Elizabeth Kleinrock

Citizens of the World Charter School, Los Angeles CA

Research in South Africa the history of Apartheid, how the social construction of race has influenced communities outside of the United States, and how restorative justice practices can be used in reconciliation and healing efforts to inform an anti-bias curriculum for elementary aged students.

Where I've Been

  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Johannesburg , South Africa

My Fellowship in Images

Meeting some neighborhood kids while staying in Soweto township. The diversity of this small group reflects how the demographics of the townships have shifted since apartheid ended.
Mo, one of the founders of the Kliptown Youth Program. KYP provides meals and tutoring to children in Kliptown, which has no running water, public schools, or hospitals.
On a tour of Robben Island, our guide was a formerly incarcerated inmate who was arrested as a student for planning a protest.
Learning from the amazing men at the 18 Gangster Museum in the Khayelitsha township. The museum seeks to educate youth about the dangers of gang involvement.
Staying with Kamamma in Soweto for a few days was the highlight of this fellowship. Three generations of her family live under one roof, and it was amazing to be included in their family and learn about apartheid through oral histories.
The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg was incredibly emotional. I could have spent all day there, absorbing and reading this history.

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

This experience was transformative for my personal growth and understanding of my own identity. I learned so much about the power of oral histories, conducting interviews, and building relationships with the people I met. I feel as though my lens of the world has shifted, and I now analyze and critique systems of power and privilege in ways I didn't recognize before this fellowship.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

I want to draw on the power of oral histories in the classroom, and make space for families and caregivers to share their narratives with our students. I also want to focus on critiquing systems of power, rather than individuals, and teach students about resistance movements with equal weight to how we teach about oppression. This experience has also inspired me to go through my classroom books with a fine tooth comb to dispose of texts that are written from a colonizer lens.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

I am proudest of the relationships I built with the people I met from this experience. I opted to stay with a family in the Soweto township, and it was amazing how quickly we bonded. Additionally, I encountered a number of artists and community activists in the few weeks I was in South Africa, and we've consistently kept in touch since I returned. One man focused on amplifying creativity in the Black community is actually coming to visit me in LA this fall!

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

I now have so many resources and firsthand experiences to share with my students that will build context around our work towards social justice. I returned with armfuls of books, graphic novels, and primary sources that show how systems of oppression were constructed to marginalize people of color, including many for young audiences. Additionally, I was reminded to elevate the identities of students, and make them feel proud and inspired to be exactly who they are.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

This year, I am also taking on the role of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator for my school and will be leading professional development for over 100 staff members. In my grade level team, I plan on sharing the resources and lessons I developed from this fellowship, which will be implemented across all classes. I will also be supporting staff in restorative justice practices as alternatives to traditional discipline, which I was also able to study during my fellowship.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

My school has exhibition nights, where student work and performances are displayed for the community. I want to show authentic inquiries and learning experiences of my students in order to show the adults of the community just how necessary social justice and anti-racism is within the school, and inspire them to participate. I envision my students voicing their experiences and questions in a way that is empowering them to make changes in their own lives and communities.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

I think adults often see conversations around race and difference as "divisive" just because they are not comfortable with these topics, and too often we assume that children are too young to participate. However, I have found that students are even more engaged when discussing social justice topics, and their eagerness and abilities demonstrate that we need to work past our discomfort in order for truths to be heard and begin healing as a nation. Our students set the example for the rest of us.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

This fellowship changed my life and allowed me to experience something I never would have been able to afford or achieve on my own. Teachers deserve everything that we advocate for our students: Creativity, hands on learning, and passion projects. Going into my seventh year in the classroom, this opportunity was just what I needed to feel invigorated, and I'm so excited to get back to school this fall!