A Weblog about Webinars on Teaching Tolerance

One of my goals in creating the list of new-to-me things to try in my blog was to incorporate a number of different avenues of learning, and different types of resources. This was partly so that it’s more interesting for you, the readers (otherwise it might easily turn into a book review blog, which is a good but different thing). It’s also largely because reading is my default way of educating myself on topics I want to know more about. Museum exhibits are another way I tend to prefer, and in the past few years, podcasts are a third. I’ve been looking for resources for classroom teachers because I already know the basics of museum education, and I wanted to get a firmer grounding in what other educators do. Over the past month, I’ve been poking around in the archive of webinars on Teaching Tolerance.

Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides free resources for K-12 educators to help teach the skills of active participation in a diverse democracy. I would strongly recommend their magazine to anyone interested in education and justice (much like I recommend 826 Boston’s book "TendrĂ­amos asistencia perfecta/Attendance Would Be 100%: Student Proposals for High School Redesign Boston” whether or not you are a school administrator). Teaching Tolerance also offers free, live webinars on a variety of topics related to how to teach about justice and diversity, and how to make classrooms more just and equitable spaces. The webinars are recorded you can watch them on demand after they’re live; the site currently has fifty of them. They do require you to register for each one, and “School/organization” is a required field, but you’re registered automatically when you fill out the form, so “n/a” would be a valid response.

At first, I struggled to find benefit in watching recorded webinars, other than the obvious benefit that I can do them on my own time. The first one I tried was on intersectionality, and I found I knew a lot of the information and the webinar didn’t offer me new ways to apply it. I was frustrated because I can skim an article if I know a lot of what’s being covered, but I don’t know how to skim a webinar. In their web player it’s hard to rewind or fast forward. It was especially tedious to sit through recordings in which the hosts quizzed the live participants on their knowledge of the subject.

For the next webinar I tried, I picked one I didn’t have much background in, “Best Practices for Serving English Language Learners (ELL) and Their Families.” It was very focused on a school setting, so I wasn’t able to take away much to use with English language learners in museums, but it showed me that the intersectionality webinar probably bored me because I wasn’t learning, not necessarily because of the format. The ELL webinar mentioned the concept of “windows and mirrors” in education, which I have long loved -- people need content that’s a “window” into experiences that are different from their own, and content that’s a “mirror” of experiences similar to their own. It also covered things I had never thought about, like providing an interpreter (who is NOT the student, I knew that one) for parent/teacher conferences if the teacher doesn’t speak the parents’ primary language fluently. I like this phrasing, too, because it doesn’t single out parents who aren’t fluent in English; the question is about communication in their primary language. I watched this hour-long webinar during my lunch over the course of a couple of days, and I was pleased that with my browser cookies on, the web player didn’t require me to re-register, and picked up where I left off.

The third webinar I tried, “Latinx History is Black History,” I did a little differently. I listened to it without sitting in front of the screen, which in this case meant listening while cooking. Of the Teaching Tolerance webinars I tried, the slides don’t contain additional information beyond what’s said aloud. Then, I sat down and spent maybe half an hour looking through all of the recommended resources. This really worked for me. It was like listening to a good podcast and then exploring its extensive show notes. (Teaching Tolerance also has several actual podcasts, which I haven’t delved into yet!) This particular “episode” discussed newsletters, interviews, and several poems, all of which were linked in the resources section. They also linked to lesson plans created by Teaching Tolerance, and to a Poets.org “Teach This Poem” lesson plan. These, of course, I found less useful personally, but I’m not the target audience. Some of their classroom resources use teacher jargon I hadn’t heard of, like Total Physical Response, which a language-teaching method based on coordinating language with physical movement. I’m glad I tried it out, but when I’m listening to Teaching Tolerance webinars just for fun and not to report back on the blog, I’ll probably pick and choose which of the resources to read.

Before you go, even if you don’t try out their webinars, read or listen to these poems -- the third one was discussed in Latinx History is Black History.