Archives For September 2013

It’s embarrassing how little I know about Hispanic contributions. You can see below in my own answers to the question I posed earlier this week. (Click for the original post)

I attribute my ignorance to several things.

1)     I didn’t have a lot of Hispanic history or Latino literature taught to me in school.  Let me correct myself. I don’t remember any!

2)     I live in a part of the country where the Hispanic culture and heritage is not prevalent.

3)     I get news from sources that inherently can’t cover every story. So what one organization choses to include or not, shapes my understanding of current events.

4)     I view the world through a certain lens. My lens has been formed by my upbringing, my heritage, my education, my location, my circumstances, etc. So I filter information through that perspective.

All of these contributing factors often remain unconscious. Unless, I make an effort to find out what viewpoints I am missing, or who’s story I haven’t heard, I will continue to have a narrow and less rich connection with all those with whom I share this planet. And why would I want of that?

So I continue to find as many windows and mirrors as I can. I continue to seek out multiple stories and multiple perspectives. That helps me understand what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes while deepening my understanding of the world.

Maybe, one day I can also fill in such a list for all the wonderful different human experiences that exist.

Until then, here are my answers and my gaps. Follow the links to learn more about the individuals I named, or wait until next time when I’ll share who they are and what resources you can use with children.

Congress Women

Writer: Julia Alvarez

Picture Book Illustrator: David Díaz

Astronaut:

Nobel Prize Winner

Basketball Player

Union Leader: Cesar Chavez

Senator

Mayor

Governor

Actor

Singer/Musician: Jennifer Lopez

Community Organizer

United States Surgeon

Golfer

Artist: Frieda Kahlo

Baseball Player: Roberto Clemente

 

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How much do you know? Can you name a Hispanic individual in any of  the following categories. But wait. Stop. This isn’t a test of your research skills. Can you do it without asking a friend? Without looking it up on the Internet? Without using your best research tool, aka, your local librarian?

No cheating now. See how many categories you can fill.

Congress Women

Writer

Picture Book Illustratorred-question-mark-circle-clip-art_428358

Astronaut

Nobel Prize Winner

Basketball Player

Union Leader

Senator

Mayor

Governor

Actor

Singer/Musician

Community Organizer

United States Surgeon

Golfer

Artist

Baseball Player

These are just a few to get you started. Do you notice any patterns? Do you think a child under 18 would have different answers? Why? Why not?

Do you have more general knowledge in one area than another? Why do you think that’s so? Do you have lots of gaps? How long did it take you to answer? (You can be honest – at least to yourself.) How did you feel about your answers?

Feel free to share you answers in the comments below.

Share what you know about that person if you know more than a name. If you can, identify that person’s family ancestry or cultural heritage.  If you feel comfortable sharing your own ethnicity, please do. How do you think this does or does not  influences your knowledge base?

How did you learn about this person? Were you taught it in the educational system? Do you think you should have been? Could you answer these same questions if they were for a different cultural group? Could you answer all of them if you were thinking about White European Americans? Why do you think you answered the way you did?

Obviously, this exercise is meant to be thought provoking rather than let’s try and pass the test. (Though do keep an eye out for answers in the next post!) What did you just discover?

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Today I asked my third graders if they could name anyone of Hispanic descent. They could list a someone they knew personally, a person from history, or a figure from pop culture.

Their lists weren’t long. In fact. Most were blank.

I wasn’t surprised given the community in which I teach. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for first hand encounters. And so my work begins. Unless I or other adults explicitly have conversations about the rich Hispanic heritage, history, and accomplishment, their lists will remain short.

It was time to lead the children to find stories. My third graders are fairly good at knowing how to solve information problems. So they eagerly rose to the challenge of using the library catalog to find biographies.

I recommend keywords – in this case, search terms like Latino/Latina, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, Dominican, Mexican-American, Chilean, etc. I remind students of the definitions of Hispanic and Latino/Latina. I also provide them with a few examples. This helps the class brainstorm more names to use in their searches.

One of the biographies that provided my readers with a window

The children know how to identify the call number of a book in their computer search. Then they use that to locate the book on the shelf. So they fly to the next step. Reading the book which offers them a window into new experiences, and a peek into an unfamiliar culture. I remind them that this is just one person’s particular story of being Hispanic and that like any group of people there are similarities and differences within that group as well as in comparison to another group.

Next week they will craft jeopardy type questions to post around the school to educate others within our community one story at a time.

Just a few weeks ago, you may have taken a moment to reflect on the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the legacy of his “I have a dream speech.” But have you stopped to honor the work of a Mexican American civil rights leader, who almost 50 years ago this week, also changed the face of history?

On September 16th 1965, Cesar Chavez’s union joined with Filipino workers in the Delano Grape Strike and put in to motion the first agricultural strike to be successful in U.S. history. Chavez went on to be an iconic champion for Latino rights. He lead a peaceful 340-mile march, fasted for 25 days, organized boycotts, and served jail time, all of which eventually helped improve the life of thousands of migrant workers -a group with the longest working hours, lowest pay, and shortest life spans.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez,  written by Kathleen Krulll  and  Yuyi Morales.

is a gorgeous picture book, both in its narration and its illustrations. This account of his life is worthy of multiple readings since it rich with themes of courage, perseverance, social justice, family, power dynamics and the hope that we all can create change.

For more wonderful ideas how to use this book click here, Yuyi Morales and

have created a fabulous guide.

May you enjoy it as much as I do.

The air is abuzz with “first day of school ” stories.

Sometimes the stories come riddled with tears and fears. (And this can be as true for the new teachers as for new students). Sometimes stories tumble over each other in a long stream of “and then, and then, and…..” Sometimes moments are retold that make your heart melt.

No matter the emotion, or the circumstance, stories abound for a reason.

My virtual mentor, Angela Maiers, educator author and speaker, a guru who I want to be like when I grow up.

Stories entertain us. Stories connect us. Stories help us make sense of experiences. So as the teachers, parents and other adults, who are shaping future generations, we should encourage all story telling.

What better way to empower a child and to confirm that he or she matters than to listen to what he or she has to say. To acknowledge that each one of us has something to offer the world and that every person has skills, talents, and visions worth celebrating. (For a fabulous blog about How people know they matter read this post from Angela Maiers.)

Listening to the stories is crucial but it is equally important to think about what stories you are sharing. When sharing your own personal stories – and what better gift can you offer the young  but stories of your own perspective –  help the child understand that it is but one story from one point of view.  Even in the same class at school, or in the same family, everyone will have a different account of the same moment.

Understanding that multiple perspectives exist, can be a world-rocking concept! To realize that you might perceive a situation entirely differently from someone else is one way to walk in other people’s shoes.

Stories are a great way to get to temporarily try on other people’s shoes. Especially when combined with an explicit discussion of windows and mirrors. ( I will talk more about how to use windows and mirrors and first day of school books next post). It is our job to make sure we are providing as many multiple perspectives and windows and mirrors in the stories we tell, the stories we buy, and the stories that line our shelves. It’s the only way we can give everyone a fair shot at understanding and celebrating our rich diverse world.

Feel free to share your first day of school stories. I would love to hear other perspectives on this exciting age-old ritual.

In a few days my students will tumble through my library doors after a summer of reading stories elsewhere. Like many others I am eagerly preparing for a fresh new year.

I dust the library shelves, create book displays about sustainability, and finalize lesson plans for creating a second grade research project on bento boxes.

Then there is one more important step before I feel ready.  I pull out and study a checklist that I created for myself based on and inspired by the work I so admire at EdChange: Building Equitable and Just Schools, Communities and Organizations through Transformative Action.

So far, I haven’t been able to check anything off the list.  And I don’t expect to. This work is ongoing, though some of it is getting easier.

  1. Do I learn to pronounce each student’s full name correctly? No one should feel like they have to change his or her name to make it easier for me.
  2. Do I continually assess my bias, prejudice and cultural upbringing and how they influence my teaching practices and relations with my colleagues, students and their families?
  3. Do I consciously pay attention to my language and not use expressions which originated from inequities of power?
  4. Am I using materials that are unbiased? If not, do I use it as a teaching tool to help students analyze and recognize it?
  5. Do I help my students unpack the myth of color-blindness? Do I discuss why it is important to acknowledge differences, and not deny another person’s experience that has been shaped by their skin color?
  6. When an issue such as racism or classism comes up in the classroom, do I address it or shy away from it out of fear or ignorance? Neither is a good reason.
  7. Is my curriculum inclusive of a wide range of multiple perspectives all the time or just a token gesture especially during special months?
  8. Do I work toward equity for ALL underrepresented groups? Or for example do I strive for gender equity but not racial equity?
  9. Do I work towards equality or equity?  Do I try and give everybody the same thing which may not be what everyone needs or do I try and change the disparity in access for an underrepresented or disenfranchised person?
  10. Am I constantly working towards understanding my whiteness and the privileges it gives me?

Wish me a good fall and support in accomplishing these goals. May they be useful to you too.

Are you looking for books to help a child understand and or celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year? Keep reading.

Celebrate Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur

by Deborah Heiligman

This book describes how these Jewish Holy days are celebrated around the world. The photographs are National Geographic captivating while the text balances the historic with the contemporary cultural importance of the holidays.

 

 

New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story

by April Halprin Wayland

This charming picture book uses humor to describe the joyous ritual of wiping the slate clean for the new year by apologizing for mistakes in the old. The universality of emotions makes this book accessible to those not familiar with the particular tradition.

 

 

Apples and pomegranates : a family seder for Rosh Hashanah

by Rahel Musleah

This guidebook describes the eight traditional food and their blessings and the sequence in which they eaten. It gives a history or the fruit, recipes and folktales for family discussion.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, World: A Rosh Hashanah Celebration

by Latifa Berry Kropf

This book is ideal for the nursery school age and having a board book about Jewish traditions for young children is a rarity. It compares common birthday activities with the rituals for the Jewish new year celebrations.

L’Shana Tova