The main goal of the three Villanova University professors, says Crystal Lucky, Professor of African American Literature, was to empower the teachers. "There is a tendency for teachers to bypass what's going to be uncomfortable," she says. "The kids are going to talk about [these controversial subjects] outside class, and they'll [sense] a teacher's fear and uncertainty if he or she is not ready to teach something." But, as African American educators and as parents, "[we] also wanted the parents to feel someone listened to them," Lucky says.
- Be prepared for some resistance from teachers. As Maghan Keita, Professor of African History, says, a professor may initially be seen as "some pointy-head coming in here to tell me [the teachers] how to do my job." Try to break down this resistance by getting teachers involved in the training.
- Emphasize to teachers that by approaching a book in its historical and cultural context they won't have to take a book out of the curriculum.
- Openly confront controversial issues in the classroom. Diffuse sensitive subjects by discussing them as intellectual issues so that students can learn to think about them unemotionally in class. For instance, the new Huck Finn curriculum tackles the use of "nigger" and racism in general in the first few lessons, before the book is even read.
- Give teachers more resources and strategies "than they can ever possibly use," suggests Lawrence Little, Professor of African American History, so that they have a great deal of choice, and so that they are not overwhelmed by the idea that a new curriculum means hours of preparatory work.
Next: Perspectives from Cherry Hill: Students