Maranacook Community Middle School hosted a discussion over Google Meets about racism. The idea stems from a book that the students read in class about civil rights. Emily Duggan via Google Meets

READFIELD — On Thursday, Maranacook Community Middle School teachers Jean Roesner and Dan Holman gathered community members and a couple of Maranacook Community High School students for a discussion about racism to emphasize what middle schoolers learned over the past couple of months.

Through “the bean process,” students at Maranacook Community Middle School have the opportunity to have a say on the topics they would like to learn about.

The students chose civil rights and equality.

The prescribed process intertwines the topic into the student’s core classes. In social studies they learned about the history of Martin Luther King Jr., and in language arts they read King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Overall, though, the students focused on reading a book called “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. The book was the focus of the discussion about racism between students and community members, hosted on Google Meets sessions as a culmination of what they learned.

“It has been eye opening,” Roesner said.

She said the book was chosen by the Western Maine Education Collaborative, a group of area superintendents.

Roesner said she learned along with the students. At first, she said, it was difficult teaching the lesson in a majority white community such as the Readfield-area. According to the 2010 census, the town of Readfield is 97% white.

“They don’t always see it (racism) because they are in a 100% white community,” she said. “As we were doing ‘the bean process,’ the Black Lives Matter movement was active, and we were asking questions and so were they.”

The discussion Roesner and Holman put together reached members of Readfield Community Library. They, along with the high school students, guided the discussion for the middle school students.

The high school students were trained Wednesday by David Patrick of Racial Equality and Justice to lead the discussion based around prompts Roesner and Holman wrote about “Stamped.”

The 30 community members were scattered among one of the four discussions throughout the day.

Christine Olson, a community participant, encouraged the middle school students to think outside of their comfort zone and to share a time when they recognized having a white privilege.

Student Cameron Muniz spoke on recognizing privilege through recourses the school has, like the ability for students to get their own laptops for learning.

Maranacook Community Middle School hosted a discussion over Google Meets about racism. The idea stems from a book that the students read in class about civil rights. Emily Duggan via Google Meets

“Sometimes the things become obvious to us, so we don’t think about it,” high school student Thomas Poling said to Olson’s question. “We do have privilege and we need to think about it.”

Roesner said she emphasized to the students the power youth have in making change to the country.

“Anything of value that changed society has started with youth,” she said. “When we talk about Parkland and all those things that are changing society, they all started with young people.

“It’s part of why we chose to have student facilitators,” Roesner added. “It’s an opportunity to step up and learn how to be an agent of change.”

For the most part, the teachers received support from the community — the only criticism received about the event was through Facebook when Roesner invited community members to participate.

She said a parent who is an immigrant himself, was worried the discussion could turn into “us versus them.” Roesner invited him to one of the discussion times, and he was able to share and educate students on his experiences.

She was grateful that he was open to participating.

“This to me is a very tough conversation,” Roesner said. “But it’s a very important conversation.”


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