Time to Take Action!

We had a great meeting last night at Freeman High School. Around 40 teachers, pre-service teachers, teacher educators, and community members attended. For those of you who couldn't make it out, here is a brief overview of what we discussed and how you can get involved. 

All the rapid political changes happening nationally and locally mean there are many important actions we need to take as educators, community members, and civic agents. We also need to partner with organizations doing similar work, speak up to our state and national representatives, and reach out to people looking for ways they can take action. 

Here are a few of the actions Richmond TSJ will be working on in the coming months:

1. Supporting undocumented students and families
2. Coordinating and promoting a monthly, national teach-In on public education 
3. Co-organizing a Protest Art Workshop for teachers in April with Art 180
4. Planning a LOVE Public Schools Concert in the spring to promote public education
5. Fundraising (T-shirts, etc)

We are looking for people to join these efforts. If you are interested in getting involved in any of these, please email richmondtsj@gmail.com

Rather than hold regular RVA TSJ meetings, we will be supporting these focused actions and events. We will all still be able to come together at events like the workshops and concert. In the meantime we are encouraging members (and prospective members!) to use the time that would otherwise be devoted to meetings to work on these efforts.

Questions? Please don't hesitate to email richmondtsj@gmail.com 

Meeting tonight (Feb 1)

Here are the details for our meeting tonight (Open to all!)

Location: Freeman High School, Room 107 

Time: 4:30 to 6:30 tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb 1)

We will talk about several actions you can get involved with, locally and nationally. 

We hope to see you there. Please forward this post and invite others!

National Teach-In Tues, Jan 31

We are organizing a nationwide Teach-In for this Tuesday, Jan 31 to oppose the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and reaffirm our commitment to public education.

The idea is that, rather than striking, teachers will set aside time to teach a lesson on the importance of public schools. There is a page on the website with lesson plans you can use so you don’t have to create one before Tuesday.

If you want to take the next step, document your action (e.g, photo, video clip, short blog post, the lesson activity you used, student testimonial). Consider sending it to us (and your U.S. senators). With your permission, we will post it on the website to build the case for why public education matters!

Also, please feel free to email any activities you design prior to the Teach-In. We will post them on our resources page, giving participants more ways to engage with students.

DeVos’s first confirmation hearing confirmed many of our fears, not only related to her lack of experience in public education but also her history of supporting education programs that undermine public schools. We believe that Tues, January 31 (the day of her confirmation vote) is an opportune time to take a stand for public education, both to oppose her confirmation but also to contribute to the long-term national movement to counter the ever-increasing attempts to privatize public education.
This is the first of what will become a monthly Teach-In on Democracy -- the 4th Tuesday of every month. Publicschoolsmatter.org will be a space where we can continue to share resources for teaching about democracy for each of these Teach-Ins. So please consider creating and sharing lesson materials other teachers can use beyond Tuesday as well.
We need to spread the word across the country quickly so please share this post, the link, and/or the FB event widely!
Now is the time to fight for our public schools!

Teachers and Activists Share Wisdom on Supporting Students and Democratic Classrooms after Election

On Tuesday, December 13, 2016 the Richmond Teachers for Social Justice (TSJ) and Richmond Peace Education Center (RPEC) co-sponsored a panel and discussion on the impacts of the presidential election on our schools and classrooms. About 50 people attended, including practicing educators, counselors, social workers, students and faculty in teacher education programs, and other interested members of the community.

The panel began with two local teachers, Rebecca Field and Annie Campbell, sharing stories about the days after the election of Donald Trump. They reported a change in climate in their schools. On one hand, students were experimenting with behaviors such giving the Nazi salute. On the other, immigrant and Muslim students expressed fears of deportation or a wall that would prevent them from seeing family members. Panelists reminded us that another group of students can be just as vulnerable--those who are Trump supporters or children of Trump supporters in schools where they are in the minority. These students may be unsure how to respond when they find themselves surrounded by criticisms of the president-elect and his supporters..

The panelists also described how they as teachers learned to be open and honest with students about their own political beliefs and commitments to social justice. In particular, how to do so in a way that opens space for discussion of values and does not urge students to adopt the teacher’s views.  

One panelist--Tami Sober, a long-time lobbyist and organizer for the VEA--encouraged attendees to invite members of the VA Senate committee on education and the VA House committee on education into their classrooms. She cautioned that the next four years may bring an expansion of market-driven “reforms” that favor private over public education, and that we need to be proactive in opposing this. One powerful way of doing so is to show legislators the great work our local public schools are doing. While legislators often hear from corporate lobbyists, they are less often privy to the expertise of local public school teachers, students, and parents.  If you are interested in inviting your state legislator to your classroom, click here to find out who represents you.

in small group discussions, participants then generated a list of issues that attendees could take action on. These included:
(a) strategies for navigating school environments where educators are asked or told to remain silent about political matters;
(b) how allies can support work around racial justice and other forms of social justice;
(c) how to communicate productively with people of differing viewpoints;
(d) how pre-service teachers can be better prepared for handling political or other sensitive topics in their future classrooms;
(e) how we all can advocate for public education; and
(f) how we can advocate for particular groups of students such as undocumented students whose futures are very uncertain at this time.

To address some of the points above, the next TSJ meeting (Feb 1 at 4:30pm; Freeman High School Room 107) will be the first session of two simultaneous Inquiry-to-Action Groups (ITAGs). One ITAG will focus on advocating for public education. The other will study the role of teachers during radical political changes (aimed for both practicing and pre-service teachers). Both groups will undertake shared readings and then take action, for instance through producing a resource that can be shared with the public in support of these two important causes.

Finally, here is Google doc of resources related to both the classroom and advocating for policies. If you have suggestions for additional resources to add, please email them to RVATSJ@gmail.com.

Thank you to all who attended and we hope to see you (as well as those who weren’t able to attend) on February 1!

Responding to the Impacts of the Presidential Election on our Schools and Classrooms

Educators, community members, and any others interested, please join us for a panel and discussion of the implications of Trump’s election for teachers and students. Panelists will include teachers sharing stories from their schools, as well as other educators offering suggestions for guiding class discussions and for addressing bullying, intolerance, and changes in civil discourse. We will discuss how to support one another and advocate for our students and education for democracy.

Date: Tuesday, December 13
Time: 5:00-6:30
Location: Fifth Baptist, 1415 West Cary Street

Light refreshments will be provided.

Questions? Email richmondtsj@gmail.com

Hope to see you all there!