Chavez MAC Elementary School
My name is Lindsay Singer and I have been an educator for seven years. My teaching career started in Detroit where I taught for two years before deciding that I needed to learn and grow more if I was going to be the anti-racist, problem-solving based teacher that all students deserve. I attended the University of Chicago- Urban Teacher Education Program and received my masters in urban education two years later. Since then, I have been teaching third grade at Chavez Elementary School in the Back of the Yards Community.
I always knew that culturally responsive, social justice based learning was extremely important to me, I just didn't always have the knowledge or the tools to make it happen. Since moving to Chicago, I have spent a lot of my professional life focused on created equitable spaces for learning. I love working with other CPS teachers and learning from them. I try my best to join groups where this learning can take place. I am lucky to be a part of Lesson Study Alliance - an organization that has helped me focus on teaching through problem solving and improve my practice.
I think its important to note that my journey as an equitable educator is ongoing. I am working everyday to become the teacher I want to be.
My equity challenge and how I work on it
Three years ago when Ashley McCall and I started teaching together, we decided that we wanted to create a large scale project-based unit that focused on social justice, activism and inquiry. This idea turned into an interdisciplinary unit that allowed for social studies, reading, writing and social and emotional standards to be covered while our students created real change in their community and our world.
In social studies, students learn about past and present activists, community groups and social issues. Together we use what we have learned from our history to learn and ask questions about present day social issues. Students dig into community organizing happening today by learning about issues surrounding immigrant rights, environmental justice, world education systems, rights for the disabled, DACA, school shootings and natural disaster relief. Students then focus on an issue that they feel most passionate about and learn more by researching, interviewing members of the community and reading about the topic. From there, they decide on a project they can all work on together to create real and substantial change.
In reading and writing with Ms. McCall, students are taking part in social justice book clubs where they are reading books and having critical conversations pertaining to issues such as gender identity, immigration, refugees, disabilities and women's rights. These conversations help students learn lessons of tolerance, diversity and human rights. They are also connected to many of the issues that we are learning about in social studies.
Two years ago, students became increasingly frustrated when they learned of how many children around the world are not able to attend school. They were specifically angered by the amount of girls that are left out of education. They decided that they wanted to teach others about this issue in hopes that educating others would help to give these children a voice. They created a lesson on the right to education that focused on the many reasons children around the world do not have access to schools. They also planned a whole school rally where they wrote and presented persuasive speeches. Along with the lessons and the rally, they also collected over $500 for UNICEF to send materials to students in need. Here are pictures and videos from the Rally for Education. (Additional Rally photos)
Last year, our students were more focused on the community in which they live. They were angered by the fact that news articles written about the Back of the Yards were focused only on negative things such as gun violence, robberies and murders. They decided that they wanted to share their narrative and the true stories of their community. They came up with the idea to create their own magazine and every student wrote, edited and published an article. Students wrote news articles, personal narratives, persuasive essays, poems, book reviews, comics, advice columns and letters to important people in our neighborhood. Students became writers, editors and photographers to create the magazine “Say it Loud” or “Dilo Fuerte”. They also created marketing materials, raised $800 to finance the magazine and presented their articles at our schoolwide publishing event. The magazine is also published online at www.dilofuerte.com. Students were also able to gain some news coverage after reaching out to local news sources. See the magazine the student wrote here.
This year, we focused on the census and how it affects the Back of the Yards community. We were able to help students create a webinar to inform and persuade community members to take the census. Students did research to gain background information, learned about barriers that keep people from filling out the census and then shared their learning. They created articles, essays, commercials, advertisements, tweets and more. Watch the recording of the webinar presentation.
Quote/motto or one piece of advice for a teacher who is thinking about doing this work
No student is too young to take part in social justice based education. As teachers, we have an obligation to facilitate learning where students gain tolerance, empathy, curiosity and problem solving skills.
Resources used to drive equity work
Go to websites: https://www.tolerance.org and https://socialjusticebooks.org/booklists/
A lot of my lessons with a focus on social justice and identity start with a good read aloud, so I am always searching for strong diverse book lists. My most recent finds are "Our American Dream" by Fiona McEntee, "Your Name is a Song" by Jamilah Thimpkins-Bigelow, and "We are Water Protectors" by Carole Lindstrom.