1st Edition

Not Light, but Fire How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom

By Matthew Kay Copyright 2018

    Do you know how to initiate and facilitate productive dialogues about race in your classroom? Are you prepared to handle complex topics while keeping your students engaged? Inspired by Frederick Douglass's abolitionist call to action, it is not light that is needed, but fire-, author Matthew Kay demonstrateshow to move beyond surface-level discussionsand lead students through the most difficult race conversations. In Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom, Kay recognizes we often never graduate to the harder conversations,so he offers a method for getting them right, providing candid guidance on: How torecognize the difference between meaningful and inconsequential race conversations.How tobuild conversational safe spaces,- not merely declare them.How toinfuse race conversations with urgency and purpose.How tothrive in the face of unexpected challenges.How administrators mightequip teachers to thoughtfully engage in these conversations.With the right blend of reflection and humility, Kay assertsteachers can make school one of the best venues for young people to discuss race.

    Introduction Not Light, But Fire: The Case for Meaningful Conversations; Part 1: The Ecosystem; Chapter 1: Demystifying the “Safe Space”; Chapter 2: Developing your “Talking Game”; Chapter 3: Structuring Your Dialogic Curriculum; Chapter 4: Establishing Your Purpose; Part 2: A Study of Conversations; Chapter 5: The N-Word: Facing It Head-On; Chapter 6: “Say It Right”: Unpacking the Cultural Significance of Names; Chapter 7: Playing the Other: Thoughtfully Tackling Cultural Appropriation; Chapter 8: Pop-Up Conversations: The 2016 Presidential Election


    Matthew R. Kay is a proud product of Philadelphia’s public schools and a founding teacher at Science Leadership Academy (SLA). He is a graduate of West Chester University and holds a Masters in Educational Leadership with a Principals’ Certificate from California University of Pennsylvania.

    A reminder to educators to not sidestep or oversimplify conversations about race, but to engage students in them as scholars with voices and experiences that are just as important as those of the adult in the classroom. I’m in love with Matthew’s book. He writes with clarity, passion, and backs up everything he says with experiences or history that hits you right in the chest. As an educator in the world today, we owe it to our students to listen to what Matthew Kay has to say. This is the book we need to shift the "tried and tired" practice of touting empty rhetoric about race to a practice that puts us firmly on a pathway toward achieving racial equity. Matt is a master facilitator and shares the tools every teacher needs to hone their practice to make conversations about race commonplace. Thoughtful, timely, and beautifully written. I found myself thinking, "How different would the field of education be if Matt Kay had advised John Dewey? How different would I be if Matt Kay had been my teacher?" The answer: radically so. He is that important, and his work on race is that essential.