Archives For We Matter

Resources, Reflections & Reviews on various multiple perspectives in the world. Posted on Tuesdays

If you have a young child in your life you may have experienced frustration, shock, confusion or a variety of other feelings, when the child just doesn’t “get” the civil rights movement, or the power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy. Or he/she thinks this chapter happened centuries ago even though it might have even happened in your life time.

Who can blame them?! We all would like to think that it was so far back in unimaginable history when we didn’t treat each other fairly. However, if children don’t have a visceral understanding of the horrors of “history” or if they are not informed that even though great strides have been made, this fight isn’t over, we only have adults to blame.

One way that I have found to help children understand the  flaws of the abstract concept of “separate  but equal” is to use This is the Dream by Diane ZuHone Shore & Jessica Alexander, illustrated by James Ransome.

Some people may question what is wrong with “separate but equal?” But if one uses visual literacy and critical thinking skills while examining this books, it is hard do draw any conclusion but “separate is NOT equal.” Take a look at the picture below and see if you can list all the reasons that a second grader can list when they think about the rightness of “separate but equal.”

What do you notice?

 seperate but equal
Advertisements

I just stumbled across President Obama’s 2006 Senatorial Commencement address at Northwestern University.  Wow! At a time when the United States takes pause to give thanks, I give thanks for leaders who recognize that empathy might be the best commodity that the world can trade.

Northwestern University Commencement Address

Friday, June 16, 2006

Click here to the NorthWestern University site for the full speech.

The world doesn’t just revolve around you. There’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room.

As you go on in life, cultivating this quality of empathy will become harder, not easier. There’s no community service requirement in the real world; no one forcing you to care. You’ll be free to live in neighborhoods with people who are exactly like yourself, and send your kids to the same schools, and narrow your concerns to what’s going in your own little circle.

Not only that – we live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principle goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. A culture where those in power too often encourage these selfish impulses.

They will tell you that the Americans who sleep in the streets and beg for food got there because they’re all lazy or weak of spirit. That the inner-city children who are trapped in dilapidated schools can’t learn and won’t learn and so we should just give up on them entirely. That the innocent people being slaughtered and expelled from their homes half a world away are somebody else’s problem to take care of.

I hope you don’t listen to this. I hope you choose to broaden, and not contract, your ambit of concern. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all of those who helped you get to where you are, although you do have that debt.

It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. And because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential – and become full-grown.

 

179841-festive-season-across-the-world-halloween-in-the-u-s-and-diwali-2011-fThe daylong days of daylight are dipping into darkness and the harvest season is coming to a close, so it was fitting that last week people all around the world celebrated the festival of lights. I started to write about this important Hindu New Year’s celebration last Monday. However, I spent so much time trying to find books to share with kids that I never finished.

I have always made a display of Diwali books but have never tried to look for a read-aloud. This year, Diwali, observed on the darkest, moonless night in the month of Kartik, fell on Sunday November 3rd. So I thought it would be fitting to share a read aloud with my first graders whom I see on Mondays.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find one title that wasn’t non-fiction. Now don’t get me wrong; I wanted my students to learn the truth about how the traditions differ from region to region, both within India, and around the world. I wanted them to know that “deep“ means light and “avali” means a “continuous line,” and that the lighting of diyas (tiny clay pots with wicks of oil or ghee) symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and the banishing of darkness through knowledge.

Yet I know humans are hard-wired for stories, and so a story is what I wanted to share. I wanted to offer many in my community a window into this lovely celebration, while providing a mirror for those students who celebrate Diwali.

But alas, I couldn’t find such a story. I even recruited a Southern Indian friend of mine, who, whenever she returns to her homeland, brings back panchatantra tales to add to my library collection.

She didn’t have any luck either. She did find one book to have inaccurate information about the gods. A good reminder for us all to authenticate our information. I was disappointed to come up empty. But then I thought, if knowledge banishes the darkness, and stories originated around the tribal fire, what better way to celebrate Diwali than to create a new Diwali read aloud to share.

So if you have narrative story to weave about Diwali, the children’s market is wide open. Get writing. That’s what I’m off to do. Research then write. We’d love to hear what you have to share here first.

Looking for more than just sugary tales to celebrate All Hallows Eve.or Day of the Dead? Never fear; pick the treat just right for you, whether it be a window or a mirror.

 

Los Gatos Black on Hallowen by Marisa Montes

Looking for spooky Spanish vocabulary, then this Bilingual Halloween poem is for you.

Behind the Mask by Yangsook Choi

When A Korean-American boy trick or treats in his grandfather’s mask, “Talchum,” a traditional Korean mask dance, meets up with American trick or treat culture.

Shy Mama’s Halloween by Anne Broules illustrated by Leane Morin

Halloween is the way a Russian immigrant family finds acceptance.

Closet Ghosts by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Shiraaz Bhabha

When you move to a new country and find ghosts in your closet, it is time to call on the Indian Hindu monkey god,Hanuman.

Ghost for Breakfast by Stanley Todd Terasaki, illustrated by Shelly Shinjo

In 1920’s California, a Japanese-American boy and his father investigate a field of ghosts and confront their fears.

Ejoy a spooky night

Some people pray for ordinary things and get extraordinary results.

Malala Yousafzai is one such girl!

The sixteen-year-old prayed to be two or three inches taller than her five feet. “But,” she told the crowd in Boston as she received a bronze bust of John F Kennedy, “I can now reach the sky because reaching you with my cause is the greatest height.”

I can’t imagine anyone standing taller in the name of women’s rights than this courageous global heroine. Malala has had strong women behind her, like her mother encouraging her to tell the truth, to speak up and raise her voice. She’s had brave women beside her, like all the other girls in her village who despite the Taliban’s disapproval, still go to school. Yet, it is Malala’s own mix of wit, humility, and way with words that has made her a towering international symbol for peace and the right to education.

Even though last October, the Taliban tried to assassinate Malala because of her efforts to gain access to education for women, she wants to return to her homeland of Pakistan. The passion with which she spoke about education broadening your world views was palpable. So it was easy for the audience to imagine her following her dream of becoming a politician. To serve her nation and to get education for every child.

Malala Yousafazai and her father Ziauddin in Boston last Saturday.

Malala Yousafazai and her father Ziauddin in Boston last Saturday.

At one point Malala said “I heard your voice through my heart.”And while she may not have won the noble peace prize, listening to her was powerful, peace inducing poetry for my soul. As a mother of a daughter and a library teacher, how could I argue with her adamant declaration that “It is the right of every person whether a girl or a boy to get education. It’s a responsibility and a duty that you must have knowledge. You must not be limited to your house .You must know about the whole world. You must know about other cultures, other traditions other societies, and learn from them.”

So let’s make sure we listen to each other’s stories, read them, tell them, and share them. I know that celebrating International Girl Day by listening to Malala and her inspirational story has reinvigorated me and left me a richer person.And maybe one day we can all stand as tall as Malala Yousafzai!

To hear clip of Malala’s speech,click here.

Here’s a link to the Washington Post’s review of her book, I am Malala: The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban which was released on Tuesday.

After expanding their cross cultural knowledge base, my students were almost ready to face the paparazzi. (See this post for how they got there)

In other words, they were nearly ready to play the “Get to know a Hispanic Hero/Heroine bingo game” that I created for them. But first they needed to do a little more work to be an expert.

  • They re-read their mini-biographies and reviewed why their person was famous. They had already highlighted keywords in the paragraph to determine that as the main idea of the paragraph. ( In case you forgot, I found their age appropriate biographies at Scholastic’s site for Discovery History Makers.)
  • They then identified at least one fact about their Hispanic Hero/Heroine that they thought their classmates should know. I had already told them they were going to be “interviewed” by the paparazzi (their classmates).
  • Students then received “Get to know a Hispanic Hero/Heroine bingo game”. Click here for a downloadable version.

hispanicherobingo

  • Once they had found a teacher, or astronaut, etc., they asked the student the name of the Hispanic Hero/heroine that he or she was portraying and recorded it in the appropriate square.
  • They then interviewed the Hispanic Hero/Heroine and recorded the “interview”.
  • The goal was to get a bingo and be able to boast about how much they knew about as many Hispanic Heroes/Heroines as possible.

This week, students will take their paparazzi questions and turn them into “WHO WAS/IS clues” to scatter around the school. Each clue will say ask a third grader for the answer.

This way each child can take pride in the beginnings of their journey as they expand their cross-cultural knowledge and understanding of Hispanic Heroes/Heroines.

Obviously, this unit on learning about Latinos/as can be adapted to any group of individuals. I particularly like thinking about windows and mirrors and groups that aren’t often addressed in the mainstream curriculum. So feel free to adapt this idea for differently abled people, or Cambodian contributors, or whatever under-represented group that you feel passionate to share with the world.

Let me know how it goes.

To help students broaden their cross-cultural knowledge base, I created a Hispanic Hero/Heroine game. I used it with a third grade library class but feel free to adapt it for different ages or for family use.

The unit had a number of objectives. Some were just to review. Some involved practice or mastery of common-core or information-literacy skills. And, of course, exposure to windows and mirrors content.

I wanted students to:

  • Understand a biography is a true account about a person’s life.
  • Read for the main idea
  • Identify keywords in the text
  • Use keywords to extrapolate the main idea
  • Learn how to turn facts into questions
  • Explore interviewing skills
  • Gain information about a particular person in a particular cultural experience.

Here’s an overview of the second lesson in the unit. ( See the first lesson in this post – list all people you know personally or otherwise who are of Hispanic descent).

  1. I gave each student their own mini biography  (a paragraph long) that I printed from Scholastic’s site for Discovery History Makers.
  2. I removed the name, and the job description for each person and created a fill in the blank. My name is…. I am a famous…. or I am famous for being a……. To download my template click here.
  3. Students read the biography and identified the person about whom they were reading.
  4. Students then highlighted keywords that were repeated over and over or had variations mentioned in the text.
  5. The looked at the keywords and determined the main idea or why this person was famous.

Roberto Clemente: the first Puerto Rican to be voted Most Valuable Player in baseball

For example if a student read about Roberto Clemente, he or she may have underlined Major League Baseball, great fielder, great hitter, Most Valuable Player, Baseball Hall of Fame. Then he or she would have said Roberto Clemente is a famous baseball player.

The mini biographies ranged in complexity so I gave the more abstract professions to those who were ready for the challenge and thus allowed for success for a range of students.

Stay tuned for how kids prepared themselves to face the questions the classmate paparazzi prepared for each other.

No matter your opinion on the Obamacare debate, there are unnatural causes of this country’s health crises that need fixing. So when the government shut down today,I felt compelled to take a hiatus from posting about Hispanic Heritage and instead share some startling statistics.

1)  Wealth equals Health

The single strongest predictor of your good health, is your position on the socioeconomic ladder. Your health is tied to your access to resources.  In other words, your zip code is the most powerful indicator of health!  Don’t believe me?  See how zip codes and class affects life expectancy in this map of Lousiville created by the filmmakers of the disturbing documentary, Unnatural Causes: Is inequality making us sick?

2) Inequity is bad for your Health

Fifty years ago, life expectancy in the U.S. ranked number one in the world. After the 1980’s widening of the economic gap, the U.S. ranks 29th. Today the top 1% own more than the combined ownership of the rest of the 90%. This makes us the most inequitable country.The U.S.  also has one of the worst health records.

3) More equity and longer lives for all

Countries like Sweden mitigate the difference between a family’s personal resources and equal access to the country’s resources. They make health care available to both the affluent and to those who work hard to make ends meet. Their citizens live longer and healthier lives than those in the U.S.

4)  Your neighborhood can change your life.

White neighborhoods have 4 times as many supermarkets and access to fruits and vegetables than Black and Latino areas. These communities are zoned in ways that there are more liquor stores and fast food franchises than the white neighborhoods. They also have higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and higher blood pressure.

5) There are lessons in the “Latino Paradox”

New Latino immigrants to the U.S. upon arrival have better health than most of the U.S. Population. However, after a mere five years of living in the U.S. their health declines. Within a generation they will be 50% more likely to develop high blood pressure and other health risk factors.

6) Sickness and in Wealth

People in the highest income groups can expect to live at least 61/2 years longer than those in the lowest income bracket. College graduates live five years loner than those who do not finish high school They also live two years more than those who have not finished college.

7) Sick Day or Pay Day

The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t require employers to provide sick leave. 47% of private sector workers are faced with the choice of a sick day or a pay day. Which choice would you or do you make?

8) Third World Health is better

Many African Americans and Native Americans are less likely to reach the age of sixty-five than their counterpart in Bangladesh or Ghana.

9) It’s a tough ladder to climb

3 out of the 4 Americans who, in the 1980’s, started at the lowest rung of the income ladder, are still there.

What are you going to ask your doctor or politician today?

Watch the powerful documentary, Unnatural Causes: Is inequality making us sick? Or examine their comprehensive website to learn more about how class, immigration status, and where you live can change your health.

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.

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.