Each February during Black History Month, we celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans and the central role they play in U.S. history. 2020 was nothing short of historic for many reasons, but it was especially significant as we watched the world come together to protest systemic racism and violence against Black people through the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2021, just weeks ago, we watched Kamala Harris shatter the glass ceiling to become the first woman and person of color to be elected vice president of the United States.
As educators, we always strive to empower students to think critically and to consider the bigger picture when learning, with the understanding that we are teaching the next generation of global leaders. There are many opportunities to reflect on our collective history with our students and how far we have come as a nation, and it’s critical we also take this time to discuss ideas and actions we can take to improve in the future. Read on for tips you can use when teaching your global leaders about Black history.
Celebrate and honor student voices
Students are becoming increasingly self-aware as they develop into global leaders who value diversity and respect for differences. Because of that, there is so much they have to share and learn from one another! Start the conversation this Black History Month by encouraging your students to share what’s on their minds and what they are observing, especially about conversations around race in the U.S. Reminding students to respect and listen to one another in accordance with agreed-upon class rules may help keep discussions purposeful and productive. Using this year’s theme for Black History Month, The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity, is another opportunity for all students to broaden their intercultural knowledge while honoring their cultural identity and exploring what family means to them.
Create a space for new perspectives
Black History Month is a time to strengthen your students’ critical thinking skills and ask questions about their existing knowledge of American history. Sharing real, specific Black experiences through books and multimedia gives students a chance to engage with diverse viewpoints. Providing windows, mirrors, and doors for students in a global classroom through diverse books is important in building their understanding of their own identities as well as the cultural backgrounds of their classmates. When you add individual Black voices and narratives to lessons, you are helping your students of color see themselves as future leaders and the heroes in their own stories. Even if the majority of your students are not Black, Black History Month can still build their multicultural literacy and respect for diverse perspectives and help them become more versed in the experiences of Black people as well as other people of color.
See the bigger picture: Social justice and global issues
Since your students are already learning about the world and the role they play in it, help them contextualize Black History Month by introducing larger, related topics at the same time. If you teach the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG #16, Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, has many parallels with social justice movements that are often talked about during Black History Month. Encourage students to consider the connections between both the civil rights movement and the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice movements around the world.
Lead by example
Lastly, consider the impact we as teachers have on our students as their role models and as their leaders in the classroom. The stories we choose to tell and the emphasis we put on historical narratives and current events will ultimately shape the way students move in the world and develop into informed and engaged global leaders. Strong global educators also work to improve their understanding of intercultural and global issues through reading about new perspectives, sharing with colleagues, and being active participants in the world around them.
Participate Learning is committed to creating global, cultural, and language connections that empower students and educators to positively impact the world. Our comprehensive and proven programs are focused on discovery, inclusivity, and participation in the global community. Learn more about our global leaders program and how students are developing skills to lead and thrive in the global marketplace here.