Self-Image; the way you see yourself is a result of what you believe about your appearance, abilities and character. This week brought me the opportunity to talk to my Grade 4/5’s about self-image and personal identity. Within this section of the curriculum it is encouraged to discuss the topics of stereotype, prejudice and discrimination as well. Here is where I ended up running into some difficulties with who my learners were. I chose to have them identify situations as either stereotypes, prejudice or discrimination scenarios by handing out prompts. Students read out each slip and either they could make the identification on their own or the class could help them out. One paper had a statement to represent discrimination and said “A First Nations man, as intelligent as anyone else, walked out of a job interview after being denied because they “generally hire white people and few minorities”. This struck a bit of a dispute with a student who is partly First Nations and he argued “I don’t see why they wouldn’t hire him, I mean we gave you guys our land”. This was coming from a ten year old; I definitely overlooked these issues creating the situations. However, I did have a difficult time coming up with what race to ‘discriminate’, not actually tearing them down but to have the students understand what discriminating really is. Since I am in such a multicultural classroom, I have learners from Nepal, Middle East, Asia, Philippines, South Africa, Nigeria, Turkey and Indonesia. So many different races, cultures etc. thus discussing discrimination would have hit home to at least one student which was impossible to avoid. I made sure to clarify that that was a form of discrimination, proving that it is an insulting act and is not always true. The student was not actually mad, it ended up forming a great discussion of discrimination (but I still felt guilty).
On the other hand, the final activity I had the students do was draw themselves in a mirror to show me how they view themselves then to write five things they like and one thing they dislike about themselves. Walking around to see how the students were doing allowed me to read some of their attributes or characteristics they appreciated. What really stood out to me was while I read some of the students’ that were of a minority culture, a good handful had “I like that I am Muslim” or “I like that I am Chinese”, which I thought was really cool! I hate to think that as they grow up and go through high school, the stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination’s will become difficult for those specific cultures and dread that they will no longer be proud of their unique characteristics. It is great that they are so comfortable with being unique and offering their culture to the rest of us who haven’t experienced their world views before. I just know what high school can be like, and judging, stereotyping and discrimination is definitely present, more than it should be.
Unfortunately there were also a few students who sulked and felt that they did not have anything good about themselves that they liked. Anonymously, I used this time to explain to the students how easy it is for us to tear ourselves down, to reject compliments and to build our peers up instead. I can’t even act like I don’t still do that, I do that to this day. If someone walks up to me and compliments me on my outfit, I’ll shrug it off and think “oh that was nice of them” and continue on with my day. But like most people, more so women, we can stand in front of the mirror and rip apart our appearance; hence the importance of my self-image/body-image lesson. This provided an opportunity for the class to shout out positive attributes of their classmates without pinpointing the individuals who were truly feeling like they had none.
Overall my lesson went well; I achieved what I wanted but did need to face difficulties along the way which is usually unavoidable. In the end I was happy for all of the hiccups that arose to expand and show my multicultural class how common stereotyping occurs, how discriminating any culture is never right and how these situations can affect the way students, or individuals in general, view themselves.
I think an important message to remind our students of is that having a colorful classroom is unique and beautiful. Acknowledging each other’s different colors is not judging or discriminating, we each have our own skin colors, but to take any comments further than that to hurt someone is what becomes the problem. So continuing to educate our students on prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination will hopefully be able to make amends between our cultures and avoid future issues.