Today I want to begin with standards. We are teachers and we understand our responsibility to teach our students the critical-thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills required to be successful beyond high school. The bolded words in the previous sentence are directly from the Common Core Standards. They are, I believe, the most important words from the standards and yet they are often misused and misunderstood. As teachers, we may exclaim that we cannot focus on anything that is not written in the standards. We might feel that it is treason to not follow the pacing calendar or the curriculum outlined at the beginning of the year. The truth is, real curricula lives, evolves, shifts, changes and emerges to reflect the lives of our students and the world we are living in. We cannot afford to ignore, sweep aside or overlook the very real and present challenges that are unfolding throughout the world everyday.
Last month we shared that November is Native American Heritage Month (NAHM) There are very serious issues impacting this indigenous community that we as teachers and students may not be aware of. Native Americans have been protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline also known as DAPL since September of last year. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.8 billion project that proposes to build an underground crude oil pipeline designed to transport approximately 450,000 barrels of crude oil or more per day from the Bakken/Three Forks formations in North Dakota to a terminus near Patoka, Illinois. The indigenous nation of the Standing Rock Sioux as well as 300 other native peoples are opposed to this project, due to the threat it poses to their public health and welfare, water supply and cultural resources.
Ensuring that our students “meet or exceed the standards” and become critical thinkers, problem solvers and develop analytical skills means that we are obliged as culturally responsive educators to engage them in issues such as DAPL. Using a video like the one featured here is also a way to begin to let students draw parallels with the Native American, African American and other indigenous people’s experiences. If you are teaching American or Global History, American Literature, Earth Science or Living Environment or even math, there are many possibilities for connection and real world application. What’s more important, is that we never know what seed we are planting when we make our classrooms sites of meaningful exploration and debate. We must do as Professor H. Richard Milner IV recommends and “draw from society” in framing conversations about race and society in our classrooms. See his full post here.
In keeping with CREAD Commandment #5, expand your repertoire of resources to include the Native Lives Matter curriculum as well as other tools. These are the ways we bring life to the curriculum and students begin to feel more engaged, knowing they are not just meeting standards but are better equipped for life’s challenges and to lead meaningful lives beyond high school.
Deep thinkers only