By Yvette Jackson, Special to CNN
Editor’s Note: Yvette Jackson, Ed.D., is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education and former Executive Director of Instruction and Professional Development for the New York City Board of Education. Tune in to AC360 at 8 and 10 p.m. ET for the special series "Kids on Race: The Hidden Picture”.
The death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is sparking national indignation and debate over the role race played in this premature loss of life. But it also opens the door to a teachable moment that, if ignored, will only compound the tragedy.
The teachable moment is particularly true for adolescent youths. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in more than three decades of working in schools is that students - particularly adolescents - want teachers to meet them where they are. It’s an anxious, hyper-emotional, and uncomfortable place for adults, but students crave this connection.
Trust me, an incident like the death of Trayvon only intensifies those emotions because all adolescents have a frame of reference from their own lives, be it race, how they dress, or fear of being singled out by a stranger based on how they look. This frame of reference during adolescence greatly impacts their understanding of how and why they are perceived a certain way.
To ignore the story of Trayvon in any classroom is to ignore an event that is shaping how countless young students of all races and ethnicities are seeing their world, the adults around them, and visions for their futures.
Indeed, dramatic biological changes shift an adolescent’s self-concept and self-esteem, as young people constantly react to how they feel they are perceived. For students of color, these perceptions are further impacted by a stereotype threat, or fear of being prejudged because of negative stereotypes about their race or ethnicity.
Imagine how young African-American males are comparing themselves with Trayvon and what this might mean for their belief in our system of justice, how they are perceived and what is expected of them. Conversely, how many white students don’t want to be seen as racist in the eyes of their peers in school when the incident comes up? Can kids even wear hoodies without fear of judgment?
But we need to do more than use Trayvon’s death to get students’ attention. There are countless entry points for educators, but the first entry point is recognizing that learning from an unfortunate incident such as Trayvon’s death is a reciprocal experience involving the learning of both teachers and students.
Such two-way learning can happen through classroom practices that build students’ and teachers’ awareness of self-perceptions, perceptions of others, and how these perceptions impact a student’s view the world. For example, teachers should:
• Affirm the value they place on students and communicate expectations for success by engaging them about what they know and can do - awareness of Trayvon’s death is an opening - and build from there. This identifies and affirms their strengths, creating a stronger foundation for learning.
• Develop relationships through dialogue with students about commonalities across cultures – including traditions, values, goals, and aspirations – as well as themes such as life and death; love and needs; justice and injustice; freedom and boundaries.
• Facilitate discussions about the incident by engaging students in thinking that affects perceptions, problem-solving and decision making; discussing the cause and effects, using syllogisms (if-then thinking), and seeing from various perspectives, such as those of Trayvon, the parents, and George Zimmerman.
• Guide students in critical analysis of articles related to this case, reading for facts and contradictions and looking for the varied opinions related to the various perspectives.
There are many more specific ideas for instruction, including the potential for civics lessons that focus on law and government. The Trayvon Martin case came about because of the Stand Your Ground Law that was passed in several states. Ask students: What exactly is the Stand your Ground Law? What could it mean to you?
Finally, and perhaps the most important instructional theme, is that of social justice. What right do our students have to walk down a sidewalk at night without being targeted for suspicion – or much, much worse? What are the rights and obligations of a community member concerned about local safety?
Educators have a lot on their plates and the year is beginning to wind down for some. But if we are going to educate, we must be relevant to students. And when one of their own dies in such a high-profile way under such questionable circumstances, we have more than a teachable moment. We have an obligation to use our classrooms to promote learning, understanding and a vision of future where a young life is not so easily and unnecessarily lost.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Yvette Jackson.
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I have a teenage son, (White) I look at both pictures it is common sence that something is very wrong this man was told to NOT follow him he did!!!! look what happened a young man so what if he looked older and had a hoodie he followed him after being told NOT to he should be charged!! end of story Pure common sense!!!
On Piers Morgan last night Zimmerman's lawyers kept saying "when all the facts come out". Piers argued that all the news media facts to date are based on Zimmerman's view, because Trayvon can't speak for himself. While true (and I believe in the Justice system) a lie (by omission or manipulation) is still a lie. What I'm talking about is the fact that all I first saw for over a week about this case was a grumpy Zimmerman who shot a 12-year-old boy (as shown with completly outdated middle school pictures of Trayvon. Fact: Trayvon was not 12, why did the news media show outdated photos of him at that age. No one in American watching will be able to get past those first pics. The person who gave those photos to the news deliberately (yes deliberately) manipulated public opionion. Fact: Trayvon was 6'2" (not the 5' tall child in those first photos) Again, a lie by omission (and manipulation) is still a lie. An argument might be made that even if Zimmerman went to trial (whether actually innocent or guilty) the case might be dismissed on the technicality that he can't possible get a "fair" trial because of those photos. And at that point (whether actually guilty or innocent) his life will be in danger. Remember, there's still a small possibility he might be innocent.
On Piers Morgan last night Zimmernan's lawyers kept saying "when the facts come out". Piers insisted that up to this point, most of the media circus facts were based on Zimmerman's view of what happened because Trayvon can't speak for himself. While true, a lie by omission is still a lie. What I'm talking about here is that the person who gave the news media all those pictures of a 5' tall 12 year-old boy deliberately (yes, deliberately) swayed public opion against Zimmerman. You can't take back that first impression of a gruff looking Zimmerman shooting a 12 year old kid. It's gonna be out there forever. I believe in the justice system. That every man is assumed innocent untion "proven" guilty. Piers (and millions of viewers) would like to see Zimmerman at least arrested and tried in a court of law. To what end? 1. He can't possibly anywhere in America (because of the media circus) get a "fair" trial. No one is going to be able to get past those first 12-year-old's pictures of Trayvon because unlike Erin Burnette (who "runs the numbers herself") someone (lots of people) fogot to check their facts. Trayvon was not 12, he was 17. But the news only showed a 12-year-old Trayvon. A lie (outdated photos) by omission (or manipulation) is still a lie. Even if Zimmerman went to trial, an argument might be made that he'll probably get off on the technicality (whether actually guilty or innocent) that the first reporter to air those 5' 12-year-old photos biased the entire American public against him. 2. Fact: Trayvon was 6'2", not the percieved 5' child we were only allowed to see pics of for weeks on the news. A lie by omission (or manipulation) is still a lie. Fact: Zimmerman was 5'8". A lie by "omission" is still a lie.
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The "teachable moment" is that we cannot allow people to get away with "self-appointed" police patrol and vigiliantism esp. in public places; this kind of thing will iinevitably repeat itself if we don't take construction action now. It is completely avoidable; in the case of Trayvon Martin, he was being harassed by a Latino who wanted to play "cops and robbers" with him, and lured him into battle. We can that the National Rife Association for these kinds of "stand your ground" laws which only encourage violence and the illusion of
rightful shooting"; there is nothing righteous about murdering an innocent person.
Someone pulled strings in the past to get Zimmerman's past expunged & this time "someone" apparently halted the process which would have led to his arrest. Who could that have been?
I wanted to vomit when watching the first 10 minutes of Piers Morgan's program. I then changed the channel and watched Dr Drew. Morgan is obviously biased and I will never watch this pompous english wind-bag again.
There is good and evil in everyone. When evil takes over bad things happen. Trayvon grew up in a culture of violence, drugs and theft (based on his suspension record, his Twitter account and videos he appeared in). He probable became angry and attacked George when he asked him what he was doing. (I personally don't want to generalize blacks that way. That if you ask them a question of even look at them that they will attack you.) One thing every parent and teacher should stress from this event is that violence is never an answer to a question. Violence is only an answer to violence.
Almost 850,000 Floridians (about 4.5% of the population) currently have concealed weapons carry permits. These are ordinary, law abiding people of all races, incomes and social statuses who don’t have the money or position to have a staff of armed body guards (as politicians and Hollywood or sports stars have). They have attended a weapons class on the safe handling and legal responsibilities and proven to their instructor that they can handle and fire a firearm safely. They submit to fingerprinting and extensive criminal background check. They take their rights and responsibilities seriously. They will use lethal defense only when there is no other option, but believe me, they will use it rather than see themselves or loved ones be killed.
Maybe Trayvon thought he could “take” George who was 6” shorter. But George saw Trayvon as a lethal threat and took the only available, though regrettable, action he could. Children need to learn at an early age that you cannot deliver violence on another and not expect potentially lethal consequences.
So by all means, teach your charges to live by the Golden Rule, but also teach them that sometimes the consequence of assaulting another is death.
teachersteacher you'r so wrong why would the "teenage" boy walk home n have tea and skittles in his hand and is walking home minding his own business and is causing harm?? EVERYONE ALWAYS POINTS THE FINGER AT THE VICTIM AND THATS WHAT UR DOING HERE!!!....Also not to mention the guy didnt have any marks our brusies if he was in such danger don't you think he would have at least one mark?...People are so quick to judge and your one of them...in my opnion he was not guilty!!
Trayvon grew up in a culture of violence, drugs and theft (based on his suspension record, his Twitter account and videos he appeared in). U my friend are an idiot. And Zimmerman should not have had a gun (based on his assualt of a police officer, beating up his ex girlfriend and the general feeling that he was untouchable because his dad's a judge???) So please expalin to me how Trayvon was at fault walking away from Z by his own admission and he ends up dead 70 plus yards away from his vehicle. Sounds like Motive and intent to kill teacher. God I hope u arent teaching anyone's kids. Your logic is way off. Even if a fight did ensue it was zimmerman who was at fault. the dispatcher asked if he was following the kid and he admitted he was. The biggest thing is if u are "scared" for your life and felt threatened u would have urged the police to hurry. But if u have a concealed gun license and u pursue someone u surrender your claim to self defense
Live like a punk, Die like a punk.
I think this is wrong i have seen diffrent videos of this and the guy that killed did not have any brusies and he claimed that he was hit .
I am a 47 year old white mail, I have a 17 year old son so as a parent I am sorry for his parents. It is not a normal thing for our chidren to leave this world before us as parents do...however I do have some thoughts on the matter. 1. it is a clear our not only black youth but other races as well have no role models usually it is what ever comes out of their speakers Lil wayne Snoop Dog etc., I think we can all agree that there are better ones needed 2) Words like Honor integrety, pride dont seem to mean as much as they once did amoung youth. 3) 2 days after the young mans death there was a 7 year old white girl killed on her front porch steps by a black gang.. it did not make CNN and there was no white group of any nature offering a one million dollar reward for the wherebouts of course that would have made CNN. In closin I would say white black or indifferent it is sad when one of our youth dies and clearly mistakes were made on both sides, I would ask CNN to be responsible in how it reports and dont stir the pot to much , people are frustrated and times are tough. Finally unless our Black youth finds a way to have better role models and achieve a better education we will se more black young man die for the wrong reasons. Trayvon may have just been strolling thru that neighborhood but it is pretty clear that crime has been a problem there and it is attributable to the black race. take this bad thing and use it as a opportunity to have change
I am an Indian american. My husband and me are so angry & disturbed by this Trayvon Martin case. I strongly feel the police department has to be investigated and all those involved should be fired. If the shooter was black or non white and the victim was white they would have been arrested with no questions asked. This is a clear case where Zimmerman pursued Trayvon and Travyon had to defend himself. Why should there be any further questions asked. This can happen only with the racist police officers in the USA.
Armed man chases down an unarmed teenager and shoots him dead. Nothing to analyze here.
I agree completely. Well put
Man where are you from?Teenagers kill just as many people as grown people!Following is not a crime unless you are a stalker.Kids kill kids everyday sadly but don't rush to judge until the people that are in the know (not the media) are ready to move(the law).He will be arrested but will most likely be on manslaughter charges but that won't be enough for all the haters who were at church this Sunday AL, Jesse ect. WWJD????Get a grip and get off the witch hunt.(the media mainly).
Um its called facts and opinions. Its a fact that he followed him (agreed). Its a fact that he has racial biases (they always get away). Its a fact that he wasnt minding his own business (agreed). its a fact that he assumed he knew what Trayvon "was about" and was dead wrong (he has something, he is definitely up to something). My opinion is that his daddy's status got him outta jail that night. Its my opinion that if the roles were reversed Trayvon would have been sentenced already. Its a fact that this is not the first time police have covered up their wrong doings, the suspect was turned into a victim, and that justice was not served.
You apparently have missed the issues and become focused on the smoke and mirrors. Throw out race, throw out past wrongs of the individuals involved. The issue gets down to the issue of the rights of individual to walk down streets and sidewalks in America without being assaulted by a vigilante with a gun and willingness to use it. And if the confrontation results in the death of someone do we investigate the incident or skip the issue because of the color of the skin? The "justice system" gave a pass to Zimmerman because of the color of his victim and his past association with the police as a know neighborhood watchman. Not good enough, lets have a toxicology report of Zimmerman and an assessment of his alleged right to "Stand His Ground." The more we hear about the incident the more we have a tragedy of America's value system.
The more I read this, the more angry it makes me. For a teacher who works with children, she seems to have no idea how to raise a child. Even though every child is different, you must still maintain a sense of structure that is culpable for all children. Children of color are no different than any other child unless we allow them to be. Stop making excuses for the actions of these children. They need discipline, manners and respect. You scold a child when they are wrong and caress them when they do right. You DO NOT sensationalize their own thoughts of what they think they know. We are the adults, we are supposed to set the example.
I am surely glad that you were not around to infect my children with your biased views.
You cannot use deadly force as self defense when you started the dispute. use your common sense. if the dude would have minded his business and not play robocop without training he wouldnt be hiding now.
I remember back in the '50's when only blacks used words like 'dude', 'cool', 'man', etc. Then came that Vietnam thing and next thing you know the white's were not only using the black lingo, they were also singing the black sound (Elvis Presley, The Beetles, The Rolling Stones, etc)
The basis of this story in the media is to make AMERICA aware that while the CIVIL RIGHTS occurred in the 60s we are still facing RACIAL TENSIONS AND DISCRIMINATIONS everywhere, even in our own backyards. If you never been racially profile, thats good, but just because you havent doesnt mean it does not happen. Also, most of you stating he wasnt are racially profiling thru your comments. In addition, just because your not racist does not mean you dont have social biasis against specific people.
The teachable moment should be about the inequities of life and dangers that surround us. How we handle ourselfs when confronted by a stranger can determine the outcome. In the confrontation between Martin and Zimmerman they both came from a defensive position that ultimately led to an unfortunate death. Throw in "Stand Your Ground" and there is a catalyst for disaster, Trayvon stood his ground against a perceived stalker and Zimmerman was standing his ground from a percieved intruder into his gated community. I have faced confrontation many times in ticklish situations that could have led to injuries or worse. By framing my inquiry as not confrontational and non-biased black "gangsters" have responded in ways that resolved my questions and at the same time did not challenge their dignity.
Danger lurkes around us and confrontations will occur, it's how we respond that can defuse the situation.
On the side, Trayvon sounds like a young man who had a bright future before him who unfortunately met a person who was zealous and pro-active in his endeavor as a neighborhood watchman. Two lives were lost in that encounter.
This is just another example of profiling. How in the world is this kid innocent. His past projects otherwise. I am by no means indicating that Zimmerman was innocent, just look at his past, but let's not get carried away and say since he was 17 he was innocent.
How in the world to people of MY RACE call themselves African-American. We were born in America people, period. Why would you want to sensationalize a culture that gave our ancestors as slaves in trade for food. It seems to me that intelligence is severly lacking here.
This woman is just instigating the stigma of how our civilization is migrating. This child's death, no matter how tragic, is not national news. There is no need to bring race into the picture. We have no evidence to support such a ridiculous claim. Both were of different races but one was NOT white. Grow up and get over yourselves. Sharpton, Jackson, Oprah and the other Congressional members who are making a mochary of this should be brought up on criminal charges of sensationalizing race wars. (No facts you say, the same applies to this case.)
These parents should have taught this young man better and he would not have been in this situation to begin with. I have raised three black children of my own and they would never have allowed themselves to get into trouble like this, (suspension from school for any reason). If that were the case, we would not be talking about this debacle.
You don't think the parents should have payed a little more attention to this boy, how about the fact that neither of them knew he was dead for THREE days. How in the world is that possible.
Shut up and move on. There is no story here. Let justice do what justice does. If he is guilty of anything, he will get his due, if not, leave the man alone.
Sounds like some people have never been suspended in HS before. Being suspended in 2012 does not dictate your character. I knew a straight A student that was suspended because he told a girl she smelled like a rotten egg after she called him stupid.
Sounds like an excuse to me. That's all I seem to hear are excuses. Get over yourself and give it a rest. NONE of us really know what happened and your implications of the worlds problems do not help resolve the issue. Your comments are only adding fuel to the fire. Yes, bias does occur, we are only human. It's how you react that shows your character.
I guess we can see what type of character you have.
His people began looking for Trayvor from day 1, not 3. The police knew his body lay in the morgue for 3 days yet they did nothing to locate his family. It were the family that inquired of the police and not the other way around. Yet it should have been the police who should have conducted the initial inquiry.
If a high level of volatile reactivity is what led to this tragedy, maybe we should rethink our own levels of reactivity. That too is a teachable moment for our kids — real power in life comes when you have enough self-control to choose your reactions — but they need to see adults modeling it first and always. If you think it's okay to sound off in an abusive way to the writer of this article or anyone else on this comment thread, then more power to you. But chances are it's the only power you'll have.
I believe I heard a report yesterday by a relative of Martin Luther King speak of letting the system work and not to incite to riot or violence. She said that Al Sharptona and Jesse Jackson would be better off not saying anything and letting the system work. She said she didn't know all the facts. Unless you were there you don't know the facts. How can you pass judgement on Zimmerman? Were YOU there? No.
The writer is on target with using this as a teachable moment. Reactive violence or cries of injustice without knowing all the facts is not how our country works. Bridgng the gap between adults and teens is an admirable want. It is something we should all strive to do. Blaming, hating and throwing out a race card serve absolutely no purpose. Crime is crime. Dealing with crime is the job of the justice system, not mob rule. Thank goodness there are people like Dr.Jackson that are focused on making something good come out of a bad situation.
This teenager Trayvon Martin had the adult who met him where he was his Dad, who loved him, supported him, gave him chores around the house, disciple young Martin when warrant worked with him voluntary in community and school projects.
It wasn't enough you can do all of these things as a black male and still wind up murdered like the many Trayvon Martins in this country. THATS WHY COMMUNITIES ARE PROTESTING AROUND THE COUNTRY AND POSSIBLY WORLD.
I didn't make it clear: I was referring to Zimmerman as appearing unbloodied, which would refute his claims to self-defense. And I totally agree that Trayvon had parents who were looking out for him because they're looking out for him now.
Zimmerman received medical attention at the scene. As an RN I know bruising can take a number of hours to appear. Swelling less so, but note the time Zimmerman arrives on the video. It is entirely reasonable swelling and bruising had not manifested at that point. You have to wait until the attending paramedic/nurse report is made public before reaching your conclusion. Fact that you did indicates you have a political agenda.
You need to get a life my friend. How in the world can you say this boys parents were looking out for him. Where were they when he was getting in trouble at school, skipping school, getting tattoos, (and tattoos are not in question, I have some, it is his age with tattoos) and so forth. It seems to me his parents are attempting to sensationalize themselves and make some money off of their dead child.
You say they were watching out for him, I say they are as much to blame for this as him. If they would have done their jobs as parents and taught him respect, discipline and manners, this would not have happened in the first place.
I got a tattoo at 15 in NYC...what does that have to do with anything? Lets nit pick with the dead i guess???
Yvette Jackson is right on with her suggestions about how to address this critically teachable moment. Yourkidding and Goodguy 5's responses are exactly the reason young people need to be thinking and talking critically about the world they live in. If we don't make room for them to issues that so deeply impact their lives, they may develop the same narrow, uninformed point of view.
We are sick and tired of the Jew media pushing racism!
The Forbidden Truth.Net
You are not a good guy in any sense of the word just a wannabe bigot Hell has a reserve seat for FOOLS like you
Sounds like you fall into your own post!Tolerance and forgiveness always remember.
I am tired of the media pushing PETISM. Had George Zimmerman shot and killed a cat or dog, and couldn't prove that it bit him, he would have been on death row by now, maybe our youths are angry, i would be angry too, if pet care was more important than daycare. Let's take the 60 billion dollars we spend on aminals(food, grooming, grooming products, doggie daycare, day-spa, and clothes) and spend it on children(remember those cute little creatures that are actually a member of the family?) It takes a village, pay me now or pay me later, but one day, we all will pay for having neglected our children, and shooting them down in the streets. The sad day has come when the rights of animals outweigh the rights of children. George Zimmerman was very fortunate, running into Trayvon, because if he had approached a real thug, or a grown man, he would be the one dead, and of course the other party would be in JAIL!
They should pull your teaching license. I love how someone with ZERO intelligence is teaching our kids. Gotta love union work.
It is clear there was a fight but if zimmerman believed even mistakenly he was in danger of his life then by law he can use deadly force. Lots of homeless are killed by police and police say the were attacked by a screwdriver.Nothing happens to the police Zimmerman walks with the most manslaughter. Out in two years.
It's sad when this 28 year old 235 lbs plus vigilante chases down a skinny 6 ft (140 lbs) teenager then began beating him, the kid is now in a fight for his life from his attacker, then gets murdered for trying to defend himself from Zimmerman.
The telephone conversation Zimmerman made to the police dispatcher cements his guilt.
No one is going to try and convince me that a skinny 140 lbs kid is going to pick a fight with a 235 lbs plus lbs 28 year old man who is following him to the point the kid becomes afraid and starts running away from Zimmerman, Zimmerman pursue his victim murdering the teenager.
Other than insulting the writer, you haven't articulated what you felt was wrong with her rationale.
Hopefully there will be teachable moments for not only the students and teachers but for those outside the educational setting who unfortunately get their moments primarily from the 24HR News Media. Serious discussions of causes of such disasters take second place behind the screaming and finger pointing from both sides and this becomes the "highlight" of the News programming. The fears and anxieties of all need to be discussed openly and frankly. Thanks you Dr. Jackson for the dedication and effort you have put forth!
A teachable moment indeed. I had a powerpoint prepared for my class of Dual Language Kindergarteners today. Basically many stills of Trayvon gathered from the news stories. When I finally showed them the one of his killer, they all "snapped" that the boy in the photos was the one in the new reports. They all had discussed the tragedy at their homes. The discussion was about bullying, violence, and what to do in case we were ever in the same situation. The final project was a shadow cutout of each child wearing their hoodie. It is never too early to speak about justice.
Go ahead and teach your kids to hate and to blame others before they know the facts. You should teach them not to start a fight with someone who you think is following you and then threaten their life.
Police cam video shows him shortly after the arrest and he was remarkably unbloodied for someone who claimed to have had his head pounded repeatedly into the pavement. Perhaps you haven't had time yet to gather all the facts. I thought the writer's point was that this was an opportunity to teach why hate — and reactive anger — is not a solution, because she's astute enough to understand that teenagers need adults to "meet them where they are."
Lady, you are as bad as the rest imbiciles for sensationalizing this young mans life. How on earth can you paint a portrait to children of a innocent young man and a devil killer when you yourself do not have proper facts. This boy was by no means innocent and his parents were by no means role models. He may have never had criminal charges but his issues in school and habitual truancy state otherwise. You vindicate Zimmerman as a man out for death when NO ONE knows exactly how it happened. The stories of people associated with Zimmerman are going to paint him innocent and the stories of people with Martin will do the same.
How dare you affect the teachings of little children based on your own racial biases. You have no right to impose your judgement on children. You want to know why this country is in the shape it is in, it is because people like you believe their loving and warm version of what ever story they are telling is the truth and influence those around them to believe the same thing.
Grow up, stop judging people without yourself being judged and stop the racial epithats.
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at email@example.com