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.