Talking About Race And Ethnicity In The Classroom

8 December 2017

As a leading provider of therapeutic and education services, Momentous Institute focuses on building and repairing social-emotional health — developing kids who become self-regulated, good communicators, problem-solvers, empathetic, grateful, gritty and optimistic. (Post by Jose Lopez, LPC, Bilingual Therapist)

I spent five years as a bilingual teacher who taught both native English and native Spanish speakers in a two way dual-language classroom. During this time, I was exposed to situations where students from different backgrounds were able to interact with one another.  One experience stands out while I was teaching 4thgrade.

When the weather wasn’t appropriate for going outside, our class would have indoor recess.  Part of the free time was spent playing games.  One game that students liked to play was ‘La Loteria’ or the Mexican Lottery.  In this game, there are different characters such as ‘el mago’ (the magician) or ‘el sol’ (the sun). One character that stood out was ‘el negrito’ (which translates to “the little black boy”).  I noticed that students were laughing and pointing to another student when they were playing.  At the time I did not say anything, but reflected on what I observed.

The next day during social studies, we were working on a unit about the cultures of Texas. I brought up what I had witnessed the day before. This led to a conversation about different skin tones and the different cultures in our class and in their neighborhoods.  Then I took it a step further and used it as a teaching moment to ask questions about cultures and give them opportunities to investigate. The students used resources such as the U.S. Census to come up with answers to a lot of their questions. This tied in nicely with our social studies theme.

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