Sunday, January 20, 2013

Difference is beautiful.

Teaching is often heartbreaking. I am trying to keep my head up after a very heart-wrenching week, for a myriad of reasons. I imagine this is only the beginning of feeling downtrodden in this career, but I know the rewards are greater than the challenges--- this, too, shall pass.
Tomorrow, of course, commemorates MLK's birthday. My students are always incredibly engaged when learning about him--one of my African American students proudly raised her hand and proclaimed she was African American, too! I adore talking to my students about race and hearing their insightful comments. What is often tricky is when some of my Latino students look at their skin and notice it is lighter than others who may be Mexican just like them, or darker than mine, and yet we still are some form of Latino, but this often gets mixed with saying "I'm white!" even though none of my students would be considered white by American standards. Phenotypically, some of them are very light-skinned, but none Caucasian. I know some might be reading this and thinking "What does it matter, anyway?! We are all equal!" I believe the intricacies of race relations of United States are incredibly important in considering when teaching our young ones. These early conversations are key to identity formation. If we as teachers can guide our students to think about their skin color or difference from others and celebrate that, I think we're doing well by our diverse country. Every person's experience is quite different from the next, so to say we are all the "same" on the inside is to deny the different, beautiful experiences that make up who we are. This doesn't have to be race could be socio-economic, cultural (which is often intersected with race), religious, or whathaveyou...we are all different and this is why our nation is special and great. I've been thinking of how to portray this in a lesson...I like doing activities in which my students can see in what ways they are similar and different from all aspects, by sharing our connections with one another, and also by sometimes having a completely different perspective on something. We can learn from eachother's varied experiences, celebrate them, and relate to each other with our similarities as well. To say we are all the same on the inside, though, I think ignores the beauty and excitement in difference. Children don't all learn the same way, they don't like the same foods, they don't experience the same family structures or communication styles at home, so why tell them they are all the same? I, of course, still struggle with how this looks in first grade... but I think this PBS article does a good job of summarizing what I feel about encouraging knowledge about diversity in the classroom and beyond.
Any suggestions on an MLK related activity where we celebrate both differences and similarities?

Outside of school land, I've spent a huge majority of today nested in my favorite chair with my favorite blanket, devouring (and finishing) a Lisa See book (Dreams of Joy), watching David play Zelda for hours upon hours, and watching bits of the 49er game with friends. I'm not really a football fan, but I'm a Bay Area fan, so I'm rooting for the 49ers (I suppose). I much prefer baseball, but it's not hard to get caught up in the excitement. I'm not necessarily wearing my red and gold, but I'm happy for the city across the bay.
Well, back to watching David destroy more odd creatures and chase after the ever-elusive Zelda.

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