A Lesson for Reframing and Reflection through Melba Pattillo Beals’ “Warrior’s Don’t Cry”


As an English teacher, I want to teach books that reframe or challenge our conceptions of history. In high school, I remember reading Melba Pattillo Beals’ memoir, Warriors Don’t Cry, which accounts her experience as one of the Little Rock Nine. This is a powerful book because it gives an eyewitness account of the daily struggles she encountered as one of the first African American students to be integrated into a white school in the South. Much of the book focuses on violent conflict, but the book’s introspective narrative style puts the reader in the position to think about and evaluate this historical event in a different way. For this reason, I think this is a great book to teach. I found a teaching unit for the book on zinnedproject.org, which includes lesson plans that encourage several of the pillars of peace education. The unit plan can be found here: http://zinnedproject.org/posts/1447. For a more in depth reading of the lesson plans, register and download the PDF.

While this unit includes a lot of activities, I just want to highlight two: the Writing for Justice Narrative, and the Warrior’s Dialogue Journal: Allies, Perpetrators, Targets and Bystanders. These two activities work very well for this book, but could also be adapted for other texts. The Writing for Justice Narrative takes place before reading the book. The class comes up with a definition of an ally, a perpetrator, a target, and a bystander. Then, students write a personal narrative about a time in which they acted in one of these roles. The point of this activity is to have students personally identify with these roles so that they can have a better understanding of the characters in the book. The Warrior’s Journal then asks them to record personal thoughts about who are the allies, perpetrators, etc. in the book. The lesson notes that students should pay close attention to when a characters’ role changes. The students use their observations from their journals to generate discussions in small groups. Each group comes up with a question based on their discussion that generates a larger class discussion.

I think these activities should be done in a high school English or history class. The book’s content is probably too mature for younger students. However, the activities themselves can be adapted to other more age-appropriate books if you wanted to teach them in a middle school class. The lesson’s goal of personal reflection would be best suited in an older, more mature class.

I think the two pillars of peace education this book/lessons promotes are Nurturing Emotional Intelligence and Reframing History. Through the narrative, students have to reflect on and describe the emotions they experienced in the situation. The objective of that assignment is to prepare students to foster compassion and empathy for the characters in the books (who are actually based on historical figures). The journal also forces students to validate their reading through emotional reflection. Through the process of identifying character roles, and subsequently understanding how character roles change, students reframe their view of history through a more introspective lens. Instead of learning that this event caused a lot of violence, they learn that the event involved a clashing of a lot of different societal roles, and through personal reflection and character identification, the students can think about the situation in a way that is validated by both emotional and analytic thinking.

Reframing History through Incorporating the Disability Rights Movement


Content and Context

This video entitled “The Power of 504” is a video of the 504 sit ins at the height of the disability rights movement. The video depicts hundreds of disabled individuals barricading themselves in federal office buildings in San Francisco to protest the lack of the implementation of the 1973 Federal Rehabilitation Act. The act was the first civil-rights statute for persons with disabilities in the United States. This video is widely available on youtube and similar web video sites.

This resource would be best utilized for 5th-12th grade students in a history, or english class. Specifically, this source could be incorporated in the common civil rights history unit that most students will discuss each year.

Not only is this resource applicable to the discussion of civil rights within history, but it is also expands the communities in which we discuss human rights and movements for equality. The disability community is a population that is still heavily marginalized and left out of a social justice conversation and context. As a result, focusing on the disability rights movement will both expand the understanding of marginalized communities, awareness of varying civil rights movements and will promote a social model of disability for future generations.

Objectives and Goals

The goal of this activity is two tiered: (1) to reframe history and (2) to discuss divergent approaches to peace. The framing of this activity would be to watch the video and then to discuss modern day civil rights movements by breaking into small groups and discussing the various ways in which our society has and does limit equity and how those communities are addressing those issues. In this discussion, students should discuss two major themes. First, the parallels of the disability rights movement to other recent movements (ie: LGBTQ, education, Native Americans, Latinos etc). Second, students should discuss how peaceful movements have been effective in bringing about reform. This question should begin to synthesize a students prior information on civil rights movements for Women, African Americans, Irish Americans etc and compare that information in a modern context. At the end of the discussion, students can report to the rest of the class on their group’s discussion and the teacher should write similar themes on the board. By the end each student will have gained a broader understanding of civil rights movements, as well as an awareness of peaceful protest as a means of promoting equality. In an academic sense, students will have engaged in critical thinking, and analyzing by comparing and contrasting the various movements.

No Impact Man


No Impact Man: The Documentary, a film by Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein, follows the experiment of author Colin Beavan and his family as they attempt to live with no environmental impact in New York City for one year.  It is a fairly well known documentary (and book) made in 2009 and is available streaming on Netflix and in the AU Library.

This film would be best suited to a high school and younger adult audience because of the open mindedness that often disappears in older age groups.  Also, since some of the themes are more mature (no, not in sexual ways…) I feel that the film might be lost on younger audiences.  Because of the way I envision using this piece, to launch into a larger project that would span 2-4 weeks, it would fit best in a more formal environment or at least an environment which offers repetitive meetings for a minimum of one month.  Because of the diverse themes the film presents, it could fit into many different subjects, but environmental science and psychology are the two that initially come to mind.

The idea for an activity around this film is pretty obvious but has many opportunities for discussion and introspection.  First the class will watch the film.  It is about 90 minutes so it may be split up over two class periods.  This will lead nicely into a discussion of the students’ impressions of Colin and his wife, as well what they thought were the most reasonable things to give up and the things they would not be willing to give up (I’m sure electricity will be top on the list of things no one would be willing to live without).  After this discussion the students will each be charged with a week-long project: choose something in their life to live without for one week straight.  Document this journey either with a written journal or video journal (depending on resources and/or student learning preference).  After their week of abstinence, the students must explore how this impacted their life, the environment and the world and present their findings in a creative class presentation.  The larger issues of personal peace and sustainability can be discussed after the students have a chance to ruminate on their experiences.

At first glance No Impact Man seems strictly like an environmental impact documentary, which does fit in with the peace concept of sustainability.  It could also qualify for a Pacifist theme.  While watching the film, though, another theme emerges: personal peace.  Sure you can take away all of the environmental positives from the film: waste less, use less energy, be less materialistic, eat locally, etc., and these are absolutely important.  But I think the more poignant take away was the improvement of the family and the personal peace they each achieved.  Better yet, this was a surprise to Colin and his wife as well.  They too went in with the environment in mind and came out with a much bigger picture experience.  Their health improved from eating locally and cutting out take away.  They state that they become better parents to their 3-year-old daughter by playing more family games and cutting out television.  They spend more time out of doors exploring the city and being social, especially when they give up electricity.  They are less invested in material possessions and more focused on the well being of their family.  Add to this the obvious environmental discoveries and you have a recipe for a great peace teaching film.

Check out the website http://www.noimpactdoc.com/index_m.php and watch the trailer .  Enjoy!

Pen/Faulkner Writers in Schools project


The resource I’d like to recommend is the Pen/Faulkner Writers in Schools project. This is an organization that provides books written by local authors to classrooms, as well as places local authors in schools for a book talk with the students. It is an organization that has been used by the English Department at Ballou Senior High School for years:

This year, I am taking advantage of this opportunity for the first time.

I think the best educational setting for this program is one that houses potential burgeoning authors. This can mean people of any age or background. The program requires the participants to read and dissect a work of literature in advance, in order to be prepared for the author’s visit that culminates the experience. Therefore, there would need to be some sort of framework for formal teaching and collaborating.

This year, I am using this resource to have my students study the genre of Memoir. I have selected two texts, one for my 9th graders and one for the 10th grade, that I hope will reach my students by resonating with their own experiences; as well as expose them to the world beyond what they know here in D.C. My hope is that students will learn that literature is liberation. I want them to realize that literature is everywhere and that it can be for anyone. I think too many of them maintain the bias that reading and writing are irrelevant for their lives. I want them to see that personal and social issues can be unearthed and exposed through powerful literature. I want them to meet the person behind the page and see there is no mystery there, there is no magical gift. There is an individual with an idea and determination to pen it. It could indeed be them one day.

I believe this resource supports several Peace Education pillars, particularly Reframing History, and Skill Building. Through the Pen/Faulkner Writers in Schools project, my students will be reading the personal stories of people who have lived through traumatic experiences and periods of history. Yet, there will be more to these stories than destruction and despair. There is a protagonist who survived and grew, someone who chooses to give back by visiting young people in schools. This is a different ending to the story of violence and chaos so often told by history. Furthermore, by working closely with a text and then the author of that text, students witness first-hand that the skills they learn in the classroom will not stay there if they know how to apply them. The fact that the authors are local powerfully illustrates to the students that there is a life other than the one they know, and this life of success is certainly within reach.

UNOY Peacebuilders

As a Global Affairs major, I was really interested in finding a blog topic that had a global approach and perspective to peace education. Through searching on the web, I found this amazing organization called UNOY (The United Network of Young Peacebuilders). UNOY (prounounced  ‘you know why’) is a global network of young people and youth organisations committed to establishing peaceful societies.  They have been around since 1989 and are based in the Netherlands. they consist of 49 member organizations in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America.

UNOY’s mission is ” to link up young people’s initiatives for peace in a global network of young peacebuilders, to help empower their capacities and to help increase the effectiveness of their actions” They achieve this goal by implementing a wide range of activities in each of their main areas: advocacy and campaigning, capacity building and gender. UNOY believes that young people are an essential part of peacebuilding because:

  • Young people are more open to change
  • Young people are future-oriented
  • Young people are idealistic and innovative
  • Young people are courageous
  • Young people are knowledgeable about their peers’ realities (http://www.unoy.org/unoy/who-we-are/our-vision/)

Some projects that UNOY has implemented in 2012 include, the Educating for Peace seminar that brings together members from all over the world, the Peace of Mind educational program for students, and training courses on peace building. Members even traveled to Colombia, Argentina, and Nepal where they were able to teach workshops on issues such as human rights, democracy and gender to youth there!

This organization caters to a wide range of peace educators and students alike. UNOY has created excellent resources that can be incorporated into a classroom or community setting for youth. The beauty of UNOY is that the wide array of projects it creates can be applied in a global AND local context. Most importantly, UNOY gives  young people the opportunity to get involved!!! I would especially recommend checking out their volunteer programs if you’re interested in working on an international level 😉 Through its broad scope of activities and projects, UNOY teaches youth the necessary skills and tools needed to become peacemakers in their own communities.

A clip describing one of UNOY’s projects in collaboration with other international youth organizations:


UNOY home page http://www.unoy.org/unoy/



Is Spiderman The Key to Educational Success?


Some of you may be surprised to find out that the answer is partially YES! In recent years, reports have been made claiming that adults exiting school and entering the work force are not meeting the demands of their employers. Employers are complaining that young workers do not have the writing capabilities and the critical thinking and analysis capabilities that are crucial to be successful in the world today. Our economy is extremely vulnerable and employers need workers who are able to adapt to constant fluctuations and still turn some type of profit. Why are people leaving school today and not being able to fill the needs of their employers? What must our educators do in order to change this trend of students leaving school who are ill equipped to be successful in today’s economy? Well, its simple…put the fun back into learning!

The International Reading Association (IRA) has proposed an alternative form of writing other than the standard book reports that all grade school students are required to write at some point. The IRA suggests teachers to have students to create their own comic strips for books instead of writing a standard book report. Asking students to create their own story line for a comic strip regarding the books they read for school will enhance their critical thinking and analysis skills far more than a book report could. Through creating their own comic strips, students will be forced to access the creative thinking parts of their mind in order to symbolically depict the characters in a way that is congruent with their portrayal in the original text.

The education system that is used in the United States and majority of the world today has been the same for centuries now; a very structured student-teacher classroom where the teacher relays information to their students that the students need to report back to the teachers verbatim in order to achieve “success.” In his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, Ken Robinson refers to this as the banking method of education. However, this removes any opportunity for students to develop critical thinking and analysis tools from a young age. As you grow older, these tools are harder to develop. In order to start promoting this type of creative thinking that is necessary at an early age, we must start using alternative ways of learning.

This type of “alternative book report” can be a key alternative form of learning in the coming years. It could be used successfully at any grade school level; first grade all the way through twelfth grade. The amazing thing about asking students to write a comic strip instead of a book report is that the teacher is still providing students with a structured assignment. The comic strip would have to depict the major scenes of the novel and the assignment would still have a due date such as any other traditional school assignment. The difference is you are providing the students with creative ownership over the final outcome. How they choose to depict each of the major scenes is entirely up to them. Thinking of interesting and innovative ways to portray the characters will force them to think in ways they never have thus sparking their critical thinking and analysis tools. Also, providing student with this type of alternative assignment can allow them to be excited about their work again. I know that I am more likely to put effort into an assignment that I feel passionate about and that I feel I have ownership over. This type of assignment provides exactly that for our students. Why shouldn’t we provide them with an opportunity to have fun with their homework?

How about a day for peace?

Actor turned filmmaker Jeremy Gilley founded Peace One Day after realizing that there was no starting point for peace, no day of global unity, no day for intercultural cooperation, and no day for when humanity came together. Gilley felt that if we united as one then that might be the key to humanity’s survival. He started his advocacy for his Peace Day by writing letters to every state leader, their ambassadors, Nobel peace laureates, NGOs, faith based organizations, and other various organizations. Then in 1999 his dream of Peace One Day came true. In 1999 all the member states of the United Nations adopted the 21st of September as Peace Day. This day is recognized as an annual global ceasefire and non-violence day.

Jeremy Gilley’s Peace One Day is recognized every year, but unfortunately the day hasn’t gotten the full attention it deserves. Gilley was to make a statement with Kofi Annan on September 11, 2001 to advocate for his event, but because of the attack on the World Trade Center the statement never happened. However, the events on September 11, 2001 made Gilley work even harder. He was even more empowered and inspired to move forward with Peace One Day. This led to Gilley, along with actor Jude Law, to start work for peace in Afghanistan. Because of the pair advocating for Peace Day the Taliban sent him letter and said they would observe the day, and not engage in violence. The Taliban doing this led to 1.6 million people vaccinated for polio and violence on that day was down by 70%.

Due to this success Gilley has initiated a new plan for 2012, a Global Truce Day. This day will show younger generations that we can make a stop to violence with small acts of non-violence in our everyday lives. Gilley wants to utilize all kinds of resources from dance to social media and globally network with government, intergovernmental, and education leaders.

Gilley’s idea of utilizing education into his plan for 2012’s Global Truce Day helped persuade me to write this blog post about his event. Gilley wants to get young people to be the driving force to inspire individual action, so he has complied an educational resource for teachers to implement non-violence and other peace concepts into the classroom.

I can see this educational resource implemented in almost every formal grade level classroom. The students would need a little background on what conflict is, so because of this, starting at the fourth or fifth grade level would probably be best. However, this could fluctuate determined on how the students are influenced by conflict in their everyday lives. By implementing these resources in a classroom setting these children can practice non-violence in their schools, and also bring what they learn outside of the school setting and teach others.

Ways to use this resource:
Gilley includes many different types of lessons in his educational resource. This comprehensive resource includes 21 one-hour lesson plans for exploring issues of peace, nonviolence, and the protection of the environment, with extended projects for Peace Day on September 21st. I think this resource would be best integrated by first starting with showing Gilley’s documentary for one day of class, doing the lesson that corresponds to that, then moving on to the individual lessons maybe once a month until the actual Peace Day on the 21st. The students could help plan how they want their school to recognize and celebrate the event. In addition to using Gilley’s lesson plans I think it would be important for each teacher to incorporate their own discussion in their classrooms on non-violence, and other peace education areas. This would help each individual classroom relate to what types of conflict are going on in their societies.

The goal of each lesson, whether it be with Gilley’s lesson plans or the teacher’s, would be to spread knowledge about ways to bring about peace in small ways. These can be from their knowledge on non-violence to their knowledge of eco-resolution. Each lesson will more than likely encourage a student to go out and spread what they learned to another, and therefore spread the movement of peace.

“We should oppose violence in all situations and of course there’s no better way of bringing that about than through the power of education.”-Jeremy Gilley

Peace One Day website: http://peaceoneday.org/
Peace One Day’s educational resources: http://peaceoneday.org/teachers/