should be saying, ‘All Lives Matter.’”

I am white, and I argue this is the time in our country’s history to affirm that “Black Lives Matter.”  I use this analogy: “It’s like a body.  Obviously, we want our whole body to be healthy.  But if I am diagnosed with lung cancer, I want that cancer treated now.  I won’t be going to doctors saying, “My Body Matters.”  I’ll be saying “My LUNGS Matter.” 

Violence against black people is a cancer that threatens all of our society, and teachers need to be part of the cure.  As an American history teacher, I take it as a sacred duty to teach the rich history of the United States with all its flaws and jagged edges.  Students of all backgrounds who understand that the United States was built on an economy of enslavement may come to understand—and ultimately end—the culture of racism that has evolved over the course of centuries.  With thoughtful and culturally competent teaching, we teachers contribute to building a truly welcoming, multiculturally rich, and inclusive American society for all participants.  The positive outcomes can spill over our borders into the wider world.

Culturally Competent Teaching

This morning I listened to Maria Hinojosa’s Latino USA.  The five-minute story When Race and Identity Collide in the Classroom awakened me from my five a.m. stupor.  Hinojosa starts with a startling statistic: “Almost half of American school students are kids of color.  But more than eighty percent of the teachers are white.”  The piece features a black seventh grade boy who refused his white teacher’s assignment to write about a slave-holding president.  There is a black sixth grade girl sharing the number of times she has walked out of classes disgusted with teachers’ superficial history lessons. Gloria Ladson-Billings reminds teachers to have “cultural relevance.”  If we don’t, she warns, we may contribute to the well-documented consequence of disproportionate negative discipline meted out to students of color.

Ladson-Billings explains, “When students feel they’re not part of the classroom, and in fact that it’s openly hostile to them, then they do a couple things: they can either withdraw so they just don’t participate, OR they act out.”  And, because teachers don’t take many courses in cultural competence, they need to catch up. 

That’s why teachers from Stetson Middle School in Philadelphia formed a reading and discussion group around Rethinking Multicultural Education.  Participating in this movement is one of my favorite friends and teachers, Jamie Stevenson, reminding us that white teachers can only effectively teach students of color if we understand “what their cultural background is, who they are as people...”

Preparing Ourselves as Multicultural People

So as we prepare our bulletin boards (including faces of all different ethnicities, shapes, sizes, and backgrounds) we can also prepare ourselves to be the most culturally competent teachers we can be—for each child, family, and colleague in our care.

In her classic text Affirming Diversity, Sonia Nieto calls on teachers to become multicultural people in order to be able to teach multicultural issues sensitively and meaningfully.  “First, we simply need to learn more…. Second, we need to confront our own racism and biases…. Third, becoming a multicultural person means learning to see reality from a variety of perspectives.”

At this point in our country’s history, I am interested in helping students and peers understand the perspective that “Black Lives Matter,” and why.  Simultaneously, to the best of my multicultural, peace and justice, and anti-bias education abilities, I will be inclusive of students and peers of all backgrounds, teaching countless issues of importance.  

For this specific issue, however, here are readings to consider for educating oneself, one’s students in middle school or beyond, or a discussion group of colleagues.  These will be provocative in the best of ways. 

Black Lives Matter

First, read the New York Times editorial “The Truth of ‘Black Lives Matter.’”   The editors write that people who say “Black Lives Matter” are “not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. They are underlining an indisputable fact — that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered, and have been discounted and devalued. People who are unacquainted with this history are understandably uncomfortable with the language of the movement.” 

To dive deeper into this history, use many of the resources from Rethinking Schools and Zinn Ed Project to discover the long history of racism in this country.  Consult Imani Scott’s Crimes Against Humanity in the Land of the Free: Can a Truth and Reconciliation Process Heal Racial Conflict in America?  Chapters in the book detail the four-hundred year history of racism’s hold on the United States and the centuries-long struggle for equity and justice.

White Privilege

Perhaps re-reading the iconic White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh is timely.  At the link below, from the National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum, find detailed suggestions for reading and deeply processing this 1989 article in the context of today’s issues on race and in other contexts of diversity, such as region, gender, economic status, religion, and physical ability.  McIntosh pushes us to recognize the systemic racism in this country, and to develop “a) the ability to see in terms of systems as well as in terms of individuals; b) the ability to see how systemic discrimination, the downside, is matched by systemic privilege, the upside; c) the ability to see many different kinds of privilege systems.”

Additional resources, which teachers can tailor to their particular classroom levels and subjects, are available from Teaching Tolerance.  The monthly magazine, the online blogs, and the deeply linked Perspectives for a Diverse America curriculum provide resources on race and ethnicity, LGBT, gender, religion, immigration, and other issues.

Letter to My Son

At my own son’s suggestion, I have been reading and reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Letter to My Son, and I commend it to teachers and students from high school onward.  Hearing this father’s anguish, owning it as our responsibility, and teaching our students of all backgrounds how racism’s roots pervade United States history are moral imperatives for culturally competent and compassionate teachers.  In an Atlantic piece full of personal experience and reflection, Coates writes about the connection of systemic white on black violence in the context of U.S. history, “At the onset of the Civil War, our stolen bodies were worth $3 billion, more than all of American industry, all American railroads, workshops, and factories combined, and the prime product rendered by our stolen bodies—cotton—was America’s primary export…. Our bodies were held in bondage by the early presidents….”  He continues, “Here is what I would like for you to know: in America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”

In an interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, Coates reveals that his book, Between the World and Me, reflects his ongoing fearful conversation with his black teenage son.  Jon Stewart feels Coates is offering “an opening to a conversation” for the wider society, and I think teachers would be wise to participate.  In spite of daunting times, I agree with Coates, who affirms “Struggle is important, whether success is assured or not.”

To help each of our students in the era of Black Lives Matter, we must prepare our multicultural selves for engaging every single one of them.  Here is a place to begin.



Friday, June 19, 2015

BUILDING A WELCOMING COMMUNITY OF UPSTANDERS: Mix-It-Up Day as Social Experiment Promoting Identity, Diversity, Justice, & Action

Increasingly, divisions in our society seem insurmountable.  Racism continues to take its toll.  How can we overcome isms and hatred?  How can we teach our children to trust and love people whether they are the same or different from themselves?  We mourn and grieve each of our losses, but—as the Curtis Mayfield song says—“We must keep on keepin’ on.”  Working with school students and teachers is the path I take to keep on building a peaceful, equitable, diverse, and just future.  In this endeavor, one of the most powerful tools I use is the full-day social experiment called Mix It Up Day.

Introduction to Teaching Tolerance & Mix It Up Day at EA:

Teaching Tolerance, an arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center, “is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children.”  Teaching Tolerance initiated Mix It Up at Lunch Day in 2002.  The idea was that a simple act of sitting with new people at lunch would help students break social barriers and appreciate and celebrate differences and similarities among the people in their school communities. 

At The Episcopal Academy, a pre-K-12 independent school outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, our Middle School Student Council took the original concept further and deeper, beginning in 2008-09.  While many schools participate in mixing it up with special seating and activities to promote positive social interactions during one lunch period, our Mix It Up Day is a full-day social experiment involving 275 students and over 50 faculty and staff.  This full day in early spring follows months of lead-up activities including a diversity/inclusion-themed slogan contest, activities interpreting a dramatic production’s themes, advisory surveys and discussions about school climate, and guest speakers on anti-bias, anti-bullying, and diversity-related topics.  Our goal throughout is to make our school a safe, welcoming, and inclusive one for each member of our community.

Over seven years, student and faculty survey results have helped us evaluate and improve the effectiveness of the day.  Overall, students have rated the day as important in teaching about diversity and building and inclusive community.  Responding to post-Mix-It-Up-Day surveys, typically, 66% of students state they have learned something about diversity during the day-long Mix It Up Day activities, with 64% agreeing that the day is a “powerful learning experience.”  Generally 80-90% think the day is important and should be part of school life annually.  Faculty responses have been positive as well, with 89% of faculty respondents agreeing that the day is a meaningful teaching tool and should be continued. 

Faculty and staff at other schools have asked for advice on how to strengthen, deepen, or change-up their participation in the day.  This blog details learning goals, planning, sample activities, and reflections from Episcopal Academy Middle School, recognized by Teaching Tolerance as a three-time Mix It Up Model School.

Identity, Diversity, Justice, Action: Using Teaching Tolerance’s Anti-Bias Framework

My colleague Heather Dupont and I are Middle School Student Council advisors.  We have nurtured Mix It Up Day efforts over the years, striving for more subtly engaging and critically thoughtful practices to promote understanding and respect among all in our community.  For six years, our Student Councils’ MIUDAY goals remained the same, to help members of our community learn: “(a) How it feels to be treated as ‘different,’ for many reasons (race, religion, size, ability, economics, etc.…) and (b) How it feels to interact with new people.  We want to build a welcoming and inclusive community!”

At times student planners get so eagerly involved in detailing activities, they forget to root their planning in their goals.  Our seventh year, using a “backward design” approach to ground this year’s Student Council members as they framed the purposes of the day, we introduced them to Teaching Tolerance’s Anti-Bias Framework  (See link below in resources).  Inspired by the social justice education goals identified by Louise Derman-Sparks, Teaching Tolerance introduces the framework’s four domains as follows:

·      Identity: Students will understand the multiple facets of their identities, know where those traits come from, and feel comfortable being themselves in a diversity of settings.
·      Diversity: Students will recognize the diversity of people in the world, be able to identify differences and commonalities, express interest in the lived experiences of others and develop genuine connections with others.
·      Justice: Students will be aware of bias and injustice, both individual and systemic, will understand the short and long-term impact of injustice, and will know about those who have fought for more fairness and justice in our world.
·      Action: Students will feel confident that they can make a difference in society and will commit to taking action against bias and injustice even when it is not popular or easy.

At a planning meeting in November, months before MIU Day, our student leaders read the Anchor Standards and Domains section of the document.  We asked them to vote by actually standing up for specific goals for our day.  They chose by consensus the following goals from each of the four domains.  At a later meeting, they worked on breaking down the somewhat academic language into understandable, memorable, student-friendly words to add to our prior goals, and to encourage our community to become a welcoming one of upstanders rather than bystanders:

·      Identity: Be who you are.  

·      Justice: Recognize and break stereotypes!
·      Diversity: Express comfort with people who are similar and different.
·      Action: Take action.  Addressing their peers in a student assembly, student leaders exhorted, “Rather than watch, stand up. Rather than be afraid, speak up.”

Rooting their introductory announcements in their goals, Student Council introduced the (now) annual diversity-themed slogan contest in January, and the results were meaningful.  Advisories chose creative ways to express their desires for our community to become a welcoming and inclusive one of upstanders.  Student Council and several faculty allies evaluated the slogans.  Without announcing a winner, we hung the slogan posters in the halls during the months preceding MIUDAY.  The winning advisory’s slogan would grace our T-shirts and the surprise would be unveiled on Mix It Up Day in March.

Experiential Learning about Diversity and Inclusion: What Would You Do?

Under our guidance and with input from Walidah Justice (Director of Diversity and Inclusion), Steve Morris, (Head of Middle School), Kim Piersal (Director of Experiential Learning), Gina Tomkowich (Middle School Drama Teacher), and many others, Student Council planned a day that started with homeroom T-shirt distribution, included videos and discussions in classes, incorporated simulations of unearned privileges and restrictions, featured a musical presentation, moved to mixed up seating at lunch, and concluded with team-building activities at sports block.  Participants (students, faculty, and staff) wore blue, pink, green, or orange T-shirts that determined different privileges and restrictions through the day.  

Selecting short videos from the John Quiñones ABC-TV series, Student Council asked participants to consider “What Would You Do….?” in situations in which people are treated unfairly because of gender, age, economic class, race, religion, ethnic background, sexual identity, or other social identifiers.  Beginning each class, a loudspeaker announcement introduced the video and posed discussion questions and restrictions for group or another.

Here’s an example. Announcer: “We want to be able to trust our friends to accept us as we are, even if we are different.  Sometimes they don’t.  In this video, a teenager confides in his teammates who reject him.  He feels silenced.  In this class BOYS will be silent, in hopes of understanding what being silenced feels like.”  The accompanying video was a WWYD episode in which a gay athlete told his friends he was gay.   Another class began this way: “Differently abled people often experience discrimination and thoughtlessness. This video shows a person with a disability facing discrimination.  Will bystanders be helpful?  In this class, ORANGE & PINK may not open or close doors or laptops without assistance, in hopes of understanding one aspect of ability and disability.” The WWYD episode featured a sales person’s discrimination towards a blind customer.

In addition to the opportunity to show short videos and discuss them for part of the class, teachers responded in unique ways to provide students with deeply moving Mix It Up Day lessons.  The full day of mixing it up included “regular classes” in which teachers had each planned some special twist—a game, a simulation, a discussion, or lesson designed to teach experientially about diversity and inclusion.  Very few teachers opted to teach “class as usual.”  

Thus, depending on the teachers’ plans, students might experience the unearned privilege of special seating or treats in one class, or the unearned restriction of being denied a chance to speak or use class supplies in another.  Hallway signs directed students to use water fountains and stairways based on the color of their T-shirts.  All these were purposeful reflections of historical and current events about which students were (or would become) well aware.

Mid-morning at an assembly, a group of Middle and Upper School singers and actors presented a stunning performance of “Make them Hear You,” from the musical Ragtime, further emphasizing the one of the days’ themes of standing up against injustice.  Segregated by T-shirt color, the Middle School community pondered the non-violent path against racial injustice detailed by characters in the play excerpt.  Later, students and faculty again sat by T-shirt color at lunch to “mix up” typical social groups.  Thus, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders shared tables with faculty members.  Cafeteria staff reminded students of restrictions and privileges in the lunch lines regarding desserts and drinks. During sports practices, coaches engaged in team-building activities to end the day.

In 2014, we connected Mix It Up Day class announcements with the drama club’s spring play, I Never Saw Another Butterfly.  Set in World War II, the play explores themes of persecution and endurance. Loudspeaker announcements introduced new concepts to each class and connected themes from the play to literature and history students were studying in their classes. Here is an announcement given early in the day: “In 1920, American women finally got the right to vote. Around the world, many girls and women are still deprived of their right to vote, education, and equal wages.  Jack in Lord of the Flies says, ‘It’s time some people knew they’ve got to keep quiet and leave deciding things to the rest of us.’ In this class GREENS will keep quiet and leave the speaking to the rest of the class. GREENS are not allowed to speak. Experience for a class period what this means.”  Teachers could then opt to show a short video about the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

Announcements later in the day encouraged students to overcome differences and build an inclusive community. Here is the announcement from the last class period: “In 1991, Rodney King pleaded for peace in Los Angeles asking, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’ An EA sixth-grade parent, said, ‘It is not necessarily your background that defines you, but it is how you live your life that defines who you really are.’ In this class, you will take lessons you have learned during Mix-It-Up Day to make every person in the room feel safe, secure, and respected. What behavior is important? How is this different from everyday classes? How does this feel?  A video of Rodney King speaking was available for viewing.

Calendar for Long Term Planning

Announcements have to be composed.  Videos have to be previewed and selected.  Surveys have to be evaluated.  T-shirts have to be ordered.  We need to communicate goals and plans to the faculty and staff.  The Student Council meets during a hectic thirty-minute lunch period once every six days.  A project of this size is daunting for sixteen middle schoolers and their faculty advisors.  How do we pull off this mammoth undertaking? 

Here is a taste of our long-term calendar.  After setting the date in the fall for the spring, we start by November to…

1.     Plan Slogan Contest for mid-January (Each advisory creates uplifting, diversity and inclusion promoting slogan.  Winning slogan is T-shirt slogan.)
                                              a.     Make announcement to Middle School—Do a skit with t-shirts?
                                             b.     Hold contest/slogan making during Advisory: DATE?
                                              c.     Judge slogans during meeting: DATE? Invite administrators, diversity coordinators?

2.     Prepare T-shirt order (at least one month in advance.)
                                              a.     Decide colors (4 different colors with same slogan design)
                                             b.     RANDOMLY assign students, faculty, staff colors and make a list of T-SHIRT SIZES BY HOMEROOM

3.     Set and communicate PURPOSE: Using Teaching Tolerance Anti-Bias Framework, communicate goals via announcements, skits, posters, bulletin boards, etc. for our Mix-It-Up Day activities, from pre-planning, to the day itself, to post-day activities in EAMS. 
                                              a.     Coordinate with drama/choral teachers.

4.     Prepare for the pre- Mix: ADVISORY 1-2 weeks prior to MIUDAY.
                                              a.     Plan activity and inform advisors.
                                             b.     Prepare Pre-Mix Survey adapting TT’s survey questions.

5.     ANNOUNCEMENTS DURING MIX IT UP DAY-- Prepare the day’s rules, restrictions, privileges, etc.

6.     Assembly or ADVISORY DURING MIU DAY? Decide and Plan!

7.     End-of-Day: PLAN Sports Block?

                                              a.     Pre-Mix Talk to faculty in person
                                             b.     Announce to MS DATE & Purpose of day

9.     After school day before MIUDAY:
                                              a.     Sort T-shirts by homeroom and distribute
                                             b.     Decorate school with posters and signs

10.  POST Mix survey: Around 1-2 weeks after MIUDAY

Pre-Mix Climate Survey Results

Providing Advice and Support for Faculty and Staff

Adults and students have varying comfort levels with such an all-day social experiment as Mix It Up Day.  To assist them we provide detailed suggestions and timely information such as the following: advice for providing a safe learning environment, climate survey results, video content and discussion questions, alternative activities, and clearly articulated learning objectives.  (PDFs of our Advice to Faculty are available at links below.) 

Teacher lists all actions taken to bring MIU DAY lessons to life.
Some teachers create simulations or special lessons such as making a “Mix It Up quiz” and giving answers to one group, creating a work sheet with examples all about the unfavorable qualities of one T-shirt color (or favorable qualities of another T-shirt color), giving treats to one group and not others, allowing special seating for one group and denying seating to another, and more.  In our conversations with teachers in the weeks and days prior to MIUDAY, we emphasize the goals and spirit of the day:

1.     Create this experience in a safe setting. We acknowledge there is a danger of trivializing important social problems.  Teaching Tolerance explains simulations this way: “The basic theory behind simulations is to allow students to assume the roles of other people and act out scenarios in order to gain deeper insight into historical events or phenomena.”  We make announcements prior to and during the day to encourage students to understand the importance of engaging in the simulation with an attitude of serious exploration. 

For example:
o   “We don’t expect you to be able to understand someone’s lifetime of oppression by being denied privileges for one class.  However, you can reflect on your feelings from one short period of time to better understand those who are oppressed for a lifetime.”

2.     Don’t group students according to characteristics that represent real-life oppression.   Strive for a diverse facilitation team.  In creating T-shirt groups, we use random designation, thus no group is more heavily weighted with participants from a particular racial, ethnic, economic, gender, or social background.   Additionally, our planning team of faculty includes diverse members of administration, faculty, and staff guiding our diverse team of sixteen elected student leaders.

3.     Allow teachers and/or students to opt out.   Avoid simulations that can trigger emotional traumas.  Via meetings, memos, and treats in the faculty room, we ask all faculty members to participate in the simulation during their classes at the level with which they are personally comfortable, although we give numerous trainings and examples to help faculty step out of their comfort zones.  We realize some faculty may choose to opt out.  Students report via surveys that they are disappointed when faculty opt out, however.
·      Do a crumpled paper exercise to show how hard it is to repair hurt feelings.
·      Throw a ball of paper in a recycling can from seats in rows to show how unearned privilege works.  Discuss how this related to society at large.
·      Read a story about differently abled people, do discussions of WWYD, etc.
·      To those teachers who do choose to opt out of simulations, we suggest language to help students continue to perceive the importance of the experiment.  They could say something like the following: 
o   “I believe in a world without hatred or prejudice…..  My classroom is going to be a safe space for everyone.  Therefore, I will not conduct this experiment in this room.”  OR, they may say, “I believe such a role play is more harmful than good (EXPLAIN WHY).  I would rather have a discussion (or conduct class as usual, etc.).” 
·      Students also may opt out in several ways.  They may ask the teacher for permission to leave the room to go to the office or nurse, both designated safe spaces (permission granted).  They may find another student to be an ally who helps them.  They may question the teacher.  Some students stage nonviolent or silent protests. 
o   Teachers can use any of these responses as discussion starters to enhance understanding of the purposes of the day and to connect such responses to history, literature, and current events.

4.     Participate in the day: --ANNOUNCEMENTS & VIDEOS: During the day there will be announcements over the loudspeaker about one minute into EACH class.
·      There will be a summary of a scenario and an invitation to think: “What Would You Do?” There will also be a restriction or privilege for various groups in class. We ask adults to help interpret these in light of historical, literary, or current events.
·      Example: “All BLUE T-shirt students will now give up their seats and stand at the back of the room.”  Or  “All Greens will remain silent during class.” Or, all pinks and oranges will try to help each other. 
·      Play the WWYD video provided for each class block.  We recommend teachers show at least the first 3 minutes, although showing the full 7-10 minutes brings the point home and allows students to see many responses to difficult situations.
·      Invite students to answer three questions below (in writing and/or discussion).
·      Debrief before dismissing class.
·      In addition to these ideas, we welcome teachers to construct their own class lessons, related to academic subjects.

5.     What Would You Do Videos:  Mix It Up Day (See links below for videos.)
Through the day, the progression of videos will help students see a variety of bigoted or disrespectful actions of bullies and the different ways people respond: by being bystanders or upstanders.  Even upstanders have variety in the ways they respond.  Some react with anger, even rudeness, as they confront injustice, while some respond with calm courage and respectful persistence. Students can answer these three questions to help them reflect:
·      What was the injustice in the situation?
·      What did the upstander do to help?
·      What would you have done to make the situation better?

Students use "stickies" to share observations about discrimination.

6.     Use TIME OUTS & JOURNALS: Many teachers use a system of “time-outs” in the classroom.  If a teacher is seriously applying a restriction to one group of students (ex. “Yellow t-shirts cannot use books….”), or conversely if they are privileging a group of students (ex. “Greens can have candy….”), the teacher calls a “time out” from the simulation. 
  • The time-out is probably our strongest teaching tool in the simulation. 
·      Gather and engage the students in the class in a discussion of the meaning and implications of unjustified restriction and privilege.  Ask, “Do you understand why I am speaking like this?  What character in our book spoke this way?” Or… “Would you be able to learn anything if a teacher really treated you this way?  Explain.”  As students identify their feelings of being restricted and privileged, we tie these experiences into topics in history, literature, current events, and/or school culture. 
·      As soon as each student has had an opportunity to process the simulation, the teacher will ask if the group is ready to go back into it.  Students may also use the “time-out” to clarify a point or to help process the simulation.
·      Another option is to invite students to reflect on their experiences, announcements, videos, etc. in writing in journals or “sticky notes.”  These may be shared later or kept by students.

7.     We notify families and students in advance.  During the weeks prior to the all-day social experiment, our Middle School head, Steve Morris, writes articles in his weekly newsletter, advising families of the upcoming day, its goals, topics to be discussed, and how the day will be different from other days. Assemblies and pre-Mix surveys also help introduce the day to students.

Sidewalk chalking is one of the day's activities.

8.     Allow time for debriefing; include journal writing; ask open-ended questions: “What happened in today’s simulation?”  Connect to real-life experiences and how to apply what’s been learned. Take time-outs during class to allow time for debriefing, as described above.  Additionally we ask English and history teachers at all grade levels to assign a short journal-writing assignment after the day.  Classes can share the journals the next day.
a.     Remind students to disengage from the role-play at the activity’s conclusion. Remind students to think about the lessons of the day, whether or not the class has been one of simulation, discussion, or a regular class day.  In addition, faculty members are present in the halls to remind students of the spirit of the day. 

9.     SPORTS: Regular practice with an emphasis on teamwork, sportsmanship, and community:
We request that each sports team start practice with a warm-up that celebrates team unity and talents of team members, no matter our T-shirt color.  To promote a welcoming community, coaches, please ask your teams to enact the type of sportsmanship, teamwork, and generosity of spirit that will make everyone on the team feel included and treasured. 
a.     Example: Toss ball around the circle, with each throw accompanied by a thank-you, an appreciation for the other person, or an idea for making the team strong: “I appreciate how you always hustle for the ball.”

10.  Post-Mix Day Advisory:  We ask homerooms or advisories to complete a brief Post-Mix Survey.  These often inspire discussions.  Here are examples of survey questions:
·      What did your teachers do to help you understand the lessons of the day? Suggestions?
·      How did you feel when you experienced restrictions and/or privileges?                  
·      Did you connect themes from the videos or announcements to any current events, literature, history, and/or other topics you have discussed in your classes?
·      How can you stop discrimination and bullying of all kinds at our school?
Can you stand up for someone if he/she is being treated unfairly?  Explain.
·      EXPLAIN how the day has changed the way you view the various types of diversity, bullying, and “upstanding.”
·      Would you want to experience Mix-it-Up Day again?  Why or why not?  Suggestions?  Ideas?
·      Was MIX IT UP DAY was a powerful learning experience? Agree or disagree.

Student Reflections Provide Powerful Inspiration

This 2015 surveys were particularly affirming.  An overwhelming 90% of student respondents agreed, “I would want to experience this day again.”  Sixty-four percent agreed, “Mix It Up Day is a powerful learning experience.”  Seventy-five percent agreed that the “videos and activities of the day helped me understand the MIX IT UP DAY themes of Identity, Justice, Diversity, and Action.”  We have room to grow in the “action” area, as shown by our question assessing whether any students were inspired to act for social justice and equality.  One week after Mix It Up Day, 39% of respondents answered YES to this question: “Have you done anything to ‘Make Them Hear You’ about injustice, disrespect, or bullying since MIX IT UP DAY?”   Not a bad start!

To convey their hopes for the day, our student leaders made the following statements to the faculty based on their experiences prior years:

·       This day gives us the opportunity to understand what people have gone through when they are socially neglected or stray away from idea of normal.
·       It brings people closer together and they take is as a lesson and not a day off.
·       We fear what we don’t know and knowledge is power, so it is important for kids to learn more about different people so it eliminates prejudice.
·       Mix it up Day is an opportunity for those who aren’t discriminated against to experience what it is like to be judged just because you are different.
·       This day depicts what happens to real people and all my peers should be able to feel how people have felt all over the world.
·       I love Mix it up Day because not only does it teach us how some people get discriminated against, it shows us how to stand up for those people.  
·       In Mix it Up day we are able to step into someone else’s shoes and experience discrimination from a different perspective.

In surveys and journals, students’ narrative comments are particularly effective in conveying the power of the day.
“Although I felt special, it seemed unjust that students were not being treated equally.  Even though being privileged felt good and had its perks, I hated the fact that it came at the price of others’ treatment.  I also learned how frustrating it can be when you teacher doesn’t call on you….  My position in the class didn’t depend on how smart I was, it was just determined by the color of my shirt.  I should’ve taken action by letting someone sit on the couch with me…”

“Today was fun because of the different people I sat with at lunch and the different people I walked with in the halls.  On my way to history I walked with some of the kids on the football team that had the same [T-shirt] color as me instead of my regular group.  I also got to talk to a teacher at lunch with some friends, and we all talked about how our day went…”

“Yesterday I learned that I should try my best to stand up for others even if I am extremely afraid….”

“For every single one of my classes, teachers made assumptions about who the students were by their shirt color.  I felt like no one was listening to me.  I realized that there are women being mistreated in our world because of their gender.  In other words their ideas are not always heard and they potential is not always taken into consideration.  Throughout all my classes, I felt extremely uncomfortable knowing I was acting as a bystander.  I wanted to do something, but was afraid to stand up.  Moving forward, I will always stand up for people being mistreated, because I would want someone to do that for me.”

“I learned a lot of very valuable lessons during Mix It Up Day.  I learned how people do mean and horrible things to other people just because of their race, religion, and disabilities.  It made a huge effect on me when the people stood up to defend the person that was being discriminated against….”

“I learned that some people live this everyday and it’s not a joke.”

“Now I understand that sometimes you should stand up and say something like the Blues did in English class with trying to start a silent and non-violent protest….  Later in the day, I was not treated well, so I stood and we protested.  The Blues and the Pinks even walked right out of the classroom….”

“When I think of my feelings, the lesson I get out of it is this: stand up for yourself and never, ever judge a book by its cover (or in this case, the color of our shirts).  Although I had my own ups and downs, I am glad we have this annual day to teach us more about race, religion, ability, ethnicity, gender, age, etc., and I am looking forward to next year.” 

Keep on Keepin’ On

Make Mix It Up Day work for your school.  Start small, with a Mix It Up Day at lunch.  Engage teachers from a variety of disciplines including the arts and physical education to infuse diversity and inclusion themed activities in school plays and athletic activities.  Plan assemblies or advisory discussions of your school’s social climate.  Involve your cafeteria staff and administrators.  Go for a full-day social experiment.  Use the resources below to help you make your school into a welcoming and inclusive community of UPSTANDERS for all!  These lessons will be long-lasting.  We can defeat the isms and keep on building a peaceful, equitable, diverse, and just future. 
--Susan Gelber Cannon

1. For a basic intro to Mix It Up Day, visit Teaching Tolerance’s site:

2. Teaching Tolerance: this deeply linked site provides access to blogs and magazine subscription (free):

3. The Anti-Bias Framework can be found in the Perspectives resources of the Teaching Tolerance website.  After registering, all access is free to these useful materials:

4.  Think, Care, Act: Teaching for a Peaceful Future: A chapter in my book goes into further detail about the MIUDAY planning process with Student Council:

5. Episcopal Academy 2014 Mix It Up Day article summarizing the day’s activities in detail:

6. ABC-TV What Would You Do website is useful for background information, show listings by topic, quizzes, and background materials:

7. We used YOUTUBE links for easier search and downloading of videos we chose for the day.  A PDF provides our annotated list of videos, but here is one we used at an introductory assembly about the purposes of Mix It Up Day: Mean Girls WWYD video  

8. EA Middle School Advice to Faculty Packet (PDF):

9. EA Long-Term Planning & Annotated What Would You Do Video List with Links:

10. POST-Mix-It-Up Day Survey:

11. Curtis Mayfield: "Keep on Keepin' On"

and "We Gotta Have Peace"