How Racism and Violence Around The World Is Hurting Our Kids

[photographer unknown]

[photographer unknown]

Just this year, 551 people in the United States have been killed by police (that number may grow by the time this is published). Most of them remain unknown in the public consciousness while others have made headlines as a result of growing distrust between people in black communities and law enforcement, lead by the Black Lives Matter movement. The latter have sparked protests around the country and strong opinions on social media, with people calling for change to a system which disproportionately affects black and brown people, though people of all races have been subject to fatal force in the face of the law–not just this year, but for decades.

As tensions have bubbled over, some have taken it into their own hands to rectify the situation, and just a month ago, we witnessed an attack on police in Dallas, where a black army veteran took down 5 cops and injured 7 others in the midst of a peaceful protest. The rebuke was swift from the public and our government, with President Obama and the protesters themselves (one of which was injured during the shooting) condemning the actions which many felt would only lead to more violence, mistrust and animosity; because, in the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” In the end, the perpetrator was killed after failing to negotiate with police, and justice was served.

Yet, just this week, a year old case from Baltimore reawakened feelings of bias and injustice, when charges were dropped against all of the remaining officers involved in an incident that left a young man (then 25 years old) dead after being arrested for making eye contact with police then running. Once again, people are angry. This anger is a natural response to the trauma and fear felt by people who’ve endured centuries of mistreatment and violence. It can be debilitating as much as it is infuriating, and while we look to empathize with those in the streets, shutting down highways, and in the political arena, we often forget the effect these actions and our own reactions have on our children.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, trauma affects learning in children from preschool age to high school. The organization defines traumatic event as: “a sudden and unexpected occurrence that causes intense fear and may involve a threat of physical harm or actual physical harm.” Though responses vary, symptoms from depression to physical illness occur, and therefore impede the normal process of education and school learning.

This trauma is not limited to the children directly affected by these events, such as Tamir Rice’s sister who saw her brother shot dead in the park while playing, or the children who lamented the death of Philando Castile who worked at a school in Minnesota, after he was shot. Those children obviously have a more personal connection to these issues that we have to assuage, but there are others, bystanders, watching the news or seeing videos of a young girl body slammed in a classroom, or a child pinned to the ground following an argument at a pool party in McKinney, Texas. These children live in a world where children and barely grown figures like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are household names. Their feelings about this and their mental wellbeing cannot be overlooked.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg threatening to completely shatter their safety and peace of mind. Terrorist attacks from Paris to Istanbul, from Brussels to Orlando, have all made headlines. People are in mourning everywhere as we try hard to deal with personal concerns and matters in our backyard. While we work toward bettering our world as much as we possibly can, let’s take a moment to ensure that our children understand what’s happening, that they’re ok, that we’re assisting them with the resources necessary to deal with the issues they may be feeling. Our future depends on it.

5 Ways For Parents Of Young Students To Prevent “Summer Slide” & Prepare For Success

Leo Pollard's image of a water slideSummer slide is a term used by researchers to discuss the decline in knowledge from the previous school year, and the subsequent lack of readiness for the upcoming year, due to relative academic inactivity during summer vacation months. This issue has been known for some time, but a recent article published in The Conversation, written by the parent-academic duo, Keffrelyn and Anthony Brown, approached the issue from a very unique and equally important angle: discussing the impact of race (and income) on the summer slide, and the unrecognized burden of black parents to combat it.


Inspired by that article, I chose to provide some tips for parents to combat this issue. Understandably, this goes against the traditional view of summer in which children and parents receive a break from the responsibilities of the school year. Breaks are important, of course. By no means am I saying that your children should not be allowed to sleep a little longer, be involved with camping activities nor enjoy the pleasantries of a true vacation. However, balance is just as important. And due to the realities of a widening achievement gap for our students, we should seize every opportunity to prevent falling behind, or advancing even, where possible.

1. Fill In The Gaps: 

Having kept up with your child’s progress throughout the year, you should have a good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. If not, speak with their teacher to see if there are areas your child struggled with while in class. Struggling doesn’t necessarily mean something your child is failing, rather it applies anything that your child hasn’t fully grasped or still finds challenging. Use the summer as opportunity to further explain, with more careful attention and possibly less distractions than a classroom setting provides. Some children benefit from a little more time on certain subjects. Pick a few hours during the day to work on these skills, preferably in the morning while they’re alert and energetic enough to process learning. After that, they can commence their summer plans.

2.  Create A Reading List

This is something that should take place whether or not your child is struggling with literacy. Reading builds vocabulary, increases comprehension and critical thought, and is a great way to keep your child’s imagination active. With your child, select age appropriate books in which they find interest, and create a schedule/plan for them to complete the list by summer’s end. This can be accomplished by deciding a set number of pages to be read each day. If your child goes over that number, it’s fine, but it’s always good to have a goal in mind.

3. Start Journaling
To strengthen writing skills and use of the language learned in reading, encourage your child to journal. One such way is to have them journal about what they learned in a given day or during the week, as a personal record and benchmark for what you’ve accomplished. Another idea is to encourage free, creative writing and/or poetry as a way of building expression. In fact, there’s no reason why both can’t exist together.

4. Educational Games
If you play games as a family, choose ones with an element of education, or be sure to highlight the lesson in such games. For young children, games like Uno or Goldfish can strengthen matching and color skills. For older children, games like Monopoly are great for exercising simple math, and the 24 Challenge card game is great for multiplication. There are a number of others available in stores and online, with a little bit of research. What’s great about this, however, is that you can make learning fun, as it should be.

5. Family Field Trips
Last but not least. Consider family field trips to farms, the zoo, new cities, and museums. The amount of opportunities to learn and experience new things at these locations are plentiful. Take the time to create a list of takeaways you believe would be helpful for your child’s development, and encourage them to approach these trips from a vantage point of curiosity and analysis.

This will require a little more time and planning than usual, but our little ones are worth it. As teachers, we will do all we can to get children back into the groove following vacation. Yet, if we together as a team (parents, children and teachers), we can ensure our children are prepared for all situations and ready to take the bright future ahead of them.