Archives For Empathy Matters

examines how to walk in someone else’s story and consider our interconnection when making decisions. Posted on Tuesdays

Transforming Your Space

after the Class Room Audit

So you’ve read your classroom for the silent messages that your room is sending. ( see here for how to do so)    You’ve determined how welcoming a place it is for multiple identities. Now what?

Here’s the fun part. Think about one thing you can add to your space that will make it a more inclusive environment?

Does that seem overwhelming?

Don’t worry, I’ve tried to make it easier for you.

I’ve  compiled  a sampling of diverse and inclusive resources to provide your students or your own children with mirrors that reflect and validate their own identities and windows that allow a view and an appreciation for identities different than their own. I have tried to provide a variety of materials in various disciplines that would be appropriate for a preschooler to a middle schooler. Click on the picture for my pinterst board of resources and enjoy celebrating all identities.

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 10.12.17 PM

After window shopping and gathering inspiration and ideas, fill out your wish list here.

 

 

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A Non-Judgmental Class Room Audit

Without a word, classrooms send messages about what identities are valued and celebrated. In a diverse society many biases, conscious and unconscious exist. If we don’t resist them we support them by our silence. So take a moment to “read” & reflect on the messages your space is sending?

  • Who is reflected and validated by seeing a mirror in a poster, a dramatic play item, or a book on the bookshelf and so forth?
  • Do those items match the community you serve?
  • Does your space showcase the diversity of society at large?
  • What windows are you providing that will help your community see and appreciate identities different than their own?
  • Whose voices are missing?
  • How might you address your non-judgmental observations about this space?

As an example: Here’s a snapshot of my library audit as it stands at this moment. I haven’t finished decorating but I know what posters I own. I have put books on display about the beginning of school but I know what other books I work hard to have in my collection. However, what non-verbal messages I am sending is what counts. I know I value an inclusive world, but do those who walk into my space know that? I find it valuable to reflect on that as I set up my space for the new year.

Identity Group Who’s on the Walls/ in materials? Who’s missing? Reflections/Notes
Ability Only abled people

On walls – more differently abled people are represented in a scattering of books – El Defo new graphic novel comes to mind

Non-hearing, blind, wheel-chair bound – basically all categories While I have some books about this I don’t have enough in the collection – need to make sure I have some images and work on the books – I know some of the books exist but do I send an obvious message to those who walk in the library that this identity is valued by me?
Age
Ethnicity
Family Structure
Gender Call me Tree A gender-neutral book – how do I convey this in images?
Geographic Region Maybe add blocks for maker space that reflects different cultures
Race
Religion I need to examine this category more closely – don’t know what I have or don’t – certainly don’t have images
Sexual orientation

Take a moment to jot down your own reflections about the journey that you are on and the one you want to provide your students. Feel free to share you observations in the comments below.

 

Call me naive. But I just don’t understand why people are so threatened by a book that can expand a child’s understanding of the world. I am talking about the hullabaloo surrounding the magnificent picture book, Golden Domes, Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors.  domesWhile I am late to the controversy, I want to add my two cents to the conversation. Mainly because the whole brouhaha is a perfect example of why we MUST give children all sorts of windows and mirrors. If we do not share stories from a range of multiple perspectives, then fear will flourish and people will wage war rather than create connections.

If, like me, you are just discovering that there was both a twitter battle and a parent who returned the book in disgust, you might be imagining a very toxic book. However, Hena Khan’s powerfully simple, rhyming text merely shares with the reader traditions and colors of Islam. The artwork by Mehrdokht Amini bathes the reader in the beauty of this way of being in the world.

Yet certain “gatekeepers” feel like it is their obligation to protect children.

But what could be possibly threatening about a culturally specific example of the universal concept of helping those in need?giveneed

I can only imagine the fear that makes someone react to a recommendation or purchase of the book with the stance that “Islam is dangerous” (part of the twitter battle with author/ former educator Kate Messner) or  “I don’t want this culture around my children,…Learn to read and write before we start teaching (about) the fanaticals.” (Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Father upset after child finds Muslim book at school fair.)

While there are individuals in any group who may have extreme views or behaviors if we as the adult “gatekeepers” don’t expose children to multiple stories about multiple ways of being, we are accomplices in perpetuating intolerance and terror.

ImagePhoto from http://plusmood.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/museum-of-tolerance-renovation-07.jpg

If you’re in Los Angeles, don’t leave without visiting the Museum of Tolerance. The 1993 museum was designed to examine racism and prejudice. My exploration was too brief, but it got me thinking.

What would I include in my museum of tolerance? What would you?

What stories /histories of injustice, hate, intolerance, civil right abuses, human right abuses would you highlight? Why? What would you say?

What legacies should children not forget? Are there stories not told in your region that should be included? For example have you heard of the 1946 Ca civil rights segregation case Mendez vs Westminister ?  I hadn’t.

How would you bring these stories to life? What medium? How would you engage the visitor?

How would you spark dialogue or broaden horizons to be inclusive of many multiple perspectives? 

Below are some exhibits that the educational arm of the Human Rights Simon Wiesenthal center includes. Use them to get you thinking.

Glossaries : What words are important to share? How would you define them? Does everyone agree with that definition?

Timelines:  What would you include? How far back? How detailed? Would you want to highlight big themes? Or focus on one topic and go into great detail?

Multimedia exhibit about a time of injustice:  One exhibit is the Holocaust. What would yours be?

Tolerance center: How would you encourage genuine celebration of differences?

Point of view diner: What controversial topics would you include to help viewers tackle their personal responsibility for an issue?

Globalhate.com: What sites do you think promote fear, hate, injustice, prejudice?

Making your mark: How would you encourage others to make their mark?

Finding our families ourselves: What stories do we need to preserve? Why? What do families have in common in the U.S?

Special exhibits: I saw Para Todos Los Niños – how Mexican families fought for equal education in Ca. Other special exhibits included toys from trash, Black is a Color, and Albanian Muslims saving Jews during the Holocaust. What special exhibits would you create?

I’d love to hear plans for your museum of tolerance. And maybe before we know it, they will pop up everywhere and we can all learn from each other’s stories of the pain that we want to avoid recreating in the future.

I ‘m excited to hear your brainstorms.