Monday, March 31, 2008

Apparently, today was Controversy Day in my classroom

The novel the class is reading had a part in it about a rampaging ox. The kiddos weren't entirely sure what an ox was. I told them. They asked if it was the same as a toro and I said no, they were neutered. So of course they asked what neuter means. Then they asked what testicles were. Sometimes I'm really glad that the administration doesn't pop in randomly.

Later, one of the kids asked what racism is. The class consensus was that they all had some vague idea, but didn't really know for certain. Some of the kids thought that racism was using the n word. Of course, several of them (remember, bilingual class, first year in English) didn't know what the n word was-- and this is where I hesitated. But I answered. One of the girls raised her hand and said, as she was cringing back into her desk with embarrassment, "Ms. G├╝erita, I'm not trying to be rude, but what does nigger mean?" This whole discussion was making my skin crawl in a way that the testicle talk ever could. I told her that it was a word that has been used for many, many years as a weapon to hurt African Americans (the kids were using that phrase at this point, so I stayed with it), and that it was very hard to give it a specific meaning. THEN one of the kids asked why it was okay for African Americans to call each other the n word, but it was bad for someone else to. One of my boys said he felt like he understood that, but he couldn't put it in words. I let them talk amongst themselves about it, then I told them that that question was very controversial, and that people from every race disagreed about it, including blacks. Then I asked them how they'd feel if a white person came up to them and said, "What's up, raza?" (Yes, J, this one is dedicated to you!) That got several pairs of eyes narrowing, then lighting up. Then we had to get back to prefixes and suffixes.

They did ask me if we could find some reading materials with a racism theme, so if you can think of anything appropriate for late elementary students (non-fiction, novels, short stories, graphic novels, anything), then put it in the comments.

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4 Comments:

Blogger subhuman said...

Wow, what an awesome opportunity to teach anti-racism with your students!

Check out the website
http://www.teachingforchange.org/

for some books about race and multiculturalism. I'm sure some will be more explicit than others.

Good luck!

4/01/2008 11:03 PM  
Blogger lily of the valley said...

Ooh! Thanks for the link. I'll definitely be using it and passing it along.

4/02/2008 7:15 AM  
Blogger Venha Futuro said...

Tahar ben Jelloun wrote a wonderful book called "Racism Explained to My Daughter" that is written at a level that your students can probably understand.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_Explained_to_My_Daughter

If they were a little older you could just show them Blazing Saddles.

4/02/2008 12:12 PM  
Blogger momster said...

Wow! I just found your blog while looking for an image for my blog. I love it! I am going to school right now in order to get my teaching certificate so I am always happy to read blogs by professional teachers. I am definitely putting a link from my blog to yours so I can keep visiting.

4/09/2008 8:03 PM  

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