New anti-racism guide helps teachers navigate tough topics with grace, connect with students

Talking about racism can be uncomfortable and complicated but a new online resource aims to make that easier for teachers and students.

Launched on Tuesday, the guide was developed by Sarah Adomako-Ansah, the educator-in-residence at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

“It’s important that we engage in these conversations because they’re happening, whether we like them or not,” Adomako-Ansah told CBC Manitoba Information Radio host Marcy Markusa on Tuesday.

“It’s happening in our classrooms and students have the ability to scroll Tik Tok and Instagram and see all sorts of things online. It’s important that they have a safe place to discuss what they see.

“We hope that our classrooms can be that safe space [where they can ask questions] that hopefully we can support and answer.”

The guide, Pass the Mic: Let’s Talk About Racism, is designed for students in grades 5-8 and is available on the museum’s website for download.

A tour has also been created at the CMHR so teachers can bring their students to the museum and take part, said Adomako-Ansah.

A building of stone and glass stands in the background, behind a field of yellow prairie grass as a cyclist rides a path towards the building.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights began the educator-in-residence position in 2017 to develop human rights education programs for youth learners, both on-site at the museum as well as online. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

The guide itself dives into topics that include bias, microaggressions, intersectionality and allyship, and incorporares activities and prompts for teachers to connect with students.

It also encourages students to consider their relationship with racism and learn how to be anti‐racist, Adomako-Ansah said, noting it includes three videos filmed with Canadians talking about their own stories.

Adomako-Ansah, an elementary school teacher from Edmonton and co-founder of Alberta’s first Black Teachers’ Association, began her two-year term as educator-in-residence in September 2021.

The position was created in 2017 to develop human rights education programs for youth learners, both on-site at the museum as well as online.

Adomako-Ansah knew from the start she wanted to develop new ways to interest students in human rights learning and focusing on anti-racism resources is a path she has been passionate about.

In CMHR news release announcing her as the new educator, she stated her goals have always been to amplify the voices of those who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour from across Canada.

“As a racialized individual, it comes quite naturally to talk about these things, unfortunately. But for people that aren’t racialized, I know this is quite a difficult thing to jump into,” Adomako-Ansah told Markusa on Tuesday.

“If you haven’t had the lived experience with these things, it becomes the idea of: Where do I start? How do I begin talking to my students?

“In the past it’s been a little bit tough to find resources to be able to bring back to the classroom. So in creating this guide, my hope was that teachers will have a place to land and a place to do their own research, do their own reading, before they speak to their students about it.”

The recent shooting of a Black teen in the United States by a white man underscored the importance of the topic, she said.

Ralph Yarl, 16, was shot in the head after going to the wrong house to pick up his two siblings in Kansas City, Mo., on April 13. The Clay County prosecutor said Monday there was a racial component to the case.

Adomako-Ansah said it’s essential to address those issues with students and it was important for her to provide teachers with the tools to support those conversations.

“It’s something that kids are going to be talking about regardless,” she said. “I wanted to provide something for teachers, not just non-racialized teachers, but all teachers, so they can begin these conversations with a bit of grace.”

Manitoba Teachers’ Society president Nathan Martindale said he thinks the teachers’ guide will be a fantastic resource. 

“We’re excited to see Sarah’s lesson plans on topics which are so necessary to teach in our classrooms,” he said. 

As she comes to the end of her residency, Adomako-Ansah says she is extremely proud to have created a resource she is confident will aid in that goal. But she also knows it could never be complete.

“I feel like this is a resource that could go on and on and on because there is constant new learning and there are constantly things that are changing in our society,” she said.

“But there also comes a point where we just have to start, and this guide is meant to encourage teachers, too. It’s important that we just begin and it’s OK to get things wrong — it’s OK to make mistakes.

“We tell that to our students all the time as educators, but I think educators need to hear that as well. It’s OK to learn and grow.”

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