Thursday, August 24, 2006

My Emergency Racism Lesson Plan

If you’ve been reading my blog somewhat regularly you are aware of the racial issues I have had while student teaching. This has given me pause for MUCH thought, because I have never been so shocked as the day I was called out in class as a racist…not because I did or said anything in that manner…but merely as an attack and shock tactic. So for months I’ve thought of how to handle when (not if) that situation comes up in my own classroom, and I’m well aware of how touchy a situation it is; I mean how can I not seem preachy when it’s a young, white teacher talking to a room of black and latino students in poverty speaks equality and against prejudice. Sounds like I’d be trying to save my own ass, and a big case of “The Queen doth protest too much,” if you know what I mean.

Ok, so how to broach the subject without either being condescending/preachy, or a doormat when it comes to student disrespect and racial views? I know for a start I can’t make it student vs. teacher when it comes to prejudice, that could make me seem desperate and defensive. What I came up with was my:


OBJECTIVE: Students will explore provocations of prejudice and discover that many prejudiced actions stem from cultural issues rather than skin color.

MATERIALS: Paper, pens, paint swatches from a hardware store


1. Students sit together in an open forum for discussion.

2. Teacher passes out paint swatches to students and requests that each child finds the color that matches their skin. The instructor also matches his/her own skin color.

3. Each student goes around and reads off the paint color that most closely resembles their complexion, i.e. coral cliché, rolling hills, pepper spice (I’m closest to blanched almond)

4. Teacher begins discussion among students about race vs. culture, asks “If we all have different shades of skin color, how can it be categorized into so few…black, white, and so on?”

5. Students speak, give answers and teacher writes poignant concepts on the board.

6. Teacher asks the class what the difference between race and culture is.

7. Teacher creates a T chart on the board and fills in each side with student help.

8. Students are asked to write or draw a situation in which they were prejudiced against someone, or someone was prejudiced against them.

9. Lesson is closed by teacher speaking about respect and the power of diversity as a tool of learning. “I think all cultures can learn from each other, and that kind of education can empower all people, not just those who seem powerful now.”

I feel that this is the best lesson plan concerning race I’ve been able to come up with so far, I want to focus in difference of culture as opposed to difference in skin color because I think that’s where most misunderstandings or anger stems from. I also think that taking race out of it diffuses the situation more. There’s no longer black and white, nigger and cracker…instead we have dusty canyon and moonscape. At the very least I hope it will get the kids to laugh and think a little about the way the act with other cultures. And of course it goes without saying that I hope it saves my butt a lot of trouble.


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