Kelly King is the High School Dean of Curriculum & Instruction at The Soulsville Charter School (TSCS). This is her fourth year at TSCS. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she graduated from Amherst College in 2010 with a degree in Black Studies. Before joining the TSCS family, she spent several years teaching U.S. History, APUSH, and African-American Studies and served as an instructional coach in northern Mississippi. During those years, she also attended the University of Mississippi, earning her Master’s and Specialist degrees in Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Leadership. She now lives in Bartlett with her husband, Derek (also a school administrator) and her two-year old son Decklen.
The year before Kelly joined TSCS, when she initially moved from Mississippi, she worked at Memphis Scholars Raleigh-Egypt Middle School where she was hired to develop and teach an African-American studies class for 6th-8th grade students. The second half of that course focused on John Lewis’ MARCH series. This summer the TSCS leadership team met frequently to discuss how they would address anti-racism with our students and staff given the dire racial climate in the nation. Because of her background in Black studies, the team asked if she would be willing to write a curriculum, which could be used in 6th-11th grade during advisory.
Kelly created this curriculum with the goal of specifically addressing what all of us bore witness to this spring: the largest civil rights movement in history, which centers, very specifically, on Black lives. Her goal is to help students connect what they are seeing and hearing on their televisions and computers daily, to relevant historical events.
In addition, John Lewis’ recent passing highlighted the importance of TSCS students knowing and understanding the history of Black resistance and leadership in response to racism.
According to Kelly, “I love MARCH because as a graphic novel it’s super appealing to students and easy to read. I also love how it showcases resistance to racism, particularly amongst young people. In the curriculum, we use the events in MARCH to learn more about the history of racist structures and connect them with more recent events.”
Kelly points out that, for example, in the next lesson, the curriculum will compare the murder of Emmett Till and the subsequent trial in the 1950s, with the recent Amy Cooper incident and the Breonna Taylor case. “All of these issues help students to discuss broader terms like racism, systemic racism, and equity,” she says. “Overall we want students to feel like they have a safe place to talk about these issues and for them to be able to name and speak against white supremacy when they see it, so that they can become better advocates for themselves and their communities.
Kelly says that as the curriculum progresses, the curriculum will also explore what voices or issues were left out of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s, what issues are more relevant today, and how TSCS can ensure it is using the tenets of antiracism to become better allies for all oppressed people.
Currently, all 6th – 11th grade teaching staff are teaching the curriculum as well as some administrators and CAST members. TSCS is scheduled for one 90-minute lesson per month during afternoon advisory, but after getting feedback from students and teachers about wanting/ needing more time to discuss, Kelly has adjusted the schedule to also include three 10-15 minute mini-lessons during morning advisory during the weeks 90-minute lessons are scheduled. So in total it is about 120 minutes of instruction per month.
TSCS has had only one lesson so far, but Kelly says students have really responded well to the content and are eager to talk about current events with their advisors. For lesson #1, some advisories ran over or ran out of time because they were having such rich discussions, hence expanding the content over more days. The second lesson will be the first week of November.