In our efforts to measure the #DisruptTexts impact around the country and world, we are sharing the work educators are doing in their schools and districts. We are so inspired and moved by the reports and we encourage everyone to consider the ways this work needs to permeate their environment. These efforts will always look different because they should be based on your particular context.
Sarah Zerwin (@SarahMZerwin) teaches in Colorado and in her blog shares a lot about what she has done and wants to do. She also breaks down her teaching context in Colorado. In her response to our call for feedback, she shared a lengthy reflection. Here are some excerpts for how she’s worked to #DisruptTexts in her AP Literature & Composition course:
She thought about our mission and purpose:
“Let’s remember the mission of #DisruptTexts. It has two prongs: 1) Challenge the traditional canon to make it more inclusive and 2) anti-racist/anti-bias teaching practices. I hope that our list of texts (required and choice) is moving toward more inclusivity, and we will keep pushing in that direction. I also hope that the increased choice in the structure of the class will make for more inclusive instruction. I’ll keep reading and listening and learning, talking with my colleagues, questioning my own stance and biases, and looking for places to be better. This is ongoing work, a long-term commitment. And I’m in.”
She thought about the language of disruption:
“Disrupt is an important term to pause on here. It’s an active term. When we disrupt something, we do so with intention. This matters because–as Cornelius Minor explained in a talk at CEL in 2017 in St. Louis–we will go along with the current if we don’t actively work not to. It’s easy to just keep doing what we’ve always done, teaching the same books we always have. With intention, we can do something different that accomplishes two important goals: 1) enabling our students of color to see themselves in the texts we invite them to read and 2) breaking up systems in our society that continue to oppress and marginalize people.”
She applied the ideas to her courses and approach:
“The #DisruptTexts conversation shows me a place where I can focus my efforts in this critical work. Last year in AP Lit, students read six books all together, chosen by the three AP Lit teachers who taught the six total sections of the course. We started with The Great Gatsby (which we asked students to read over the summer), then moved onto One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and then finished first semester with Frankenstein. We started second semester with Twelfth Night, then The House of the Spirits, and finally, Beloved. We had a decent balance between male and female authors (half and half). We had two authors of color. I put this framework in front of my students as an entry point for conversation on our texts (it made for particularly interesting conversation about The Great Gatsby).
But one issue I struggled with was that my students couldn’t make choices about what they read. And though we did have some diverse voices in the list of texts, I thought there could be more. If I was serious about inviting my students to move forward using their privilege to dismantle oppression intentionally rather than unintentionally perpetuating it, and if I was serious about making sure ALL of my students could see their lives reflected in our official curriculum, changes were necessary.”
Overall, her and her colleagues made some important changes to be more inclusive and disrupt their practices to be more student-centered and equity-minded. We thank you, Sarah, for sharing your work with us. We want to encourage you and your colleagues to keep pushing, questioning, re-envisioning, and acting!