This summer I had the pleasure of teaching a podcasting camp at the Westwood Baptist Church. This year’s camp theme is Wise, creative, innovative thinkers, and Minister Elois Freeman, the last guest on the podcast, thought that podcasting could be a great medium for students to express their wisdom, creativity, and ingenuity. In this episode, you will hear middle schoolers talk candidly about their experiences in school and their suggestions for making school a better place.

Westwood Baptist Church is a welcoming, inclusive series of brick buildings right around the corner from Pearl-Cohn high school. Fifteen middle schoolers from the camp and I met several times during the month of June, and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little intimidated at first. It’s been years since I’ve taught middle schoolers, and there was also a pretty glaring elephant in the room. I was a white teacher standing in front of a class of all students of color.

We began by watching the TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Adichie. I think that here in Nashville, we mistakenly believe a single story about Metro Nashville middle schools and the students that attend those schools. The common refrain is that we shouldn’t send our kids to a Metro middle school unless it is either in an affluent neighborhood, a magnet school, or a charter school.

I have news for you. I have spent the last month with middle schoolers from Metro middle schools in all areas of this city. They are some of the brightest, most empathetic, and wisest young people I’ve had the privilege of knowing. I kept our conversations open ended, because I wanted to focus on the topics that are relevant to them. The topics that emerged over and over again are race and discipline. Today’s episode is structured into four parts.

Part 1: A Tale of Two Middle Schools

Part 2: What Our Kids Think and Understand About Race and Discipline in Schools

Part 3: The Ideal School

Part 4: I Wish My Teacher Knew

Based on all I learned from hearing about these students’ experiences, I think that Our kids want to attend schools that are relevant, anti-racist, and safe. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for, do you?

Here are a few suggestions for ways to get involved in helping make our schools better places for kids.

Additional links shared by Minister Elois Freeman:

  • The consciousness gap in education – an equity imperative | Dorinda Carter Andrews | TEDxLansingED  In this talk, Dorinda Carter Andrews challenges us to consider how gaps in critical consciousness and mindsets for adults and students in schools prevent us from providing equitable schooling experiences for all students. Specifically, Carter Andrews urges educators to consider how increased critical consciousness about the role of race and culture in teaching and learning can be fostered through educator professional development and student curriculum and can ultimately strengthen teacher-student relationships.
  • Excerpt of book, Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It by Richard Reeves, Brookings Institution Press, 2017. The American dream is of a decent home in a pleasant neighborhood, good schools for our kids, a steadily rising income, and enough money put aside for an enjoyable retirement. It is about sustaining a strong family and seeing your children off to a good college. It has become a staple of politicians to declare the American dream dying or dead. But it is not dead. It is alive and well; but it is being hoarded by those of us in the upper middle class. The question is: Will we share it?

Music used in this episode:

Artist: Lee Rosevere

Title: I’m Going for a Coffee

Album: Music for Podcasts 3

Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_3/02_Im_Going_for_a_Coffee

 

Artist: Lee Rosevere

Title: Puzzle Pieces

Album: Music for Podcasts 2

Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_2/Lee_Rosevere_-_Music_for_Podcasts_2_-_10_Puzzle_Pieces

 

Artist: Lee Rosevere
Title: The Secret to Growing Up
Album: Music for Podcasts 3
Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_3/03_The_Secret_to_Growing_Up
Artist: Lee Rosevere
Title: Southside
Album: Music for Podcasts 4
Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_for_Podcasts_4/Lee_Rosevere_-_Music_for_Podcasts_4_-_09_Southside

 

Artist: Lee Rosevere
Title: Try Anything Once
Album: Music for Podcasts 2
Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_2/Lee_Rosevere_-_Music_for_Podcasts_2_-_14_Try_Anything_Once

 

Artist: Lee Rosevere
Title: Sad Marimba Planet
Album: Music for Podcasts 4
Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_2/Lee_Rosevere_-_Music_for_Podcasts_2_-_14_Try_Anything_Once

 

Artist: Lee Rosevere

Title: Betrayal

Album: Music for Podcasts 5

Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Music_For_Podcasts_5/Lee_Rosevere_-_Music_For_Podcasts_5_-_08_Betrayal

 

Artist: Lee Rosevere

Title: We’re Almost There

Album: Hold Music

Link: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rosevere/Hold_Music/Lee_Rosevere_-_Hold_Music_-_12_Were_Almost_There

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