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Black Lives Matter

We know that to fix a problem, we must first understand it and this begins with education. As a school we embrace our responsibility to do more, to listen more, and to act in meaningful ways.

One of the benefits of being an international school is that we have the flexibility to adapt our curriculum based on the needs and interests of our students at any given time. Over the past week, we have heard student conversations around campus on the Black Lives Matter movement so we decided to bring this important conversation into the classroom.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an international human rights movement, originating from within the African-American community, which campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people. The movement has gained increasing international attention in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd in the US.

“We as educators have a duty to speak about these important issues with our students,” says Year 6 Teacher Carli Holbrook who led a discussion with her class this week on Black Lives Matter. “I always try to look for ways to include current events in my teaching to help the children develop a wider world-view. Our Black Lives Matter lesson was a responsive discussion, brought on by my students. Many of them had seen the news, either with their families or via their social media feeds and were speaking about it in break times. PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) lessons have to be flexible and respond to what each particular class of students need at any given time.”

We as educators have a duty to speak about these important issues with our students. Carli Holbrook, Y6 Teacher

The children were already familiar with the themes of racism after studying apartheid in South Africa through the novel ‘Journey to Joburg’’ and Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech in Year 5. However, most did not realise it was still such a real-world problem. The aim of this lesson therefore was to help students make sense of what they have been hearing and to reiterate how important it is for us, as global citizens, to act with respect to all others despite our differences – a core element of our Aide Memoire that underpins our teaching and learning here at BIS HCMC.

“It was so interesting to hear what the children knew about the situation and to see their surprise at the reality of what life is like for people of colour in the US. They were very engaged and mostly expressed surprise, shock and frustration. They couldn’t really understand how this was still happening in the world.” Carli continues; “I tried to give the children as much opportunity to speak as possible - to share their knowledge, experiences, and questions. I then continuously linked their comments back to the Aide Memoire, especially the values of respect, integrity and care. ‘Be Kind’ is one of our class expectations, so we spoke about how we could be kind to others. The children understand these concepts well but they may not always realise that these concepts are not always extended to everyone in the world. This is one reason why such lessons are so important.”

Discussing topics in the news also provides a great opportunity to teach our children about the presence of media bias, the need to read widely and not take everything we first see and hear as the truth: “I was aware that there could be some misunderstanding depending on the children’s media sources. As an example, lots were focused on the looting aspect of the protests so we spoke about why these might get more ‘air time’ than the peaceful protesters and why the media is mostly portraying these people as ‘bad’ without actually speaking about the reasons why they might be looting such as historical factors of oppression and poverty. I therefore think teaching children digital literacy skills is so important in today’s climate. Children are online consuming news and content more than ever and most do not have the skills to be critical about what they see.”