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Archive for the ‘LESSON PLANS’ Category

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO BE MORE INCLUSIVE

14 Jul

One way to identify your prejudices is to think of any group with which you identify – city dweller, country, suburbanite, athlete, theater or certain type of music lover, ethnic group, Republican, Democrat and so on. Then, identify any groups viewed as different from or in actual opposition to your group.

teacher at front of class with students raising there hands

School is a great laboratory for this. The cliques even have names: The jocks, the theater kids, the dropouts, the brainiacs, the popular kids,

Trust me, if any group is seen as opposite or very different from your group, you will have been given some misinformation about them. Catholics have been given misinformation about Protestants and Protestants misinformation about Catholics. Young misunderstand old and old misunderstand young. Smokers think nasty thoughts about non-smokers and non-smokers say negative things about smokers.

What jokes do people tell about a neighboring state to yours? If you live in Minnesota, you know the Wisconsin jokes, but you don’t necessarily know what they say in Montana about people who live in Idaho. It’s almost like sibling rivalry. When you were growing up, you might have mocked your brother or sister because they were in close proximity and you’re were defining yourself against them.

Groups define themselves in part by who they are not. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just when we start to rank who’s cool (us) and who’s not (them) that we get in trouble.

Our prejudices can be endless and take consistent awareness to weed them out.

 
 

IF YOU CAN THINK, YOU CAN BE FREE OF STEREOTYPING

07 Jul

Because teachers are such thoughtful people who have chosen a profession precisely because they do care, it’s easy to believe we don’t have any prejudices.

Elementary StudentsPrejudice and discrimination are diseases of the mind and heart. When our thinking becomes faulty, it’s easy to draw assumptions about others that simply aren’t true. When you are not feeling good about yourself, when your own heart is troubled, you can project your negative feelings on other individuals or groups of people.

What happens in your mind and your feelings can make your and other people’s lives easier or harder.

It’s summer break. Finally, we’re away from the daily demands of our students. It’s a great time to reflect: what groups am I the most uncomfortable with or know the least about? What assumptions did I receive from my family, my ethnic and income group and this society that label others as “less than”? How can I dispute these stereotypes and learn more about and experience the complexity of other individuals and cultures?

What happens in your mind and your feelings can make your classroom, and this world, a kinder place.

 

 

 

 
 

A New 4th of July?

30 Jun

I never gave it a thought. The Pledge of Allegiance was just how we started each day in our grammar school classrooms. First we faced the crucifix at the front of the room and said our prayers, then we quarter-turned to the flag. The whole room filled with the smell of our newly-sharpened pencils laid to rest in long grooves at the top of our desks. That was how everyday started.

StudentsFold_FlagWe had our ritual beginning – pencil sharpening, prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the Pledge of Allegiance wasn’t a mindless activity for many. Americans of color: Japanese-Americans, Latino Americans, African Americans, members of First Nations and others have told me that when the Pledge of Allegiance was recited in their classrooms they stood, but never put their hands to their hearts or said the words. Another colleague described how he crossed his fingers behind his back and mouthed his own words, “And to the Republic for which it lies.”

These friends’ and colleagues’ ancestors had been rounded up and herded onto slave ships or behind barbed wire “camps” or onto “reservations.” The heroes I celebrated without a thought – George Washington, Andrew Jackson or FDR – had kidnapped, tortured, massacred or imprisoned tens of thousands of my friends’ ancestors. When they were growing up, they knew first hand of the discrimination in housing, religion, sports, entertainment and education to name just that their parents faced. Of course, the Pledge of Allegiance meant something different to them. “It’s not that we didn’t love our country,” one storyteller friend told me, “but we were just a whole lot more realistic about how much the U.S. was living up to its promise of ‘freedom and justice for all’.”

It troubled me when I heard my friends’ young protests or awareness had to be hushed and hidden. Is it time that we can admit that this country has and does work better for some than others? Is there room in our American classrooms now for these alternative experiences and, therefore, expressions of anger and frustration?

When I was growing up in the 1950s, we were never taught the full American story and, because of that, our ignorance left us ill equipped to do our part to shape American ideals into American realities. This 4th of July, can we celebrate freedom from our ignorance of the full American story and freedom of expression for all our students?

 
 

Spotlight on Asian Americans: Time to Educate Ourselves

19 May

How much do you and your students know about Asian Americans? Do they know the discrimination Asian Americans have faced and survived?

 

In the first hundred plus years of living on U.S. soil, Asian Americans were singled out and victimized by discriminating behaviors and laws by European settlers. They were lynched, murdered, rounded up and marched out of communities. They were not allowed by law to stand witness against any white man in court, could not own land, were forbidden to immigrate, imprisoned in government incarceration camps, forbidden to marry out of their own ethnic group and more.

 
 

Fair Housing Month – The Third Wave of Segregation

21 Apr

City Council Chambers

We’ve taken a brief look at the history of segregation in the U.S. Well, things are different today, right?  Unfortunately, that isn’t so. Even though housing laws have changed, rather than being a break from our past, our current living patterns are the next reincarnation in a continual thread of inequality. Today, we’re experiencing a third wave of segregation, based on economics, needing no conscious ill-intent to or from any person or any group of people and, yet, this third wave can have the same effect of the last two waves by locking in poverty and segregation in our country for the next hundred years.

Make no mistake; there is still blatant discrimination. There are realtors who steer families to segregated neighborhoods. There are mortgage officers who refuse applicants loans for racial, ethnic and religious reasons. There are insurance agents who quote prices unfairly. These individual, illegal examples are serious.  But even more dangerous is the invisible segregation of today, precisely because it needs no ill-intent and can be so hard to see. For the most part, we do not have the cross burnings, mob violence, bullying realtors, and obvious unrestrained greed of old. However, we do have tax structures, other public policies and private business practices that are increasing the gulf between the have’s and the have not’s in this society at an alarming rate. We still have the myth of meritocracy: work hard and you’ll get ahead. But, when we study the less obvious public policies that are still in effect today and how the past is still influencing the present, we start to see the ways the deck is stacked for and against certain groups of people.

When we look back at the first and second wave of segregation, we can think, “How could people not know this was going on?” But will we ask the same thing about this, the third wave of segregation that continues today? Are we aware of the larger forces that control where we live, the opportunities that they open or close and what is happening to people in other parts of our cities. It is my hope that we won’t look back some day on this, the third wave of segregation, with the same surprised defense, “But I didn’t know!”

Next week: But What Do I Do?

 
 

For Black History and Always: I Am Somebody

24 Feb

Students need to know that their families and their cultures – and, therefore, they – are welcome in the classroom. A great way to do this is to take Linda Christensen’s idea featured in the wonderful book Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practice Guide to K-12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development called “Where I’m From: Inviting Student Lives Into the Classrooms.”

Have your students make up their own “I Am Somebody” or “I Am From” poems by first making lists of:

  • Items found in their homes
  • Items found in their yards
  • Items found in their neighborhood
  • Names of relatives – especially ones linked to the past
  • Family sayings
  • Names of foods served at family gatherings
  • Names of places where the family has lived or visited
  • People – past and present – from their culture who they admire

 

Then, with a link between images such as “I Am…” or “I Am From…” have students write a first draft. Next, have the students read to each other with no specific comments. Just being heard can help the students feel cared for. Then, you can have a general discussion of what made certain phrases stand out such as specificity of detail, metaphor or humor and the students can try one more draft.

Here are a couple excerpt examples from Linda Christensen’s article “Where I’m From: Inviting Student Lives Into the Classrooms”and my work with teens:

I am from awapuhi ginger

Sweet fields of sugar cane

And green bananas

*

I am from get-togethers

And Barbeques

Salsa dancing on the back porch

*

I am from Kunta Kinte’s strength

Harriet Tubman’s escapes

Phyllis Wheatley’s poems

And Sojourner Truth’s faith

*

In this video, storyteller, Linda Gorham, shares her “I Am Somebody” story and reminds us that “We are products of the people who came before us and the preparation for the future.” 

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTINUING A BLACK HISTORY FOCUS

17 Feb

We cannot underestimate the impact of what storyteller Anne Shimojima calls “looking into the mirror of life and never seeing your own reflection.” In this video “Taming the Fire“, story artist Sheila Arnold describes her teenage discovery of African American History. Luckily for Sheila, she had a teacher who understood Sheila’s anger at not learning about her heritage. Her teacher appreciated Sheila’s passionate and rightful desire for the truth and was able to transform that energy into inspiration for herself and all of her students.

Sometimes, those of us who are not identified as African American, think of Black History in terms of when Americans of African descent got the right to vote or sit at a lunch counter. The obstacles faced were so much deeper and wider than that and included: the right to know your name, the right to know your family, the right to hold office, the right to be in the military, the right to sign contracts, the right to buy homes, the right to enter most professions, the right to read, the right to go to school, the right to medical care, the right to refuse sterilization, the right to give evidence against a white man, the right to live without constant threat of physical harm and death to you and your loved ones and on and on. The fact that in spite of all this danger, disrespect and discrimination African Americans made contributions in every field of American life is a true testament to the human spirit.

In order to survive and even thrive under this constant onslaught to their humanity African Americans were able to lean on the gifts from their African cultures as well as develop a unique African American culture that is nurturing, strong and varied. Each African American child deserves to know about the beauty and struggle from which they come and all American students need to understand and appreciate how the United States is as democratic and as true to its ideals as it is because of African Americans.

 

 

Are You Unintentionally Offending Someone?

10 Feb

Because of how most of us were raised, we can all un-intentionally hurt others or even discriminate against them. The point is: are we willing to learn when someone takes the time to point out our mistakes and, after that, do we behave differently? In this video, storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston’s feedback on how black students are being treated at her school falls on deaf ears.

Do you know how you come across to other people?

What you think of yourself and how others see you might be two very different things. What’s funny is that many of us are shy or downright scared of asking for feedback. But what people think of you is still there, right?

We can’t do something about something if we don’t know it’s there. Especially when it comes to race relations, how are we going to improve if we don’t know what to improve?

It takes a lot of confidence to say, “That was my mistake” or “I can do better” but it makes you a much easier person to be with and others will see as a reliable and approachable friend and ally.

 

 
 

BRING BLACK HISTORY INTO THE PRESENT

01 Feb

Black History

With budget cuts at every level of education, it’s rare when a teacher can arrange a field trip to a national monument or organization. Thank goodness for the web! This February, during your Black History celebrations, why not rely on virtual experiences to give your students new encounters and increased understanding without the cost or time away from the classroom?

You can create a virtual Black Issues scavenger hunt for your middle and high school students using this resource:

http://bit.ly/tJv2aI

Focusing on African American history without showing how the past is still affecting the present leaves our students without an understanding of today’s challenges and how they might one day make a difference. This resource centers on the hurdles African Americans face today because of the institutional racism of the past.

Have students work in teams to search these papers for facts on disparities in testing, economic mobility, school discipline and suspensions and the like. The victories and achievements African Americans continuously make despite ongoing discrimination is a cause for celebration and inspiration for all Americans.

 

A LARGER HISPANIC APPRECIATION

23 Sep

hhmWhen you celebrate Hispanic heritage month this September and October, remember to present the true facts: Hispanic Americans have been making contributions to life in the U.S. even before this country was a country.

For example, the Spanish-founded San Miguel de Gualdape, Georgia was the first European settlement in North America. It was founded in 1526, 81 years before Jamestown, Virginia, the first English settlement. Also, St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the United States, was founded in 1565 by Spanish admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and subsequently served as the capital of Spanish Florida for two hundred years.

Yes, guide your students to learn about and compare Hispanic cultural experiences, holidays and contributions but also help them examine the mainstream culture’s lens through which cultures are ranked and valued. As the editors of “Beyond Heroes and Holidays” state: “It is impossible to develop genuinely multicultural curricula from only the dominant perspective because it illuminates only one set of experiences.”

Why do we know so much more about English history in this country and not Spanish? Why do we talk about the current “growing diversity” in our country when the truth is this continent has always had a rich diversity of people, languages, systems of government and so forth?

For a business perspective that details the growth of Hispanic influence in the U.S., go to:
http://conill.com/images/uploads/thinking/The_Hispanic_Influence_on_America.pdf

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