I can talk about race in the classroom

Over the last few months I have been researching and designing a unit that any parent, volunteer or teacher could use in an elementary school classroom to foster a race positive environment that enhances the cultural competence of the group. I have been collaborating with Sam’s 3rd grade teacher, who opened her doors wide to the offer after I had been volunteering all year-once a week during math (of all things-not my forte). After building relationships with the students, and her, it was an easy and seamless transition for Sammy’s mom to be reading stories and talking to the kids about who they see, and often don’t see in books.

I can see myself in the books I read
I can see myself in the books I read

The impact of this unit-which we delivered once a week for four weeks-is palpable in her classroom.  The comfort level students have with talking about people of all colors, about race, and difference, and the changes we all can make on our communities is evident in their larger discussions now about history, fiction, and current events. It feels different when you walk in the room–a cohesiveness that I didn’t feel before exists now.  Granted, I am biased. But, as soon as I find a way to measure such a shift empirically I will!

This weekend I will be presenting this curriculum along with other components of my; “I can talk about race in the classroom” workshop to administrators, educators and education majors in Augusta. A few months ago I presented another version of this to a group of students pursuing a masters in counseling. This June, I am speaking to a symposium on early childhood educators. This is wildly satisfying work, and after years of volunteering to do it, it is gratifying to be sought out and paid!

Eventually I hope to offer the curriculum itself through this site, or another avenue. This was one of my big goals for working part time this year, and it feels really exciting to see it in action. Have any of you done work of this nature in the schools in your community? What were your discoveries? Or if you haven’t but would like to, what do you feel would be most helpful to get you started with your planning?

11 comments

  1. I love this. I’m reminded of the chapter in Nurture Shock in which children discover a black Santa in a book during class reading time. Thank you for keeping this conversation going!

  2. I helped develop a ‘privilege walk’ for elementary students in my child’s class while they were doing a unit on race and racism earlier this year. I also have my list of favorite books to talk with kids (and adults) about race—and to get everyone more comfortable with appropriate language when talking about race. I’m happy to share resources with you…and I’m also really interested in your ongoing work.
    Natasha

  3. This sounds fantastic — huge congrats!!! Will be very interested to learn the specifics when you have them to share. Also, have you tapped into PACT, the Bay area group that focuses on supporting adoptive families with kids of color? If not, definitely check them out, too. … Dana

    • Yes, Dana I know about them, and hope to make it out there at some point. The travel and cost is really prohibitive–but that I am committed to making it work at some point. Have you been?!?

  4. This is so exciting Mama C! I wish you could present at our school district!
    I’m an early childhood educator, could you share where you are presenting in June, I’d love to know if it is something I might be able to swing attending, maybe?? 🙂

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