PUBLICATION

Introduction


About Teaching Tolerance

A project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance (TT) offers a broad range of free materials for K–12 educators. The project’s best-known product may be its magazine, published three times per year and distributed to more than 450,000 educators nationwide. But the resources available through its website, tolerance.org, are extensive. These materials support educators invested in equity and inclusive practices in K–12 schools. Users typically access the site’s content in one of three ways: through its menus, which sort content by use; through its homepage, which sorts content by topic; or through the Learning Plan Builder, which prompts users with a series of questions and uses their responses to sort and recommend content.

First-time users will best get a sense of TT’s resources by browsing our menus, which categorize materials by their use to educators: as classroom resources, professional development materials and tools, magazines and publications, and frameworks for teaching.

TT’s resources are also accessible—and sortable—by topic. From the project’s homepage, educators can choose from eight categories:

  • race and ethnicity
  • religion and ability
  • class
  • gender and sexual identity
  • immigration
  • bullying and bias
  • rights and activism

Selecting any category will lead users to a selection of “featured resources” on that topic as well as a comprehensive list of relevant TT resources.

Finally, resources are accessible through TT’s online Learning Plan Builder. Available to anyone with a free tolerance.org account, the Learning Plan Builder walks users through the key steps of planning a lesson or a series of lessons. It asks educators to select a grade level and a topic, then provides a range of recommendations for each part of the learning plan. Users select learning goals from the Social Justice Standards. They are prompted to choose or create  “essential questions” to guide student learning and to select a topic to facilitate the questions. The Learning Plan Builder produces a list of recommended texts from the library housed on the site, followed by a customized list of student tasks and teaching strategies (classroom activities). Users preview and select texts, tasks and strategies, which are then imported into their learning plan. They can choose to save their plan as “private” so they’re the only ones with access or set it to “public” for others to read.

Both the range of resources available and the collaborative potential of the site’s Learning Plan Builder make TT a natural fit for education courses. But while the program has tried a handful of initiatives to reach out to faculty in higher education, few have been sustained. In part, this is because TT’s primary mission has always been to talk and listen directly to K–12 teachers. Based on the sheer volume of “.edu” email addresses in its contact database, however, there is no doubt that TT already has a substantial footprint in teacher education classes.

 

Methods

Reporting on a small number of case studies and interviews, this paper represents a modest attempt to determine what pre-service education classes might look like if Teaching Tolerance materials were intentionally integrated throughout education coursework in colleges and universities.

During the 2015–2016 school year, seven faculty received small stipends to integrate TT materials into their existing classes as they saw fit and then to report their results. The findings of the case studies constitute the bulk of this report. Six additional faculty members, whose classes were already driving traffic to the TT website, were identified and contacted by the project. They were interviewed about the value of TT materials to themselves and to their students. The results of these interviews are interspersed throughout the case studies.

 

Findings

Although this report focuses on a limited number of courses, it is important to note that the faculty referenced here use TT resources across several of their classes. Whether designing major assignments around the Learning Plan Builder, screening a film in class or emailing a magazine article to an interested student, those who make use of TT resources say that the project adds considerable value to their teaching experience.

“I know that when I’m looking for something to share for my candidates, it’s one of the first places that I’ll go to—just because it’s so well resourced,” explained Danielle Centano, who incorporates TT materials into her courses at Claremont Graduate University. If the breadth of available resources is one draw for faculty, another is the program’s explicit focus on social justice education. SUNY Plattsburgh’s Denise Simard noted: “Social justice is definitely fundamental. ... We’re asking folks to work with other people’s children, and if we can’t be real with each other and engage with their children on a real level, [that is an] injustice to—and a disservice to—the people we’re trying to serve.”

The faculty introduced in this report offer a model of how Teaching Tolerance materials can serve as key elements in all three types of pre-service education classes. 

 

Navigating Tolerance.org

Classroom Resources

This section of the site includes banks of lessons, learning plans, student tasks and teaching strategies. It provides access to an extensive online, multimedia library of short texts suitable for classroom use and a series of film kits that include lesson plans, class activities and classroom-appropriate films on topics like the grape strike and boycott led by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta or the 1963 children’s march for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

Professional Development

In the Professional Development section, educators can find resources—including published guides or video webinars—on topics like school climate, instruction, classroom culture, family and community engagement, and teacher leadership.

 

Magazine and Publications

Users visiting the Magazine and Publications section of the site will find archives of Teaching Tolerance magazine, along with hundreds of online-only short articles offering reflections and recommendations for curriculum, classroom and school practice. They’ll also find special publications, including reports on school climate and instruction. Finally, the section includes best practices guides for serving ELL students and families, for anti-bias education, for creating an LGBTQ-inclusive school climate and for teaching.

 

Frameworks

The Frameworks section offers concrete recommendations for teaching critical topics like digital literacy, the civil rights movement and the history of American slavery. Two frameworks in particular, the Social Justice Standards and Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education offer a clear way to plan and present anti-bias education.

 

The Social Justice Standards

Organized into four domains—Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action—the Social Justice Standards includes a set of anchors, grade-level outcomes and school-based scenarios to show what anti-bias attitudes and behaviors look like in the classroom.

Together, the Social Justice Standards and Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education represent a continuum of engagement in anti-bias and social justice education and offer a road map for teaching social justice education at every grade level.

 

Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education

The guide Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education offers practical strategies for educators committed to building classrooms where academic and social-emotional goals are accomplished side by side. The guide provides recommendations for implementing culturally responsive pedagogy by:

  • using instructional strategies that support diverse learners and allow for deep exploration of social justice issues
  • creating classroom environments that reflect diversity, equity and justice and that encourage students to speak out against bias and injustice
  • engaging families and communities in ways that are meaningful and culturally competent
  • teaching social justice curricula as part of larger individual, school and community action

The four sections of the guide—Instruction, Classroom Culture, Family and Community Engagement, and Teacher Leadership—each offer recommended practices and outline specific strategies educators can use to bring social justice values to their classrooms.

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