‘Brown Kids Can’t Be In Our Club’ by Rita Tenorio
Children understand their surroundings they live in more than what we as teachers realize. Fitting in with other children and having friends their age is very important to them. Children who are six or seven have already had racism and bias influences affect their lives. They all ‘know’ that it is better to be light than dark skinned.
I know as a teacher we live in a racist society and that I have a responsibility to recognize this influence on my students as well as myself. The age of our students should not be a factor in understanding these controversial influences. I agree with the concept of discussing this with younger students. Being able to teach such issues to young children is a key component of understanding and trying to eliminate these issues later in society. The examples that were used in this article are age appropriate and discuss the issues of race and social justice. The ‘Me Pockets’ and ‘Remembering Someone Special’ activities allow the students to showcase their families. This is a diverse way of allowing various types of family dynamics to enter the classroom. This allows the children to understand there are differences between them but also similarities. For example, some students may have the same number of siblings and some may have more. The difference does not always have to be compared culturally or by the color of your skin. I know the remembering of someone special activity would help children who have lost someone close to them. My own children would definitely benefit from an activity like this at school because they have lost both there grandparents. It could possibly help them in the grieving process. You have to be extremely sensitive to all of your students individual needs.
I do personally have an issue with the activity ‘Lets Talk About Skin’. I would not allow this discussion to take place in my classroom. Even though I may be contradicting myself because I honestly think racism needs to be discussed. I feel this topic is very degrading for the students of color in the classroom. This type of discussion sends a negative message out when the teacher asked if anyone had ever heard something bad or mean about another person’s skin color. I have personal ties to biracial children. If I were the teacher I would have put a more positive question in the discussion. For example, the class could talk about people of color who have made significant impacts in society. The story of Jackie Robinson would be a great discussion in a grade five classroom. I watched the movie recently with my children and my son who is twelve was shocked as to how Robinson was treated. I took time to talk to him about the subject and he said he would never let that happen to his friends. As a parent first and a teacher second this was one of those teachable moments that you need to take the time to discuss and understand together.
There are so many activities you can take into the classroom. Each activity will impact each student differently. As a teacher I strongly believe that we need to be respectful and positive in our discussions. The negative or racist ideas are generally already in their lives and will be brought into the classroom with the conversations the students have. As a teacher I will challenge racist ideas head-on in the classroom. My students will have the knowledge to be able to look at race from many perspectives. They are the future and have the ability to make a difference in how society looks at racism.