I have been fortunate enough to have been the Assistant Principal at a very diverse Elementary School. As a culturally diverse District, one of the district improvement goals was focused around teaching tolerance.
“Tolerance is surely an imperfect term, yet the English language offers no single word that embraces the broad range of skills we need to live together peacefully.” (https://www.tolerance.org/about, 2017)
District leaders participated in a book study at our monthly leadership meetings using the book, “Promoting Diversity and Social Justice” by Diane Goodman. We didn’t just discuss each chapter as you would in a traditional book study, but we also did activities that made us more aware of our biases, interactions, and how our school was working towards teaching students tolerance. As principals, we then took the activities, went back to our school and did the activities with our whole staff each month.
These activities generated a lot of great in-depth discussions that often were uncomfortable for many staff members. However, as a result of this great professional learning experience, my amazing staff decided we needed to do a better job reducing prejudice, increasing inclusiveness, and have students view one another as individuals not just members of a separate group.
We decided to MIX IT UP!!!
Every year on the last Tuesday of October millions of students around the world participate in an international campaign that encourages students to identify, question, and cross social boundaries – Mix It Up at Lunch Day!
The cafeteria is commonly identified as a place where feelings are hurt, divisions are clear and “clicks” are formed. So, as students sit to dine in October we ask them to move out of their comfort zone and connect with someone new. It is such a simple task yet, has such profound implications. “Studies show that interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice. When students interact with those who are different from them, biases and misperceptions can fall away.” (https://www.tolerance.org/mix-it-up, 2017)
The building that I worked at did not formally register through the website (www.tolerance.org), but we did many successful, fun activities that students talked about for months after! I even noticed students sitting with and playing with others outside their normal social circle in the days following our mix it up luncheon!
There are countless activities and ways to “Mix It Up” at each building for every age of student. Here are some ideas to spark creativity and help get those ideas flowing:
- Decorate your cafeteria for the day: use tablecloths, decorations, have music playing for a more welcoming environment
- Prior to students walking into the cafeteria, have each table represent a different color of the rainbow; each student will be given a different color of construction paper at the door to match the table he/she will sit at to ensure it is “Mixed Up”
- Just like you would see at the movies (before the previews start) project an ongoing kid’s trivia slide show to help spark conversation at the lunch tables and find commonalities amongst those students are sitting with
- Have a handful of pictures laminated at each table to act as discussion starters for students
- Prior to coming to the cafeteria for lunch, have students practice introducing themselves
- Read books about friendships and differences
- Add to the festivities of the day and have it be a spirit day: have students wear mix-matched clothes
- Publicize the event – get your community involved: Hit the social media circuit, make announcements, fliers, posters, call the ROE to help celebrate the event and publicize before & after!
- Capture the day by taking photos and getting student testimonies from the day
So, mark your calendars – This year’s MIX IT UP LUNCHEON is October 31, 2017…you have a little over a month to plan!
For more information, or to formally register your school as a Mix It Up participant please go to https://www.tolerance.org/mix-it-up.
As always, if you would like more information or help planning your event please do not hesitate to reach out to me at the ROE for additional resources and support!
Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning