Talking Points for Speaking to School Districts
Help us connect with the 600+ school districts in New Jersey and encourage them to implement AAPI Curriculum
Sample three-minute testimony
Hello. My name is _____, and my child is in __ grade at [school]. We were very excited that New Jersey requires the inclusion of Asian American and Pacific Islander history and contributions in K-12 public schools starting this school year, because we think there is a great need for all children to learn that families like ours aren’t forever foreign, but have been an important part of the American story for hundreds of years. It means so much to our children when they learn about people who look like them in school, in a positive light. Education really is our most powerful tool in ensuring that all children grow up knowing we all belong here.
I know our educators already work so hard to do so much.There are some wonderful free curricular resources for Asian American history out there, but handing curriculum over is not enough – teachers also need to be supported with high-quality, in-person professional development. There are PD providers led by AAPI educators right here in New Jersey, such as Immigrant History Initiative or YURI Education Project, who can come to our schools and work with our teachers to talk through what they’re doing now and enhance their practice with both longer lesson plans and bite-sized nuggets of content. A nonprofit called Teach Asian American Stories will even help subsidize the training if cost is a barrier. Our neighbors in Montclair Public Schools did a full-day PD on incorporating Asian American history recently for their social studies teachers, and we heard that teachers were so excited and saying that it was one of the best PDs they’d ever had. We’d love to see this work happen in [your district] as well. I’ll follow up with more resources. Thank you.
Quick talking points
- The mandate requiring the inclusion of Asian American history and contributions in NJ schools didn’t come out of nowhere. Its most powerful advocates were students who had faced prejudice and believed that education was the best way of ensuring that all children grow up knowing they belong.
- With a growing population of Asian American students, we hope our district can be an example to others in implementing this legislation.
- Handing curriculum to teachers is not enough – it’s like giving a vaccine to doctors without teaching them how to administer it. It would be great if we could support our teachers with in-person professional development that provides them with the coaching and resources they need to bring Asian American stories to life in their classrooms.
- We know the district already has a lot on its plate. There’s a nonprofit called Teach Asian American Stories that can help guide us through the resources available, and even help fund a training if cost would be a barrier. The website is www.TeachAsianAmericanStories.org, or I can put you in touch with them directly.
Possible Questions or Objections
Q: Don’t our teachers already have enough to do?
A: Yes! They keep being asked to do more than less. But we hope they don’t see including Asian American history as an extra burden that’s tacked on. They already have to teach American history, and for hundreds of years, Asian Americans have been an important part of that history. It’s just that our stories aren’t always told.
We can support them in incorporating AAPI history by providing high-quality PD that meets them where they are as educators. Even if they only start out by including a story about an Asian American hero on one day a year, we know there’s going to be a child in the classroom who might remember that day years from now.
Q: Isn’t this just another word for CRT? Why do we always have to teach our children that white people are the bad guys?
A:That’s not why I’m here today, and I don’t think that’s the intent of this work. If you’ve ever seen a child light up because she recognized herself in a book or a lesson, you know how powerful it is. Just as it’s important for children to grow up understanding the richness of African American history or the history of Irish and Italian immigration through Ellis Island, we think that all children will benefit from learning about how Asian Americans helped build the railroad, for example, or were agricultural pioneers in California.
Q: Sorry, we just don’t have the budget or enough PD time this year.
A: If cost is an issue, Teach Asian American Stories is happy to help fund the training. If we can’t set aside a half or full day of PD for this, can teachers use their professional learning circle time to go deeper into this work? There are also going to be one-day institutes during the school year, and summer institutes at local teacher ed programs such as Fairleigh Dickinson and Montclair State. It’d be great if some of our teachers could go.
Q: Don’t we have more urgent problems facing us? There are children in our district who still can’t read.
A: I get it. I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game here. I have great faith in our district, and I think if we work together, we can meet all of our children’s needs. At some point, invisibility in the classroom becomes a mental health and public safety issue for Asian Americans. If we can do what we can now, it would mean a lot to families like mine.
Download these talking points as well as a list of resources that you can share with district educators and administrators.