One Of Us? Or One Of Them?

Posted by Guest Blogger on May 13, 2015

Who are you? One of us? Or one of them?"


These are interesting questions that most adults don't take the time to reflect on, much less our students. History is full of unsung heroes whose voices have been edited off the textbook pages. Oftentimes, my students believe our world has only been changed by "them," the rich and famous and well-educated. I feel it is my moral obligation to expose them to the stories of countless warriors who began just where they are now...people who observed and/or experienced an injustice and chose to participate.

We are currently studying the Civil Rights Movement and my classes compared the deaths of Emmett Till and Matthew Shepard - two brutal and inhumane murders. When I asked the students how they personally could stop tragedies such as these from happening again, one group of young ladies said there was nothing they could do. However, when gently pressed one girl recounted a time someone yelled a gay slur at her male friend and how she had defended him. It was only after considering the possible (physical and emotional) consequences for her friend had she not been there to advocate for him, did she recognize herself as an Upstander

This curriculum explores the integration of Central High School, Arkansas, by nine African-American students who became known as the "Little Rock Nine." This curriculum explores the integration of Central High School, Arkansas, by nine African-American students who became known as the "Little Rock Nine."
This conversation inspired me to bring in the reading from Facing History and Ourselves' Choices in Little Rock curriculum entitled "Can One Student Make a Difference?" The reading has the stories of four students who each took an action which made a positive difference for one of the "Little Rock Nine." In groups, my students read each of the four cases and highlighted the choices made in one color and the consequences and results of those choices in another color. Then they wrote a short response to each case about how each student had made a difference. During the debrief discussion, I asked my kids if they thought those white Central High School students thought they were doing anything especially brave at the time. Most agreed they probably did not, and then I pointed out that those actions were important important enough that the Little Rock Nine shared those stories for years and consequently now we are reading about those seemingly insignificant gestures nearly 60 years later.
When one person bridges the "us/them" divide it makes a difference. If Terrence Roberts thought that Robin Woods changed the world by sharing her math book with him in class, then surely my student understands the importance of her own actions by defending her gay friend. I hope my students realize that yes, one student CAN make a difference and each and every one of them are that student.

This blog post was written by Sasha Guzman, teacher at Social Justice Humanitas Academy and a member of the Los Angeles Teacher Leadership Team.

Teacher Leader

Topics: Civil Rights Movement, Choosing to Participate, Bullying, Critical Thinking, Facing History PSA, Upstander, A View from the Classroom

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