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To thrive, students need a ‘homeplace’ at school

By Shatera Weaver
August 2021
“Next stop: Vaaaalhalla; Where the Vikings go to die.” I can still hear each additional “a” the train conductor used to embellish his pronunciation of Valhalla. I remember not only because it made passengers chuckle each time, but also because his melodic announcement was music to my ears. It meant I was only two stops away from home: White Plains, New York. Valhalla may have been where Vikings went to die, but it was also the train stop I awaited to resume living fully. I had the privilege of attending a renowned private middle school in upper Westchester, New York. On the other end of that 35-minute Metro North train ride, I was able to dabble in softball, figure skating, theater, dance team, and more.

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Student feedback

Here are student responses on a survey given to gather feedback in February 2021.

Anything you’d like to say or ask about BAM!?

  • I love it, and i will continue to be consistent and keep joining every friday ;3
  • It’s pretty valid, more or less like an escape for me.
  • Can I plz be a co leader for the Club!!! It would be a great experience.
  • Well I hope I become a leader, if only this is the one time I have stepped forward yo lead something because I believe in it.
  • l This Group is great l This group is really chill and I actually look forward to coming here every week 😀

Staff reflections

6th grade
In Cities expedition students are investigating who has access to green spaces and who doesn’t. They are learning the historical factors and systemic racism that created these conditions today. They are designing plans to address this inequity. There is also opportunity to connect this local example to what’s happening in the country and world.

In Decision 2020, we also studied voting rights as a part of the case study, specifically addressing racism historically and today.

7th grade
7th Grade Science brought in experts for our PANDEMIC case study. We had doctors who worked on the frontlines come to speak with and answer questions about their experiences. Students were amazing and so engaged.

Favorite Moment: X asked Dr. Pean, a Haitian/Mexican American, if he felt a sense of belonging when going through school/work. He then shared his experience and encouraged all students to pursue their goals regardless of the “norm.” It was beautiful and amazing. <3

9th grade
In our Spring expedition, we planned a kickoff experience in which students engaged with a poem “The Tradition” by Assata Shakur. Students examined the message of the poem, which focuses on the legacy of Black resistance. Our Expedition, “Carry It On” aims to continue this exploration of resistance and revolution culminating with students joining existing resistance movements.

11th grade
During our expedition class, we used the lens of access. This has allowed for deeper conversations than we’ve had in the past. It set a good tone for discussions for our classes throughout the year.

We specifically looked at access to SATs, redlining, disability rights, financial access. Students made personal connections, but we also talked about it on a bigger level.

References

Allen, K.-A. (2021). The psychology of belonging. Routledge.

hooks, b. (1990). Yearning: Race, gender, and cultural politics. South End Press.

Love, B.L. (2019). We want to do more than survive: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. Beacon Press.

Simmons, D. (2019). Why we can’t afford whitewashed social-emotional learning. ASCD Education Update, 61(4). www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/education_update/apr19/vol61/num04/Why_We_Can’t_Afford_Whitewashed_Social-Emotional_Learning.aspx

Tatum, B. (1997). Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? BasicBooks


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Shatera Weaver (sweaver@metropolitanels.com) is dean of culture at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in Forest Hills, New York.


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