BOOK CLUB KIT: Teaching Tolerance & Rethinking Schools

Updated: Jun 19

Cultivating Identities in a Diverse Environment

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Written by Taylor Morris, Taylor Aasland, and Austin Bucy, students in the Social Justice in K12 Education course (Fall 2019)


Through reading, reflecting and discussing, our group in the Portland State University course Social Justice in K12 Education now has a better understanding of the flaws within the education system and how it creates a racist environment. We read Teaching Tolerance Summer/Fall issue and Rethinking Schools Spring/ Fall issue. These magazines focused on the injustices found in the education system. They highlighted stories focusing on prejudiced curriculum and how it has been able to continue being apart of the U.S education system. We created guiding questions to further our analysis of the text and came together as a group to make connections between all four magazines, and ourselves.

We continuously made connections to how our identities benefited from the education system, whereas those of color may have not had the same experience. Before reading these stories, our group did not fully understand the extent of the unequal opportunity within our system. We became aware of the school to prison pipeline and the unequal ratio of teachers of color. Also, the education system was created by the white male for the white male. Textbooks, curriculum, and lessons were all written in order to benefit the white student as they progressed throughout school. Textbooks often portray inaccurate history to make white people seem like heroes and further suppress people of color and the trauma they have and still are going through. We saw how identity is affected by the stories in the magazines and by the education system.

We connected and discussed how these injustices create an environment where students of color feel unwelcomed. This can lead to students internalizing this negative environment and feel as though they are unable to develop a part of their identity connected to their education. Students have withdrawn themselves from the classroom because it is not a safe place for them. Students of color are given an unfair chance to thrive. We created a lesson to help challenge racism in education. We specifically wanted to focus on identity to create a safe environment for people of color and for all students are able to thrive.


  • How am I perceiving the information and how is my identity influencing that perception?

  • How would you use this information in your practice?

  • What are our blind spots we have due to our identities?

  • How does the trauma of the school system impact the identities of the students?

  • How do the anchor standards and domains relate to the content that we are reading?



“Educating the Whole Child: Improving School Climate to Support Student Success.” This article focuses on a specific learning approach that encompasses the child as a whole in their learning experience and environment and this type of learning approach creates the most valuable and beneficial education for each individual student.

“Four Ways Schools Can Support the Whole Child.” This article not only talks about teaching academics in the school system, but different ways in which a student’s identity can be developed and strengthened in themselves and with others. The education system holds so much more than just teaching a curriculum, it is also about building a foundation for a child for the rest of their lives.

“Teaching Diverse Students: How to Embrace Cultural Identity in the Classroom.” Cultural identity is the foundation and base for a student’s success and experience in the school setting. Cultural identity is where learning and understanding truly start and where real learning and knowledge starts to take place for all.

Sample Identity Lesson Plan: FREE TO USE

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