Our Inherited Attitude
When we empower students to think about the ideas and beliefs they've inherited about others, we are investing in a more empathetic future for everyone.
Welcome to From the Teacher’s Desk, where we take turns further reflecting on our episodes and applications to the classroom.
As is true of growing scientific knowledge, we don’t know what we don’t know about others’ lived experiences until we know it. And if we have to be taught to limit ourselves and others until all that is left is a self-fulfilling prophecy of discord and hate, how do we change that?
We live in an educational world where we don’t say gay or teach our children about the history of race in our world. But we can’t ignore this fact: mastery of literacy and writing skills should also innately create more open-hearted individuals.
That is the work to which we’re committed at Lit Think.
Octavia Butler would say all this starts with genuinely experiencing the world through someone else’s eyes. She said once, “I began to write about power because I had so little.”
I would argue that this is precisely what implicit bias training and empathy work in the classroom are asking us to do.
You don’t have to commit a whole unit to get students thinking about these issues. Instead, spend one class period completing a self-audit. Please encourage students to pause and reflect on what they see in their community. Then ask them to share with their peers what their observations might mean.
Two great resources for this are:
“How diverse is your universe?” activity
Harvard’s Project Implicit online test series
If you’re ready to go deeper, maybe you create a discussion series with your students. Begin with bell-ringer videos that students can journal in response to (like this New York Times series).
Or one of my absolute favorite activities comes from Matthew R Kay’s book, Not Light, But Fire:
Ask students to write for five minutes about their relationship with their name. Do they like it? Not like it? Are they aware of its meaning? How has their name affected their movement throughout the world?
Then they can connect their own experiences to either this spoken word piece by Hiwot Adilow, this essay by Firoozeh Dumas, or this poem by Elizabeth Acevedo.
Sarah and I will always encourage our audience to look for big ideas in the “ambient media” around us. We talk about this in every episode of Lit Think, but this message especially hit hard for me during our discussion of Ms. Marvel and Pride and Prejudice adaptations.
If you want to keep doing this intentional work with your students, make sure you’re introducing diverse literature into your classrooms. I could give you a list of some of my favorite diverse YA books, but the reality is something better will be published tomorrow. So instead, I will guide you to these resources from the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books.
Because the more we learn about the power that’s been taken away from others, the sooner we can work to make a more equitable tomorrow for everyone.
Don’t forget to check out our episode on Kindred.
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