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Reading as Social Justice

In the first weeks of school, I like to wander. Espe­cially in the early weeks of classes, I am eager to learn about the students and the plans Waverly teach­ers have for them. It is also excit­ing to see the indi­vid­ual arrange­ment of mate­ri­als and the orien­ta­tion of each class­room. This year, I noticed a new pattern of books in Amy’s class­room. Amy is one of two English teach­ers at the high school. She teaches 9th grade Ancient Liter­a­ture, 11th/12th grade English elec­tives, includ­ing Science Fiction and Liter­a­ture of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, and Creative Writing. I always enjoy listen­ing to the discus­sions in her classes and discov­er­ing which books she is teach­ing. Amy’s class­room book­shelves are over­flow­ing with books. She has a large collec­tion of current young adult novels, various antholo­gies, Greek myths, plenty of Shake­speare, a collec­tion of Bob Dylan lyrics, nearly all of Murakami’s books, plenty of science fiction, and assorted essay collec­tions. This year, I noticed several new titles. While the kids discussed their summer reading, I began to pull books from her shelves that revealed a new theme. Although I had not read any of the eight books I pulled from her shelves, I had heard of most of them. The titles of these books yelled out to me, and I wondered what, if any, plans Amy had for these books in her classes.

I waited until class was over to ask Amy about the follow­ing titles: So, You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, Have Black Lives Ever Mattered by Mumia Abu Jamal, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, White Rage by Carol Ander­son, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexan­der, White Fragility by Robin Dian­gelo and Stamped From the Begin­ning by Ibram X Kendi. Amy shared she had learned about White Fragility through the bibli­og­ra­phy in the back of The Fire Next Time by Jesmyn Ward, which was paired with James Baldwin’s The Fire This Time as part of the reading for Liter­a­ture of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s

From the recom­mended reading of White Fragility, Amy discov­ered more books. Amy noted that White Fragility was a deep dive into reading that was impor­tant, but painful. While she does share excerpts from some of these books with her students, they are primar­ily read to shape her own perspec­tive, and to lead her to further reading.

You may have heard Heidi or me state that our teach­ers are commit­ted to life­long learn­ing. Visit­ing the class­rooms at the begin­ning of each year, I see evidence every­where of this being true.

Blog Amy

Jennifer Dakan
Admis­sions Director