Seriously…What Did You Call Me?!

By Onawumi Jean Moss

 

Story Summary:

 While getting a passport to prepare for a trip abroad, Onawumi Jean discovered that her name is not on her birth certificate. Her aunt is able to clear up the mystery by disclosing a concession Onawumi’s mother made to get along and keep her job in the Jim Crow South. As an adult, Onawumi arranges a naming ceremony where she is able to honor her past and celebrate her creative present and future. (more…)

The Teacher as Learner

By Nancy Donoval

 

Story Summary:

Nancy shares some of her favorite teaching moments when students from different cultures turn the tables and teach her about stories from their cultures. Second grader, Luis, tries to be patient with his teacher, but despairs of ever getting Nancy to pronounce “pantalones” correctly. Nancy learns just how challenging it is to communicate in another language.  (more…)

JustStories Events

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The JustStories Storytelling Festival was produced for ten years in the Chicago area. Professional storytellers led audiences of schools students, teachers and adults in powerful stories about race and diversity. Facilitation among the audience were an important part of these gatherings. Organization of this project was by interfaith and local schools and agencies in Chicago and suburbs. The last of these festivals was produced on Facebook. Be creative and adapt these ideas for your own school or organization.

 

2013 JustStories Festival (PDF)

2012 JustStories Festival (PDF)

2011 JustStories Festival (PDF)

2010 JustStories Festival (PDF)

2009 JustStories Festival (PDF)

2008 JustStories Festival (PDF)

2007 JustStories Festival (PDF)

2006 JustStories Festival (PDF)

2005 JustStories Festival (PDF)

2003-04 JustStories Festivals (PDF)

The Restaurant Story: A French American Becomes More Visible

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THE RESTAURANT STORY:
A FRENCH AMERICAN BECOMES MORE VISIBLE

By Michael Parent

Introduction:

Do you know how it feels to be looked at like you don’t quite measure up, like you’re not as valuable as someone else? Sure. We all know the sting of a put down, whether done with words or with body language. In this story, Michael Parent tells of such an encounter and how the people involved set the record straight.

Summary:

Storyteller Michael Parent easily sets the stage for this story by giving the listener a bit of background on Franco-Americans. He compares their invisibility as a result of trying to fit into the new country to the powerful visibility of some of America’s more recent immigrants. With the stage set, listeners can easily connect to the ignorance experienced by many immigrants. Listen and feel the empowerment!

Classroom Reflections & Activities:

  • Create several scenarios of ignorance about immigrants for students to role play and respond to. Encourage empathy in the responses.
  • “Myth Busters.” Generate a series of comments or beliefs about immigrants written down on notecards for students. Distribute the cards and have students work in small groups to research the comment or belief to discover if it is fact or myth. Noting the origin of the comment or belief could also be interesting.
  • Have students journal about a time when they felt inadequate or not as good as someone else. Describe not only the event, but also the feelings experienced.

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Watch the video now

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THE DR. KING HOLIDAY : DAY OF SERVICE Contributing vs. Taking ?

What is the difference between contributing and taking? Do the students of today understand this distinction? Can they put it into practice? As educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that the mlk-stampyouth of today play a role in positively contributing to our society. After all, we want our future leaders and caregivers to build our communities up and expand our resources, rather than become those who tear down our quality of life.

It is important to discuss with students, on a regular basis, the value of contributing. Contributing to conversations, to programs, to the world in a positive way. Contributing means giving or donating. It could refer to time, energy, talents, money, or resources. Students should see that everyone, regardless of age or race, has the ability to contribute to our world in a positive way and make a difference. That is how we learn about each other – values, cultures, beliefs. And that is how we make our world a better place for everyone. 

Taking is just that. Taking. It doesn’t offer anything in return. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t kind. It doesn’t improve the quality of life for anyone – except the taker, and that is usually temporary and minimal. All actions have consequences. Taking can suggest a negative action and has a negative consequence. Contributing, on the other hand, is a positive action with positive consequences. Contributing often has a ripple effect – impacting people positively miles away and generations apart.

How can schools and teachers impart these valuable life lessons to students? Below are a few tips:

  • Value the opinions, beliefs, and experiences of every student. Encourage students to form their opinions based on fact, not rumor.
  • Encourage students to share in class. Tying academic lessons to life experiences cements understanding of those lessons. Don’t be afraid to allow the lesson to drift to this area. The results are priceless.
  • Provide opportunities of service and volunteerism for students. Some schools even require students to participate in some sort of service. Have students select a service, and then have them sign an agreement to complete the task.
  • Expect students to participate positively while in school, and support activities that promote student service.
  • Set up a field trip (or several) during the school year where the entire class participates in an act of service.

 

FOR FURTHER IDEAS ON THESE THEMES  SEE RACEBRIDGES RESOURCE :

GIVING IT BACK : SERVICE LEARNING IN YOUR CLASSROOM 

Teasing: Warning Signs and Tips for Eliminating This Type of Bullying from Your School

We’ve all heard the words…….those biting, painful, judgmental words that puncture the spirit and cut deeply into the self-esteem. “Teasing becomes bullying when it is repetitive or when there is a conscious intent to hurt another child. It can be verbal bullying (making threats, name-calling), psychological bullying (excluding children, spreading rumors), or physical bullying (hitting, pushing, taking a child’s possessions).*

Teasing can and does have profound effects on students. Bullying of this type is as old as time, and will likely always be a major issue at schools. But, there are things teachers and schools can do to combat its prevalence. It begins with knowing what to look for. Below is a list of some basic warning signs to be aware of, as well as a list of tips to help your school eradicate teasing from its walls. 

Who is most at risk to be teased or bullied?

“Victims of bullying are often shy and tend to be physically weaker than their peers. They may also have low self-esteem and poor social skills, which makes it hard for them to stand up for themselves. Bullies consider these children safe targets because they usually don’t retaliate.”*.

Warning Signs*:

  • Increased passivity or withdrawal
  • Frequent crying
  • Recurrent complaints of physical symptoms such as stomach-aches or headaches with no apparent cause
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Sudden drop in grades or other learning problems
  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Significant changes in social life — suddenly no one is calling or extending invitations
  • Sudden change in the way your child talks — calling himself or herself a loser, or a former friend a jerk

Tips for Eliminating Teasing at Your School:

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* Scholastic Parents. (n.d.). Retrieved 12 6, 2012, from scholastic: http://www.scholastic.com/

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

The Power of Storytelling: 7 Reasons to Incorporate Stories in Your Classroom

Download “The Power of Storytelling” here

Stories do so much more than merely entertain; they can boost brainpower, build bridges, and even impart a little wisdom. If you need a reminder about the power and promise of storytelling, here are seven wonderful—and maybe even surprising—reasons to make stories part of your teaching toolbox: 

1.        Instill values.

We all know the phrase “the moral of the story.” That’s because it’s so much easier to convey values—anything from the virtues of hard work to the need to respect others—through stories. And this educational technique has been around forever—from the Bible to Aesop’s Fables to fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

2.        Make writing easier.

If students get in the habit of telling stories, which require a sort of composition in the brain, they are likely to find the act of writing easier. They will be used to searching their memories for relevant details, organizing the narrative, and thinking about how and what they want to communicate to their audience.

3.        Nurture empathy and understanding.

By sharing our individual stories and personal histories, we tell other people who we are. And by listening to others’ stories, we learn who they are. In the classroom, listening to each other’s stories helps us see each other in new ways, to understand where other people are coming from, and what makes us all unique or the same. In this way, stories have the power to foster empathy and new connections among different groups of students.

4.        Help them make mental connections—and maybe even do better in math?

There’s a reason we use “story problems” in math class. A new study suggests that preschool children’s early storytelling abilities are predictive of their mathematical ability two years later [http://www.nationalliteracytrust.net/Pubs/oneill.html]. This study echoes other recent research on the value of storytelling to teach the “whole brain” using the multiple intelligences and the integration of thinking in the left and right brain.

5.        Boost critical thinking.

We all know there are two sides to every story, and what better way to help students truly comprehend that than through storytelling. Just as one student’s version of an event may be quite different from another, so one nation’s perspective on history might be very different from ours. By exploring different versions of one event or story, you can open students’ minds to new ways of thinking.

6.        Pass on new language.

Just as they do in reading, listeners pick up new words and language patterns through stories. They learn new words or new contexts for already familiar words. The more stories they hear, the more they pick up on narrative patterns and start to make predictions about what will happen. That experience helps readers at all levels tackle new and challenging texts.

7.        Banish boredom.

It may seem obvious, but stories are simply so much more fun than lectures, workbooks, and the chalkboard. When students’ minds start to check out—or their bodies start to slump—reenergize the mood in the classroom with a storytelling lesson or activity.

For more ideas and resources on storytelling in the classroom,
check out the FREE resource available
Storytelling : A Toolkit for Bridging Differences & Building Community

 

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Reflecting on Dr. King: Taking a Stand: Teaching Our Students to Consider Those Less Fortunate

What can students learn today about the highly influential Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? So much is accessible for students to learn about the man and his works that it is impossible for students today to be a part of our society and not know of him. He changed our country, our mentalities about liberty and human rights. It is nothing short of amazing what one man with a powerful voice can accomplish in a fleeting period of time.

Students should be able to take away from a study of his life and accomplishments the strong set of values
that he possessed. Values that he saw as so basic, everyone should have them.

He was, and still is today, a commanding authority on the rights of the individual. He spoke for those who had no platform and no hope. He opened doors that had been sealed shut. He encouraged volunteerism and a serving spirit. 

Below is a list of service opportunities that students could participate in during the school day, either in school or in the community. There is no more fitting place for Dr. King’s values to be put into practice than with the youth of today. Explore these opportunities with your students, and let them choose  one or many to participate in. When students are allowed a voice, their voices become much stronger.

  • Organize a food drive
  • Make crafts for kids in the hospital or those in nursing homes
  • Shovel snow, rake leaves, sweep floors, etc. for neighbors
  • Paint a mural in the community
  • Clean up an area of the community that needs work (parks, for example)
  • Plant trees for the community
  • Research your community to see what their needs are
  • Help out at an animal shelter
  • Deliver meals to the elderly
  • Babysit for a single parent for an evening
  • Collect recyclables
  • Serve meals at a homeless shelter
  • Organize a clothing drive for kids in need

 

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

Reality Check: Truths and Myths of the Native American People

.What do you know about the Native American culture?
.What are the stereotypes and realities?
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What do today’s schools and teachers know about the Native American people?

Take the quiz below to see if you and your students can
identify the truths and myths of this culture.

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  1. T or F    All Native American tribes live in tipis.This is untrue. While several tribes live in tipis, not all Native American tribes do. Encourage students to explore the dwellings of other tribes, and why tipis are not appropriate housing for all tribes.*.
  2. T or F    Native Americans worship nature and animals.False. While Native Americans hold great respect and honor for nature and animals, they do not worship them. Their belief system centers on one creator who goes by many names. Be sure to clarify the difference with students.*.
  3. T or F    A medicine man and a shaman are the same thing in Native American culture.Couldn’t be further from the truth. In Native American culture, a medicine man is someone who uses herbs to treat illness or injury. A shaman in of European descent, and have no connection to the Native American culture at all. Be sure to use correct terms when teaching students about the Native American people.*.
  4. T or F    Native Americans are lazy or refuse to work.Untrue. To understand this perception, it is necessary to know the background of this culture. Once America was “discovered,” Native Americans of all tribes were expected to completely adapt to the new culture. This meant changing beliefs, ways of life, clothing, personal appearance, dwellings, etc. When the Native Americans refused to adapt, misconceptions of work ethics developed into full-blown stereotypes that still exist today.*.
  5. T or F    Native Americans are uncivilized savages.Just plain wrong. The terms “uncivilized” and “savage” imply that these people were blood-thirsty for battle. While some Native American tribes are considered warriors (often at war), it should not be taught that every tribe was seeking to kill. Also, these words suggest that Native Americans ran about without any system of morality. Native Americans had (or still have) their own system of laws and punishment.  Living by a different set of guidelines does not characterize civility.*

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*(n.d.). Retrieved 9 5, 2011, from http://www.bluecorncomics.com/stertype.htm#hallofshame

Passing for WASP

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PASSING FOR WASP
By Carol Birch

 

 

Introduction:

Trying to assimilate into another culture is a difficult task. In an effort to fit in with the population in their inner city and later suburban city, storyteller Carol Birch recounts personal experiences she had with this difficult task. The desire to be American has everything to do with uniqueness and nothing to do with being just like everyone else. Listen as Carol shares how her father embraced all of his cultural heritages.

Summary:

Storyteller Carol Birch believes this statement: “To build a bridge from one culture into another and make pluralism a cause for celebration, we have to have one foot firmly planted in who we are.” However, in exploring her Polish and Scottish roots, Carol wonders if she’s really been living what she teaches. Join her as she recalls personal family stories of her cultural background, and celebrate as the family embraces their heritage.

Classroom Reflections & Activities:

  • Have students find out about their own cultural backgrounds, and then share these with the class.
  • Provide time for students to research what a WASP is, and why it is part of American history.
  • Give students an icebreaker activity that allows them to ask about the cultural heritages of the other students. Create a worksheet with a list of things for students to investigate about their fellow classmates, such as: find a student whose cultural heritage speaks Spanish, find a student whose cultural heritage practices a religion different from your own, find a student whose cultural heritage celebrates a holiday you are unfamiliar with, etc. This allows students the opportunity learn about others in a non-threatening way..

Watch the video now

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Explore our many other free storyteller-videos and
lessons for classroom, group or individual use :
RaceBridges Studio Videos

Nurturing Civility in Schools

“Yes, we need civility now more than ever. The teaching of civility begins in families, is further nurtured in classrooms and schools, and comes into full bloom as students become young adults, parents, community members, and citizens. And then, hopefully, the cycle begins anew with the next generation.”      -Mary Kimball*

When we think of how we want our children to act and of how we want them to treat others, it is easy to give a clear description. It is not, however, so easy to detail how to go about teaching children to value others – their opinions, beliefs, and backgrounds.

Because civility is based on consideration and respect toward others, it is important to first teach our children to be respectful of others. How can we translate this into lessons and activities at school?   Below are a few tips for incorporating civility in your classroom and school:

  • Encourage the basics of politeness – please and thank you..
  • Model civility. SHOW how you want students to behave toward others..
  • Allow sharing by students in class, giving time for others to ask questions for understanding..
  • Stop unwanted behaviors firmly, clearly, and consistently..
  • Create a list of classroom expectations by students. If they create it, they will show ownership and more self-accountability to adhere to the expectations..
  • Construct lessons that embrace the differences of students..
  • Generate regular opportunities for students to not only interact with one another positively, but collaborate with each other. Group projects, presentations, class activities, etc..
  • Make time to discuss cultural backgrounds. Celebrate whenever possible..
  • For a smile, visit the link below detailing George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior.(It would be nice if many of them could be used in schools today, though!)http://foundationsmag.com/civility.html.

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*Kimball, M. (2011, 3). Retrieved 5 12, 2012, from Weilenmann School of Discovery: http://wsdpc.org/2011/03/civility-now-more-than-ever/

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.For further ideas and classroom activities on civility see RaceBridges
resource Be Civil ! and Keep the Peace.

Not just another day off : How teachers can help students celebrate Dr. King’s Birthday

Dr. King Day : Turning Dreams Into Deeds

On January 16, will your students be thinking about the real reason for the national holiday? Or will they simply think of it as one part of a nice three-day weekend?

For so many students — and teachers alike — the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. is just another day off, rather than an active celebration of the life of America’s most prominent peacemaker. White students in particular may not think this holiday has much to do with them. And with an African-American leader in the White House, today’s young people may be thinking that racism is a thing of the past — a problem for older generations, not theirs. But in spite of great strides made since the Civil Rights era, racism still presents serious challenges for America. 

King Day offers a timely opportunity to remind students of these challenges, and encourage them to reverse the damaging beliefs, behaviors and systems associated with discrimination. So what can you do? The educators at RaceBridgesforSchools, a nonprofit initiative that offers free lesson plans on diversity and community-building, have these suggestions to help you bring Dr. King’s message and mission into your school.

  1. Promote service learning.Many people are not aware of the service component of the holiday: in 1994 Congress designated the King Holiday as a national day of volunteer service. Instead of a day off, Congress asked Americans of all backgrounds and ages to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy by serving the community. Do this at your school by organizing a day of service: students can serve at a soup kitchen, plant trees or deliver meals to homebound persons..
  2. Write a commitment pledge to racial unity at your school. King Day is an excellent time to develop and commit to a pledge against racism. Get students and faculty engaged in the process where all can contribute in a reflective and honest way to write this pledge. Have the completed pledge printed up in a large format, and encourage school administrators to adopt the pledge, distribute it, and have the students say it together at a special time during the week before King Day..
  3. Start an anti-racism or diversity club for students and/or faculty.Now’s a great time to form a group that focuses on many of the challenges Dr. King spoke of. You can begin by discussing issues and themes of ethnic and racial differences and conflicts at your schools, and move on to consider what positive actions you would like to take as a group to address these issues..

Martin Luther King’s son, Dexter, in a speech initiating the national holiday for his assassinated father, said, “The holiday for my father is not just for black people…the holiday for the birthday of my father is for all people of goodwill everywhere.” As schools work to recognize and celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, MLK Day can become more than a day off, and a more meaningful celebration for students of all backgrounds.

For more ideas about celebrating the birthday
of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. –and resources and
lesson plans for encouraging diversity year round —
visit RaceBridges Studio

Learn More About Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday, first created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Some have gone so far as to say, it’s not a “real” holiday because it is so new. But whether a holiday was created last year or centuries ago, someone and some people created it because it filled a deep human need to ritualize what gives us strength and meaning in life. The fact that Kwanzaa celebrations grow each year within the African American and Pan-African communities worldwide shows that this holiday has become an important way to reinforce what it means to be of African heritage and a lover of community, justice and equality.

Here is a short video that explains the broad strokes of the holiday and the official website and book by Dr. Maulana Karenga.

Resources:

http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org

Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture by Dr. Maulana Karenga (Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press)

KEEP THE PEACE!

Creating safe, welcoming communities is the job of the entire school—teachers, administrators,

staff, and students—but even small changes can make a big difference.

This resources suggests some mini-lessons and ideas for “keeping the peace” in your classroom.

Purpose

  • To identify causes of bullying, harassment, and/or violence
  • To understand the importance of creating safe, welcoming school communities
  • To identify and practice strategies for preventing and disrupting bullying, harassment, and/or violence
  • To encourage community building through activities and storytelling.

Outcomes

By the end of this lesson, each student will:

  • Understand the deeper roots and causes of prejudice and violence.
  • Have created and practiced strategies for de-escalating tense situations.
  • Have shared and listened to stories designed to encourage empathy and community building..

Download the “Keeping the Peace” Resource

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If you are interested in this subject you might like
FINDING NEW WORDS : A Resource
for Addressing Bullying at School

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Indian Boarding Schools — Part One

NOTE: As we take the month of November to celebrate the contributions of the First Nations, we want to witness also the sad truth of attempts at the genocide of the American Indians and their cultures. Particularly, we take this month to focus on the Indian Boarding Schools. We offer these four articles because as the saying goes “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it”, but also because we cannot support and celebrate our American Indian students, friends, co-workers and neighbors without understanding the context in which their very survival has taken place and their many contributions have been made.

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Imagine a government that you don’t trust, that has already killed so many in your group and broken promise after promise, coming to your door and demanding that you hand over your child. The government officials promise your child will be back from their “school” in the summer but year, after year, after year goes by and your child is not returned. This and similar stories were repeated in First Nation homes from the late 1800s to the twentieth century as American and Canadian Indian children were taken from their homes to attend United States government-run Indian boarding schools.

At the schools, the children were forced to give up their native language as well as their spiritual and cultural practices in order to look and sound like European Americans. They were forced to wear western dress, to cut their hair (a mark of shame in many First Nations’ cultures), to have “kerosene rubs” to lighten their skin, to be indoctrinated into western religions and to endure long hours of forced work duties. Those who did not cooperate or tried to run away were often harshly punished and beaten. The geographic isolation and separation from their tribal and familial support system made far too many of these young children easy targets for sexual predators.

A 1928 study titled “The Meriam Report” found that infectious diseases were widespread at the schools because of insufficient nutrition, overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions and weakening from overwork. Death rates for First Nations children were six and a half times higher than any other ethnic group. Yet, the schools continued. Young adults, some who were married with their own children, were also separated from their families and sent to the schools. At its height, there were 153 Indian Boarding Schools in the U.S. The highest recorded number of children in Indian Boarding Schools was 60,000 in 1973.

After the 1973 protest by American Indian Movement activists at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, a resurgence in American Indian pride and activism put an end to the worst of the boarding schools. Some boarding schools still exist today for students who would not otherwise have access to education on their reservations. Today, the staffs of these schools are primarily Native American. The students’ languages and cultures are supported. Young ones are no longer told that their spiritual practices worship “false gods”.

Below are statements from two people who attended Indian Boarding Schools. A friend of mine, storyteller Elizabeth Ellis, often says, “If someone can stand to experience it, then I can stand to hear it.”

NEXT WEEK:  Why would we want to know about and even teach about this tragic period in U.S. History?  –  Part 2


Indian Boarding Schools — Part Two

Why is it important that we acknowledge and even study about the existence and the abuses of the Indian Boarding Schools? 

  1. We cannot build any kind of future on a foundation of lies. Some children, thank goodness, had some positive experiences at some Boarding Schools. However, the secrecy and manipulation that surrounded the entire initiative to assimilate Indian children (“Kill the Indian in the child”) damaged and still affect possibilities for future collaborations between First Nations and any institutions or organizations of the dominant culture. Trust cannot be rebuilt unless the whole truth is told, full responsibility is taken and those responsible are held accountable. Furthermore, we can never find remedies for problems, unless we first examine and understand the nature of those problems. We cannot transform something without first acknowledging that it exists..
  2. Knowing the truth of this travesty gives a context for the devastation experienced in many Indian families and communities for the last several generations. While similar social ills are present in every community, the lasting effects experienced by any who were taken or those who know and love someone who was kidnapped, tortured and held against their will makes the mental health, domestic violence, drug abuse and fractured family issues within Indian communities more understandable. It is important not to give credence to those who would re-stereotype First Nations (“Oh, that’s why ‘they’ are that way…”), but to put responsibility on those who caused the widespread need for these coping mechanisms and insist that the demands from the Indian nations for more mental and physical health resources, adequate housing, superior education and such be met..
  3. The unimaginable scope of this tragic chapter in U.S. and Canadian history should put an end to any minimizing of the Indian experience. Sometimes, the planned genocide of Indian people is dismissed as if a card game has ended: “You lost; get over it.” The Truth and Reconciliation Hearings in South Africa, Canada and other countries have shown that healing is dependent on the WHOLE story being witnessed and heard. It supports the victims in their grief process, gives them the validation and exposure of the perpetrator they seek and helps them understand and accept the unquenchable longing for all that was lost. In an article by Judith Lewis Herman entitled “Justice from the Victim’s Perspective”, Herman states, “Community denunciation of the crime was of great importance to the survivors because it affirmed the solidarity of the community with the victim and transferred the burden of disgrace from victim to offender.”.
  4. In addition, acknowledging these crimes makes it possible for the descendants of the perpetrators and for those of us who have benefited from white skin privilege to acknowledge what we may have indirectly gained because of this planned genocide. For example, I may not have direct dealings in the fact that people’s lands were taken or that others were forced into labor camps. We are never at fault for what happened in the past. This is not about good and bad people. Most of us are good people who would never knowingly hurt others. It is about understanding that any  wealth or advantages that come my way are not simply because my ancestors “worked” hard but acknowledging that my position in life is attached to an inheritance in blood. Again, this realization is not to make us walk around guilty and impotent.  Owning the whole truth can make us powerful allies, open to taking part in the need for reparations and any other acts of justice that can begin to tackle the need for redress..
  5. When one group seeks to conquer another, their repertoire of repression is all too similar. When any culture or country is colonized by another, children become part of the playbook for take-over and are easy pawns in the game. In the 1650s, when England was colonizing Ireland, during one decade, over 100,000 Irish children were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In Australia, aboriginal children were stolen from their homes from 1909 to 1969. As recent as the 1950s, 22 of Greenland’s children were sent to Denmark for the start of a larger experiment to create an elite-group of Danish-thinking Greenlanders who could go back to Greenland and affect (or infect) the education and other institutions there. Again and again, this belief in the superiority of one group over another and the foisting of its ways upon the oppressed group fails, but leaves in its wake a terrible legacy of death and destruction (half of those 22 Greenland children were dead by their early twenties). Knowing about the Indian boarding schools, unfortunately, gives us a quick, shorthand understanding of the challenges facing oppressed groups around the world..
  6. Learning and teaching about the Indian Boarding Schools also gives us a context to celebrate and be inspired by all the ways Indian people have survived and even thrived given all the genocidal attempts on their communities. The Boarding Schools unwittingly created lifelong intertribal friendships and a new spirit of Pan-Indianism into this century. American Indians have and are accomplishing notable contributions in every field of endeavor throughout the Americas. The fact that so many Indian children and adults were able to call on a spirit inside of them that could not be extinguished, no matter what was happening to them externally, provides a testament to human strength and to a nurturing, indwelling grace that can inspire all of us. 

 

NEXT WEEK: The U.S. and Canada apologize to First Nations for the Indian Boarding School kidnappings. Whose apology was better may surprise you – Part 3

Resource:

“Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World: 15,000 Years of Inventions and Innovations” by Emory Dean Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield

Indian Boarding Schools — Part Three

On June 11, 2008, millions of Canadians tuned into a live, nationally-television apology to the First Nations from their Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. In this historic speech in the House of Commons, the Canadian government took full responsibility for the Canadian government’s attempts to assimilate First Nations children “causing great harm that has lasted for generations”. Harper went on to outline compensation for former residential school students, the creation of an ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as increased funding for child welfare and education.

The United States passed the Native American Apology Resolution in 2009 that acknowledged a “long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes” and offered an apology “to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States”. However, by contrast, President Obama signed this resolution on December 19, 2009 in a ceremony that was closed to the press.

Armand MacKenzie, the former Senior Advisor on International & Human Rights Affairs at the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada emphasized the importance of full, public disclosure.  “It was really something great to see the Apology done in public,” he said. “The injustices were a result of state policies and practices. They need to be accountable, otherwise governments can do what they want without consequence.”

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Senator from Kansas, Senator Sam Brownback and Democratic Senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan, tried for five years to pass an Apology when, finally, the bill was approved by tucking it away on page 45 of a 67 page document of an unrelated spending bill, 2010 Defense Appropriations Act, H.R. 3326.  In addition to being less public, the United States apology missed the opportunity to detail the government’s transgressions. While the original preamble to the U.S. bill detailed specific crimes and offenses as the Canadian apology had – the Trail of Tears, the Long Walk, the Sand Creek Massacre, and Wounded Knee, the theft of tribal lands and resources, the breaking of treaties, and the removal of Indian children to boarding schools and so forth – the U.S. preamble was deleted from the final version of the bill.

Too few Americans even know about the Indian Boarding Schools and the U.S. Native American Apology Resolution, let alone include it in the national discourse. It has been said that “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it”. Unfortunately, the mistakes of our past are being repeated today. Prime Minister Harper stated that “There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential schools system to ever prevail again.” Because these attitudes of superiority still “prevail” hundreds of Indian children are still being removed from their homes into non-Indian foster care and the promises of sovereign rights plus education, housing and health care are slow in coming to the First Nations in both Canada and the United States.

NEXT WEEK: We’ll look at how the attitudes and thinking that produced the Indian Boarding Schools still exists today and the injustices perpetrated because of that – Part 4

Resources:

 

Indian Boarding Schools — Part Four

After a century of government policy that forcibly removed tens of thousands of First Nations’ children from their homes and sent them to boarding schools that basically amounted to forced labor camps, The U.S. Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978  (ICWA) to put an end to this and other policies toward American Indian families and children. The ICWA was enacted “… to protect the best interest of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and the placement of such children in foster or adoptive homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture. …”

In addition to the Indian Boarding Schools, the law was to address “the consequences to Indian children, Indian families, and Indian tribes of abusive child welfare practices that resulted in the separation of large numbers of Indian children from their families and tribes through adoption or foster care placement, usually in non-Indian homes.”

Prior to the 1978 law, 85 to 95 % of First Nation children were placed in non-Indian homes when they went into foster care. Unlike non-Indian adoptions where only birth parents can object to an adoption, the ICWA is supposed to give a tribe, as well as the biological parents, standing in adoption cases. Placement within a child’s tribe is to be given preference.

But a study in 2005 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 32 states are, in various ways, failing to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act. It found that the ICWA is the only federal child welfare law of its stature without any kind of regular federal review or a federal agency to take over its oversight. The controversy over a 2011 National Public Radio special report that claimed a systematic abuse of South Dakota’s Indian children along with the 2013 Oklahoma Supreme Court Case, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl shows the complexity of these issues and the maze of federal, state and tribal jurisdictions that one must negotiate to even monitor the quality of care for Indian children.

These recent allegations and disputes along with continued legal battles over land use, protection of Indian burial mounds, mineral rights, the mismanagement of Indian trust funds and on and on shows that Indian issues are not historical glitches but a continuing search for justice and common human decency.

How do we make these and other challenges to the First Nations part of the national discourse on race and fairness? How do we have any hope in living up to the ideal of “justice for all” if the First Nations’ rights are continually ignored?

American Indian journalists, teachers, writers and media experts of all kinds need platforms so that their voices are heard and those of us who are non-Indian and woefully ignorant of current Indian issues can be educated.

We are grateful to announce that authors and storytellers, Tim Tingle of the Choctaw Nation, Dovie Thomason from the Lakota and Apache Nations and Joseph Bruchac of the Abenaki Nation have agreed to contribute articles to the RacebridgesForSchools site in 2014.

Resources:

Today’s First Nations Youth speak:

I Wanted to be an Indian

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I WANTED TO BE AN INDIAN
By Jo Radner

 

Introduction:

Take a moment to think about the most exciting wish you hoped would come true. Now imagine that all of those thrilling dreams were suddenly shattered by startling antics of your ancestors. Experience the heartbreak and the steps taken to move forward from these revelations in this touching story by Jo Radner.

Summary:

Stories about our ancestors help us to understand who we are. They help us to grow and become who we were meant to be. Encountering troubling revelations about her forebears and their Indian neighbors in colonial New England, Jo asks what it means to tell — and live with — her whole, complex history. Listen as this relatable and engaging true story is recounted.

Classroom Reflections & Activities:

  • Provide time for students to research personal ancestral history, and allow them to share stories of their families.
  • Hold a class discussion involving little known sad stories of different cultures. Encourage students to share feelings and prior knowledge of the culture..

Watch the video now

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Explore our many other free storyteller-videos and
lessons for classroom, group or individual use :
RaceBridgesStudio Videos

 

HOW WELCOMING IS YOUR SCHOOL CLIMATE ?

If we are to achieve a richer culture,
rich in contrasting values, we must
recognize the whole gamut of
human potentialities, and so we
weave a less arbitrary social fabric,
one in which each diverse human
gift will find a fitting place.

– Margaret Mead

 

There’s a lot that we can do to make our classrooms more welcoming, but it is also important that schools as institutions are inclusive at the “macro” level. 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 to consider some of these ideas.  The further step is to move a specific agenda forward with the school administration.

For ideas just for your own classroom see Including Everyone: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom.

In this Ideas blog you’ll find some activities and ponderings to help inspire you on the journey to make your school climate more inclusive. It takes committed teachers to encourage and shape our schools to be welcoming and open.   

Who feels welcome at your school ? : A Classroom Activity
This activity invites your students to imagine a future of equality.

  • Assign students to go on a “scavenger hunt” around the school (if possible, during class time; otherwise, as they change classes and before and after school. Ask them to find images, words, and references to a variety of groups (male and female; a variety of races and ethnicities; students of different socio-economic classes, physical and intellectual abilities, and language groups, and so on)..
  • For ease of record keeping, you may want to create a chart that lists different groups, locations, type of media, and a way to track how often different groups are represented. When students return with their records, share them with the classroom. Discuss who gets represented and why and what that might say about the culture of the school..
  • Then facilitate a discussion with students about what else they might examine in the school to see who is welcomed at the school. They could include such measures as the school budget, the calendar, how the building gets used, what visitors/speakers are invited to the school, the books assigned in English, what plays are performed, who is elected to various positions in the school, how music is chosen for dances, and so on. Are all represented? Who is left out?.
  • Finally, lead a discussion about what it might be like never to see “yourself” (in gender, race, class, and so forth) represented at school. What message does that send? Which students are more likely to succeed?.
  • Action:   Collate all the data the class collected, submit a report to the school administration, and then make suggestions about how to make the school more inclusive and welcoming.

 

Further Thoughts :

  • Take a look around your school: what images are there around the school in posters and pictures, fliers for activities, in the library, and so on? Do these images represent the student body?.
  • Talk to one of your administrators about the position of the school on diversity and inclusion. Ask about how inclusion and diversity are represented in the budget, calendar, and staffing..
  • Take some time to write down what you think the percentages of different groups in the school are; include lots of types of groups—race, class, sexual orientation, nationality/immigrant status, and so on. Once you write down those percentages, ask your administration for the official statistics of the school. Compare the two lists—if you were off-base in some categories, why do you think that is? How might you become more aware of the groups you overlooked?

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You will find many lesson plans and resources on this site to stimulate ideas, discussion and reflection in your ongoing task of seeking to make the climate of your school more welcome. It is often surprising to  discover “groups” who have remained “invisible’ and feel excluded.

WHAT’S RACISM GOT TO DO WITH ME?: How Our History and Context Shape Us and Others

This lesson plan also seeks to help students understand how history influences the present and to be open to the complexity of societal structures, historical causes, and environmental context both in their own lives and in the lives of other individuals and groups. While this lesson focuses on race, class, and gender, the basic principles in these activities apply to any situation that can be analyzed for cause and effect. The skills practiced in these activities will help students think through their own and others’ initial responses and engage in more thoughtful analysis of a situation instead of jumping to conclusions.

What’s Racism Got to do with Me?

How History and Context Shape Us and Others Lesson Plan

Talking about race has never been easy. Many people struggle to understand what it has to do with them. It’s natural for young people to think about racism in terms of their individual experience or history (“I wasn’t around during slavery!”) and their own behavior (“I have no problem with black people — it’s not my fault.”). Other students are frustrated by what they see as some racial groups’ inability to get past historical tragedies such as slavery (“It was 500 years ago, time to move on!”) or economic failures (“Anyone can make it in America…look at all the other immigrants.”).

This lesson plan helps students understand how history influences our present, whether that’s the state of race relations today or their own attitudes towards another group of people.

There are three brief activities in this lesson plan that teachers can use separately to introduce the topic or together to reinforce the message that we must know our history if we seek NOT to repeat it.

Help your students understand race, class, and gender in context. Use this lesson to supplement a lesson that requires that students understand the importance of our past and our context.

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.

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.

.Video Stories

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

EVACUATION

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSCsqIaf-Qc’]

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INCARCERATION

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wr0eNYCkRFw’]

 

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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. (more…)

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.

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.  (more…)

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.

(more…)

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

By Diane Macklin

 

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 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…)

Name Calling at Masonville Elementary: Hurtful Words Forgiven

By Sheila Arnold

 

Story Summary:

As a 4th grader, Sheila was given a new nickname – the “N” word – and that nickname led to an unlikely friendship, and down the road, led to forgiveness and reconciliation. (more…)

Taming the Fire: A Black Heritage Search

By Sheila Arnold

 

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

By Geraldine Buckley

 

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? (more…)

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…)

Tipping the Scales

By Robin Bady

Story Summary:

 When camp started, tension was high between the Chinese kids and Black and Latino kids in Robin’s group. But over the summer, the children began to let their defenses down and make new friends. That is, until Daniela returned.    (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 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

By Carrie Sue Ayvar

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 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…)