Racism and Developing A Multi-Cultural Mindset

I’ve seen a classroom activity floating around the internet where kids start with a blank,fresh sheet of paper and they are told it is their heart/mind.  The teacher/facilitator instructs the students to crumple up the paper and smash it.  To make it as wrinkly and broken looking as possible.  The students do this and then the teacher explains that this is now their heart (or the heart of another) after something mean is said to them.
The teacher instructs the students to say sorry to the heart and to try and make it flat and as it was before.
The students do this as best as they are able and the teacher explains that the heart is no longer able to go back to the way it was.
Moral of the lesson: be careful with your words because often once you say them, the damage has been done and the words are there forever.

Anyway, not sure if I got all the fine details of that lesson spot on as I’m doing it from memory, but you get the idea.

I’m writing about this mainly out of frustration because it’s just so…odd to me that this behavior is still happening.  I mean this in a general sense, not necessarily only with my students (back to that in a moment).  I mean, that people can still be so hateful toward another human being just because they look differently.

In my classes, I try and incorporate as many races as I can to increase their level of exposure.  I know you might be saying, especially if you’re a teacher in a bigger city like Seoul, that “Oh that can’t possibly still be happening!  You’re exaggerating!”…and yada yada yada.
Sorry, no.  I wish that was the case, and I’m happy for you that you get to experience life without that added hurdle.

More specifically, most of my students don’t bat an eyelash when I put up things that have people from other races because it’s such a part of our class, but I’m working to break their habits of joining in when others are laughing.
I had another girl come back from a few month long break and we watched a little video clip of a guy zip-lining (vocab word, along with “harness” and “clip”).  The guy was from Nepal.  The girl started laughing and said “Teacher, dirty!”  Then a few other kids started laughing and then several more were shouting about how “dirty” he was.
Cue immediate pause of the video and explanation about not being mean and that there are many people in the world and some people look different, and how that’s OK.  etc.  I turned the situation on them and asked how they would feel and the whole time they were very quiet.
Anyway, we continued the video and not another word was said.

I just get so tired of this.  Tired of explaining that it’s not OK to talk about people like that.  Not in the way that I’ll stop talking about it, but more that this still needs to be addressed.  I think I’m going to find an activity to do with them so I can get it to sink in a bit more.
Granted, it’s not all of the classes and it’s not all of the students.  That’s usually never the case.  I just need to find a way to have this get a bit further into their heads.  It’s just weird because even our reading books have people off all different colors and sizes in them.

Ugh.  Anyway.

This was the video in case you’re curious:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsOzAbUt8n8

In better news, all the lyric booklets are put together and the CDs are all burnt.  I just need to get bags, stuff them and then distribute them.

I’m also thinking about making some scones tonight for my older class because that was a spelling word for them and I think it’d be fun to eat scones while learning about them.  🙂
And because they’re delicious.  🙂

Edit:
I was browsing the interwebs and found this gem:
http://www.teacherplanet.com/resource/tolerance.php

There are a bunch of lessons plans for teaching tolerance just in case someone else is having the same issue.

It’s a bit rough since my weeks are already basically planned for me, but I’m going to try and squeeze something in there.

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2 thoughts on “Racism and Developing A Multi-Cultural Mindset

  1. I’ve had some similar experiences in my classes. I think they’ve had a lifetime of exposure to things like that. It’s very sad. I think all you can do is just keep going with it. It’s hard to change a persons way of thinking. I try to work with my students and make sure they know that’s not ok, but I’m just one influence. If racism was easy to eradicate, the world would be a really different place.
    Anyway, good luck with it! I think you’re lucky if you get much chance to talk about that. My classes don’t have enough time.

  2. I agree with James (above) but want to say this one person is a start and if you try to explain to these youngsters and they “like and respect” you, YOU do make a difference. We are all different, with different parents some that work with their kids to make them compassionate but others that barely work with their kids with any thing. You teachers are and should be a great influence on the people you (even little people!) you teach. It’s not an easy job, but it can make a huge difference to those you teach and influence. Bless you for trying to make a difference.

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