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Teaching Tolerance

Evelyn McCormack

The highest result of education is tolerance ~ Helen Keller

Since questions on tolerance and acceptance don’t often appear on standardized tests, Helen Keller’s message can too easily fall by the wayside in these stressful times in education.

Intolerance, prejudice and hate in children are too often inherited or a result of ignorance. There are a tremendous number of resources available to help you open the minds of your students and broaden their understanding of racial, ethnic and gender stereotypes and differences.

Teaching ToleranceMix It Up

“Mix it Up” works to break down barriers between students, improve intergroup relations and help schools create inclusive communities where there are fewer misunderstandings that can lead to conflicts, bullying or violence. An initiative of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program, “Mix It Up” provides tools, resources and ideas to help youths and their adult allies take action. On Nov. 13th, thousands of schools will participate in the seventh annual “Mix It Up at Lunch Day,” in which students eat their lunch at a different seat in their school cafeteria, to meet new students and cross the lines of division. Last year, 4 million students participated in the event. Learn how to organize Mix It Up at Lunch at your school. If you missed this year’s event, don’t worry. “Mix It Up” provides year-round ideas and activities.

Educators for Social Responsibility

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Seek out help from Educators for Social Responsibility, a leading national center for teaching about conflict and social responsibility. ESR has spent the past 20 years providing resources for teaching important current issues. Its Online Teacher Center provides teaching resources on a range of issues related to international security, conflict resolution, peacemaking, violence prevention, and social responsibility.

Freedom Writers

Spend time with your class on The Freedom Writers Foundation website. The foundation was created by inner city school teacher Erin Gruwell and her students. Freedom Writers promotes an educational philosophy that honors diversity in the classroom and empowers students and teachers through outreach, curriculum and scholarships. The site has a number of suggested activities, but focuses on writing and discussion prompts. You can also order “Freedom Writers,” the moving film about Gruwell and her students.

PBS Online

Use the PBS online series, “Race: The Power of an Illusion,” in classes with middle and high school students. This award-winning series explores race in society, history and science and will prompt plenty of discussion in your classroom. You can also order the original 2003 television series through PBS. The site also provides comprehensive teacher resources and lesson plans designed for grades 9-12.

Connected & Respected

Consider registering for “Connected & Respected in the Elementary Classroom,” a one-day institute sponsored by Educators for Social Responsibility in the spring of 2009. The institute will focus on social emotional learning themes, including emotional literacy, making connections, developing caring and effective communities, cultural competence, social responsibility, and conflict management. Connected and Respected is a core curriculum in the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program, a K-8 program in SEL and character education.