Archives For Multiple Perspectives

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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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.

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.

I just arrived in Los Angeles to attend my first ever SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators) conference. Yeah!
As I traveled from one coast to the other, watching the country pass beneath the belly of the plane, I remembered the last time I changed coasts to live in San Francisco. The time when I learned a core-shocking lesson.
Teaching Social Studies in the Bay area revealed an ugly truth. I had reached my mid twenties, and had never heard about the U.S government’s internment of Japanese Americans during World War II or that Ellis island wasn’t the only port of entry. How had I missed the fact, that if you were of Chinese decent, Angel Island held your ancestors’ stories of arrival not the New York icon of European immigration.?
Medical Exams on Angel Island

Medical exams on Angel Island, San Francisco, Ca

I was appalled at my ignorance. Especially as I had received the top mark on the Advanced Placement exam in U.S. history and had furthered my studies at a reputable college.Then it dawned on me. I had unwittingly grown up with a Eurocentric understanding of history. Unbeknownst to me I had received a biased education.
Discovering that gold nugget and appreciating how I had to unpack my world view and fill it with multiple perspectives wasn’t easy. But I began to see importance of windows and mirrors. As a white female who was born in Britain, raised in Bermuda, and educated on the East coast, the history that I was taught reflected me.
So I never noticed that I was missing windows. There was no disconnect between who I was and what I was learning. But I can only imagine what it must have been like to take the AP exam as a Japanese American in San Francisco!
As a library teacher back again on the East coast, I am doing my best to make sure that I provide my daughter and the children I teach, with many different windows into the world. But after San Francisco where my eyes were opened, I especially include Asian American windows and the uncomfortable history that was swept under the rug in my own schooling.
I traveled cross country to learn about my narrow view of the world. Not everyone can. So as parents and educators it’s our job to make sure we give children as many windows and as broad a horizon as we can, one story at a time!
 Photo credit: national archives

A sure way to teach the value of diverse perspectives is with windows and mirrors and by following these steps. (for more on windows and mirrors check out this post).DSC_0980

1)     Provide Mirrors

Give children books, stories, movies, art work, music, and other expressions of culture that reflect their experience. For example if the child is adopted, provide plenty of stories about adoption.

2)     Collect Windows

What stDSC_0969ories offer you a different cultural, racial, ethnic or religious background? Gather those titles and share them. See how many you can find. Make sure you have more windows than mirrors . If you are Irish Catholic, read fairy tales from China, India. Then read some Jewish and Arabic folktales.

3)     Find the gaps

Study your stories. Do you gravitate to certain perspectives? What viewpoints are missing? Do they focus on a one particular family life style? Are the heroes of your books always white? How might your broaden your understanding?

4)     Seek new vistas

You have your individual take on the world. It’s shaped by family, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity,  race, age, ability, culture, and class. Look for stories out of your comfort zone for each one of these cultural identifiers.

5)     Explicitly teach them

Children as young as kindergartners can be taught to see how things are similar and different from their own experience. Use actual images of windows and mirrors to introduce this concept. Model your own thinking and give lots of examples.

6)     Identify the windows and mirrors

Read a story or study a picture with your child. Share all your mirrors and windows. Encourage children to agree, add or disagree from your observations. For example you might read Grace Lin’s fabulous Red Thread: An Adoption Fairytale.(Stay tuned for an in- depth post). You might say the window for you is that this family came into being through adoption if yours did not. And the mirror you identify could be that all families share love in common.

7)     Connect windows to mirrors

Your mirror in the above example might be that your family also came into being through adoption. And the window could be your family structure has two Dads while the story has a mother and father. You could connect the mirror and window by saying that in both the story and your experience two loving adults raise and care for one child.

8)     Spot your blinders

If you don’t check for windows and mirrors, it is easy to  miss a narrow outlook.  Do you gravitate to stories that reflect your own cultural indicators? Or do you seek out a range of ethnic stories but never read stories about varied abilities? What windows are missing?  Study identity indicators. Which do you never think about? Find those stories.

9)     Ask for help

Get suggestions from teachers, librarians, parents  or by contacting me for books that can round out your world view. Reach out and ask a variety of people to share their stories with you. Always do this with the mindset of appreciative inquiry and respectfully understand it’s just one story not everyone’s story.  Return the favor. Sharing stories is our connecting glue.

10) Do it again

Wherever you go, whatever you do, ask yourself, is this a window or a mirror?  Do I have more mirrors at my workplace? More windows? How about for my colleagues? What can these observations teach me? What stories are missing?  Why? No matter what, enjoy the lifelong journey – One story at a time!