“Connections drive the conversation, so we shine the light on the systems that we don’t always see and talk about, both past and present.”
Monique’s 5th Grade Classroom
IDENTITY UP FRONT
My big “Aha!” came in the form of my own development and growing awareness of self and racial identity – especially my understanding around the role of schools. As a grad student and teacher at Bank Street School, I realized that through literature you could make sure all kids were seen, though I had never seen myself. So when I saw what I was personally missing and what we were all missing I started creating. That early work is very present in the Systems work today.
Monique facilitates workshops nationwide on diversity, equity and inclusion through the Wildwood Outreach Center.
Maps To T-Charts
I’ve used systems thinking in kindergarten – first grade classrooms and with 4th and 5th graders. Early on, we document what the kids are offering by creating maps for them. With older students, they can create maps and charts to track their own systems. I leave them up, and it’s great to see months later, a student will add something.
Start Small, Even With Older Students
This one was hard for me! But our mentors pushed me to think of just one pencil, or an apple, and consider the systems around that object. The apple led us towards a whole food justice curriculum that was the really beginning for me. Systems Thinking is how we can understand imbalances in the world, and our own role – whether we are aware of it or not. It’s a prompt to think about our power. That apple really changed the way that I teach and led us to think about how we can impact, adapt and begin to change even in small ways- not to pretend that we can fix, but we can recognize, find our self-advocacy and spheres of influence so that we can each feel powerful.
After many years in the classroom, systems gave more shape to what I was already doing, affirming my own beliefs and practices. Systems confirmed the power of conversation with older students. One example: We took a museum field trip to the Getty and that launched us into an exploration of the backstory. How did this building get here, literally? Even the marble that came from Italy. Who did that work?