Today, as I type, I’m blissfully exhausted from spending the past 5 days with incredible educators who embody a wealth of knowledge and passion in our field. NCTE 2018 in Houston did not disappoint, and even more exciting for the KC Kids Unite project, we were afforded the privilege to present our work while there. As we prepare to launch our 2019 cohort, I wanted to share a bit of that presentation to provide background on the racial roots of Kansas City and its perpetuation of the Troost Wall. “Our Divided City” is a documentary developed through a local production company, KCPT, and addresses the unanswerable question: How do we begin to combat crime and restore communities within a racially-divided city and overall broken system of equity?
KC Kids Unite does not presume to have the answer, but we do hold a strong belief that in the desire for dramatic change we must begin with our youngest generation. We also believe the first step in taking action is knowing the city’s truth, facts typically hidden or omitted from conventional Social Studies texts. It is with these beliefs and in capitalizing on our resources that we work to draw students closer to their identities and therefore, into their communities as youth activists ready to enact that change.
Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Myers is pivotal text used to help students navigate their own identities, but also learn who they are to those around them. You can click on the picture below for a video version of the text. As we prepare to meet the teachers leading this cohort, we too, are asking them to develop an “I Am Jam” to share at our first teacher workshops. As you prepare to surround yourself with loved ones in the coming holiday season, we encourage you do the same. Just ask those around you, “Who am I to you?” You’ll be amazed at what you hear, and experience for yourself just how much more closely you feel connected to individuals and your community.
Teacher Spotlight: Tina Mecklenberg
Tina Mecklenburg joins us this year as a 5th grade teacher at Renner Elementary in the Park Hill School District. Her students are a very energetic, diverse group of kiddos who try super hard, but have many social/emotional issues standing in the way at times. Knowing that each child as the capacity to learn and grow, she teaches with high expectations for all and believes strongly in having a growth mindset. She was drawn to this work because of her love of writing and how it allows students to express themselves. She also wants to learn new ways to incorporate cultural responsiveness into her teaching and students’ learning.
She believes a community is a group of people who live in the same area and support each other when needed. In her classroom community, learning comes alive when students make connections to what they are learning and their questions guide the lessons. Her classroom community has not happened by accident. She has worked intentionally to have her students get to know one other to build trust, and by following the school’s hashtag motto this year, #choosekindness. They also strive to accept and celebrate each person’s diversity and uniqueness, and develop heir own identify as being part of a bigger whole.
Stay tuned for more in the weeks to come!