STOP TREATING PEOPLE AS EXOTIC OTHERS

Of course, we want to introduce students to the wider world. But teachers have unwittingly introduced other groups and cultures as if those groups were the exotic others.Human zoo

For example, schools hold International Festivals that have the flavor of “look at these unusual foreign people.” When groups of people are seen as exotic or patronizingly precious that are no longer “real” people.

Plus, the people of the world are not only international. They are here. They are Americans, Americans with a wide array of viewpoints and desires. They are people to recognize, appreciate, respectfully disagree with, live with, love with, work with and study with on a day-to-day basis, not just once a year.

Without intending to, we can keep a group of people at arm’s length while, at the same time, giving ourselves the false feeling that we are being inclusive.

We want to remember that as recent as the 1950s, people from other parts of the world as well as African and Native Americans were displayed in the U.S. as if animals in a zoo. The displays were often part of a continuum that ranked groups from apes to real people i.e. Europeans. Without meaning to, our study of other cultures can have a tinge of the same feeling.

It takes more time, thought and true connections with people with whom we’ve had less experience to be able to honor the complexity and variety within other cultures as well as understand our own cultural backgrounds with their unique histories, oddities and perspectives.

START BY SETTING CLEAR, RESPECTFUL GUIDELINES

A school is a community of people with common values and goals about the importance of education. A school is also a collection of folks with tons and tons of differences: different ages, different family and ethnic backgrounds, different physical and intellectual abilities, religious affiliations, life experiences and on and on. When we need to solve problems, it means we can have five, ten, fifteen different perspectives on how to solve them. Or all these differences can be a source of antagonism and conflict.

Maybe it seems as though we should just know how to treat each other and work together well, but it’s not always that easy, especially as our communities become more and more diverse. Just as you need to practice to play an instrument or learn math formulas or get better at a sport, learning to live and work well with all kinds of people takes skill, practice and clear guidelines or rules. Respectful conversations don’t just happen; we must plan for them to take place.

From the first gathering, have your class agree upon guidelines for respectful, productive communication. People tend to be more cooperative with rules into which they’ve had input. But don’t think that takes care of it. Don’t hang up your list of guidelines and never look at them again. Practice with your students. Ask them consistently and periodically – how are we doing with listening? How are we doing with waiting until someone else finishes before we talk? Are we expressing our opinions without putting anyone else down?

 

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.

Diversity Memo: Thanksgiving & Native American Month:

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Who’s Missing from the Table?

 

Dear Teacher or Leader,

November brings the holiday of Thanksgiving. It’s a time of year when we are reminded of our blessings, and encouraged to express gratitude for all that we have. It’s also a national holiday that embraces all of the many ethnic groups of people that make up the immense diversity of America.

November is also Native American — or American Indian month. Often the myths and stories of America’s first inhabitants meeting the early immigrants is remembered in image, story and often in plays in our schools.

As educators we carry the responsibility to address the complicated and painful aspects of our history that occurred between the pilgrim settlers and the Native peoples of North America. These enduring images of oppression and violence from the past call out for fresh examination today. In this RaceBridges Diversity Memo can lead to a new consideration of your students’ own experiences of inclusion and exclusion. It also offers a more rounded understanding of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Native American Month also offers a rich opportunity to become more familiar with the contemporary life of Native America peoples. The more we learn the more we are able to transform our disappointments and anger over the past into action today working together for a more just world.

In this RaceBridges Diversity Memo, you’ll find a classroom activity and ideas for longer lesson plans. You’ll find links to helpful sites. Check out the unusual Native American stories with lesson plans on this Race Bridges for Schools website to support your exploration of the rich and often complex holiday of Thanksgiving.
May this season offer important lessons, opportunities for reflection, and many reasons for gratitude.

Download this diversity memo

Diversity Memo: The Suspicious Brain

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Our Brains and Our Biases

 

Dear Teacher (and Leader),

Brain research is all the rage these days. It seems every day we hear of a new discovery about how behavior and emotions are linked to brain chemistry and development. Many traits and behaviors that were once attributed to character or upbringing can now be linked to specific sites and functions of the brain.

As teachers, we are particularly conscious of the advances in brain research as it reveals why some students excel in certain subjects while others struggle and how to differ teaching methods to capitalize on particular periods of brain development.

And what we have gained from brain research in the fields of mental health and education applies to issues of bias as well. We now understand that it “makes sense” for our brains to categorize those who differ from us and to assume that we are better than others.

But just because it is “natural” for our brains to work this way doesn’t mean that we have to accept prejudice and discrimination as a fact. Rather, knowing how our brains work allows us to move our focus from feeling guilt about our own biased thinking and judging our students’ prejudices to learning how to counteract what our brains do naturally and teaching our brains to work in new, egalitarian ways.

In this RaceBridges Diversity Memo you’ll find a classroom activity, some “lesson plan starters” to go deeper into the issue, further resources, and some ideas and thoughts to help inspire you on the journey. With a little knowledge we can remove some of the “heat” that attends most discussions about racism, stereotypes and prejudice and, instead, focus on solutions.

Download this diversity memo

Diversity Memo: Immigration

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Dear Teacher and Leader,

As you know immigration is a hot topic in the news today, especially with the ongoing and heated debate about SB 1070, Arizona’s stringent immigration enforcement law, and the rise in anti-immigration protests and activity around the country. The history of immigration tends to be a source of pride in the United States.

We often refer to ourselves as a nation of immigrants, a “melting pot,” and believe that our strength as a nation comes both from our diversity and from being comprised of the kinds of people brave and intelligent enough to risk immigrating to the United States and working hard to succeed here. But our discussion of contemporary immigration—legal and illegal—is more confused. Immigration in the United States is a complicated issue, too often generating strong emotions without corresponding knowledge of the facts.

While discussing immigration can be inflammatory in the classroom, it is one of the cardinal social issues facing our country. In this newsletter, you’ll find a classroom activity, some “lesson plan starters” to go deeper into the issue, further resources, and some ideas and thoughts to help inspire you on the journey.
This is a tough issue, but courageous teachers like you can make the difference, ensuring that this generation will focus on the facts rather than the hype.

Download this diversity memo

Diversity Memo: Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable

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The Search for Civility

 

Dear Teacher (and Leader),

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 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.” 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 Diversity Memo, you’ll find a classroom activity, some “lesson plan ideas” 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 diversity memo

Diversity Memo: Tell Me A Story

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Storytelling to Open Minds and Hearts

 

Dear Teacher and Leader,

The stories of our lives often hold some of our greatest wisdom. When we share our stories with each other, we express our identity, details about our heritage, the places where we are unique and the things we hold in common. Stories often speak of what we hold important or precious to us.

In addition, storytelling activities build verbal communication skills, improve critical literacy and develop the imagination.

Consider bringing storytelling into your classroom to create community among diverse student groups and to link lesson plans to personal histories.

In this Diversity Memo for Teachers you will find a storytelling activity that can be adapted for any group of students along with some starter ideas for larger lessons plans. You will also find links to other online resources that use storytelling in the classroom to open hearts and minds.

Download this diversity memo

Diversity Memo: Sheroes for Today

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Enduring Voices for Women’s History Month

Dear Teacher and Leader,

March is designated as Women’s History Month with International Women’s Day officially observed on March 8th. This month offers us an opportunity to celebrate the varied and wonderful contributions and stories of women from diverse cultures. This occasion also calls us to find ways that each of us can work for a more equitable future.
The movement toward an International Women’s Day began in the early 1900’s with annual marches in the U.S. demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights for women. Today there are thousands of different types of events that take place around the world.

The disparities that exist between men and women look different in various cultures. From unequal financial compensation to access to education, damaging stereotypes, or the prevalence of domestic violence, the conversation about women’s rights continues to evolve around the globe. At the same time, important breakthroughs and moments of great pride take place all the time.

At the Fourth World Conference on Women that was held in Beijing, China in 1995, global leaders made the case that women’s rights are human rights and that therefore, working for women’s equality is everyone’s responsibility. As educators we can pick up this charge to bring lessons about equality to all of our students.
This RaceBridges Diversity Memo celebrates diverse voices and examines current challenges for women to better prepare students to work for equity and justice.

Download this diversity memo

Diversity Memo: Using Storytelling to Celebrate Special Events in Your School or Organization

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Dear Teacher / Leader,

The school year is full of landmark days that acknowledge important historical moments and people. These days, like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or International Women’s Day and even months, like Hispanic Heritage Month, offer us valuable opportunities to learn more about our culture and history. However, there are also important events taking place close to home and related to your particular school that you may want to acknowledge and celebrate with a special event.

Perhaps your school has an important anniversary coming up, a beloved teacher is retiring, or some leaders in your neighborhood are opening a new community center. Taking the time to create a commemorative local event allows your students to celebrate their community while gaining a deeper connection to the individuals who make it unique.
This RaceBridges Diversity Memo provides some ideas for using stories as the foundation for creating a commemorative or celebratory event. This Race Bridges for Schools website is full of stories and lesson plans about using Storytelling in the classroom that will help along the way. This Memo will guide you through some key steps to get you started.

Download this diversity memo

Diversity Memo: Improving and Enhancing the Corporate Climate of the School Community

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Dear Teacher and Leader,

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. 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 your own classroom see Including Everyone: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom at the end of this document.

In this RaceBridges Diversity Memo, 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.

This brief lesson-starter invites your students to imagine a future of equality. A whole-classroom action is included at the end.

Download this diversity memo

Women’s History Month: Exploring the past, present and future

womens-historyConstance Baker Motley, the first African-American woman in the U.S. to become a federal judge, once said, “Something which we think is impossible now is not impossible in another decade.” The notion that history moves in the direction of progress is an encouraging sentiment as the March celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day are honored.

The countless women who’ve figured prominently in history have made what once seemed impossible possible—whether it was gaining the right to vote, making scientific breakthroughs, or attaining positions of power normally reserved for men. While we often limit our study of women’s history to events in the past, current affairs and even future possibilities are also powerful ways to view women’s journey toward equality. As educators we can help students explore not only the achievements of the past but the progress of the present and the promise of the future—celebrating, informing, and challenging stereotypes. 

Naturally, Women’s History Month tends to highlight women who’ve made great strides on a national level, women like Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, or Sandra Day O’Connor. Yet there are thousands of lesser-known history makers with contributions as meaningful. The Civil Rights Movement, for example, was full of women who worked tirelessly for equality—such as Ella Baker and Septima Poinsette Clark—but without the recognition. If we’re willing to dig a little deeper and consider alternate sources of historical records, we can also find deeply personal and engaging stories about how history shaped—and was shaped by—the women of different races, faiths and cultures. Consider seeking out stories, either written or oral, to explore these histories.

Having studied the past, students can better assess the present. How far have women come, and what has yet to be achieved? We can look at the prominence of women in power in politics, business, science, the arts, and even sports, but then also acknowledge inequalities that women still face—issues of compensation, access to education, and domestic violence. Stressing that women’s rights are human rights, educators can help boys and girls alike understand the need to work for justice.

With the perspectives of the past and present in mind, students can then imagine the future. What will history look like 10, 50 or 100 years from now? What will women have accomplished? What can we do to move things forward?

Women’s History Month is a great time to understand where women have come from, what they’re achieving today, and what the future may hold. In studying the past, present, and future, we can help students understand the need to work toward equality and justice for all people.

 

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”
___________________

“Civility is not something
that automatically happens.

Civil societies come about
because people want them to.”

Jimmy Bise, Jr.
___________________

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.
    .
  • 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