This week in our school was Rainbow Week, which is about racism awareness. My coop told us we could create a lesson around this if I wanted, so I decided to create a lesson around prejudice and stereotypes. I was nervous because this is a really important and deep topic especially when introducing it to the students for the first time so I wanted to make sure they actually took something away from this.
What went well in my lesson is that the students were engaged in the discussion that we had about prejudice. When I first asked what prejudice was, no one said anything. So I prompted them with breaking the word up – pre / judge. Right away the students had their hands up with ideas. That was really interesting to see that with a simple prompt or even by changing the words around the students were able come up with so many other ideas. The students also really enjoyed the activity – which involved a paper plate. On the outside “bump” of the plate, I asked the students to draw a self-portrait and then write a few descriptor words that people would know/think or judge before getting to actually know you. For example, I made one for myself and I wrote some words like “female, white, brunette, brown eyes”. Then, on the inside of the plate I asked the students to write words that people wouldn’t know about you by just looking. I wrote some words like “Ukrainian, shy, animal-lover, family-oriented, self-conscious, smart”.
Everything went as planned, I thought the kids were interested in this activity. However, there was one boy who was testing me because he was being silly and drawing a turtle on his plate and when I would ask him to take the activity serious, he would say, “You can’t tell me I am not a turtle, that is how I see myself.” I found this challenging because I never want to take away a child’s creative away but I felt like he was making a joke out of my lesson. I wanted him to take it serious because prejudice and stereotyping is serious and I wanted him to realize that. I dealt with it by taking away his turtle plate and handing him a new one and I told him that his turtle was wonderful and fantastic but I wanted him to seriously draw himself and when he was finished he could continue his turtle.
I am not sure that they completely understood my main message of the activity, which was that you couldn’t judge someone by just looking at them. Many of the students wrote things like “I have a cat” or “I like to sing”, which is really great but not necessarily characteristics that people would judge them on. Some students went deeper with things like, “I am really scared of the dark” or “Pow-wow dancer”. At the end of the activity, I asked the kids to come back to their desks and I asked a few ending questions, like “what did you learn? Did this help you learn about prejudice and stereotypes?” I was surprised by their answers because many of the students talked about they learned that drawling yourself is really hard even though you see yourself all the time. That isn’t what I was really going for, but I was interested to hear those answers. I also am thinking I am going to continue with this lesson next week spinning it more so in regards to body image and how they see themselves.
The students also had great responses when I asked, “How can we stop prejudice from happening?” They said things like, “Don’t be mean to someone just because of how they look or talk” or “If someone looks weird doesn’t mean you can be rude to them” and “Treat others like you want to be treated”. I think it is challenging to take on a lesson as large as this one when you can’t continue with it. I would have liked to spend more times on it, and maybe create a follow up lesson especially since the entire week was racism awareness so it would have been great to go off of this. My coop teacher said she was really happy with my lesson and she thought that it was a great way to introduce Rainbow Week so I am glad she enjoyed it.
Something I would change about this lesson is incorporating of an example of prejudice or stereotype that I have experienced. The reason I am saying this is because at the end of my lesson my coop teacher went to the class and just highlighted the fact that prejudice is SO important to learn about in order to stop it from happening. She told a real life example of being stereotyped in her life as an Aboriginal woman. The kids were really interested and engaged in it and kept asking her “Why?” “Why would people do that?” “Why would people think that?” I thought it was really powerful and really let the lesson sink in for the kids. This would have been a great time to get into white privilege, because I had never heard anything about that until my second semester in University and I think it is so important to educate you kids about it. I was happy with my lesson this week and it gave me great ideas to build off of for next week!