He Said, She Said: Understanding and Preventing Student Gossip

Although difficult to admit, it is quite likely that each of us has engaged in gossip or rumor spreading at some point in our lives. We have all felt the sting of humiliation from gossip when it has been directed at ourselves, and have likely been a party to someone else’s humiliation as well.

Words can be quite hurtful, and can cause tremendous heartache and problems for those victimized by this form of bullying. Yes, gossip is simply another form of bullying.

Today’s schools would benefit strongly from establishing and enforcing a zero tolerance policy on bullying of any kind within the building. It is essential, then, for schools and teachers to be as proactive as possible about the presence of gossip amongst their students. 

Below are some tips for understanding and preventing gossip, as well as some helpful websites on the topic.

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For better understanding:

  • Explain the difference between talking and gossiping
  •  Identify what makes gossip – words that are mean, untrue, or revealing
  • Connect gossip to bullying
  • Role-play with students what gossip is and what it feels like
  • Discuss the effects of gossip

 

For prevention, encourage students to:

  • Stay away from people who gossip
  • Recognize that if they gossip TO you, they will likely gossip ABOUT you as well
  • Teach empathy
  • Ignore gossip or rumors, and don’t repeat them
  • Be careful whom they share secrets with

 

Explore the many free lessons, resources and videos with themes of community building and inclusion found on our web sites.

 

 

Also Check out these helpful websites for further information about the issues of gossip:

Going the Extra Mile in the Classroom: Embracing Cultural Differences

Exploring ‘Insiders & Outsiders’ with your students or group.

In the classroom, it is a fine line to walk. To openly acknowledge the differences and diversity of today’s students without creating an “insider/outsider” situation can be a tricky balancing act of political correctness and acceptance. Every teacher knows this line, and treads lightly.

Virtually everyone has experienced the feeling of being left out – of being an “outsider.”

When this happens it’s easy for miscommunication, confusion, rejection, hurt feelings – and exclusion that leads to labels like “racist” or “bully.”  This is why teachers look to illuminate the insider/outsider dilemma by helping students experience those around them from new and different perspectives.  But even this can be a challenge especially in diverse school climates.

Sometimes stories of diversity which address the challenges and courage of others can create an atmosphere where students are free to learn without being subjected to judgment.  Open discussions which invite students to share their family history and heritage with each other help students feel heard and understood.

But how does a teacher start this process?  Can discussions among students with vastly different backgrounds and experiences really be possible in a school setting?

Absolutely!    

Here are a few tips for facilitating positive awareness in the classroom:

 

  • Celebrate differences – set aside time to allow students to share their cultural heritages. This may be a daily or weekly session, and may involve encouraging cultural creativity in assignments, and may be shown in classroom displays, etc..
  • Include lessons that promote cultural awareness – in Language Arts, read and discuss culturally relevant works/authors; in Social Studies, tie regional customs to a geography lesson; in Music, practice and discuss pieces of various origins.  You can also dive deeper into the parts of history which aren’t discussed or where there may be a different first-hand experience..
  • Show interest – talk to students about their background. Talk to them about your background. Share.  Encourage them to tell stories that highlight a different perspective..
  • Walk the talk – be a role model of acceptance. Show students how to act appropriately, and then expect them to follow suit.  Invite students to embrace discussions, especially when someone has a different experience or perspective..
  • Use humor – Often issues of racial difference can get heavy. Comedy teaches us that humor can build bridges and start to develop  common understandings. Discovery of other cultures can result in laughter, on both sides..
  • Set guidelines of respect – be sure to be consistent and firm.  Ask your students to get involved – set their own rules of what’s acceptable and what’s not, etc..

To find more ideas, lesson plans and resources that explore the human dynamic of ‘insiders vs. outsiders’ – and much more,  please visit :  RaceBridgesStudio.com.

Giving it Back: Service Learning in Your Classroom

As every good teacher knows . . .

Service Learning combines academic classroom curriculum with meaningful service in the community. It’s a way of teaching, learning and reflecting that aims to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and encourage lifelong civic engagement.

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As every good teacher knows . . .

Service Learning combines academic classroom curriculum with meaningful service in the community. It’s a way of teaching, learning and reflecting that aims to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility and encourage lifelong civic engagement.

Service Learning builds on students’ abilities and interest in the world around them while imparting critical skills.

A Teacher-Educator Resource for your reflection and consideration.

A resource unit that provides food for thought for Teacher In-Service sessions.

A method of teaching and student analysis that discovers the wide-world of “the other” and people who are different from ourselves . . . and why.

From Flint Michigan to Your Front Door: Tracing the Roots of Racism

by Storyteller LaRon Williams

This lesson plan explores the true story FROM FLINT MICHIGAN TO YOUR FRONT DOOR by African American professional storyteller La’Ron Williams. With humor and honesty Williams will inspire conversation among students about the issues of institutional racism, living in two cultures at once, and claiming one’s own history and culture. This story and lesson plan addresses the White, Euro-centrism of our history and culture and the use of story to challenge that mono-cultural understanding of history. Lesson Plan, story-text, student activities and audio-downloads.

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Storyteller La’Ron Williams writes about his experience growing up in Flint, Michigan, where he felt nurtured by a strongly supportive African-American community. Yet even at an early age, Williams knew there were threats to his safety when he saw on the front cover of Jet Magazine the picture of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who had been killed by bigoted Whites in the South.

From that jarring moment onward, Williams describes the experience of growing up in parallel worlds: a Black world that loved and mentored him and a White world that, even in its most benign expression, assumed a “neutral status” that for African-Americans was neither neutral nor benign. Using examples from the media and from his own experiences in a town divided by racial tension, Williams creates a story that tells the truth about American racial hierarchy while also offering hope for all those eager to transcend its legacy.

This story offers a powerful tool to approach institutional racism and unconscious bias in a nonthreatening way. With his rich, warm voice, La’Ron narrates audio excerpts that help to personalize these complex issues, bring them to life for students, and encourage his listeners to think deeply about race and racism.

Use this story as a way to introduce topics related to race, to deepen your conversations about the distinctions between personal and institutional racism, to address race and unconscious bias in the media, or to provide another way to celebrate African-American Heritage Month.

More information about this story

Lesson Plan

Download the From Flint, Michigan to Your Front Door lesson plan (PDF)

Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the From Flint, Michigan to Your Front Door lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Excerpt #1 — Part One — 8:26 minutes

Excerpt #2 — Part Two12:57 minutes

Excerpt #3 — Part Three — 7:19 minutes

Excerpt #4 — Part Four – 5:44 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts?  Click here for directions.

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About Storyteller La’Ron Williams

La’Ron Williams has a remarkable rapport with audiences of all kinds. Children and adults respond with equal enthusiasm to his warmth and vigor as he uses dialect, facial expressions and movement to breathe life into tales which transcend the boundaries of class and age.

Williams is motivated in part by the belief that the power and beauty of African culture should be shared, and that the lessons of struggle, perseverance, and survival of Africans in the Western Hemisphere are part of a legacy we all should recognize and own.

Ultimately, he believes that a narrow love of one’s own culture is not enough; that we all have to take the time to tell each other our stories – with all the joy and frowns and pain and smiles that they bring. That “…we have to come to know and accept the ways in which we are different and become aware of and appreciate the ways in which we’re alike, and that we have to use that knowledge not to ascribe hierarchy or to produce winners and losers, but to promote understanding and resolution.”

Hidden Memory: Japanese American Incarceration

 

Knowing your family’s story . . . and why it matters

by Storyteller Anne Shimojima

This unit raises the challenge for you and your students of knowing your family’s story – and why it matters. Other themes : How a national crisis can lead to xenephobia and the subtitles of institutional racism …. all told through the warm and lively storytelling style of professional storyteller Anne Shimojima as she recalls her Japanese American family and history.. Lesson Plan, story-text, student activities and audio-downloads. 

During World War II, the government of the United States authorized the arrest and relocation of every Japanese American on the West Coast. 120,000 Japanese Americans, the majority of whom were citizens, were forced into incarceration camps for the duration of the war.  During this time, Japanese-American men still served in the U. S. military even as their families were held prisoner at home.  Although the Congress passed the Evacuation Claims Act in 1948, which allowed incarcerees to make a claim against the government to recover a small percentage of their losses, this program was a failure.  It was not until 1988 that the U. S. government issued a formal apology and attempted in earnest to make reparation for the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

This lesson plan uses the story “Hidden Memory” by professional storyteller Anne Shimojima.  In this story, Shimojima tells about the experience of her family in the United States, especially during the time of World War II when some of her family were sent to the Incarceration camps

Use this story to teach about how easily racism and xenophobia can arise during times of war and national panic, what it is like to feel “unseen” in America, how people can survive adversity, and to commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May.

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Lesson Plan

Download the Hidden Memory: Japanese American Incarceration lesson plan (PDF)

Story Excerpts

The following MP3 track contains 4 story excerpts for use with the Hidden Memory: Japanese American Incarceration lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Hidden Memory – Part One — 6:17 minutes

Hidden Memory – Part Two 5:32 minutes

Hidden Memory – Part Three — 7:28 minutes

Hidden Memory – Part Four 8:01 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts? Click here for directions.

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Two short video versions of Anne Shimojima’s stories EVACUATION and INCARCERATION can be found below.

EVACUATION

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INCARCERATION

 

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About Storyteller Anne Shimojima

Like many Japanese-American families, Anne’s Shimojima’s family didn’t talk about their experiences during World War II. Gathering family photographs and interviewing a 91-year-old aunt opened the way to uncovering the story, and helped Anne to articulate her own identity as a Japanese-American.

Anne tells stories from her Asian background and around the world. Her thirty-plus years as an elementary school library media specialist have given her a rich knowledge of story and a keen ear for performance. She enriches the curriculum with stories and teaches her students to become storytellers themselves. Anne performs in schools, libraries, museums, and festivals, and gives workshops on the use of storytelling in education and on the creation of family history projects.

 

Feathers in the Wind: A Jewish-American’s Story

feathersby Storyteller Susan Stone

Feathers in the Wind: A Jewish American’s Story invites students and teachers of all religious and cultural backgrounds to reflect on their own lives and to explore the impact of gossip and hurtful words.

This lesson plan “unpacks” stories told by Susan Stone, a professional storyteller. This story and lesson plan can be used in one or two sessions.

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feathers_banner

“…Your words are like feathers in the wind.

Once they’re gone you can’t get them back and you don’t know where they’ve gone to.”

susanstone

 

Feathers in the Wind: A Jewish American’s Story invites students and teachers of all religious and cultural backgrounds to reflect on their own lives and to explore the impact of gossip and hurtful words. This lesson plan “unpacks” stories told by Susan Stone, a professional storyteller. This story and lesson plan can be used in one or two sessions.

This unit provides some ways to engage diverse students with traditional folk tales and contemporary stories.

  • Through personal reflection, peer discussion, and the development of collective strategies for making a difference, the exercises included here explore our use of language and encourage us to stand up for our beliefs.
  • The unit seeks to promote a culture of empathy and compassion for the differences and similarities among us.

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Lesson Plan

Download the Feathers in the Wind lesson plan (PDF)

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Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the Feathers in the Wind lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Excerpt #1 — Track One — 12:18 minutes

Excerpt #2 — Track Two– 8:58 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts?  Click here for directions.

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About Storyteller Susan Stone

 

Susan Stone has been sharing her tales for over twenty years for children and adults all over the USA.  She teaches storytelling to teachers at National-Louis University, IL, and has been honored with many awards for her CDs of Jewish stories for children.  She loves telling stories from many cultures, but especially loves sharing stories from the Jewish tradition.  Susan  believes that hearing each other’s stories enables us to nurture compassion for others, and perhaps heal ourselves as well.

www.susanstone-storyteller.com
susan@susanstone-storyteller.com

Evacuation

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Evacuation

 

A Short Video Story

 

by Anne Shimojima

 

Introduction:

Interested in knowing what life was really like for Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941? Take a journey with storyteller Anne Shimojima as she tells not only her own personal family experiences of the event, but relates the difficulties faced by many Japanese Americans at the onset of WWII.

Summary:

With honest and detailed reflection, storyteller Anne Shimojima tells the personal story of the forced evacuation of her grandparents following the attack on Pearl Harbor. While setting the stage with warm recollections of who her grandfather was, she interlaces historical facts to build a foundation of awareness.

Relating hardships faced my many Japanese Americans, Shimojima explains how prejudice and discrimination resulted from unadulterated rumor and fear. She recounts the bitterness that she saw in the faces of her loved ones, and how their experiences in the forced evacuation profoundly affected her family. Listen as she brings a new understanding to a long misunderstood and overlooked aspect of American history.

Classroom Applications:

  • Invite a guest speaker who experiences persecution to come to share stories with students
  • Watch the short film The Wave to show students how people are easily influenced when fear and rumor are involved (film is easily found online)
  • Create a set of interview questions, and have students interview an older family member or friend.

Watch the video now

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Explore our many other RaceBridges Studios videos for

Asian American Month or any time of the year.

 

Dreaming of Cuba: Stories that Bind

by Storyteller Antonio Sacre

Antonio Sacre tells of his lifelong desire to learn about Cuba from his father and his father’s reluctance to discuss the country from which he and his family were exiled after the revolution in 1959. Sacre explores his desire to learn about his family’s history, his father’s reluctance to discuss Cuba, and the time his father finally shared some memories from his childhood.

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This lesson plan “unpacks” the story Dreaming of Cuba: The Stories that Bind by Antonio Sacre. He is an internationally touring writer, storyteller, and solo performance artist based in Los Angeles. He is the son of a Cuban father and Irish-American mother and a Boston native.

Antonio Sacre tells of his lifelong desire to learn about Cuba from his father and his father’s reluctance to discuss the country from which he and his family were exiled after the revolution in 1959. Sacre explores his desire to learn about his family’s history, his father’s reluctance to discuss Cuba, and the time his father finally shared some memories from his childhood. This story and lesson plan explores themes of identity, loss, and family relationships.

Lesson Plan

Download the Dreaming of Cuba lesson plan (PDF)

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Story Excerpt*

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the Dreaming of Cuba lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are

protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Dreaming of Cuba“– 8:05 minutes

(Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts? Click here for directions.)

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Download Two Extra Bonus Stories related to the themes of this Lesson Plan. Listen to two extra stories by Antonio Sacre about himself, his father and Cuba.

* NOTE: There are differences between the transcript and the spoken version of this story; it is preferable to listen to the story, using the transcript as a guide while listening or as a way to remember story details while working in class.

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About Antonio Sacre


Antonio Sacre, born in Boston to a Cuban father and Irish-American mother, is an internationally touring writer, storyteller, and solo performance artist based in Los Angeles. He earned a BA in English from Boston College and an MA in Theater Arts from Northwestern University. He has performed at the National Book Festival at the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, the National Storytelling Festival, and museums, schools, libraries, and festivals internationally.

Contact & Information for Antonio Sacre:

www.antoniosacre.com

Diversity Bridge-Building

Exploring the Wider Worlds of Difference and Connection

A Classroom or School Event

click here to download this lesson plan

 

By the end of this lesson students will be able to…..

  1. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
  2. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  3. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  4. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  5. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organizations, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Tribal Pride: Various Names for the People of the First Nations

Native American. First Nations. American Indian. This culture of people has such unique and interesting backgrounds, and it is most intriguing to learn about each tribe by name. Although the encompassing titles of Native American or First Nations identify the nationality of the people, it is the tribes that are the most distinctive. Each has its own way of life, history, location, food, clothing, and artwork. Each has its own legends and stories, people and personalities.

Schools and teachers work diligently to be as inclusive and sensitive as possible in classroom settings, and to teach students to do the same. It is recommended that schools learn which tribes are part of their student enrollment, and celebrate those accomplishments accordingly. Below are a few well-known tribes and their meanings, and a few websites that offer information on a vast number of other Native American tribes.

TRIBES:

  • Apache – “enemy”*
  • Cherokee – “relatives of the Cree” or “the people”*
  • Chippewa – “original person”*
  • Dakota – “the allies”*
  • Micmac – “my friends”*
  • Mohawk – “man-eaters”*
  • Mohican – “from the waters that are never still”*
  • Navajo – “planted fields”*
  • Seminole – “wild”*
  • Sioux – “the allies”*
  • Wampanoag – “easterners”*

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WEBSITES:

Dignity and Courage Come Alive !

by Storyteller Linda Gorham

I Am Somebody :  Story Poems for Pride and Poweriam

African American storyteller Linda Gorham tells this upbeat and moving celebration of Linda’s family tree and heritage. The lesson plan guides teachers to invite “pride poems” from their students.

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Rosa Parks : One of Many Who Sat Down to Stand Uprosa

In Linda Gorham’s story Rosa Parks : One of Many Who Sat Down to Stand Up Linda personalizes the words and action in a story of the famed Rosa Parks. The lesson plan explores the many other heroes of the civil rights movement who “sat down’ to stand up for justice. Self-worth, dignity and courage come alive.

 

 

Dignity and Courage Come Alive !

 

 

lindaAfrican American storyteller Linda Gorham tells two stories. One is I Am Somebody : Story Poems for Pride and Power. This is an upbeat and moving celebration of Linda’s family tree and heritage.

The lesson plan guides teachers to invite “pride poems” from their students.

In her story Rosa Parks : One of Many Who Sat Down to Stand Up Linda personalizes the words and action in a story of the famed Rosa Parks. The lesson plan explores the many other heroes of the civil rights movement who “sat down’ to stand up for justice. Self-worth, dignity and courage come alive.

This unit comes with a teacher guide, text of stories & audio-download of stories as well as student activities.

Lesson Plans

I am Somebody: Yes You Are!

Purpose

    • Build pride in students for their family and background
    • Connect home life and classroom activities
    • Model how times of struggle become sources of strength
    • Appreciate the diversity and background of the other students
    • Gain practice in writing by creating poems and stories

Download I Am Somebody Lesson Plan (PDF)

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Rosa Parks: One of Many Who Sat Down to Stand Up

Purpose

    • Become more familiar with the Rosa Parks’ story
    • Place Ms. Parks’ protest within the larger context of her supportive family and community and the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s
    • Examine the motives and practices of bigotry and institutional racism
    • Experience a recreation of some of the feelings, challenges and decisions facing people in this country as they lived in a system of legalized segregation and discrimination
    • Understand the extent of the bravery of those who stood up to discrimination given the ignorance and violence of the times.

Download Rosa Parks Lesson Plan (PDF)

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Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the I am Somebody and Rosa Parks lesson plans. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts?  Click here for directions.

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About Storyteller Linda Gorham

Linda Gorham’s stories are fun, full of energy, and designed to enhance the love of reading. She tells folktales, inspirational stories, fables, “RESPECT” stories, hero stories, and, of course, stories that make your spine tingle and your hair stand on edge. Linda’s stories reinforce values, spark the imagination, and explore the world of ideas and traditions from other cultures. www.lindagorham.com

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CYBER BULLYING

cyberbullyElectronic technology has given rise to a whole new form of bullying – cyber bullying or electronic aggression. Imagine you’re a student being teased by the school bully. You can avoid or get away from him or her, right? Not so in the pervasive electronic world of email, texts, posts and voicemail. 24/7 you can be demeaned and belittled and worse, now, massive amounts of people can know about it. You may not even be able to discover who is sending these taunts.

The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that 16% of high school students (grades 9-12) were electronically bullied in the past year. Kids who are bullied in the much larger world of electronic media may turn the hatred in on themselves through use of drugs, alcohol and even attempted suicides.

The positive and negative uses of technology need to be a regular conversation in every classroom. Clear guidelines can help students understand how to be safe online. Topics of conversation can include:

  • what sites are okay to visit
  • how to keep passwords private
  • how messages meant to share with a few can spread to many
  • what to do if one’s identity is stolen
  • what to do if you or someone you know is being bullied online.

Encourage your students to tell you immediately if they or someone else is a victim of electronic bullying. Clear school rules and policies help everyone get on the same page about the use of electronics, but to become a living document the policies must be consistently discussed and reinforced. In addition, private, easy-to-use reporting systems must be in place at your school.

For more on electronic aggression go to:

Other ideas on eliminating bullying include:

The Cultural Reach of Murals

Like music bares the soul of the musician, like dance shares the individual vulnerabilities of the dancer, like the stage is home for the actor – the art of mural-making reaches far beyond that of words. Murals express personal feelings and beliefs, explore cultural heritages, and send messages that are common amongst all people – things that mere words cannot adequately explain because they communicate in the universally understood language of art. 

Art makes us feel. Murals tell stories: personal, political, social, and cultural. We don’t need to speak the same language in order to understand a mural. We simply need to see it and feel it.

Schools can benefit from this language represented by murals, and should use it to bridge cultures within their walls through its use. Students can learn of cultures of other students through the creation of murals, thus developing a foundation of understanding and appreciation for others. Where there is understanding, there is peace and friendship. How, then, can your school explore the use of murals that share cultures? Below are a few ideas:

  • Visit these websites to get some cultural ideas and backgrounds of murals:.
  • Think about where murals could be placed in your school: hallways, cafeterias, common areas, auditoriums, gymnasiums, libraries, entry areas, art wings of the school, classrooms, etc..
  • Decide how to get students involved: making of the murals, where murals should be placed in the school, types of murals, what story or message the murals should send, etc..
  • Invite parents, community members, news media, etc. to view the murals – both in-process and finished..
  • Have students cover the mural-making in a news article for the school newspaper or website. Take pictures..
  • Interview students involved AND students viewing the mural for their thoughts and opinions on the mural and the process. Allow students to share the story or message of the mural with other students..
  • Take a tour of the school when the murals are completed, and then discuss what students saw and learned..

Studying and reflecting on murals from many cultures and times
in history can give us a richer understanding of the stories
of peoples, past and present.  Explore more through the
short videos, lessons and stories on our RaceBridges sites.

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For ideas about how murals have been used for race relations and bridge building, check out the following:  Jubilee Door Exhibit

Creating a Diversity Session for your Faculty : An Introduction

smcreating_diversity_program_Page_01This resource is meant to help administrators, teachers, and staff to:

  • Become more aware of the many facets of diversity
  • Explore their own experiences with diversity
  • Identify the diversity of the school community
  • Value learning about and addressing diversity in the school community
  • Identify how understanding diversity can serve the quality of the school
  • See diversity as a strength and tool in building faculty and school-community

This resource is meant as a beginning point for your school, a way to start the conversation around diversity and to begin the education of your faculty and staff. It will make people more sensitive and committed to issues of diversity and more able to respond to those issues.

The activities in this resource may be completed all at once during a half-day in-service.

CREATING A DIVERSITY SESSION FOR YOUR FACULTY

Why?   How?

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These resources will:

  • make the subject of race and race relations approachable and effective
  • engage faculty in the ongoing challenge of making our schools welcoming for students of all races and backgrounds
  • provide engaging tools and activities to better understand and appreciate students, families, and communities that differ from the majority of the student body

You can adapt these resources to your local needs to better serve your student body and faculty.

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Create a Welcoming School

Teachers can do a great deal to make classrooms more welcoming, but it is also important that schools as institutions are inclusive at the “macro” level. This resource offers suggestions to make the entire school a more “accessible” and welcoming place to all students.

You might use some of the suggestions below in your classroom, but many of the suggestions are meant to be used at the institutional level. Try getting some teachers together for the larger-scale changes and/or sharing some of these with your administration. 

For ideas just for individual classrooms see Including Everyone: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom

In this RaceBridges Resource, you’ll find some classroom activities and “lesson plan starters,” further resources, and some ideas and thoughts to help inspire you on the journey. It takes committed teachers to encourage and shape our schools to be welcoming and open.

Click here to download this teacher resource

Connecting the Dots: Racism, Activism & Creating a Life

by Storyteller Michael McCarty

African American Storyteller Michael McCarty tells his true story Connecting the Dots: Racism, Activism & Creating a Life.

Racism in Chicago … the Black Panthers …Activism and the institution … Expulsion from High School …. Drugs …. Searching … Journeys around the world … Stories and people that shape us ….Ways and paths to self-discovery … With humor and hope the storyteller “connects the dots” in his life.

Invite your students in to explore their responses to McCarty’s challenges, dead-ends and the people and events that shaped his life’s journey.
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    • African American Storyteller Michael McCarty tells his true story Connecting the Dots: Racism, Activism & Creating a Life.
    • Racism in Chicago … the Black Panthers …Activism and the institution … Expulsion from High School …. Drugs …. Searching … Journeys around the world … Stories and people that shape us ….Ways and paths to self-discovery … With humor and hope the storyteller “connects the dots” in his life.
    • Invite your students in to explore their responses to McCarty’s challenges, dead-ends and the people and events that shaped his life’s journey.
    • Let Michael McCarty’s story inspire conversation among your students (and faculty) about the issues of racism, standing up for one’s beliefs, working for change in the world and in our lives and the power of stories to inspire and connect.
    • Complete text and audio download of this story come in a short version and a long version. (See below).
    • Connecting the Dots is an ideal discussion starter for college age, young adults and justice and peace groups. Lesson Plan provides questions and activities.

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Connecting the Dots (Short Version)

Lesson Plan

Download the Connecting the Dots (Short Version)lesson plan (PDF)

Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the Connecting the Dots (Short Version) lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Excerpt #1a – 4:11 minutes

Excerpt #1b7:07 minutes

Excerpt #1c — 6:06 minutes

Excerpt #2a4:24 minutes

Excerpt #3a — 4:55 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts? Click here for directions.

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Connecting the Dots (Long Version)

Caution

In this longer version of the lesson plan, there is reference to drug use particularly in Story #2.  While the storyteller talks about how he eventually gave up drugs and devoted himself to being healthy and productive, a teacher might want to address the topic of drug use and abuse before beginning the lesson or to skip reading and listening to the sections of the story that pertain to drug use.

Lesson Plan

Download the Connecting the Dots (Long Version) lesson plan (PDF)

Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the Connecting the Dots (Long Version) lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Excerpt #1 — Track One17:25 minutes

Excerpt #2 –Track Two18:20 minutes

Excerpt #3 — Track Three17:16 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts?  Click here for directions.

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About Storyteller Michael McCarty

Michael McCarty (“Have Mouth Will Run It“™) is a multicultural storyteller of African, African-American and International Folk tales, Historical tales, Stories of Science, Spiritual stories as well as stories of the brilliant and absolutely stupid things he has done in his life.

His stories inform, educate, inspire and amuse. His storytelling style is energetic and enthusiastic.

BULLYING AT YOUR SCHOOL: ARE YOU IN VIOLATION OF STATE OR FEDERAL LAWS?

We know that bullying isn’t nice, but have you thought about the fact that bullying is also illegal? Each state addresses bullying differently. Some cover bullying, cyber bullying and related behaviors in one law, some in multiple laws. But what state laws have in common is that they all declare that any form, type, or level of bullying is unacceptable, and that every incident needs to be taken seriously by school administrators, school staff, teachers, students, and students’ families. All states acknowledge that bullying has a huge and detrimental impact on student learning, school safety, student engagement, and the school environment.

stompoutbullyingSchools that receive federal funding are required by federal law to address discrimination on a number of different personal characteristics such as:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Military status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender-related identity or expression
  • Unfavorable discharge from military service
  • Association with a person or group with one or more of the aforementioned actual or perceived characteristics
  • Any other distinguishing characteristic

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Right now, no federal law directly addresses bullying. However, in some cases, bullying overlaps with discriminatory harassment of protected classes such as those mentioned above. In those cases, the behavior is covered under federal civil rights laws and enforced by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). If your school fails to respond appropriately to a student in a protected class who is being harassed, you may be in violation of federal as well as local laws.

What does it mean to “respond appropriately”? Here are some guidelines:

  • Investigate immediately
  • Inquiry must be prompt, thorough, and impartial
  • Interview targeted students, offending students, and witnesses, and maintain written documentation of your investigation
    • Communicate with targeted students regarding steps taken to end the harassment
    • Check in regularly afterwards with targeted students to ensure that the harassment has stopped
    • When an investigation reveals that harassment has occurred, a school should take steps reasonably calculated to: end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment, prevent harassment from recurring, and inhibit retaliation against the targeted student(s) or complainant(s).

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To find out about your state’s laws and policies go to:

http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws

To see examples of other states’ laws and what they have in common go to:

http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/key-components/index.html

To find out what kind of harassment constitutes a federal violation, go to:

http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/federal/index.html

Thanksgiving : Who Is Missing From The Table?

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Thanksgiving is a time to remember our country’s beginnings and to celebrate our rich history of welcoming the stranger. But in many ways, our idea of the original Thanksgiving table—a table we want to believe was about peace and fellowship between two peoples—is a myth.

Many teachers struggle in the classroom at this time of year because of the myths surrounding the original Thanksgiving story, settlers’ treatment of indigenous peoples, and the failure of our nation to welcome consistently the stranger and the newcomer. How can we teach the truth in our classrooms while still celebrating this national holiday?

 

The educators at Race Bridges for Schools, a nonprofit initiative helping schools explore diversity and race relations in the classroom, encourage teachers and students to study the true history of Native Americans in the U.S., to consider our country’s history of welcoming or shunning strangers, and to look at our own tables, literally and metaphorically, and who might not feel included at those tables. They suggest classroom activities such as:

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  1. Reading or listening to short stories from different groups of people about times they felt welcomed and times they did not feel welcomed to America’s table..
  2. Exposing students to true stories from the Native American perspective. Storytellers such as Dovie Thomason and Gene Tagaban share their personal experiences growing up as First Nations People.  These true stories cover topics as diverse as the Indian boarding schools and the search for identity and dignity among the indigenous peoples in Alaska. Stories suchas these expose students to historical events that aren’t taught in most schools, and touch on themes of cultural identity, inclusion and exclusion, and oppression..
  3. Sharing personal stories. Have students share their own brief stories about a time when they or their family were or were not welcomed, or a time when they did or did not welcome another..

Whether you simply engage in classroom discussion or facilitate small-group presentations, exercises like this enable your students to explore more fully the history and experience of Native Americans.  As we prepare for Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays, lessons such as these will help students consider who’s been missing from the “American table” and how they can literally and metaphorically make a difference.

America champions the ideals of equality, fairness, and welcoming the stranger to our table. Thanksgiving is a holiday that especially challenges us to examine whether or not we are living up to our ideals. For your students, they can ask these questions in any of their activities, whether at a club or sport or student council, at their place of worship, later when they look at colleges, and, throughout their adult lives.

DOWNLOAD NOW

SEARCH ACROSS THE RACES: A Native American Looks at His Mixed Identities

I am Indopino brings together Tlingit, Cherokee, and Filipino storyteller Gene Tagaban’s personal story and the history of discrimination against American Indians in Alaska. He also weaves into this rich narrative the story of Elizabeth Peratrovich, who helped pass the 1945 Anti-Discrimination Act in Alaska, the first of its kind in the country.

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A SEARCH FOR IDENTITY AND AN AMERICAN INDIAN VISION THAT STILL LIVES TODAY.

This lesson plan uses the original story “I Am Indopino” by Gene Tagaban.  He is a noted storyteller and story artist whose heritage is Tlingit, Cherokee, and Filipino. This story brings together Tagaban’s personal story and the history of discrimination against American Indians in Alaska. He also weaves into this rich narative the story of Elizabeth Peratrovich, who helped pass the 1945 Anti-Discrimination Act in Alaska, the first of its kind in the country.

This unit contains:

  • Downloadable printable lesson plan
  • Teacher guide
  • Student activities
  • Printed text of story
  • Audio-downloads of story told by Gene Tagaban with his evocative music
  • Other Resources

Gene Tagaban weaves together historical and personal stories to explore larger themes and questions.  He explores the complexity of personal identity in light of his own multi-ethnic background while extending the question “Who am I?” to all of us.

Gene Tagaban illuminates the stereotypes that still surround indigenous people, in particular American Indians, and how those labels get in the way of seeing people for who they are in particular.

Tagaban also demonstrates how our histories —whether historical events, folk tales, or heroes—help shape who we are and how we understand ourselves.

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Lesson Plan


Download the I am Indopino lesson plan (PDF)

Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the I Am Indopino lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Excerpt #1 — Track One10:36 minutes

Excerpt #2 — Track Two8:55 minutes

Excerpt #3 — Track Three9:31 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts? Click here for directions.

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About Storyteller Gene Tagaban


 

Gene Tagaban is a Native American performing artist, storyteller, trainer, counselor and healer. His heritage is Cherokee, Tlingit and Filipino. Raised in Alaska, Gene’s Native American name Gaay Yaaw, loosely translates as Salmon Home Coming. He is of the Tak deintaan Raven Freshwater Sockeye clan of Hoonah, Alaska, and the Child of a Wooshkeetaan Eagle Thunderbird clan of Juneau, Alaska.

Storyteller Gene Tagaban can be contacted about performances at www.storytellingraven.com or onecrazyraven@earthlink.net

Columbus or Native Americans : Who are the Real Indigenous Peoples?

Our country honors Christopher Columbus for his discovery of America. When he arrived on its shores, however, there were already people living on the land – Native Americans. Who, then, are the real indigenous people of America? Where do schools and teachers start when teaching this subject to students? Below are a few tips for teachers, and activities that get students involved. 

TIPS:

  • Do your homework. Before having students embark on this debate, know what the arguments are for each side.
  • Find books and other resources for students to use.
  • Find recipes of food that students can make at home.
  • Useful website:

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ACTIVITIES:

  • Set up a debate for students. Have one side research for Columbus and one for the Native Americans.
  • Invite guest speakers like historians, Native American leaders, etc. to talk to students.
  • Have students role-play.
  • Create a timeline of events and locations.
  • Allow students to be the historians as they research the First Thanksgiving to uncover details.
  • Make powerpoint presentations for/against Columbus.
  • Play Jeopardy! – trivia game after students have completed research on the topic.
  • Design a Thanksgiving meal that is true to historical accounts of the food available at the time.

 

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Go to our 5 Lesson Plans for November highlighting

Native American Month & Thanksgiving. .

 

BRING BLACK HISTORY INTO THE PRESENT

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With budget cuts at every level of education, it’s rare when a teacher can arrange a field trip to a national monument or organization. Thank goodness for the web! This February, during your Black History celebrations, why not rely on virtual experiences to give your students new encounters and increased understanding without the cost or time away from the classroom?

You can create a virtual Black Issues scavenger hunt for your middle and high school students using this resource:

http://bit.ly/tJv2aI

Focusing on African American history without showing how the past is still affecting the present leaves our students without an understanding of today’s challenges and how they might one day make a difference. This resource centers on the hurdles African Americans face today because of the institutional racism of the past.

Have students work in teams to search these papers for facts on disparities in testing, economic mobility, school discipline and suspensions and the like. The victories and achievements African Americans continuously make despite ongoing discrimination is a cause for celebration and inspiration for all Americans.

WEEDING OUT ANTI-INDIAN BIASES FROM SCHOOL MEDIA

NativeAmericanSunSymbolsAs we move into a month of celebrating the First Nations of our country and the world, a few helpful hints from Oyate, the children’s literature review site, can keep us from doing more harm than good. To turn a critical eye toward any books, videos or films to which we expose our students here are a few guidelines of what to include:

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  1. Show only media that present Indians as full human beings, not primitive or simple tribal people. Avoid media that objectifies Indian people such as “counting” or “playing Indians” (Would you have your student “count” or “play” white people?).
  2. Select media where the full range of Indian customs, cultures, dress, religion, language and architecture is shown.,
  3. Show media that has authentic, not generic design. “Indian looking” is not accurate. Use books, films and so on that have paid full attention to detail..
  4. Select media that shows the variety of physical attributes Indian people, like all people, display. Avoid books that simply portray Indians as white people with darker skin..
  5. Select age appropriate media that are honest about the genocidal policies of the U.S. government. Watch for media that subtly blames Indians for their own dwindling numbers. Show that Native nations actively resisted their invaders..
  6. Show Indian heroes other than those who “helped” European conquerors..
  7. Share media that shows present day First Nations as complex, sovereign nations who are not dependent on charity, take care of their families and are creating their own future..

For a fuller list of Dos and Don’ts go to:

http://oyate.org

Or buy and read the book:

“How to Tell the Difference: A Guide for Evaluating Children’s Books for Anti-Indian Bias”

by Doris Seale, Beverly Slapin and Rosemary Gonzales

This November Expose Your Students to New Perspectives on the Native American Experience

With November just around the corner, Americans are preparing to celebrate not only Thanksgiving but also National American Indian Heritage Month.

For educators, this is the perfect time to explore new perspectives on the history of indigenous peoples in the U.S., as well as to discover the history never heard.  One way to do that is to get students thinking critically about what they don’t know — and why they don’t know it.

Of course, students know some things about American Indians. At a young age, they probably learned about wigwams, teepees and other culturally obsolete trappings of early “Indian” society. And all of us were taught about the first Thanksgiving – how the Pilgrims dressed and the “friendly Indians” brought corn to this peaceful gathering of fellowship and gratitude.

But then most of us found out, at some point in our adult life, that the Thanksgiving story was highly mythologized, and that the real history of indigenous people in the U.S. was marked by removal, slaughter, and forced assimilation.

So why don’t we teach that in school? That disconnect between what we teach and what we ignore provides a golden opportunity to expand students’ understanding of the true, historical Native American experience.

Wondering how to spark this discussion in your classroom? Here are some creative ideas:

  • Start simply by asking students what they’ve been taught about American Indians — their history, their culture, perhaps even their role in the traditional Thanksgiving story. Depending on what you hear, you may want to probe further into their knowledge of Native American genocide.
  • Next, try exposing them to true stories from the Native American perspective. One you might consider: “The Spirit Survives“ by First Nations storyteller Dovie Thomason.   It’s a personal account (available in audio and text) of her family’s painful experience in the Indian boarding schools,to which many American Indian children were taken by force, away from their families, to be assimilated into white culture. Dovie’s story and the associated lesson plan, available free and printable by clicking, exposes students to historical events that aren’t taught in most schools. It also touches on themes of cultural identity, inclusion and exclusion, and the power of forced education to oppress people.
  • After the introduction of this new perspective, you can encourage students to think critically about what they haven’t been taught. Get them talking with these questions:
      • What did you learn from this story that you didn’t know about the history of indigenous people in the U.S.?
      • Why do you think you never learned this in school?
      • Why do we need to explore this neglected part of history?
      • Why bring up stories that are painful or hard to listen to? What good does that do?

Whether you simply engage in classroom discussion or facilitate small-group presentations, exercises like this enable your students to explore more fully the history and experience of Native Americans.  And as we prepare for Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays, lessons such as this will help students consider who’s been missing from the “American table” and how they can literally and metaphorically make a difference.

Download this lesson plan

The Spirit Survives: The American Indian Boarding School Experience: Then and Now

by Storyteller Dovie Thomason

This lesson plan presents a rarely heard part of American history — a true story about the crimes of forced assimilation of Indian children in the American Indian Boarding Schools.smdovie_lessonplan-1_Page_01

Kiowa Apache and Lakota Indian storyteller Dovie Thomason weaves a fascinating story of struggle, survival and inspiration as she tells her own daughter of a history that must not be forgotten and that presents lessons for all of us today. Texts, audio-download segments and classroom activities and resources are all a part of this powerful Lesson Plan.

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AN AMERICAN INDIAN STORY OF STRUGGLE, PAIN AND PROUD SURVIVAL . . .

This is a printable Lesson Plan with audio-excerpts looking at the original inhabitants of our land and some of the shattering events that were forced upon them.

Dovie Thomason, a Kiowa Apache and Lakota Indian, weaves personal narrative, the history of Indian schools, and the story of Gertrude Bonnin (later Zitkala Sa), the Sioux Native American woman who went through the Indian schools and afterward became a writer and activist for Indian rights.

This Lesson Plan with printable text and downloadable audio-segments presents Thomason’s original story about the inhuman practice of forced assimilation of American Indian children in painful and shameful attempts to “change” them into “white children”. Included in this Learning Unit are classroom activities and a list of recommended Resources for Teachers and Students to discover further histories and contributions of our American Indian peoples.

There are four segments to Dovie Thomason’s story. This Lesson Plan can be best used in presenting the story in two distinct sessions or classroom periods. It can also be presented with audio and print-text in one longer study-reflection session. This lesson plan is ideal for use in Native American Heritage Month, November, and around the Thanksgiving Holiday, (which often has distorted images of American Indian events) . . . or any time . . . as it seeks to reveal American Indian events that are rarely found in our history books.

THE SPIRIT SURVIVES can also be used in social studies and as part of the reflection and study of indigenous peoples and their challenges and struggles . . . yesterday … and even today.

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Lesson Plan

Download the The Spirit Survives lesson plan (PDF)

Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the Spirit Survives lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Excerpt #1 – Track One — 9:06 minutes

Excerpt #2 — Track Two– 9:39 minutes

Excerpt #3 — Track Three — 14:43 minutes

Excerpt #4 — Track Four — 10:56 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts?  Click here for directions.

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About Storyteller Dovie Thomason

Dovie Thomason is an award-winning storyteller, recording artist and author, recognized internationally for her ability to take her listeners back to the “timeless place” that she first “visited” as a child, hearing old Indian stories from her Kiowa Apache and Lakota relatives, especially her Grandma Dovie and her Dad.  From their voices, she first heard the voices of the Animal People and began to learn the lessons they had to teach her.  For these were teaching stories that took the place of punishment or scolding, showing her the values that her people respect and wanted to pass on to her.

Her love of stories and culture set her on a path to listen and learn and share the stories—to give people a clearer understanding of the often misunderstood, often invisible, cultures of the First Nations of North America.  The product of a “mixed” background that is urban Chicago and rural Texas, Internet and ancient teachers, elders’ teachings and university classrooms —Dovie began telling stories “publicly” while teaching literature and writing at an urban high school in Cleveland.  So, she began telling those first-heard old Indian stories—stories about making choices—stories that could become a blueprint for a personal value system.

Theatre Games

These games and exercises are for teachers and leaders to assist them in building community in classrooms and schools. These easy to follow warm-up games are used in the theatre arts world. They can be easily adapted in a variety of ways in learning environments and students organizations.games-mini

 

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Many high schools have a Drama Club.  Some schools offer classes in acting or stagecraft and produce several plays or musicals within a year.  From the outside you might guess that the main reward comes when the performance gets an audience.  However, anyone who has ever performed in a show or worked backstage during a production can tell you that the process of preparation and training for that audience is full of community building activities with a diverse group of people united with shared purpose.

This resource seeks to go beyond the realm of the Drama Club or school production to suggest 12 Theatre Games that integrate some behind-the-scenes exercises to encourage personal development, strengthen relationships among diverse students, and transform your classroom.  The games included here can be used to build relationships between students of different races and cultural backgrounds as well as help you create opportunities to discuss hard issues.

The games are broken down into the following skill –building areas:

  • GET ENERGIZED: 2 Games to increase students’ focus and awareness of others
  • BUILD ENSEMBLE: 2 Games to connect students as a team
  • COLLABORATE: 2 Games that promote working together on a shared goal
  • FIND YOUR OWN VOICE: 2 Games for speaking honestly about life experiences
  • LISTEN ACTIVELY: 2 Games that build empathy for the experiences of others
  • IMPROVISE: 2 Games for creating out of what is conveniently at hand

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Download this teacher resource

We All Have A Race : Addressing Race and Racism

This lesson plan helps students to understand the concept of race better, to distinguish between prejudice and racism, and to learn ways to stand up against racism and to act as allies with students of different races. This lesson provides a substantial, educational way to celebrate African-American Heritage Month and the accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Can also be used at any time of year.

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WE ALL HAVE A RACE

A Lesson Plan that Helps You Teach Your Students about Race and Racism

We offer a lesson plan: We All Have a Race: Addressing Race and Racism—in time to be used during African-American Heritage Month. This lesson plan helps students to understand the concept of race better, to distinguish between prejudice and racism, and to learn ways to stand up against racism and to act as allies with students of different races. This lesson provides a substantial, educational way to celebrate African-American Heritage Month and the accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

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FINDING NEW WORDS: A Resource for Addressing Bullying at School

sm_bullyingThis flexible resource provides a series of exercises for teachers and students to more effectively address bullying by taking a stand, telling the truth, and building a stronger community at school.

PURPOSE

This resource is designed to:

  • Provide a method for introducing and discussing a challenging topic
  • Encourage teachers and students to take responsibility for their school social climate in safe and effective ways
  • Raise awareness of stereotypes and other bias-related behaviors
  • Create an environment for participants to discuss and reflect on how bullying impacts their daily lives at school
  • Identify some core values
  • Identify and Practice effective ways to intervene
  • Encourage empathy for the targets of bullying

OUTCOMES

Through participating in these exercises, each individual will:

  • Listen to several stories from their peers
  • Reflect on their own experience with bullying
  • Discuss issues of discrimination with their peers in small groups
  • Identify some of their core values
  • Develop and practice their own response to bullying in the moment

FINDING NEW WORDS: A Resource for Addressing Bullying at School

“I get on the bus first thing in the morning and it starts. The name calling…about my mixed race. It’s like I become invisible except for that, except for my skin color. It’s so weird.”

– A High School Student

“And it just grew and grew and no one was backing down like they said they were going to and the next thing I knew he was pushed into the lockers really hard and he banged his head…that was not cool. It was supposed to be a joke.”

– A High School Student

“I try to leave it to the other teachers to address it… if I start harping on them about this kind of stuff, I’ll lose my edge.”

– A High School Teacher

“It’s a fine line between joking around and meanness. And sometimes, I don’t know where that line is.”

– A High School Teacher

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Most teachers and students are affected by bullying in some way – whether as a target, a participant, or as a witness. Bullying can be verbal, emotional or physical in nature and it impacts us all in different ways. This resource uses true stories from teachers and students alongside a series of activities that allow for reflection and dialogue about this challenging topic.

  • Do you ever struggle to figure out what to say when you witness bullying?
  • Do you see your students confused about how to respond?
  • What can you say and do to make a positive difference?

By connecting with core values and creating a personal response to aggression, these activities support you and your students to get the facts, define your roles, and take a stand for a safer school.

This resource can be used as part of an all-school lesson plan on bullying, during a faculty in-service, and with your classes.

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Consider using this free printable Teacher Resource & Lesson Plan prior to and around International Day of  Tolerance

Sticking Together Sharing Our Stories, Our Differences, and Our Similarities

The goal of this lesson is to bring together students around their stories of differences and similarities. The most authentic community is one in which people can find common ground while still retaining what is distinct about themselves. Engaging. Fun. Illuminating.

Objectives of this lesson plan :

  • To create a sense of community in the classroom;
  • To use storytelling as a way for students to learn about one another’s differences
  • To use storytelling as a way for students to discover their similarities

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Create and Celebrate Your Classroom Community!

As teachers, we are always trying to find ways to honor diversity even as we build community in our classrooms.  We all know how important it is to learning to have a community of students who like, support, and work well with one another.  We offer a lesson plan—Sticking Together: Sharing Our Stories—that uses storytelling to bring your students together as a community while simultaneously honoring their differences. Unlike  debating about issues of diversity, which assumes that someone will “win” and another “lose,” storytelling asks only that we listen to one another.   And sharing stories opens people up to one another, allowing for real dialogue and team building.

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Download this lesson plan

Why bullying is more dangerous than ever — and what teachers can do to stop it

Bullying isn’t a new problem. But in recent years, it has outgrown its reputation as an annoyance of childhood and turned into something much more dangerous. And sometimes harder to spot.

While physical aggression is on the rise among teens, so is a subtler — but deeply disturbing — form of bullying called relational aggression. Especially common among girls, this new breed of bullying consists of exclusion, rumor spreading, alliance building, and cyber-bullying, which many blame for the widely publicized 2007 suicide of Texas teen Megan Meier, who was mercilessly harassed online by classmates.

Whatever form it takes — verbal, physical or covert – bullying creates an environment of fear and intimidation. Schools are responding to this new environment with more security and tighter restrictions on students. And while those measures help to alleviate some of the fear, individual teachers also have the power to keep their students safe from bullies.

Here are three ways to intervene, protect and root out bullying at your school.

Start by exploring your own understanding of—and experience with—bullying

Try to think beyond bullying generally to specific events that happened at your school. Who was involved? What happened? When did it take place? Where was it?

Ask yourself:

  1. What kind of bullying behaviors do you witness in your school?
  2. How does it make you feel?
  3. How do you respond now?

Do any of the answers surprise you? What would you like to change about your responses? This goal of this exercise is to prepare yourself mentally, so that you can be ready to take a stand when bullying becomes a real issue in your classroom.

Intervene and educate

The Safe Schools Coalition, formed by a group of educators, recommends a two-step approach for teachers who witness an act of bullying:

First, Stop the Behavior

Using a clear and strong voice, stop the offending behavior with a simple command. Rehearse responses like this:

  • Cut it out!
  • Keep your hands to yourself!
  • Whoa, that is not OK!
  • Leave him alone!
  • Hey, that was uncalled for!

Second, Take the Opportunity To Educate

It is essential that you use this opportunity to name the offending behavior and educate students as to why it’s unacceptable. If you only stop the behavior, students might think, “It’s OK to bully Matt, but not during math” or “The teacher doesn’t like us to be loud.”

Try using some of these responses, depending on the situation:

  • That is unacceptable. I will not allow racial discrimination in this classroom.
  • That’s bullying. It’s against school rules. And besides what business is it of yours if somebody’s gay?
  • That’s mean and it’s sexual harassment. That behavior could get you suspended.
  • Do you guys know what that word means? It’s a put down for a person’s religion. That’s like putting someone down for his or her race.

Remember that, in that moment, you are not only speaking to the bully and the target but to every student who witnesses and overhears bullying at the school. A well-planned message not only interrupts the harassment, but it also has the potential to prevent more threatening behavior down the road.

Empower students to build a community of respect and empathy

Through storytelling, small group discussion and individual reflection, teachers can get students to take an active, personal role in creating a more inclusive school environment.

Ask your students to consider the situations they’ve witnessed or overheard in school when bullying was taking place. Get them talking with these questions:

  • What is one situation when you would feel safe speaking up?
  • In that situation, what would you feel comfortable saying?
  • Now think of a situation when you do not feel safe speaking up. What’s that like?
  • What can you honestly commit to today that will keep you safe and make a change for the better in your school?

However you approach bullying at your school, remember that you are a powerful influence – even though you’re just one teacher. “Legally and ethically, you must do whatever is necessary to stop harassment against children and teens based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, language or physical or mental abilities,” say the educators of the Safe Schools Coalition. “Seeing you stand up against bullying will make every child … feel safer at school. Only when they feel safe, can students learn.”

Download the "Finding New Words" lesson plan  or  Download the "Can You Spot a Bully" Poster

Claim It!: Differences & Similarities : Creating a Climate of Inclusion

“Claim It!” provides a simple lesson plan for exploring diversity in the classroom. This activity helps reveal the many differences a classroom of students has, despite a homogeneous surface. It will also provide learning – and fun, too. This lesson is meant to be one tool among many in the ongoing mission of building strong and welcoming school communities. Flexible and adaptable to your local needs.

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smClaim_It_LESSON_PLAN_FINAL_Page_1Claim It! Creating Inclusion

Teaching the topics associated with diversity and with anti-racism can be overwhelming for teachers. But there are steps that a teacher can take to create an inclusive environment where students’ differences are recognized and valued. We can foster a community of learners ready to work together and able to handle issues of difference and disagreement.

The Claim It! Creating Inclusion lesson plan reveals the many differences in a classroom (or school) of students, despite the seemingly homogeneous surface.   It assists teachers as they explore the sometimes hazardous territory of race and differences

Claim It! can easily be adapted and shaped to fit different situations.

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Download a free copy of the CLAIM IT! CREATING INCLUSION lesson plan  (PDF)

Storytelling : A Toolkit for Bridging Differences and Creating Community

This Teacher-Educator Resource provides an easy to follow process in using storytelling to increase understanding across differences. It is a fun way to get to know each other, a comfortable way to address difficult topics and a simple and successful method for appreciating differences among group members. Sharing life stories allows us to see in new ways, grapple with new ideas, and grow into more respectful and compassionate people.

Use this resource with students from middle school through college or with members of your church or community group. The activities in the resource can be completed all at once or broken up over several meetings. A great way to build a team, handle issues associated with diversity, or discuss a recent conflict.

STORYTELLING: A TOOLKIT FOR BRIDGING DIFFERENCES AND CREATING COMMUNITY

This Resource provides an easy to follow process in using storytelling to increase understanding across differences and is:

  • a fun way to get to know one another
  • a comfortable way to address difficult topics
  • a simple and successful method for appreciating differences among group members

Sharing life stories allows us to see in new ways, grapple with new ideas, and grow into more respectful and compassionate people.

Use this resource with students from middle school through college or with members of your church or community group. The activities in the resource can be completed all at once or broken up over several meetings.

A great way to build a team, handle issues associated with diversity, or discuss a recent conflict.

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Download a free copy of the STORYTELLING – A TOOLKIT FOR BRIDGING DIFFERENCES AND CREATING COMMUNITY resource

A Culture of Respect Challenges Students to Connect

Ask any student what the hardest part of school is and the answer will surprise you.  In fact, geometry and physics aren’t even on the list.  Most students state that the most difficult part is learning how to fit in, dealing with students with very diverse backgrounds and experiences, and how to break down social barriers.

Seeking a solution that deals directly with the root of cliques, bullying, racism, violence and teasing, parents Yvonne and Rich Dutra-St. John started the concept of Challenge Day in 1987.  The idea of Challenge Day was a way to end oppression that is found in every part of the world, and to build a connection that creates genuine empathy among people.  Since its conception, Challenge Day has been featured on Oprah Winfrey’s show and is now a weekly reality show, “If You Really Knew Me” on MTV.

Challenge Day encourages participants – parents, students and educators alike – to create change by noticing how people are treating each other.  Students can see what they can do to change the social environment of their school by stepping out of their comfort zones.  It asks the questions most students don’t think about:

  • Are people in your school treated equally?
  • Do you like the way people are treated?
  • Have you ever wanted to step in when someone was being bullied or teased?
  • What are we pretending that we don’t see?

The goal of Challenge Day is to open up the minds of students to see others in the school community (including teachers and parents) as people, rather than the stereotypes that fit them.  This allows students to embrace differences in a way that reaches far deeper and leaves a lasting impression for long term community building.

So how can you create your own Challenge Day in your school?  Start by getting students involved.  Making time for a Challenge or Unity Day is one way to create a welcoming classroom where students feel valued, respected and appreciated.

On this site, in the complimentary resource, “Bridge Builder Unity Day” you are provided with activities to prepare students to become advocates for a more inclusive world by:

  • Using stories to bridge differences and create a more welcoming community.
  • Discovering differences and similarities so that everyone feels valued and respected
  • Listening to and participating in stories and activities which bring to life being an “insider” and “outsider” in various social situations.
  • Becoming aware of their own prejudices and stereotypes
  • Understanding how cultural pride, identity and race are impacted by racism
  • Learning how to take a stand for each other to strengthen and build community.

Click here to download the BridgeBuilder Unity Day Teacher resource

Lesson Plans Associated with Unity Day

Lesson Plans Featuring Audio Stories Associated with Unity Day

Videos Associated with Unity Day

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INCLUDING EVERYONE: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom

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A resource to help teachers make the little changes in their classrooms that will send the big message that Everyone is Welcome!

Even though we want to make sure that our students learn the skills of anti-racism and are prepared to live in a multi-cultural world, it can be hard to find time to teach explicitly anti-racism lessons or to implement an entire diversity curriculum.  But what we do every day, in regular classroom situations, can have a big impact.  By using thoughtful language, challenging stereotypes, and encouraging hospitable behavior, we can help our students to become more open to those who are different from themselves.

Designed for all grade levels, regardless of subject area, “Including Everyone” shows educators how to incorporate habits and activities into their daily routines that:

  • Encourage students to embrace difference
  • Encourage students to develop a mindset of hospitality, rather than hostility
  • Challenge stereotypes, language, and practices that promote “insider/outsider” thinking
  • Make issues of diversity accessible, meaningful, and fun
  • Download a free copy of the:
    INCLUDING EVERYONE: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom resource

Why schools need to cultivate a climate of “Welcoming”

The news is full of stories about failing schools. Bad teachers. Low test scores. The education “crisis.” Our legislators and educators are spending enormous amounts of time and energy trying to find the cure for what ails our schools and our students. Yet, as we debate what’s at the heart of the problem, we tend to ignore one of the most powerful influences on learning: school climate, the degree to which schools offer a welcoming and safe place for children to learn. And by not looking more closely at this powerful factor, we may be overlooking one of the most positive ways to transform the educational environment.  

What does a welcoming climate look like?

Welcoming schools emphasize not only academic achievement but also positive relationships among students and teachers, respect for all members of the school community, fair and consistent discipline policies, and family and community involvement.

When assessing a school’s climate, think about the school’s physical surroundings, which make the first impression on students and visitors. Consider the language and images used in signs and announcements. Are they inclusive? Do they represent the diversity of the school’s populations? What books are assigned in English class? Do they reflect a wide range of experiences and people? How is discipline handled? Is it consistent and clearly communicated? Do educators work hard to create classroom environments that are hospitable for students of all backgrounds?

How does a welcoming climate affect learning and achievement?

All students should feel that they and their families are included and valued in their school community. Yet a recent study found that only half of high school students feel they are an important part of their school community (YazzieMintz, 2007).

To learn at their best, students must be engaged and motivated. Substantial research shows that students who feel both valued by adults and a part of their schools perform better academically and also have more positive social attitudes, values, and behavior.

Schools can be a refuge for students. A welcoming school conveys to the student a feeling of safety, in spite of what is happening outside the school grounds. It becomes a place away from the chaos around them. Creating such a place and keeping distractions away from the thoughts of the students allows them to fill their minds with knowledge.

A welcoming climate also helps students feel connected to the institution, which in turn is likely to boost accountability measures, such as decreases in absenteeism, fighting, bullying and vandalism, and increases in motivation, classroom engagement, academic performance, school attendance and completion rates.

How can we begin to create a welcoming climate?

Though it may seem like a big undertaking, even small moves toward meaningful “climate change” can have a big impact. Individual teachers have the power every day to encourage students to embrace difference, to develop a mindset of hospitality, to challenge stereotypes, language, and practices that promote “insider/outsider” thinking. Small changes give way to bigger changes, leading to more open and welcoming schools where students of all backgrounds can learn and thrive.

Download INCLUDING EVERYONE: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom

 

Thanksgiving : Who Is Missing From Our Table?

Thanksgiving is one of the main holidays of the United States, a time to remember our beginnings and to celebrate our rich history of welcoming the stranger. Yet many teachers struggle in the classroom at this time of year because of what doesn’t get addressed: the myths surrounding the original Thanksgiving story, settlers’ treatment of indigenous peoples, and the failure of our nation to welcome consistently the stranger and the newcomer. How can we teach the truth in our classrooms while still celebrating this national holiday?

For use before or around the time of Thanksgiving. This lesson invites students to share their personal and family stories of being newcomers and of welcoming the stranger. These stories are then used to create a Thanksgiving reflection on the disappointments and the blessings of the United States.

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Engage your students in a Diversity Lesson Plan: Thanksgiving: “Who Is Missing From Our Table?”

 

  • We offer a Lesson Plan : Thanksgiving: Who is Missing from Our Table? — for use before the holidays. This lesson invites students to share their personal and family stories of being newcomers and of welcoming the stranger. These stories are then used to create a Thanksgiving reflection on the disappointments and the blessings of the United States.

Racebridges Studios offers this lesson plan with student activities and handouts that help you and your students recognize and celebrate differences, find common ground and create a stronger classroom community.

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Download a free copy of the Thanksgiving: Who is Missing from Our Table lesson plan

Being Mexican-American : Caught Between Two Worlds–Nepantla

  smOlga_Lesson_Page_01by Latina Storyteller Olga Loya

In these warm and engaging story-excerpts professional Storyteller Olga Loya relates some of her life-story and her attempts to reconcile the two worlds and realities of ‘American’ and ‘Mexican American’. Audio-segments, story-text and classroom activities will engage students in exploring what it means be fluent in more than one culture at a time. The unit assists teachers to move beyond the Mexican-American experience to anyone who has been caught between two worlds and two identities. Use this unit to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month or to practice storytelling skills and to probe issues of difference and belonging.

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Storyteller Olga Loya tells of her experience growing up Mexican American in Los Angeles, trying to choose between the Latino and Anglo cultures, and realizing that she might belong to even more than two cultures and that perhaps there was a way to live with all of them.

This is a perfect lesson plan to use with students while talking about immigration, issues of being bicultural, or about how to use personal stories to address an issue.

A great lesson especially for Language Arts and Social Studies classrooms!

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Lesson Plan

Download the Nepantla: Between Worlds lesson plan (PDF)

Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the Nepantla: Between Worlds lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Story Excerpt #1 — Nepantla: Between Worlds2:35 minutes

Story Excerpt #2 — Spanish is Dangerous2:14 minutes

Story Excerpt #3 — Grandma Talk2:28 minutes

Story Excerpt #4 — Why Do You Want to Go to College? 3:26 minutes

Story Excerpt #5 — But You Don’t Look Mexican3:45 minutes

Story Excerpt #6 — What Does a Mexican Look Like?2:47 minutes

Story Excerpt #7 — My Own Rhythms – 1:41 minutes

Story Excerpt #8 — Mezcla: The Best of Both — 1:22 minutes

Story Excerpt #9 — Bridge Between Worlds — 1:46 minutes

(Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts? Click here for directions.)

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About Olga Loya

Storyteller Olga Loya was captivated by the vivid stories her Mexican grandmother and father would tll. Absorbing all of their secrets and following the tendrils of memory that bind people and families, Olga fashioned and invented herself, out of her own substance and imagination, a stirring universe of creation. Growing up in a up in the barrio of East L.A. where family rituals and traditions were the center of her emotional life, the young Latina, performing improvisation as a girl, has mastered the vocabulary of artful storytelling. With her poetic eloquence Olga’s stories are an impassioned quest to keep alive not only the fabric of her family but the larger Latino culture, richly robed in folktales, ancient myths, and history.

Be Civil ! The Search for Civility

A Definition : “…formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech..”
Its Use : “I hope we can treat each other with civility and respect”
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“Civility is not something
that automatically happens.

Civil societies come about
because people want them to.”

Jimmy Bise, Jr.
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civility
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Some claim that civil society is breaking down as political rallies turn ugly.  People text and take cell phone calls during concerts and in audiences before speakers.   Sometimes it feels that everyone is only looking out for number one.

It’s easy to look at the behavior of others, but it is essential that we examine our own actions.  Are we being kind?  Are we taking time to listen to one another? Really listen.

Do we apologize when we have hurt another?  Do we treat others as we want to be treated?  As the quotation says above, civility doesn’t just happen. We have to commit to behaving civilly ourselves.

As Election Day approaches in the USA and given the increasing volatility of political discourse  from vitriolic editorializing presented as news to recent Tea Party protests or Occupy actions, there is a need for students to learn how to disagree while remaining civil. 

Not only should students learn how to engage in civil debate, but they should also learn the value of listening to points of view and opinions that differ from their own. Being open to different kinds of people and ideas help students maintain open minds and to get along in a diverse society.

One of the difficulties teachers face in the classroom is that we as a society are not modeling for young people how to have vigorous conversations, even debates, about significant social and political issues.

In recent decades, we’ve seen two extreme approaches to hard conversations:  privileging agreement over individual opinion on the one hand and a “take no prisoners” approach on the other. When agreement and avoiding conflict is privileged, debate tends to be squelched when someone suggests that all “agree to disagree” or that “everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.”

CLASSROOM ACTIVITY

Here are some points to ponder on the human skills of being civil.  For ourselves as teachers and for our students.

Present a Definition for all to reflect on.  E.g., Use the one at the top of this lesson which is repeated again here, or find one of your own.

Definition : ”…formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech..”
Use : “I hope we can treat each other with civility and respect”

Establish :  why be civil?  It is a central value of a flourishing group, family, society, community or school. Genuine civility leads to cooperation and community..

Examining our Civility

Do you and your students believe that civility is diminishing ?

. . . What is your response when someone suddenly cuts into line before you ? In the car? In the cafeteria? On the train ? In the bus stop line ? In the store?

. . . Review how often you hear curse words or the F-Word being used in and around your school.  Why ?

. . . Is it a common occurrence ?  Is it when someone gets into a verbal fight ?

. . . Review the behavior of people – and yourself – when you are on your cell-phone in a public place.

. . . Is it easier to be rude than civil ?  What are the consequences ?

. . . What happens to civility when we compete  academically ?

. . . What happens to civility when we compete at sports ?

. . . What examples of civility and/or un-civility do you see on TV ?  Online ?

Seeking to Be Civil

There are many online sites that explore the teaching of civility to students and children. Here are two sets of ideas that explore ways to focus on and practice civility:

What are some of the ways of teaching that encourages civility ?

❧ Teaching about multicultural tolerance and acceptance.
❧ Teaching children to care about others because it brings them meaning rather than expecting anything in return.
❧ Involving children in public service at a children’s hospital.
❧ Teaching children to respect senior citizens by volunteering at independent living facilities.
❧ Teaching common courtesies, such as introducing oneself, shaking hands with others, and thanking people for doing kind gestures for them.
❧ Teaching children to share and play cooperatively with others.
❧ Teaching children to respect and assist those who are disabled or have learning limitations.
❧ Parents can demonstrate through word and action what civility means.

Teaching Children Civility Begins at Home
http://www.familyresource.com/parenting/character-development/teaching-children-civility-begins-at-home

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Here are some ideas worth pondering :
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15 ways children learn civility from adults:

  1. Lead by example.
  2. Think about the impact of our words and actions on others first.
  3. Treat children and adults with the respect that we expect them to treat others.
  4. Apologize when we are wrong.
  5. Disagree with intelligence, humor, and civil discourse.
  6. Don’t let anger and emotion get in the way of listening to others.
  7. Teach character strengths, like respect and empathy, at home and in classrooms.
  8. Demand civility of our politicians and public servants.
  9. Set ground rules for civil behavior at home and in classrooms.
  10. Challenge people’s views but don’t attack the person.
  11. Be tolerant of people who are different from us.
  12. Praise others for their civil behavior, regardless of their viewpoints.
  13. Empower children to take a stand against bullying.
  14. Remind kids often why we should be civil.
  15. Teach kids how to become engaged citizens.


Teaching Civility in an F-Word Society

Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D.
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moment-youth/201206/teaching-civility-in-f-word-society

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CLASS ACTIVITY

  • Consider creating a “code of civility”  or “civility pledge” for your classroom/school or group.
  • Review the area in your classroom/school that needs behavior improvement in the civility climate.
  • Take a few of these issues and develop ways/plans/action that the un-civility can decrease or end.
  • Place this code of civility on the wall.  Review progress throughout the school year.
  • Celebrate victories.  Pass on the Civility!


RESOURCES

Look at one or more of the lists / guidelines for civil behavior on the resource list below. Use these as a model for creating a guideline for civil discourse in your own classroom.

Related lesson plans on RaceBridges site :

Resources to help you plan lessons about the topic  :

  • Dr. J.M. Forni, a professor who co-founded the John Hopkins Civility Project that aims “at assessing the significance of civility, manners and politeness in contemporary society.”  Forni authored two books on civility: Choosing Civility: Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct and The Civility Solution: What To Do When People Are Rude.
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  • “From Enmity to Comity: Restoring Civility and Pride to American Life,” by Robert Fuller. This article addresses the root cause of incivility—fear—and argues for ways to return to civil political discourse where we don’t have to disagree but where all are respected.
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  • Choose Civility: This website was created in response to the book Choosing Civility: Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. There are a variety of resources there, including in-depth book lists for children, teens, and adults.
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  • The Civility Project: This website seeks to encourage civility in the political arena. Contains a bibliography of books on civility and examples of civility and incivility in contemporary culture.


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Many of the scholars who are exploring the issue of Civility
today focus on one of the ways of learning civility – which is to
explore other cultures and those people who are different than ourselves.
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CLASSROOM RESOURCE: Be Civil!

How can we explore the human skill of . . .

Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable?
THE SEARCH FOR CIVILITY

Given the increasing volatility of political discourse in the United States, from vitriolic editorializing presented as news to recent Tea Party protests, there is a need for students to learn how to disagree while remaining civil. Not only should students learn how to engage in civil debate, but they should also learn the value of listening to points of view and opinions that differ from their own. Being open to different kinds of people and ideas help students maintain open minds and get along in a diverse society.

One of the difficulties teachers face in the classroom is that we as a society are not modeling for young people how to have vigorous conversations, even debates, about significant social and political issues.

In recent decades, we’ve seen two extreme approaches to hard conversations: privileging agreement over individual opinion on the one hand and a “take no prisoners” approach on the other. When agreement and avoiding conflict is privileged, debate tends to be squelched when someone suggests that all “agree to disagree” or that “everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.” But in some circles, especially politics and media, polarization and “winning” the argument is so valued that there is no room for civil engagement.

In this RaceBridges Resource, you’ll find a classroom activity, some “lesson plan starters” to examine the limits of these two approaches and to practice civil engagement, further resources, and some ideas and thoughts to help inspire you on the journey.

Vigorous debate characterizes a democracy where citizens are entrusted with discussing, disagreeing about, and deciding important issues; it is up to teachers like you to teach the critical skills of analysis civil discourse if we are to have a vibrant democracy

Download this resource

Bittersweet: A Chinese American Daughter’s Legacy

The stories offered here—Immigrant History and Mom’s Story—come from Chinese American storyteller, Nancy Wangs longer story Bittersweet: A Chinese American Daughter’s Legacy. In this story, Wang explores the history of her own family, beginning with the immigration of her great-great-grandparents from China to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century.

 

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This lesson plan uses two stories by Nancy Wang, a dancer, storyteller, playwright, and practicing psychotherapist. Wang studies ethnic dance and has written plays focused on Asian American themes. The stories offered here—Immigrant History and Mom’s Story—come from her longer story Bittersweet: A Chinese American Daughter’s Legacy. In this story, Wang explores the history of her own family, beginning with the immigration of her great-great-grandparents from China to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Through this story of her own family history, Wang uncovers the generations of discrimination against Chinese immigrants—both stealth and legally sanctioned—as she explores the relationship in her family, including her own relationship with her mother.

This unit comes with a teacher guide, text of stories & audio-download of stories as well as student activities.

Lesson Plan

 

PURPOSE

  • To expose students to the experience of Chinese immigrants in the 19th century.
  • To explore the little-known history of exclusion of and discrimination against Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans during the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • To examine the connections between family history and personal development.

OUTCOMES

By the end of this lesson, each student will:

  • Be familiar with the tension among immigrants in California in the 19th and early-20th century.
  • Understand why marginalized groups might exploit and oppress each other rather than working together to achieve their rights.
  • Respond to the issues and themes of the stories
  • Relate their own experiences to the stories

Download Bittersweet Lesson Plan (PDF)

Story Excerpts

The following MP3 tracks are story excerpts for use with the Bittersweet lesson plan. Please note that these excerpts are protected by copyright and are exclusively for educational use.

Excerpt #1 — Immigrant History– 9:16 minutes

Excerpt #2 — Mom’s Story– 14:27 minutes

Need help to download the MP3 Story Excerpts?  Click here for directions.

About Storyteller Nancy Wang

Nancy Wang, together with her storyteller husband Robert Kikuchi-Ynogo founded Eth-Noh-Tec in 1982. This is is a kinetic story theater company based in San Francisco, weaving [tec] together distinctive cultural elements of the East and West [eth] to create new possibilities [noh]. Eth-Noh-Tec produces and performs contemporary presentations of traditional folktales from the many countries and cultures of Asia through storytelling, theater, dance, and music.  Nancy Wang is available for performances in schools and colleges solo, or with her husband as Eth-NohTec.

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Full information : www.ethohtec.org.

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Seeking Harmony : Starting and Sustaining a Diversity Club for High School Students

One of the best ways to furnish students with inclusive skills is by including them in the planning and training phases of diversity education. This resource focuses on how to create a club that brings together all kinds of students to address issues of diversity and to create a welcoming, inclusive school climate.

  • Develop creative leadership among students
  • Raise awareness in the school around diversity issues that students identify
  • Inspire school communities to address and attempt to solve problems related to issues of diversity
  • Make issues of diversity accessible, meaningful and fun.


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STARTING AND SUSTAINING A DIVERSITY CLUB FOR MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

Why?   How?

This resource:

  • make the subject of race and race relations approachable and effective
  • engage faculty and students in the ongoing challenge of making our schools welcoming for students of all races and backgrounds
  • provide engaging tools and activities to better understand and appreciate students, families, and communities that differ from the majority of the student body

You can adapt these resources to your local needs to better serve your student body and faculty.

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Tips for Combating Racism in the Classroom

Write a Commitment Pledge to racial unity at your school or in your class

During class discussion, explore the interracial issues and challenges in your school community and in your adjoining neighborhoods.  Create a process where all can contribute in a reflective and honest way to write a Pledge Against Racism for your school.  Have the complete pledge printed up in a large format.  Encourage the administration at your school to adopt the pledge, distribute it, and have students say it together on a special day. 

Attract Allies. Organize an ongoing group. 

Begin with a group that gets together once a month to discuss the general climate at your school and surrounding neighborhoods.  Create a space where people can share their stories without comment.  Once the group has created a climate of trust, consider what positive actions you would like to take as a group to address problems and issues.  

Build Bridges. Reach out to other schools. 

Begin a “Bridge-School” Activity.  Much of our ignorance about race comes from having very little contact or experience with persons who are different from ourselves.   Consider developing an ongoing “bridge-activity” with another school in your area that is quite different from your own particular school.  Beyond athletic events, we seldom enjoy connections with communities different from ours.  Consider collaborating with another school in a joint service project in a neighborhood or invite members from another school to a discussion about diversity and how to build bridges among different  communities.

Imagine and create through the arts 

Present an Art Exhibit. Consider the underrepresented students and groups in your school.  Seek to celebrate a particular group with paintings, videos, artifacts or decorations from that particular culture.  Have a special opening event for this exhibit and communicate the positive values and richness of the culture on display.  Another attractive form is the creation of a community mural.

Plan and create a Heritage Photography Event 

Consider exploring the rich variety of ethnic identities and histories of your student body through the gathering and assembly of students’ family photographs of great grandparents, grandparents and parents.  Design the assignment around the theme of immigration to America and the journeys of previous generations,  The Family Tree could also be a fruitful model for gathering photographs and the students’ account of these images.  Photographs could be copied and scanned and developed into an attractive display or presentation.  Dignity and beauty is the guide for this project.

Invite a storyteller from a “different” ethnic group 

Stories can unlock hearts.  Professional storytellers can promote thought, reflection, and action about race and diversity.  The stories told -- personal, funny, tragic and hopeful -- evoke stories in the listeners (students) and can move participants towards commitment and action. For information about storytellers who work well with with student audiences go to home page RaceBridgesStudio.com and send an email.  

Invite a Speaker from the wider world with expertise about class and racial divisions 

Invite a speaker to your school who is from a completely different racial and ethic background to encourage/challenge students and faculty to see the world from a different perspective.  A panel of speakers could enrich this idea.  Events in the world prompts us to consider a Muslim speaker and a theme that uncovers stereotypes of Muslims and Islam.  Segregation in housing and in education could also be a fruitful theme.

Celebrate the Justice Seekers and Doers: the famous and the little known. 

Create a special focus on the men and women who have fought and struggled for justice and equality in the history of the United States and/or throughout global history.  Remember to include heroes of all ethnicities and those who crossed “color lines” to act as allies to people of another race. 

Plan a visit to two “ethnic” museums in your area. Celebrate differences and commonalities. 

Develop and plan a day-trip for students to two cultural institutions that represent two cultures in your school community.  Focus these visits on the contributions of these groups and their part in the richness of American culture. 

Get serious about the long-term diversity plan in your classroom/school 

There are many resources out there to help teachers talk about these sensitive and important issues. A few of these are :


Download this as a poster to use in your classroom

A Day of Celebration or of Mourning ? : The True Story of Thanksgiving

cornucopia
Each year in November, many students learn of the Thanksgiving story. They hear of Pilgrims and Indians, of the hardships, the food, and the bond established between the two peoples. A table is set for feasting and for celebrating the day of America’s discovery. Many, unfortunately, do not learn of another aspect of that time – that Native Americans see it as a time of mourning. How do schools and teachers cover the Thanksgiving story sensitively and with accuracy?   Below are a few tips to get started.

  • Be informed. Check out these websites that offer the Native American perspective on the holiday, as they are more than valuable resources. Extension activities, as well as true history accounts are given here:
  • Invite a guest speaker to talk to students about the perspective in an age and school appropriate manner.
  • Find books or other resource materials that depict actual happenings.
  • Talk about why Native Americans would feel mournful at this time.
  • Avoid stereotypical plays, clothing, speech, food, or behaviors.
  • Share what happened in the years after the First Thanksgiving (age and school appropriate, of course).
  • Create a new Thanksgiving story.
  • Focus on gratitude.
  • Allow students to share personal experiences...

A White Girl Looks at Race

superohStoryteller Susan O’Halloran weaves three short true stories of her life growing up in Chicago in the 1960s.

The three short stories offered here—“Davy Crockett,” “Us vs. Them,” and “The Dr. King March”—all explore Susan’s experience growing up in Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s when the relationship between blacks and whites in the United States were tense and changing quickly.

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Event Archives: COR (Catholic Schools Opposing Racism)

COR (Catholic Schools Opposing Racism) which was a program for catholic high school students from across the suburbs and city of Chicago. Browse the outlines of these programs, themes and gatherings. Be creative and adapt these ideas for your own school or organization.

Programs 2000-2006

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The theme for this year is seeing. At each event we will focus on the ways we view others and ourselves through the lens and prism of race. The Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Illinois “Moving Beyond Racism: Learning to See with the Eyes of Christ” inspires this year’s program.

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The last C.O.R. supper of the year was held at Queen of Peace High School in Burbank, IL on Tuesday, March 27, 2001. This final supper of the 2000-2001 C.O.R. series Voices That Challenge focused on diminishing the negative consequences of having groups in school communities. Given the recurrence of school violence in the last few weeks, students were eager to discuss the groups at their own schools, how those groups can foster inclusion and exclusion and the feelings that being excluded can engender in students.

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The third C.O.R. event of the year was held at the International Conference Center (ICC) in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago on Saturday, February 24, 2001. Uptown is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country, with over 60

languages spoken in the local high school, no dominant ethnic group, people from all socio-economic strata and a third of the residents born in countries other than the United States.

Each walk took students to a different location, at which they saw a presentation either by Mehrdad Azemun, a community organizer with the Organization of the North East (O.N.E.).

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Dec 2, 2000

Georgie Torres Reyes introduces

C.O.R. attendees through means to reach our congregation.

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Oct 16, 2000

Voices that Challenge

Andrew Lyke shows us three major points of Recovery from Racism today.

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Celebrating the C.O.R. doors we’ve opened during the Jubilee Year.

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Photo Gallery of COR Suppers


SYSTEMIC STORIES: INSTITUTIONAL RACISM March 23, 2002

STORIES THAT HURT: INTERNALIZED RACISM February 20, 2002

STORIES THAT SING: COR CONCERT January 30, 2002

SOUL STORIES: INDIVIDUAL RACISM December 1, 2001

STORIES THAT DIVIDE, STORIES THAT UNITE October 10, 2001

RAISING OUR VOICES IN OUR SCHOOL March 27, 2001

RAISING OUR VOICES IN OUR COMMUNITY February 24, 2001

RAISING OUR VOICES IN OUR CHURCH December 3, 2000

RAISING OUR VOICES IN OUR FAMILIES October 16, 2000

Ripples: From a Field in Mississippi to General Motors in New York

 

Story Summary:

 April 4, 1968 may have been the end of one dream with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, on that day, another began in a young woman who pushed past despair, journeying from Mississippi to New York City, to discover that the “dream” lived on in her. (more…)

Just Hair: Finding Out the Importance of Your True Roots

By Diane Macklin

Story Summary:

 A chance encounter is an unexpected blessing for a teenager, who discovers that true strength is rooted within, extending down into the roots of the ancestors. (more…)

The Immigration Process vs. Pre-Wedding Bliss

By Storyteller Arianna Ross

 

Story Summary:

Listen and move as this spoken word piece takes your mind and body through an insider’s/outsider’s understanding of immigration, identity, and family. The story began when Arianna and her now husband wanted to get married and had to prove, with evidence, that their love for each other was real. Complexity arose as they entered the immigration process better known as: K-1 Non-Immigrant Visa. As they hit barrier after barrier, they quickly learned how unpredictable the U. S. was about immigration. (more…)

A Link in the Circle: Learning to Lean on My Indonesian Family

By Arianna Ross

 

Story Summary:

 What is it like to be so immersed in a culture that a lady on the bus becomes your adopted “Aunt” and a bus driver your “Brother? While Arianna Ross travelled alone through Indonesia, she discovered that sometimes family is defined by a connection and not blood. Many days Arianna lived with only the support of total strangers. Witness the similarities and differences between Arianna’s culture and theirs.  (more…)

Martin and Me – A Coming of Age Story

By Stephen Hobbs

Story Summary:

 Growing up, Steven was involved in Boy Scouts and his church and as a teen he advocated for community development in his New Jersey neighborhood. But could he get involved in the rising black militancy of the late 1960s?  (more…)

Chinese New Year’s Frogs: A Collision of Culture and Nature

By Linda Yemoto

 

Story Summary:

“Ranger Linda” describes her encounter with a group of well-intentioned Chinese Americans bearing bullfrogs. This surprising incident illustrates how cultural differences can have unintended consequences and how cultural awareness can lead to greater understanding and a better outcome for all.  (more…)

Taming the Fire: A Black Heritage Search

 

Story Summary:

One day an angry black teenage girl – Sheila – stormed into her History Class and demanded to know why she had never heard about black inventors. Her favorite teacher, who happened to be white, was faced with a decision, but in making that decision an entire classroom of students was changed and history was given more relevance. (more…)

A Black American Son’s Survival Lessons

By Sheila Arnold

 

Story Summary

A frantic call from Sheila Arnold’s son during his freshmen year in college turns into a moment to remember all that she had to teach him about growing up black, and, in turn, all he had also learned about crossing bridges in spite of people’s perceptions.  (more…)

The Bus: Traveling from England to India, with the Hells Angels

 

Story Summary:

 As the new Protestant Chaplain at the largest men’s prison in Maryland, Geraldine quickly realizes that the midweek Bible service has been overrun by the Crips – a violent, largely African-American gang – and that if something isn’t done quickly the Correctional Officers will close down the service. Going to the root of the problem, Geraldine meets with the head of Crips in her office, but she soon sees that as the two of them are so completely different she will have to establish some common ground before asking for his help with the problem. Will telling him a story of a thug-filled six-week bus trip from London, UK to Delhi, India, that she took decades before, be enough to win his trust? Can the midweek Bible service be saved?

For a print friend version of the transcript, click here:  The-Bus-Traveling-from-England-to-India-with-the-Hells-Angels

Discussion Questions:

  1.  America has more people incarcerated than any other nation in the world (both in number and per capita).  Why do you think this is?
  2. According to an FBI report, in 2011 there were approximately 1.4 million people who were part of gangs, and more than 33,000 gangs were active in the United State.  These numbers have since grown rapidly. What do you think has happened in this country to allow gangs to flourish?
  3. What do you think that you as an individual can do about both of these problems? What do you think that we as a nation can do about both of these problems?

Resources:

  • The Outsiders by E. F. Hutton
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.

Themes:

  • Crossing Cultures
  • Living and Traveling Abroad
  • Stereotypes and Discrimination
  • Taking A Stand and Peacemaking

Full Transcript:

Hello, my name is Geraldine. Geraldine Buckley. And in 2007, it never crossed my mind, when I was training to be the chaplain, at the largest men’s prison in Maryland, that after just a few weeks on the job, I would be sitting in my office, across my desk from the leader of the Crips, which is a largely African-American violent gang. And that I would be asking the head of the Crips for his help with a problem.

Well, when that day came, I did what I do best in those situations. After all, you’ve probably realized by now, that I was born and brought up in England. Well, I made him a cup of tea. But I really did have a problem. The midweek Bible service that had about 240 men and…, it had become a meeting place for the gangs, particularly the Crips. Now, the front of the service was fine. That’s where men were opening themselves up to the love and forgiveness of God. And so, they were able to extend that love and forgiveness to other people. Incredible things were happening. But it was just at the back of the chapel that I had such a problem. That’s where the gang members, particularly the Crips, were passing things and they were talking loudly. Well, goodness knows what they were plotting. But they were disturbing the service and I couldn’t have that. And there was another level to this problem, and that is, if the correctional officers realized what a serious gang problem we actually had, they’d close down the service and we might not get it back for months.

Well, I went to the, the head of the, the inmate leaders of the chapel. Ah, we had a church of 600 people behind the walls. And, ah, the leaders, many of them, had theological degrees and I asked them for their input and they suggested that I take all those Crip leaders off the list. In other words, ban them from the service. But I didn’t want to do that, because to my mind, unless they sat under the Word of God, what hope would they have of changing? So, that’s why I decided to go to the root of the problem, which is how I find myself in my office, across my desk from the head of the Crips. Let’s call him El Jefe. Well, he was about thirty-three years of age. He was African-American. He came from Baltimore. And I knew, I only had him in my office for 20 minutes because he’d arrived at half past two and he had to leave by 2:50 in order to get back to his cell in time for count. And if he wasn’t there, he’d be taken off to the segregation unit in chains. I thought, how am I going to establish any common ground, any mutual understanding, or any hope of cooperation, in such a short amount of time.

After all, we were so different. I mean, for a start, he was a man and I’m a woman. He’d been incarcerated for years and he’s got years to go. And I’m relatively new at all this. And then, he was a Crip and I’m a Pentecostal. And then, I had an idea. And I said, “Jefe, let me tell you a story.” I have, but first of all, I said to him, “Jefe, I think I have a really soft spot for gangs.” Well he was, at the time, he was slumped in his chair and he was gently tapping his fingers on the edge of my desk. And he was looking at me through half-closed eyes and I knew then that he was not buying it. So that’s when I said, “Jefe, let me tell you a story.”

“When I was 21, I went on a bus trip from North Finchley tube station in London to Delhi, India. It was called Budget Bus. It was bright pink. It was decrepit. It was held together with duct tape. But it was cheap. Now, I went for two reasons. First of all, I wanted something on my resume the following year, that would make me really stand out from my, my fellow graduates. And the other thing is I really wanted to irritate my mother.”

“Now, I was really concerned about who my fellow travelling companions were going to be because we would be travelling together for six weeks. We would be eating together by the side of the road. We’d be sleeping in tents together. So, we would in effect, be a mobile travelling capsule. And so, I was very concerned when I first stepped on the bus, and my immediate impression was one of a strong smell of unwashed bodies. Well, I tried hard to not let that show on my face but I looked to see where it was coming from. And it was a small group of men who were very thin, they had hollow eyes, and they had track marks up and down their arms. These were drug addicts. And one of them was going to die on a beach in Sri Lanka.”

Well, I looked over at Jefe, and I’d noticed that he’d stopped drumming his fingers, and he was sitting up straight. Good. I had his attention, so I carried on. “So,” I said, “of the other 25 or 30 other men and women on that bus, there was another man who immediately, I immediately, noticed. he was a small man. He was in his mid-20’s. He had shifty eyes. And he sat right at the back of the bus. And I knew straight away, he was Australian because of his accent, And I found out later that his name was Wayne. Well, from that very first moment of getting on the bus, he kept up a loud, continuous monologue of the filthiest language I have ever heard before or since.”

“And then, there was another group of men who stood out to me. They were wearing denim and leather and chains. They had shaved heads. They were covered in tattoos, and they had a really hard look on their faces. These were the Hell’s Angels. Now, it must be said, that these were English Hell’s Angels, so they were a little more refined than their American counterparts. But they were still Hell’s Angels, and they terrified me. Particularly, their leader who was called Grila. Now, Grila was an enormous man. He couldn’t read or write. He had his name tattooed on his knuckles. G-R-I-L-A. And he had this huge tattoo on his arm of a gravestone with the names of men in it. And I looked at those names and I thought, ‘Are they the names of the men he’s killed?’ Oh, that man, Grilla, absolutely terrified me!”

“Well, that bus was far worse than I could have ever imagined on that first day. Wayne and his new group of friends discovered that down the aisle of the bus, there was a trap door that went down to the road. And when the bus was moving, they would have urinating contests. And if anybody objected, they would turn the flow on them. And then, for some reason, Wayne thought it would be great fun to pick on me. And so, for hour after hour, he kept up another loud monologue describing, in vivid detail, what he imagined I did as extracurricular activity.”

“Well, I was only 21 and this went on for day, after day, after day. Well, one of those days, I was sitting near the back of the blus… back of the bus, playing Scrabble with Wayne’s new girlfriend. She and I shared a tent for the first few days of the bus. Well, he said something really crass to her. Really revolting. And, stupidly, I defended her. So, he pushed me back in my seat. And then, he picked up his big fist to hit me. When all of a sudden, over my shoulder, came an enormous hand and it grabbed Wayne’s wrist. And a voice said, ‘No, you don’t. You’re not hitting women. Not on my turf!’”

And Wayne just crumbled and he said, ‘No!’ He said, ‘Don’t hurt me! Don’t, don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me.’”

“Well, I looked around to see who he was, who’d come to my help. It was Grilla! Grilla had come to help me. Well, that night I was sitting on the bus by myself. All the others were setting up the camp and, and Grilla came to find me. And he was shuffling his feet a bit, and he had his cap in his hand, and he was twisting it, and he kept his eyes on the ground, And he said, ‘Geraldine, I’m really sorry I didn’t do more to help you on that bus today.’ He said, ‘But if we men start eating each other, someone’s going to get killed.’”

“Well, several things happened from that incident. The first thing, was that Wayne kept really quiet at the back of the bus, which was wonderful. And then, that was the first time that I realized that, although it’s best for men and women to work together, sometimes you need a man to stand up and do what’s right. And when that happens, it’s like a key turns in a lock and evil turns to good. And then the other thing that happened was, that Grilla and his group of Hell’s Angels friends, they took me under their wing. And I became the little sister the gang. All very innocent.”

Well, at that moment I looked over at, ah, at Jefe and his eyes were as big as the bottom of s… of buckets. And I said, “I know, isn’t that incredible, Jefe, that a woman who was not long out of a convent boarding school, would end up being the little sister of a gang of hens… Hell’s Angels. But what that meant was, that I got to spend time with them. I got to see who they really were. And I saw that they, they really cared for each other. They had each other’s backs. They were family.”

“So, one day I asked Grilla about that enormous tattoo on his arm, the one of the gravestone with the R.I.P. and the names of men. And he said, “Oh, Geraldine.’ He said, he said, ‘They’re my fallen comrades. They’re my dead friends. If we don’t look out for each other, who will?’”

Well, at that moment, a shadow came across the glass in my office door. It was the correctional officer. And he opened the door. He said, “Chaplain, you’ve got three more minutes with this man, and then he’s got to get back to his cell in time for count.”

I said, “Thank you, officer.” Three minutes. How was I going to get my last point across in such a short amount of time? Tick…tick…tick…And then, I had another idea. I said, “Jefe, you and your, your Hell’s Angels, your, you and your, your Crips friends. You’ve been teaching me such a lot since I’ve been here. You’ve been teaching me about gang warfare and streets and, and gangs. Now, tell me if this is right or not, but from what I understand, you’d never let another gang come in and take your street corner. Is that right?”

He said, “Oh, that’s right, Chaplain.” And he said, “That’s never gonna happen. Never gonna happen.”

I said, “Well, Jefe, this mid-week Bible service, this is our land. The leader of these, this chaplain and mine. And if you continue what you’re doing with your Crip friends, you’re going to draw the attention of the correctional officers. And if you carry on doing it, they’re going to take it away from us. Now, it would break my heart to take you and your fellow gang members off the list. In other words, ban you from the service. But if that’s what I’ve got to do, I’ll do it. Because no one is taking this land away from me.”

And we just stared at each other. Tick, tick. A shadow came across the door in the office and then, and then, Jefe said, “It’s all right, Chaplain.” He said, he said, “I get it. There’ll be no more trouble. I give you my word.”

And you know something? Jefe kept his word from that moment ’til the time I left, two and a half years later. There was no more gang trouble in the Protestant chapel. No more trouble on my turf.

1966 Caracas, Venezuela: Day One of Junior High For An American Girl

by Angela Lloyd

 

Story Summary:

 Moving to Junior High school opens Angela’s eyes to a society and culture that she had been living in (Caracas, Venezuela), and yet one from which she was separate. Angela’s story tells a universal truth: we think we are the only ones telling ourselves “ We do not belong here.” That statement is what we have in common.  (more…)

Undocumented Journey: An Educational Dream Realized for Illegal Immigrants

By Marsha Wong

 

Story Summary:

In 1972, Marsha worked for the Peace Corp in Jamaica. She became friendly with a neighbor woman named Yvonne. By casually mentioning the town she lived near – Montclair, New Jersey – Marsha set in motion a dream that Yvonne would sacrifice everything to fulfill. Although some would call her an “illegal immigrant” Yvonne accomplished the impossible.  (more…)

Not By the Sword: How a Cantor and His Family Transformed a Klansman

By Storyteller Pippa White

 

Story Summary:

 In 1991 in Lincoln, Nebraska, a Jewish Cantor and his family were threatened and harassed by the Grand Dragon of the state Ku Klux Klan. Here is the remarkable story of how they dealt with the hatred and bigotry, and, in the process, redeemed a life. Based on the book, Not By the Sword: How a Cantor and His Family Transformed a Klansman, by Kathryn Watterson. (more…)

Loving Someone Tall: A Conversation With My Father About Race

By Laura Packer

 

Story Summary:

When Laura fell in love with Kevin, she was certain her liberal family would love him, too. After all, he was smart, handsome, educated and kind; that his skin was a different color didn’t matter, right? Imagine her surprise when Laura and her father needed to negotiate his discomfort with her sweetheart’s differences.  (more…)

No Aguantara

Story Summary:

The differences were easy to see, Catholic/Jewish, Brown/White, Spanish-Speaking/English-Speaking, Mexican/American, rural/urban. When Carrie Sue and her fiancé decided to marry there were many who thought their relationship would not last long – including the representative from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico who was handling their Visa.

For a print friendly version of the transcript, click here: No-Aguantara

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What do you judge people on when you first meet them? Have you ever made a judgment about a person only to realize when you get to know them better that you were completely wrong about them? If so, did you discover anything about yourself?
  2. Do you think that we learn things about ourselves when we meet people who are different from us? Why do you think that?
  3. Many people, including the American Visa Clerk objected to Carrie Sue and Facundo’s relationship. Why do you think it mattered to the other people?
  4. Why do you think many were surprised that their families did not disapprove of the relationship?

Resources:

  •  In Their Own Words: Drama with Young English Language Learners by Dan Kelin – a resource for anyone working with 2nd language learners
  • The Earth Mass by Joseph Pintauro and Alicia Bay Laurel (Carrie Sue and her husband used a poem from this collection in their wedding ceremony and still try to follow its advice.)

Themes:

  • Crossing Cultures
  • Immigration
  • Languages
  • Latino American/Latinos
  • Living and Traveling Abroad
  • Taking A Stand and Peacemaking

Full Transcript:

My name is Carrie Sue Ayvar and just after I graduated high school, I went from Pittsburgh, PA to Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico. (No aguantará) It’ll never last! That’s what they said! (No aguantará) It’ll never last! They were like wisps of rumors, never said to us directly but rumors that wisped around and spoken always in concerned tones, mostly to our families and friends.

It was 1973. I was only 17 when I met Facundo but there could hardly have been a more romantic setting. It was a warm, sunny day that January morning and it was on a small island just off the west coast of southern Mexico. The air was filled with (breathing in fragrance) mango and coconut oil, salt sea breezes and pheromones.

I watched as a muscular, strong young man, probably about 20 years old, carried several scuba tanks up onto the beach. Oo! The salt water and the sweat made his coppery skin glisten and his long dark hair had streaks of red and gold in it from days in the sun. Oh ho… I had never seen a more beautiful, gorgeous human being in my entire life! Like an Aztec Adonis emerging from the waters! When I could finally catch my breath again, I remember thinking, “The guy’s gotta be a jerk! I mean, no one is that good looking and nice too!”

But (como dice el dicho) as the saying goes, (caras vemos el corazón no sabemos) we see the faces but we do not know the hearts. Now on the surface, Facundo and I had very little in common. He was a Spanish-speaking, Catholic, indigenous, brown-skinned Mexican from a very small fishing village and he lived on a beach while I was a fair-haired, green-eyed, English-speaking, Jewish, white American who lived in a three-story brick building in a very large city.

And our experiences growing up were completely different. I mean, while I watched Tarzan’s adventures on TV, he lived them slicing green hanging vines for cauldrons of water, climbing tall palm trees to gather coconuts, diving off cliffs into beautiful blue tropical waters. I mean, while I went ice skating, he was free diving. From my father, I learned how to make flower arrangements. From his father, he learned how to build dugout canoes.

Para cemos conocemos! But we did get to know each other. And we got to know each other’s stories and each other’s hearts. (E descubrimos) We discovered (las dos querer) that we both loved (el mar) the ocean and the feeling of weightlessness during those underwater dives. (El savor) the taste of salt on our tongues when we came up for air. (El sonido) The sound of the waves drumming against the sands. (E también descubrimos) We also discovered (los dos querer) that we both cherished (familia y mis les) family and friends (mas que) more than everything. (Nos conocíamos) we got to know each other (e nos enamoramos) and we fell in love.

Now it was amazing how many people were there to tell us, “No aguantará, it will never last!” From both sides of the border, there were so many people who disapproved. They would say things like, “Oh, you know he’s only using you to get a green card.” Or (Ay, esos gringos de como de es sabe) You know how those gringos are, man! (rico e consentido) They are rich and spoiled, (ya sabes) you know! Or “Ah, what a shame! She couldn’t find a nice Jewish doctor?”

But all of those things didn’t really phase us! Even when we finally announced our engagement and, to our surprise, we heard rumors of a pregnancy that we knew nothing about! But, as I said, all those doubts and criticisms didn’t really bother us. I mean, we were happy and, to the surprise of many, so were our families. I mean, Facundo had actually met my parents a year before I ever met him; they’re the ones who actually introduced us to each other there on the island. Jesus, his papa and his parents –  (madre tomas su propia hija) they treated me like their very own daughter. Dona Christina, his mother, used to say ,”(Tenemos que cuidado de ella)  We have to take good care of her.  (Sus propios padres están tan lejos) Her own parents are so far away.”

So really, what did it matter to us what other people thought? I didn’t think it mattered at all… but sometimes it does. Since it was hard for my grandparents and other elderly relatives to travel to southern Mexico where we lived, we decided that we would have the wedding in my home town of Pittsburgh, PA.

Now after a 12-hour overnight bus trip, we finally arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Under a smoggy, gray sky, we waited for hours and hours to finally speak to an American visa clerk. And when we finally did, instead of helping us, instead of telling us what kind of visas we were eligible for, this unfriendly, unhelpful, unhappy little bureaucrat of a man lied to us. Lied to us repeatedly and began to make things up. Let me ask you, do you know how hard it is to get a copy of a form that doesn’t actually exist? Oh, yeah, he knew that he controlled the information and the situation.

But much to his dismay, we did not give up and go home like he wanted us to. Ah, ah, every time we went back, he looked more put out, like, like he was sucking on sour lemons or smelled something foul in the air. I mean, he was, quite frankly, openly disapproving of us. He told us that we were too different and finally, he dismissed us with an arrogant look! “Just go back to your own kind! You are young, poor, powerless and you don’t even realize that I’m doing you a favor!”

(Sigh) Well, (pobres) We were poor; we had little money. (E jóvenes) We were young! Powerless? (Las caras vemos corazones no sabe) You see the faces but you do not know the hearts! His attitude only strengthened our determination – pulled us together! Facundo and I, we found our voices and our power! We did not give up; we went back to that embassy again and again until, at last, we found someone who would listen. Though I will admit, it did take months, a career ambassador, a 3-star general and a United States senator to finally resolve our case!

But we did get a visa and we did get married. Now maybe we were naïve, I don’t know. I know as it was pointed out to us again and again, we looked different and we sounded different. We had different religions and we came from very different cultures and experiences. And (nunca sabes) you never know; there are no guarantees in life anyways. But I do know that we just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary and, yeah, we’re still happy! (Como dice el dicho) As the saying goes, “Look at the faces and see the hearts!”

Will You Please NOT Marry Me? – Adventures In Cross-Cultural Dating

By Csenge Zalka

 

Story Summary:

 When a single girl from Eastern Europe goes to the USA to study, she has to face certain assumptions made about green cards, marriages of convenience, and other things no one prepared her for. Culture shock comes in many shapes and sizes, and graduate school orientations never tell you what “the L word” really stands for…  (more…)

Hamlet Goes to Jail: Life Changing Experiences that Occurred in 1959

By Gwen Hillary

 

Story Summary:

 The Chicago Public Schools were almost totally segregated in the 1950’s when Gwen’s participated in an accelerated English program and first integrated a South Side High School. She succeeded in getting an “A” in the class but had an encounter with the police that threatened to overshadow her academic accomplishments.  (more…)

When Summer Came: Summer Vacations in the Segregated South

By Gwen Hilary

 

Story Summary:

 During the 1950s, Gwen’s mother, like many African American parents, ritually sent their children down south for the summer. Gwen remembers the rich experiences with her grandparents on the farm but also many painful and dangerous racist encounters which greatly impacted her.  (more…)

Soul Food in a Southern Swamp: Bumming Fish and Crossing Boundaries

By Storyteller Doug Elliott

 

Story Summary:

After fishermen in the Okefenokee Swamp give Elliott two fierce looking mudfish, he finds himself on a hilarious cross cultural journey learning how to cook the fish, and later meets a number of challenges learning how to tell the tale. (more…)

An African Native American Story

By Edith McLoud Armstrong

 

Story Summary:

 Many Africans and First Nations People bonded together during and after slavery in the Americas and in the Caribbean for protection, acceptance, friendship and love. As a result, many African descendants in these countries also share Native American ancestries. Mama Edie learns while watching old Westerns on TV with her grandmother, Nonnie Dear, a new perception of who the “good guys” or “bad guys” were.  (more…)

Hot Chili and Crackers: A Racial Stew with Danger

By Edith McLeod Armstrong

 

Story Summary:

Mama Edie’s Black Theater Ensemble is invited to perform her original composition called “Metamorphosis” at a university in Iowa in 1970. After what had been a peaceful and joyful journey along the way, the ensemble members come to realize that Civil Rights had not yet fully taken root, not even in the north.  (more…)

My Brother’s Keeper: A Teenager Works to Free Manuel Salazar from Death Row

By Jasmin Cardenas

 

Story Summary:

 Can a teenager make an impact in a world full of injustice? Jasmin looks back at the roots of her involvement in social justice issues when she joined the cause to free the young Mexican-American artist, Manuel Salazar, who sat on death row falsely accused of killing a police officer.  (more…)

To Live or Not to Live in La Villita, Chicago: A Latina Struggles with Civic Responsibility

By Jasmin Cardenas

 

Story Summary:

 Jasmin struggles with the decision of where to live: a culturally vibrant Mexican-American community that struggles with safety or a picturesque middle class neighborhood where her son might be the only brown boy on the block. How does this educated Latina seek out community? And how, as we grow older, do we stay true to our values of making a difference in the world?  (more…)

Small City, Big City: Opportunities Grow with More Diversity

By Storyteller Shannon Cason

 

Story Summary:

 A new workplace is sometimes like the first day at a new school. Differences aren’t accepted quickly, and sometimes differences can make a person feel completely isolated if they aren’t welcomed. (more…)

A Voting Booth Built for Two: Election Enthusiasm from a Cuban-American Mom

by Carmen Agra Deedy

Story Summary:

The small Southern town where Carmen’s parents live is a-buzz with political acrimony. Carmen’s mother, Esther, a spunky octogenarian–– and Cuban refugee–– regards her right to vote a hard-won, American privilege. As she finishes casting her vote, she is more than happy to remind her husband, Carlos, of “their views” on local elections. Carlos’ reaction to his wife’s enthusiasm is a hysterical and poignant civics lesson for all who are lucky enough to be casting their vote at Rocky Springs Elementary School that day.  (more…)

My Father the Whiz: A Cuban Refugee’s Response to Jim Crow

 

Story Summary:

 In 1964, Carmen’s father, a Cuban refugee, went to work at a steel manufacturing plant near Atlanta, Georgia. When, on the first day of work, he asked to take a bathroom break, he was faced with two choices: before him was a “white” bathroom . . . and a “colored” bathroom. Carmen’s father’s solution would foreshadow how this inventive man would ultimately teach his Cuban-American daughters that, in matters of conscience, we need not accept the only choices placed before us.

 For a print friendly version of the transcript, click here:  My-Father-the-Whiz-A-Cuban-Refugee-Response-to-Jim-Crow

Discussion Questions:

  1.  In 1964 ‘white only’ and ‘colored only’ signs designated Southern public restrooms, water fountains, etc., and these divisions were legal. When Papi confronts the signs, he doesn’t protest their legality, but chooses a creative response.  When he says, “I did what any decent man would do,” what does he mean?
  2. How do you think the factory workers viewed their new colleague before the incident and after the incident? Do you think he continued to ‘whiz’ outside?
  3. How does the use of humor in this story help us look at a difficult social issue?

 Resource:

  • Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America by Juan Gonzalez

Themes:

  •  Crossing Cultures
  • Education and Life Lessons
  • Family and Childhood
  • Identity
  • Immigration
  • Latino American/Latinos
  • Stereotypes and Discrimination
  • Taking A Stand and Peacemaking

Full Transcript:

Hi, my name is Carmen Agra Deedy. The story I’m going to tell you is called, “My Father the Whiz.”

I grew up hearing stories everywhere I went. It was inevitable, really. I grew up a Cuban refugee in a small southern town. My family came to this country when I was three years old and the little town that embraced us was called, and is called, Decatur, Georgia. Now, back then you couldn’t go three steps without stumbling into a story. You see, turned out, Cubans and Southerners were not all that different. They worship their ancestors, they gathered around food and they were unrepentant, chronic talkers. And so, the stories that I learned told me more about the people than anything I was ever taught. One of my favorite stories ever is about my own father. Now by the time I was 16 or 17 years old, I thought I‘d heard every story my father had to tell. Oh, the hubris of the young. But one afternoon my mother called me to the kitchen and said, “Carmita, take this cafecito to the men outside. They’re playing Dominoes; they’re gonna be out there for the next five hundred years. And then come back inside ‘cause you gotta help me with the dishes.” Which insured I was staying out with the men. Well, I walked out, (screech), opened the screen door, and saw all these Cuban men in their crisp guayaberas, tightly gathered in a circle around an old folding table littered with domino tiles. They were not under a banyan tree or a mango tree but a Southern Magnolia. Life is just weird when you’re a refugee.

I started to walk towards them through the miasma of cigar smoke, when I heard my father begin a story. Like I said, I thought I knew every story my papá had ever told. But you see, stories are funny. Stories are like, well, sometimes, they are like a fine wine. You don’t uncork them until the person who’s going to drink, is going to be able to really savor it and know how good it is. My dad must have decided I was ready. But first he called out, “Do I smell coffee or would it be that I am so light-headed from thirst that I am hallucinating?” Now, the Irish may have saved civilization but I assure you the Cuban gave you irony and sarcasm. I plunge towards the men and then they all said, Niña, cómo estás?” And I kissed everyone, it is the way of my people. And as the coffee was passed around, my father continued his story, as though I was not there. I wasn’t going anywhere.

I leaned into the tree, and he said, “And so you know, we had only been here for a few weeks,” less than a month, it turned out before my father finally found work. His English was cursory. He had been an accountant in Cuba. Now he came here with little understanding of the language. He was so grateful to have found work. Well, the first job he found was at a steel manufacturing plant. He was so eager the first day of work that he showed up an hour early and so nervous he drank nearly an entire carafe of coffee before he walked in. Now he was coupled with a man who was supposed to teach him welding—basic welding. (Google, figure it out. It’s a verb.) As he was learning to weld, Big D, a big African-American man, and my father found a way of communicating. Using hand signals and a few words my father knew in English. My father knew, like I said, not only little English, he knew almost no Southern black English. Big D didn’t speak Spanish. And yet, they soldiered on…or soldered on. In any event, within a small space of time, an hour or two, my father said he was starting to get the hang of things, And then, BAM! Like a hammer on an anvil, his bladder just felt like it was gonna burst—all that Cuban coffee he had! Well, he tried to ask Big D…well…This is how he said it went. “Ah, por favor, uh, please, Mr. Big D….ay….ti, ti ti…Cómo se dice? Dónde está baño?”

“What’s that you say, Mr. Carlos?”

“Ay, ay, ay…El baño?…Ah…,” my father unscrewed his thermos, and then he tipped it upside down to show it was empty now. Big D seemed relieved, “Hold on, Mr. Carlos.” And then disappeared around the corner. When he came back, he brought his own large, green thermos, which he unscrewed, and he began to pour my father another cup. “No, no, no!” My father looked like he had just been offered a live rattlesnake. And Big D, thinking that it was he that had offended him, ‘Well, if you don’t want to drink from my cup…” “No, Señor, no, no, no!” My father also increasingly frustrated being thus misunderstood, said, “No, eh, Señor, por favor,…Cómo se dice?” And then he realized, he knew just what to do. He unzipped, an imaginary zipper, fly, and then he made the international symbol, um…for emptying the male bladder. And Big D started to laugh out loud. And then he stopped. And he cocked his head, sort of like the RCA Victor dog and mumbled something to himself. Which my father said to this day that he’s not sure of the words. But it sounded something like, “not my problem, not my problem.” And finally said to my father, pulling him by the shirt, pointing, “Right there.” And he pointed down a long row of men, machinists at work at their stations. At the very end of the corridor, there was what looked like a hallway or corridor. My father thanked Big D and he gunned it. He started, at a clip, down that line of men and as he passed them,..now remember this is the first Latin man in this all black and white factory, the year was 1964, the men started shutting down their machines. And it got quieter and quieter except for the footsteps of the men behind him. Now, my poor father had only been in this country for a short amount of time. He was learning the customs. He wasn’t sure. This thing was uniformly odd. Where he came from men took care of this sort of business by themselves without spectators. When he reached the hallway, however, the crowd began to swell. And it looked like they were everything from laborers to two supervisors, black men, white men. And then he found himself confronted with a conundrum. A puzzlement. At the end of the hallway were two doors. Some of you know where this story is going. One said white and one said colored. And though his own tragic and troubled country had had many problems, this was not one that my father was familiar with, not in this way and he didn’t know what to do. And at this point he heard in the back, someone begin to laugh. And a man called out, “Hey, Mr. New Man, you pick whichever one you want but when you pick one, you stick with it.” My father looked at the men, looked at the doors. And he caught sight of Big D’s face in the very back watching him curiously, studying him. Now this the point in the story where I interrupted. Remember the tree…me leaning against it. I couldn’t stay there anymore. “Papi, what did you do?! I mean, did you quit, did you…”

“Carmen, just a moment, when you have to go you have to go. But, you know, I had come from a country where I had learned sometimes you have to follow your conscience. You cannot go left, you cannot go right. You have to find your own way.”

“Pop what does that mean…”

“Uno momento!” Now the men had leaned forward too.

“Carlos, what you did you do?”

“Can I please finish my story?” And he said, “I did the only thing a decent man with a full bladder could do. I push my way through that crowd of men, I go outside and I whiz in the woods!”… Si!

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YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT THE ENDS GONNA BE

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YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT
THE END’S GONNA BE

diane
A short story told by
professional storyteller

 

Misunderstood. Judged. Unwanted. Who among us has not experienced these feelings in life? Who among us hasn’t felt insecure?  Teenagers and young people are especially prone to these unavoidable wounds in life.  They are especially able to connect to these feelings because they so want to fit in with their peers. They experience these feelings as they interact with peers and develop friendships in the close environment of school, as well as in their dealings with adults.

In Diane Ferlatte’s story “You Never Know What the End’s Gonna Be,” Diane shares with listeners a very relatable experience from her own life. This event touched on feelings we all experience: misunderstood, judged, and unwanted.

Marrying a man of a different race from herself left many obstacles to overcome with Diane and her new mother-in-law. The highs and lows changed how the family connected and communicated with each other.

In this story, she offers a message of caution so that we can all benefit from her life lesson. Take what you’re given in life, because you never know how long it will be yours to have. That’s a caveat we all can appreciate.

Listen and learn from this touching story:
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You Never Know What the Ends Gonna Be

 

Be moved by some of the other storytellers in our free line-up on our Showcase Page.

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