What are your students reading?
Sometimes it is hard to tell our students to imagine themselves in the text, when very few of the books in our classrooms mimic who are students are. When we think about diversity and literacy, we must go deeper than the color of one’s skin. I often receive so much feedback when I share the name of my nonprofit organization. People often say “Why did you tag it as colored? Isn’t that for all black people? Do you think other races will be offended?” My response is always “No.” We have to look at our students with more depth than the color of their skin.
Our students bring a wealth of colors to the classroom daily, that we must modify our instruction to address. As educators, we are the ROY G. BIV of schooling. It takes red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet to make a rainbow, and it takes many colors to get the the heart of a child. At the end of every rainbow is supposedly a pot of gold. Well what do you think a child who sees all his colors shining will have. We open the doors of opportunities when we pour into students according to all their colors. Our students are filled with colors of race, class, religion, sexual orientation, age, mental abilities, talents and gifts, physical abilities, nationality, gender, and so much more. Our books have to be diverse enough to accommodate the colors of a student, and as an educator it is our job to ensure that it happens. We must go deeper than the skin. We have to heal and mend the internal wounds. Patch those scars with colors of success.
Here’s what I am reading now:
Awesome text, check it out, and tell me what you think.
“How do we teach them?”
“How do we build relationships with them?”
“How do I get them to read?”
“What materials do I use to engage them?”
These are just a few of the questions I’ve heard when working with teachers who think educating students of color means you have to discover an unknown land. This is in fact so untrue. The same methods that are used to teach students across the country, can be used to teach our students when it is genuine and authentic.
- Be honest, open, and transparent. Say what you know and what you don’t. Be willing to allow minority students to teach you about their culture. Let them know that you are not a walking book, and you need them to teach you, just as much as they need you to teach them. Shut Up, and Listen. Teachers are so quick to talk over, about and around students. Let their voice spark conversation and lead discussion time.
- Build Relationships- The key to teaching students of color is to “really be here for it.” There is no sugar-coating, skateboard, or galloping around the carousel with teaching our kids, they know when you “real.” Don’t think just because you play Beyonce, know the lyrics to Bodak Yellow, or “have a best friend of color” you can slide into their lives, they want authenticity. I had a teacher to use a resource that she thought was grade level appropriate, but she failed to assess the cultural relevance of the piece. A question she presented to a group of African-American students stated, “The young werewolves irritated and annoyed their parents, as they braided their coarse hair into dreadlocks.” I’m going to sit that right there.
At what point did she think this was okay. To top it all off it came out of a text called the Giggly Guide to Grammar, but I didn’t laugh.
- Read what they like, not what you think they like or what you like. I had a teacher to tell me “I don’t like coming of age books.” If the text that relates to the culture of the students you serve is not your cup of tea, then find another place to sip and another tea to enjoy.
- Seek Knowledge, Ask Questions, but listen wholeheartedly. Every person of color you see should not be your only route to learning about the culture of students you serve. I am not fond of people asking me, “How do I relate to your kids, how do I teach your kids?” My black experience is not the experience of every child of color. Seek to understand the experiences of children of color, read books, ask questions, but listen with a desire to change and positively affect change.
- Connect with family and communities. A lot of times as educators we go to the school and go home. Well in many families of color, the family is their rock. It may be very hard to understand a students ability if you don’t understand his/her background. You have to make time to build a connection between home and school.
By: Kanesha Barnes
So often I hear educators say “Why can’t these kids whisper? Why do they talk so loud?” I think we have to realize who and what we are talking about. Who created whispering, and who says whispering is always the best method of communicating. Who makes whispering a norm, and why is it a problem when students “can’t whisper”
As an educator of color, and a black woman I have heard “Why is she so loud? Why is she so angry? Why is she so ghetto? Is she ratchet?” Being expressive is not loud, angry, ghetto, or ratchet, “It’s Expressive.”
When it comes to education, don’t tell my kids to whisper, their voices aren’t meant to be muted. As an educator, our job is to ignite their passion, fire their love, let them speak, they must be heard. CHANGE THEIR FOCUS, CHANGE YOUR FOCUS. “Don’t tell my kids to whisper.”
My kids must speak, because their VOICE MATTER. My kids must speak because if they don’t, then who will. My kids must speak, because they need advocates. “Don’t tell my kids to whisper”
My kids must speak for
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