I know this is a few weeks late – but I took notes in class, which I will expand on below! I am also going to relate what we talked about to something I just saw in the media. (I am going to keep the names of our visitors anonymous in case they aren’t wanting to be spoken of online.)
I really appreciated our guest speaker who got us to look online at all of the examples of racism we can see in the media today. I find it ridiculous, the amount of generalized statements that get thrown around like everyday conversation, online. This made me think of different types of ignorance, or even all-out hate that I see in comments, when trying to mind my own business and learn about news online. People get to voice their opinion, but not in a structure that promotes tact and respect, as would be done (hopefully) in a teacher-moderated classroom. Online, the rules change completely when you don’t have to see someone face to face, and I think it is so important to be cognizant of the world of the Internet, even when we’re talking to young children, because they are undoubtedly seeing comments like this every day on Youtube.
For example, I learned that Houston has its first openly gay mayor, so after watching a video showing her reaction to a bill for transgender people get voted out by the public, I went to her Facebook page, where I saw a Facebook post of her and her partner getting married. I thought it was sweet, and then I looked at the amount of hate on her Facebook wall and was appalled. For her to share something special like this to the public… something that should be met with “Congratulations!”… she had to be subjected to such horrible abuse. Here’s a link – it almost made me cry! If you click to see previous comments, they just keep going, and going… and the ratio of kind to cruel comments is ridiculously low.
I eventually just have to look away when I see hurtful comments because I know if I keep reading them it will bog me down. There are just too many of them. But my goal is to ensure that I am influencing my students (by having heart-to-hearts with them about emotions we feel when we are degraded, about situations we can look at where we can imagine ourselves in the shoes of someone being bullied, or recall instances where we were unfortunately bullied and relate them to the class if students feel comfortable, and so on) in such a way that I won’t be seeing anything like that coming from them as they grow into responsible, conscientious citizens. That is what I want to do to give back, and see change in the world.
I think that, in Social Studies, the idea of reflecting diversity in the classroom, and modelling and encouraging respect for differences can have a huge impact in changing some of these behaviors. I do not doubt that a lot of it stems from extremely religious upbringings in the home (in regards to sexual orientation), or from family members who hold strong opinions of certain groups of people based off of one-dimensional views or only hearing certain stories about them, but as a teacher I can only try my best to help students gain an appreciation, instead of a fear or hatred, of diversity.
I also very much appreciated a lady who came in and spoke with us about students who may be in positions where they are made to feel they need to do extra to prove themselves – whether it be from low income family, or because they are “First Nations and a woman” (two things ‘working against them’ in society as she said). It makes me angry, because they should have have to work harder because of those things, they should be respected and believed in. And so her message of, as a teacher, ensuring you believe in all of your children – and making them feel you are working with them, not against them – is a huge thing for me. I will need to be careful, because I do tend to put a lot of high expectations on students, that I am not stressing them out, but that they feel accepted as they are. This guest speaker articulated that she was trying so hard to please others, she didn’t have time to figure herself out – and self-discovery is such an important thing, that as teachers we need to understand that isn’t just something done at home. Identity reflection, and building, is everywhere.
After class her and I spoke privately, and I really liked how she listened to me tell my personal story, and then expanded a bit on hers. We discussed how reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, but is a sign of strength – knowing when it is safer, or healthier, to not go it on your own.
Overall – this class inspired me to not only address racism, but anti-bias teachings from all directions, into my social studies lessons.
Thanks for reading! 🙂 Comments are welcome and encouraged!