I am a teaching artist at Aptos Middle School in San Francisco. I was hired to teach media literacy, zine making, media arts, and storytelling.
Recently, Aptos was in the news. The initial reporting (both the original article and the subsequent 5th and Mission podcast) by Heather Knight in the San Francisco Chronicle had a lot of racially coded language in it. She was trying to tell a story of a public school who has a lack of resources and is trying to address the myriad reasons violence and bullying erupts in its building and on its grounds. But that story got told through a series of framing devices that code race without ever mentioning race.
This article was released the same week that sixth grade students at Aptos had organized a student walkout to spotlight the need for more resources at their school, which has over 1000 students, who have a diverse set of needs. Unfortunately, the student organizers also had to address the racially coded language in Heather Knights article while also trying to shine a light on their real issue: the need for more resources at their school.
I was supposed to teach at Aptos on Thursday. I couldn't. Instead, there was a sixth-grade-wide assembly during the period I was going to teach about how we can solve social issues, complete with other students I've been supporting at Aptos facilitating a large portion of the workshop. It was unfortunate, and also it's an opportunity.
The art I make always responds to the contexts around me as they emerge and as I become aware of them. This incident with terribly biased reporting is an opening to a deeper conversation about how Aptos students can gain control over their narratives even in the midst of a story that got told (and sold) by someone not from their community in a manner that has the potential to sow divisiveness within and fracture the Aptos community.
So....I've completely changed the lessons I was going to teach, so that we can dig deeper into conversations about stories and representation and ethics and truths. One lesson includes a panel with community journalists where sixth graders will be asking them about racial / sexual / economic bias in reporting, fake news, and journalistic accountability. And...I'll be getting all of the students to write their own My Aptos Story zine!
Here's the basic outline for the next few workshop's I'll be teaching / co-teaching:
Week 1 (done): Memes + Media
Week 2: What's the Issue? / This I believe:_____ zines with Peer Resources
Week 3: Community Journalism Panel w/ 48 Hills, people.power.media, and Mission Local
Week 4: My Aptos Story, The Outline
Week 5: My Aptos Story, The Style + Aesthetic
Week 6: My Aptos Story, The Details
Week 7: My Aptos Story, The Draft
Week 8: My Aptos Story, The Zines!
I'll be back and include some photos from the work created along with all the templates I'm creating to help the students craft informational, persuasive, autobiographical, or speculative stories.
For now, check out my video updates from the two days of activity and how I'm navigating everything as it unfolds.