Last week at the pool, I met a mom from the town that I live. She was nannying in the town that I work. It turns out my daughter will attend the same school her own daughter went to from kindergarten to fifth grade. This mom didn’t hold back in telling me what she thought about what will become my daughter’s new school. She made a few comments that have replayed in my mind over and over again and each time, I’ve been disappointed with myself for not responding to her in a stronger way, for not letting her know that they way she spoke offended me and that I did not feel the same way. In the moment, I believe I was a bit stunned by what I was hearing- but after this week’s reading, I feel I would have been more prepared.
The class picture used to have half and half. Now there are only four with kids with skin like ours….I don’t like the way they talk….All the kids in special education. They’re so distracting.
These comments have again come to the forefront of my mind as I read chapters three and four of Being the Change, by Sara Ahmed. As I read Sara’s tips for helping students to relate to others through “healthy, candid, self-exploration while listening, learning, and being empathetic,” I couldn’t help but think about the power that this work holds for all members of a community-how powerful this would be if we at least started with the kids in front of us.
The piece that I thought about the most this week while reading was the explicit instruction around terms such as perspective, bias, and microagressions. I’ve heard kids throw around words like bias, especially when learning to write news articles-but I can now imagine new possibilities if these terms are first related to kids and their own identities first, as Sara suggests. For example, if kids first identify their own implicit biases, I think they’ll have a greater understanding and ability to identify biases that may come up in their interactions with others as well as in the context of their reading.
Something I’ve been thinking a lot about this summer, are ways to get kids to think about their reading more deeply-how we can model a deeper level of thinking through read aloud. I think that the introduction of these terms and ideas are one way that kids can read and discuss their books in ways that will change the way that they look at the world. Sara’s suggestions for introducing the terms laid out in these chapters are so personal and I could see this work laying the foundation for many meaningful conversations throughout the school year within many different situations, social and academic. This week’s reading has already changed the way that I’m thinking about the world.