Facing History and Ourselves: Nurturing a Positive and Compassionate School Culture
By: Phoebe Moore, Administrator in Residence at Green Dot Public Schools
Teamwork and collaboration are vital to the entire Green Dot Public Schools network–and diversity is a strength in making our teams actually work every day. “Our partnership with Facing History and Ourselves (FHAO) helps students understand how they and others make choices, good or bad, and how these choices affect our history,” says Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School (AJR) Principal Kristen Botello. FHAO truly understands Green Dot’s pursuit to cultivate an environment of teamwork and unity.
“A key component of FHAO is fostering positive relationships with students and breaking down walls that young people often build to protect themselves through the challenges of adolescence,” says Botello. She believes that the school’s partnership with FHAO has helped nurture a positive and educated school-wide culture.
Principal Botello has been involved with Facing History and Ourselves since 1995 and helped develop the partnership at Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School. FHAO is a nonprofit educational and professional development organization that engages students of diverse backgrounds in discussions of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote a more humane and informed society.
Curriculum and culture
FHAO helps support the core values of AJR by guiding teachers to develop lessons that use an ethical lens to examine how character choices affect history. Teachers utilize curriculum materials that integrate case studies and materials like “Holocaust and Human Behavior,” “The US Reconstruction Era,” “Race and Eugenics,” “the Civil Rights Movement,” and To Kill a Mockingbird. “Our partnership with FHAO is meant to foster ethical, civic-minded, and just young people,” says Botello. “The culture at AJR helps to develop students into critical thinkers who are empowered to elevate their own lives and their community as agents of change.”
Driving the culture at Ánimo Jackie Robinson are four main principles:
- Value the complexity of identities and combat prejudice in school community
- Integrate intellectual rigor, emotional engagement, and ethical reflection into curriculum
- Examine the choices of the past and their legacy to help inform choices today
- Foster dialogue, empathy, and civic participation
The integrated FHAO curriculum has influenced several on-campus projects including the Senior Social Action Projects and the Sophomore Promise Projects that students undertake themselves. Both projects ask students to select a current local or global social justice issue, conduct research, and apply thoughtful solutions that will have a positive impact on the issue. The project teaches students to be active in shaping their world.
Power in partnerships
At AJR, students are treated as members of the family. Educators are selflessly driven to foster an ethical school culture so that their students can effectively build and maintain positive relationships for themselves.
“We wish to continue the work of ethical and character education by extending FHAO curriculum into more courses, activities, and grade levels,” says Botello. Our individual impact is magnified through partnerships because we are more powerful together than we are alone.