Discussions of racism and race typically are not part of school culture or curriculum. The National Education Association suggests that this is because “racism is so complex and contentious, many of us are afraid to even broach the subject…It often feels easier and safer to avoid the topic altogether.” However, the NEA further explains that creating the space to talk about race in your school is essential.

Avoidance reinforces the status quo by communicating to students that racism is not an important topic. 

Avoidance normalizes racism and inequality and invalidates the experiences of many students. On the other hand, talking about race creates opportunity for “some of the most powerful learning and change that you and your students will ever experience.”

Resource for Teachers

To support educators in starting the conversation, the NEA created a four-page guide outlining how educators can have constructive, successful discussions about race in the classroom. Their ten actionable tips include:

  • Creating a welcoming school and classroom environment
  • Encouraging self-expression
  • Rooting out biases and barriers
  • Embracing teachable moments and opportunities for discussion
  • Modeling your values and vision

Read NEA’s full guide, titled Creating the Space to Talk About Race in Your School.

Equity and SEL

Conscious Discipline believes that trauma-responsive social and emotional learning is a lens through which transformational change in the areas of racial equality, equity and inclusion is not only possible, but essential.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) can be a powerful lever for advancing equity. In schools, effective implementation of SEL builds an equitable environment where students feel welcome, accepted and valued. For instance, the Conscious Discipline School Family embraces every individual and supports them in reaching their full potential. In addition to creating an inclusive school community, SEL promotes practices that close opportunity gaps.

Students and adults practice empathy, examine biases, and deepen their ability to communicate and solve problems. Conscious Discipline empowers adults to help students from all backgrounds and life experiences feel safe and connected enough to learn and thrive.

However, we also recognize that SEL alone isn’t enough to resolve longstanding inequities. It’s vital to directly promote equity, listen and learn from one another, and have discussions that feel challenging or uncomfortable. We hope that this resource (and the others we share) will support parents and teachers in starting the conversation.

The NEA offers additional resources on racial, social and economic justice in public education here.