A Year of Experts in the Classroom

Today we had an incredible visit from Toni Smith-Thompson, who spoke to our class about her experience as an athlete-activist while playing college basketball. Even though our unit on race and racism has technically ended, I was excited to set up this visit. Several of the kids read articles about Colin Kaepernick, and in light of the latest NFL news, I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk to someone who's actually participated in this type of activism.

It was the end of a long day, but the kids were engaged and asked excellent questions. While I think this visit could have sparked a lot of great ideas at the start of our unit, I was happy with the way it went at the end. Having had lots of conversations and done lots of research about race and racism helped deepen the kids' questioning and engagement.

After the visit ended, I realized that I've had more classroom visits this year than ever before. This was a fun surprise. I'm used to setting specific goals for my school year (e.g. 10 field trips), and having experts visit my classroom wasn't even a goal of mine, but it should have been!

This year we've had visits from Dr. Chris Brown from Columbia University, Felisha Miles and Jelani Umoja from BYP 100, and Simone Gamble from BrotherhoodSisterSol. Next week we'll have a visit from author Zetta Elliott.

I'm so honored by the generosity of these visitors. As much as teaching sometimes feels thankless, these visits were a reminder that there are many people out there who truly value teaching, learning, and kids of color. I love these visits because they enrich my students' learning, and because they show that learning is more than just a teacher-student transaction.

I'd like to me more thoughtful about experts next year, and see if I can plan at least one expert visit for every unit. I also want to see how I can get experts from our more immediate school community (other teachers, school staff, families) to visit. Lastly, it would be great to have kids research experts who they'd like to visit.

But for now those goals can wait. I can turn classroom visits into (yet another) SMART goal come August. Tonight, I'm just grateful for Toni's visit, and for all the visitors who made this year special for my students.


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