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Mixed Race Students in the Classroom

 
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MessagePosté le: Sam 20 Déc 2008, 01:24    Sujet du message: Mixed Race Students in the Classroom Répondre en citant

MIXED RACE STUDENTS IN THE CLASSROOM

Appropriately enough for back-to-school season, Jen Chau wrote an article offering advice for teachers who have mixed race students in their classroom:
“What I am suggesting is that teachers acknowledge mixed identity in their classrooms. I am not suggesting that you give mixed students special treatment. I am also not recommending that you go overboard by trying to pinpoint all of the mixed students in your class so that you can rush to talk to all of them about how it is to be mixed. Not only will you scare a few by this method, but you are also bound to make a mistake. There will be some students who are mixed and don’t identify as mixed, but rather by just one of their ethnicities. There could be another student you think is mixed but isn’t, and yet another who you are sure is mono-racial but who shows up at Parent-Teacher night withparents of two different ethnicities . Don’t be shocked. Don’t be surprised. Never make assumptions. Family members don’t always come in one hue. We need to be mindful of the diversity in our classrooms in a thoughtful and conscious way…”

Mixed Race Students in the Classroom: Not Absent, Just Overlooked
By Jen Chau
September 2005
As kids begin to fill their binders with fresh loose-leaf in preparation for the new school year, I would like to offer some thoughts to teachers, who I am sure are also feverishly preparing (the good ones at least).
As a former elementary and middle school teacher, I understand the multiple challenges of today’s classroom instructor. Not only do you have to cover the curricula, but you have to serve as guidance counselor, disciplinarian, and mentor as well. Add to all of that a diverse student body, and you have quite a challenge. Are you ready to deal with all of your students’ concerns, questions, and struggles? Probably not. There is no way that you can anticipate every single thing that will come up during the school year – that’s part of the joy of teaching, right? But can you do your best to prepare? Of course!
Let me bring up an overlooked demographic — the mixed race student. This student may “look” mixed, or not. This student may identify as mixed, or not. This student may have needs similar to or entirely different from the next mixed student. Mixed race students have been in our classrooms for years, decades, and generations, but society largely misunderstands and neglects this population. Mixed race people are not a new people; however, the identity is one that is just recently gaining some visibility and being deemed more worthy of consideration.
“She didn’t see herself in any of the books.”
In order to eliminate the struggle a mixed race child may go through, one reasonable response would be to create choice for our children. We would make the effort to show our students that, indeed, they are a part of our society, our world. It sounds basic. But it’s not usually done for the mixed child. Sure, mixed children are a part of some of the communities that are mentioned when we talk about diversity. They may be able to relate to stories we discuss of life in black homes, Latino homes, Asian homes, Native American homes, white homes. But do any of the stories we read with them reflect families who are mixed: maybe a black mother with a Chinese father? or a Jewish mother with a Jamaican father? or a Mexican mom with her partner — the child’s other mom, an Indian woman? I doubt it, because you can still count on your fingers and toes the children’s books out there that reflect interracial families.
Children soak up messages – both visual and verbal. If we consistently show pictures of families that do not resemble theirs and always discuss identity in very specific and limiting ways, how will they ever feel seen? These messages will tell them that their families are strange and abnormal, a situation which is not the case. Mixed families are on the rise due to a multiracial baby boom we are now experiencing. Of the 7 million people who reported that they were mixed race in the 2000 Census, about 42% or 2.9 million) were under 18 (and this is presumed to be an underreporting of the population). So, realizing that this is a larger phenomenon, don’t decide to teach about mixed families *only* if you have mixed students in your class. In order to give a fair representation of the landscape of our society, it is important to incorporate mixed individuals and families in discussions of identity.
“She stood in between the two groups in the middle of the playground.”
A friend of mine once told me about a situation in her 4th grade class that she really didn’t know how to handle. The class composition was basically 50-50 white and black with one student who seemed to be mixed, black and white. I’ll call her Samantha. My friend described Samantha as aloof, distracted, and at times, aggressive to the point of needing to be taken out of the room for time-outs. I asked my friend whether Samantha had any friends. She said, “come to think of it, I don’t think she has any.” The more my friend described the behaviors of this student to me, the more and more apparent it was that she felt out of place.
All of this came to a head one day in the playground, where lines were not drawn into hopscotch squares, but drawn by race. My friend saw that two large groups had formed as they usually do. The white students were playing a game of freeze tag and the black students were playing volleyball. And Samantha was literally in between the two groups, looking back and forth, but not joining in. Now, I didn’t tell my friend that this was symbolic of the fact that Samantha felt between these two worlds…that she couldn’t choose the black group or the white group because she is both. Who knows, it could have been that she hates both freeze tag and volleyball. But is it possible that she feels outside of these groups in some way? Yes, in all likelihood. The rest of her behaviors show that there is something wrong, and there could be so many factors at play. There is no way to know everything unless we ask a child, and, even then, perhaps we still won’t find out the truth (he may not know how to verbalize what he is feeling, or he may even be ashamed, thinking something is wrong with him).
I couldn’t help but think that Samantha might experience things differently and may even have had a more positive experience if the class were more integrated. If she is used to both black and white coming together in her family, it may be a confusing and unsettling experience to have things so divided in school. This may be a larger question for my friend to answer. How can you promote more interaction between your diverse students? When I pushed my friend to think about whether Samantha had ever expressed anything about her mixed identity, she recalled another situation in which she saw Samantha upset after being turned away from a group that was playing a game because she was “not like us.” These are moments when it is important to teach about mixed identity: that being mixed does not preclude you from getting along with or relating to other kids; being mixed can mean that you merely relate to more than one group, culturally. Kids tend to dislike what they don’t know. They also tend to dislike that which is uncommon. If there is more general knowledge of mixed identity, it is probable that mixed students will feel more confident and accepted amongst their peers, even if they are in the minority.
“He didn’t know how to bring it up or where to go.”
As I mentioned above, some children may identify as mixed, others won’t. What happens when you have a student who identifies strongly as mixed and has questions, but doesn’t necessarily know how to bring them up? What if the questions he asks aren’t questions you are prepared to answer?
A high school teacher explained this situation to me. In a pretty diverse class, she had students from a variety of backgrounds with a few students who were mixed. One boy in particular, Jay, would allude to his mixed identity in conversations, but always talked in ambiguous terms. It was clear that he was looking for some connection, some mentor with whom to discuss his experiences. The teacher felt inept due to her lack of knowledge. She had experience with diverse populations, but never really gave much thought to mixed identity. It just hadn’t come up in her few years of teaching. She knew that there were mixed students in her class, but the subject was never spoken about, so she figured there was nothing special to address.
Because she didn’t know how to approach Jay, she looked to a couple of colleagues who informally served as advisors to the school’s students of color. Unfortunately, they came up short as well. They felt that they didn’t know quite enough about mixed youth in order to give the right answer to this teacher’s questions. First, in my opinion, there is never a right answer. However, there are good ways that a teacher can provide a safe space to begin to discuss the issues with a student. There are resources that a teacher can also provide to a student. The reality is that there is a wealth of books, films, organizations and websites that speak to the mixed experience (thanks to heavy organizing and activism in the past 10 or so years).
In the case of Jay, perhaps just a simple “Hey, I was thinking that you may be interested in this website,” would have done him wonders. He probably wasn’t aware that such resources were available to him. This small gesture might also have opened the door to talking with him about his experiences. If you can’t find a resource within your school’s walls, I implore you to look beyond. I have spoken at a few high schools and colleges where teachers recognize the importance of discussing mixed identity, but don’t necessarily know how to initiate such conversations themselves. I feel that teachers don’t have to know ALL the answers all the time. What’s important is being able to recognize when there is a need and then to act. Find the answers and the resources to fill that gap. That effort will be recognized and appreciated.
What I am suggesting is that teachers acknowledge mixed identity in their classrooms. I am not suggesting that you give mixed students special treatment. I am also not recommending that you go overboard by trying to pinpoint all of the mixed students in your class so that you can rush to talk to all of them about how it is to be mixed. Not only will you scare a few by this method, but you are also bound to make a mistake. There will be some students who are mixed and don’t identify as mixed, but rather by just one of their ethnicities. There could be another student you think is mixed but isn’t, and yet another who you are sure is mono-racial but who shows up at Parent-Teacher night with parents of two different ethnicities. Don’t be shocked. Don’t be surprised. Never make assumptions. Family members don’t always come in one hue. We need to be mindful of the diversity in our classrooms in a thoughtful and conscious way.

http://mixedmediawatch.com/


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MessagePosté le: Sam 20 Déc 2008, 01:24    Sujet du message: Publicité

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