There Is No U.S. History Without Black History

This time of year, I tell students that Black History Month is a special time for celebration and reflection, but conversations about the role people of color have played in American history need to be ongoing all year.

These conversations are important for students of color, and they’re just as important for white students. I often think about “windows” and “mirrors.” Every student should have many opportunities to see their experience mirrored back to them, and we as educators should also guide students to look through “windows” and see the experiences of people who are different from them.

Making black history part of the year-long conversation doesn’t need to be complicated. It can start small. For example, I visit a lot of schools, and I often see posters featuring Albert Einstein. What might our schools look like if we also included other geniuses – geniuses who come from a range of backgrounds?

I want to hear how you celebrate our country’s diversity in your teaching all year long. Maybe you make sure the posters in your school are representative of many backgrounds and cultures. Maybe you feature books or articles by writers of color or highlight the contributions of people of color to the field you teach. Whatever it is, I’d love to know.

Click here to share one way you make your teaching inclusive year-round, not just during Black History Month. I’d like to learn from your approach and share some responses with the Teacher2Teacher community so we can help each other grow.

Opportunities to make our teaching more inclusive present themselves to us every day. No matter what our discipline is, we can go just a couple of steps beyond the textbook in front of us and think: “What perspectives have people of color articulated about this? What were their contributions?”

If we can make sure we’re holding up windows and mirrors in our teaching, all year long, we’ll go a long way toward making sure our students always feel represented and inspired.

Thanks for taking the time to read and to share your practice.

What do you think?

About the author

Sharif El-Mekki

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.

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