In March and April, the middle school students completed a racial justice unit in ELA class. One group of students read Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes and another read Blended by Sharon M. Draper for their book clubs and discussed the books weekly. Both groups also read articles about the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement and we had many class discussions about the themes that arose while reading these different written works.
One day in March we devoted our time to talk about implicit bias. Since it is such a challenging topic for even adults to understand, we started by watching this NYT video and reading excerpts of this Vox article to get a better understanding of what it actually means. The NYT video introduces the idea that implicit bias is like peanut butter and jelly- when a person says peanut butter, jelly often automatically comes to mind. This quick, subconscious association is harmless, but our brains often make connections that might not be so harmless. There is an influx of information in the media and other sources that often cause American brains to make subconscious connections between Black men and violence, so we unpacked where that might come from and what a person might do to try to unravel their own implicit bias.
This unit has also laid the groundwork for naturally discussing current events as they came up such as the Chauvin trial and the death of Adam Toledo, as well as stories they had heard of other “Ghost Boys” such as Trayvon Martin, LaQuan McDonald, Tamir Rice, and so many others. While we as teachers hope we never have to teach about police brutality, racism, and other atrocities in our world, it’s something that needs to happen to equip adolescents to navigate their increasingly independent lives.