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.
Today’s amazing report comes from Carrie Mattern (@CMattern21) in Flint, Michigan. She’s at Carman-Ainsworth High School and works with high schoolers.
Carrie begins by telling us about some important changes she made:
“After teaching The Hate U Give for the last three years to freshmen alongside To Kill a Mockingbird, I decided this year Harper Lee and Big Willy were going to take a backseat to my students’ education in English 9. After reading The Hate U Give, and researching the names on page 443 for our research project to honor Black Lives Matter in schools week, we moved into a discussion of healthy relationships that Thomas provided readers in text.”
The students’ work during that unit, lead them to “disrupting Romeo and Juliet with Poet X.” Here is a brief narration of what she did:
“As a teacher who tries to teach with the end in mind, but still remain flexible for all the teachable moments, I knew I wanted my students to write a comparison/contrast essay of sorts using the texts with the lens of healthy relationships (or unhealthy as some students chose) as a culminating project. I began with introducing Xiomara as protagonist of Poet X, then moved into introducing Romeo and Juliet as comparable protagonists. We read a synopsis, watched Romeo and Juliet, and then worked through a number of quotes with the healthy relationships lens we established previously in class. Students were able to see early on how there were few examples in Shakespeare of what we would deem a “healthy” relationship today. Then we moved into Poet X. Students made connections quickly to the mothering in each story-then they claimed that Lisa Carter (THUG) was a true example of what a mother should be: she is compassionate, communicates clear expectations, and holds her children (and husband) accountable. Students also noted the lack of communication between Xiomara and almost everyone in Poet X-until she met Aman and began sharing her poetry. After much discussion and analysis, I was excited to see what thesis statements students created for the comparison/contrast essay. Many went back to THUG and compared Starr/Chris to Xiomara/Aman while others focused on broader connections like the family structure within all three stories. I also allowed students to include personal connections in the essay which helped them sort through their own expectations of relationships and future challenges.”
One of the elements of this work that we, at #DisruptTexts, find most powerful in that narration was the consideration of family in these stories. It allowed students to see past the main characters and past the struggles that they faced in THUG and Poet X, and into their humanity.
Carrie reflects on her work by saying, “As I reflect, this was a good first step for me to disrupt the classics that plague our curriculum. Learning from #DisruptTexts, books like White Fragility, and also learning that I have a lot to unlearn, I can begin to recognize my mistakes and also dismantle the framework of privilege that I used to teach from. I know in the future I will be better equipped to point out the oppressive structure that both Lee and Shakespeare rely on—that is, if I even return to teaching either story at all.”
Carrie, we are grateful to you for sharing your work with us. We want to encourage you to keep pushing, pressing, questioning, and disrupting!
Thank you for sharing! I am a public school teacher in Michigan (Kentwood Public Schools). Does your organization do any work “disrupting” history textbooks? If so, I would love to share resources. I turned my grad research in African American history into antiracist US history lesson plans. The research of actual historians has debunked the myriad of racist myths still included in our textbooks. My goal is to help teachers use the material of leading professional historians in class. Thanks! AntiracistAPUSH.com
Hey Matt, thanks for reaching out. At this time we are not doing work in history, just yet. We do plan on supporting movements led by BIPoC in other content areas, but for right now, we are developing and fleshing out the ELA work to be done. Stay tuned!