Checking In: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Sharon High School's Curriculum
My name is Jennifer Feldman. I have been a Social Studies teacher at Sharon High School for the past fifteen years. I am also a Sharon resident and have children in the Sharon Public Schools, so I am very invested in ensuring that the content of our courses is reflective of who our students are and embodies the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
While this year has undoubtedly been filled with challenges, it has also been a year in which educators at Sharon High School have been motivated to reflect on their teaching and build on the work they have been doing with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In particular, a few themes stand out:
This year, the Social Studies department has been evaluating the content and pedagogy in its core courses. Members of the department created a tool that teachers have been using to highlight areas of strength in terms of inclusion and representation, as well as areas where growth is still needed through continual reflection on the curriculum. This is meant to be part of a continuous process, as the work of improving these aspects of the curriculum is ongoing.
In Forensic Science, students learn about and reflect on how bias and racial bias can affect forensics and police work. Biology and Environmental Science classes discuss environmental justice and reflect on the ways environmental issues disproportionately affect people of color.
The World Language department has been working to elevate Black and Afro-Latinx voices and stories this year by integrating them into the language curriculum. One benefit of this practice is that it “widens the lens and deconstructs whiteness as the standard of Latin American culture.” In other words, it helps to dismantle the “single story” of what it means to be Latinx or Hispanic, and it allows students to see more accurate representations of themselves and others. Teachers have engaged in professional development in this area, and students have benefitted from the resulting lessons in their classes using strategies such as MovieTalks and other cultural lessons.
Also related to representation, the Social Studies department has received a generous grant from the Sharon Education Foundation to purchase a diverse array of books available for both independent student use as well as classroom use. Some of the more than fifteen titles purchased include An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear edited by John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats, and Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. An important goal is ensuring that students feel seen in the curriculum. This grant helps to make resources available that are written by African Americans, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Latinx people, Asian Americans, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, and others, thus letting students know that Sharon High School values all of them.
Expressions of joy and achievement.
In the Science department, there has been an effort to showcase scientists from various racial, ethnic, and social backgrounds through the purchase of several sets of "I Am A Scientist" posters. These posters will be displayed district-wide so that students can see themselves and their peers reflected as scientists. In addition to conveying the message that students can become scientists no matter their background, there have been efforts to incorporate landmark achievements of extraordinary scientists of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. For example, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, an African American doctor who performed the first successful open-heart surgery in the United States in 1893, is profiled in biology classes.
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams
As part of a professional development session on incorporating Black and Afro-Latinx voices, teachers in the World Language department discussed the importance of not only focusing on racism but also incorporating content related to everyday life and expressions of joy and happiness. Teachers have utilized a variety of resources, including the writer and teacher A.C. Quintero´s Lessons & Ideas for Elevating Black/ Afro-Latinx Culture & Identity in the Classroom. Through the continued introduction of the most up-to-date resources, teachers are equipped to deliver meaningful and informative content to students.
These examples are just a small representation of the work educators across the school have done this year regarding DEI, and we realize that there is still so much more work to be done next year and into the future.