Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free Editorial: Defending Immigrant Students — in the Streets and in Our Classrooms

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools

    It has always been an educator’s responsibility to act in solidarity with vulnerable students. But with President Donald Trump’s September declaration that he will end DACA, we are called on to be more audacious, more resolute, and more imaginative in our solidarity with the 800,000 undocumented young people who now face a frightening uncertainty about their future in the United States.

  • Free Rethinking Islamophobia

    A Muslim educator and curriculum developer questions whether religious literacy is an effective antidote to combat bigotries rooted in American history

    By Alison Kysia

    The increasing violence against Muslims, Sikhs, South Asians, and others targeted as Muslim, suggests we, as Americans, are becoming less tolerant and need educational interventions that move beyond post-9/11 teaching strategies that emphasize our peacefulness or oversimplify our histories, beliefs, and rituals in ways that often lead to further stereotyping.

  • Inclusivity is Not a Guessing Game

    By Chelsea Vaught

    An elementary teacher tells how she works to include her Muslim students in the life of her classroom. "We can use or create curriculum and projects that allow students to learn about and incorporate their culture and religious practices if they want to. We can be deliberate in including, making space for, and recognizing our students in all aspects of their identities. Making schools inclusive doesn’t have to be a guessing game."

  • Features
  • Free Teaching SNCC: The Organization at the Heart of the Civil Rights Revolution

    By Adam Sanchez

    Teaching the history of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee helps students see the Civil Rights Movement as being fueled by thousands of young people like themselves instead of a few charismatic leaders. "Without the history of SNCC at their disposal, students think of the Civil Rights Movement as one that was dominated by charismatic leaders and not one that involved thousands of young people like themselves. Learning the history of how young students risked their lives to build a multigenerational movement against racism and for political and economic power allows students to draw new conclusions about the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement and how to apply them to today."

  • Free Elementary Student T-Shirt Workers Go on Strike

    By Michael Koopman

    An elementary school teacher uses his students’ T-shirts to launch a lesson about child labor, basic economics, factories, unions, and strikes. "When I was a child, I remember 'playing pretend' with my cousins. We could be anyone we imagined, and in that moment, we were those people. Why not use that energy and imagination as a resource? When we use our imagination to walk in another’s shoes, that’s where real learning begins."

  • Free It's Imperialism.

    How the textbooks get the Cold War wrong

    By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

    A high school teacher critiques the textbook treatment of the Cold War and U.S. imperialism. She describes her approach to the “curricular conundrum” that the Cold War presents because it lasted so long, and was so far-flung. ""If we are ever to create a different world, one in which the United States does not cast an outsized and militarized shadow across the globe, we need our students to understand how and why that shadow was created in the first place."

  • Jailing Our Minds

    By Abbie Cohen

    An education researcher explores “no-excuses” discipline policies and the rate of out-of-school suspensions at charter schools in Denver and around the nation. "Democracy is healthiest when our educational institutions reflect our best virtues — creativity, joy, and growth. We must strengthen our oversight over no-excuses charter schools, thereby ensuring that no child in that city — or our country — is subjected to policies that could have been culled from one of Denver’s neighboring prisons."

  • Fourteen Days SBAC Took Away

    By Moé Yonamine

    A teacher wrestles with her frustrations with having to administer a standardized test that she wouldn’t even allow her own daughter to take. "Fourteen days I enforced SBAC testing to be the priority of our classroom learning — or rather, our classroom “unlearning.” Fourteen days SBAC took away."

  • What About the Students Who Are Not Labeled as "Gifted"?

    By Kipp Dawson

    A middle school English teacher calls for an end to separating students into groups of “gifted” and “not gifted” and argues that labeling students damages them — and us. "We are going down too many roads that push too many of our children aside, reinforcing the worst of our society’s racist and classist limitations. Let us push back hard."

  • Resources
  • Free Our Winter 2017 Picks for Books, Videos, Websites, and Other Social Justice Education Resources

    By Bill Bigelow, Deborah Menkart, Adam Sanchez, Ursula Wolfe-Rocca
  • Departments Free
    Ed Alert
  • “This Is Not Happening Without a Fight”

    Puerto Rico’s teachers battle privatization after Hurricane Maria

    By Ari Bloomekatz
  • Education Action
  • Student Athletes Kneel to Level the Playing Field

    By Jesse Hagopian

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Inclusivity is Not a Guessing Game

Inclusivity is Not a Guessing Game

Khalid Albaih (@khalidalbaih and

“Miss, I can’t eat this. It’s not halal.”

Noor’s shoulders slumped, clearly disappointed, as she looked down into her treat bag from Ben’s 6th birthday party. She walked over, frowning, holding it open to show me the contents. The bag was filled with gummy candy made from gelatin, which is animal-based and generally sourced from pig connective tissue, bone, and/or skin. It was not labeled as halal, which means permissible, and is a way of certifying certain food as being in compliance with Islamic law. Halal gelatin is often either from halal-certified beef or poultry or made from fish or vegetable-based sources.

This wasn’t the first time Noor had come to me frustrated with birthday sweets she couldn’t eat. Before, the best I could do was tell her I was sorry and make sure she knew I understood her disappointment, but anyone who’s ever met a 5-year-old can tell you how poor of a consolation prize that is. This time I was prepared. I’d been saving chocolates and other animal product-free candies from other kids’ birthdays to make sure all of my students could fully be part of our class celebrations. Noor was thrilled to be able to exchange her non-halal candy for something she could actually eat. She called her classmates Zeeshan and Amira over, and I traded gummies for chocolates for all three.

After graduating college in the United States, I was hired by a U.K.-based teaching agency to work in a suburb east of London that had a severe teacher shortage. My first placement was as a long-term substitute in the kindergarten classroom where I taught Noor, Zeeshan, Amira, and 25 other 5-year-olds. My school reflected the area’s changing demographics: The formerly majority white British suburb was growing, and many of my kids were Muslim and whose families were from Commonwealth countries like India, Pakistan, and Nigeria. I was more aware of their experiences than I previously had been because my boyfriend at the time, who grew up in a British-Pakistani family in the next suburb over, would often talk about his own experiences as a Muslim student in the U.K. He had painful memories of being one of only a few Muslim kids in school, often feeling unintentionally left out or deliberately ostracized. He was never made to feel comfortable embracing his whole identity as a British Muslim. He’d hoped school environments had changed for the better and I wanted to do as much as I could, even if I was playing only a small role, to try to make sure they had. This is part of the reason why I already had an understanding of what the word halal meant and how I could provide an alternative for Noor and others.

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