Tag Archives: antiracism

Top Ten Posts of 2020

Since I actually stayed true to my commitment to blog weekly this year (I only missed a couple of weeks) I thought that I would share out the most popular posts of the year.

10. The Power of Making Thinking Visible Online

Based off from the popular book, this post includes free templates for face-to-face or virtual use of Visible Thinking Routines.

9. When Teachers Choose to Escalate

Too often we blame kids without reflecting on how our approach to a situation has made it worse. This is especially problematic when we teach children of color without reflecting on our internal biases.

8. How PBL Gets All Kids in the Game

An analogy between different kind of students relationship with sports and their relationship with school. PBL is the “game changer” that invites all kids into meaningful learning.

7. The Power of Class Rituals

This might be my personal favorite as it is all about connecting and building culture in the classroom. How have you developed rituals, especially if you are teaching remote?

6. Using PBL Themes for U.S. History

This one is for the history teachers who want to teach thematically, instead of chronologically. Includes a free download of my projects for the year.

5. Why I’ve Been Afraid to be Antiracist

This was the first of the Anti-racist series in which I share a personal story of getting into “good trouble.” The second half of the post was written by my friend Dara Savage, sharing how she dealt with racism that her daughter experienced at school.

4. 5 Social Distancing Group Work Strategies

This post continues to be popular as teachers struggle with remote learning. It is challenging, but here’s some ways that it can be done.

3. 26 Anti-racist PBL Ideas

This was a collaboration of ideas from many friends at PBLWorks. Check out K-12 anti-racist projects across the content areas.

2. 10 SEL Ideas to Launch the Year

Written back in August with Covid in mind, these are great to introduce in January when school starts back up. It’s a great time to renew norms, build culture with some team builders, and reflect on goals.

1. How to Teach Students to Manage themselves

This post was far and away the most popular of the year. Probably due to two downloads: a Google Sheets student scrum board and Group Contract Scenarios. Check them out if you missed them the first time around, they are still free.

Honorable Mention:

The Marriage of SEL and PBL actually comes from 2019, but it was the second most visited post of the year so check out how SEL seamlessly integrates with PBL.

Questions? Interested in SEL and PBL Consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.

Change the Setting to Change the Mindset

When we start talking about hot topics, people immediately take sides and get defensive. Most people, let alone students, struggle being truly empathetic and looking at a situation from multiple points of view. Everyone understands their own point of view and oftentimes think that they grasp the opposite side, but usually they don’t. This leads to emotional debates that only entrench people more deeply in their positions. Teaching the SEL competency of Social Awareness is vital if we want to heal divisions in our country and world. We need to build empathy in all of our students.

How can we talk about important issues without the conversation breaking down into unproductive arguments?

Once I shared a news article with my students about U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison. But instead of giving them the actual article, I copied and pasted it into a GDoc and changed the setting of the story. I substituted China for the United States and Tibet for Iraq. We read and discussed how horrible the Chinese actions were. I wanted students to commit emotionally to judgement before I revealed that there was something not true about it. Eventually I told them that it wasn’t really about China in Tibet, but the U.S. in Iraq, and gave them the link to the actual article online. Then we looked online at the disgraceful pictures of Abu Ghraib (warning many are graphic). Since I teach thematically, students immediately made the connections to other U.S. atrocities that we had previously studied in the Moros Massacre (Samuel Clemons’ commentary) and My Lai Massacre.

This bit of deception helped open the minds of some students who initially would have been resistance to any critique of the U.S. military. It allowed them to take their jingoism out of their first impression of the event and evaluate the facts without their instinctive bias. In the end, students were able to more deeply understand why America is unpopular in certain parts of the world.

A while back, I heard about (don’t remember where) teachers in Israel using “The Troubles” in Ireland to build empathy in their students by studying the complexities of religious (Protestant vs. Catholic) and ethnic (Irish vs. British) strife in another part of the world. The conflict in their own country was too personal and close at hand for students to consider objectively. But by first looking at similar issues abroad, students were able to apply it back to themselves. I think this is a genius approach to teaching empathy.

This week I listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History Presents: The Limits of Power, an excerpt from his book David and Goliath. This podcast episode focuses on the very topic of escalation between the the Protestants and Catholics in 1970’s Ireland and how the British got involved, and I think that it can be applied to more than Israeli / Palestinian conflict.

Gladwell explains that a paper, Rebellion and Authority from Leites and Wolf argued that economics was the key factor in dealing with rebellions. It was (still is???) the primary viewpoint of governments and law enforcement at the time. Basically use force to make insurgents feel pain, and they will comply. The feelings and emotions of the people are irrelevant. Gladwell’s excellent storytelling demonstrates the fallacy of this theory (Sidenote: this theory also was behind the U.S. strategy in Vietnam).

Of course, he has the American struggle for equality and full civil rights in mind, when he wrote this chapter of his book and the parallels are obvious. This podcast would be great to use with students and have them first analyze “The Troubles” and then apply their conclusions to the Black Lives Matter movement and other resistant movements.

Sometimes we need to change the setting to change the mindset!

CASEL has recently updated its competencies to reflect the importance of equity. Social Awareness now includes sub categories:

  • Taking others’ perspectives
  • Recognizing strengths in others
  • Demonstrating empathy and compassion
  • Showing concern for the feelings of others
  • Understanding and expressing gratitude
  • Identifying diverse social norms, including unjust ones
  • Recognizing situational demands and opportunities
  • Understanding the influences of organizations and systems on behavior

I think one of the most important additions is the last bullet point. We need to teach students the legacy of systematic racism. History is not just individuals making decisions, but huge, powerful systems that control and limit options for the disadvantaged. In the United States, public schools are one of these systems. And when it comes to “identifying diverse social norms, including unjust ones,” it is often easier to critique another country than one’s own. Try using “neutral” international settings to build consensus before engaging in partisan domestic issues. The future of democracy may depend on our ability to develop Social Awareness in the next generation!