Breaking Down Stereotypes with Identity Statements

One of the major goals of KC Kids Unite is to connect students as individuals who not only realize the power of their broader community, but also find great trust within it for support and stamina in facing the larger society.  As adults, we seek these same connections to build a community, whether it be one of peers, professionals or family.  As we work to build communities where positive interdependence lies at the foundation, we ask students to let go of assumptions and stereotypes as they enter into the network.  It is imperative that the surface layers of ourselves are allowed to be pulled back to show our authentic ones in all their glory and gore.

One way we do this is by crafting identity statements.  Sara Ahmed speaks about this same idea in her book, Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension.  In her book she states,

“When kids are empowered to announce to the world who they are, it is far less likely that someone else will do it for them.  So often in school, kids are being told who they are by the language adults use to describe them, by data, by their own peers.  The world assigns or questions our own identity constantly, whether explicitly or implicitly: images and headlines tell us who is dangerous and whom we should fear.  Ads and social media tell use we aren’t fit enough, thin enough, youthful enough, wealthy enough, white enough (see bleaching and whitening products).  We can position kids in such a way that they can and will shout who they are from the rooftops.  Identity statements can help kids reclaim or reaffirm bot their individual identities and the layers of their cultural identities.”

Ahmed refers the identity statements in her book as “I Am” statements.  KC Kids Unite generalizes it to identity statements, and using a variety of books, including, If She Only Knew Me by Jeff Gray and Heather Thomas, Mixed Me and Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs, and Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Meyers.  By using a variety of mentor texts to explore identity, stereotypes and microaggressions, students can openly craft their own statements based on the information they want to share.

like+to+make+stuff+during+science+class,+she+would48147jkt.pdMixed Me

Looking Like Me can be found @ https://spark.adobe.com/video/Dox7PWV3x7p31

From these texts, you can see below what our students came up with and what they want to share about themselves to the world that may not be evident from the outside or under the guise of our individual biases.  One of the most joyful parts of this work is seeing the ways in which students begin celebrate themselves, growing in confidence of who they are and knowing it is, and always will be, enough!

3rd Grade Students:

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5th Grade Students: 

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The Best Part of Me: Honoring Self and Identity

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This is the exact message we aim to instill within students during the second week of KC Kids Unite.  During this week, students examine identity through the lens of redefining conventional beauty and breaking down commonly assumed stereotypes by sharing pieces of their own story.  They begin to unearth these ideas and beliefs through a series of questions:

  • What does it mean to look closely?  
  • Why is looking closely so important in life?  
  • What are things you look at closely in your world?  
  • What do we miss in the world due to distraction and screens?
  • What do you see in others when you look closely?
  • What do you see in yourself when you look closely?

Students write and discuss with their peers thoughts and responses to these questions.  Then, reading The Best Part of My by Wendy Ewald, students are inspired to write about the best part of themselves from the stance of taking action or a feature that makes them the wonderfully unique human they are.  KC Kids Unite believes that developing a strong sense of self in our youth is one of the most critical steps we take in sharing our stories and voices with confidence. Sometimes the initial utterance is a quiet, shaky one, but nonetheless it was spoken, not silenced.  Check out the very best parts our KC kids!

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More From Week 1: Family History Research and Where I’m From Poems

 

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One of the things I love most about this work is that while there is a provided curriculum, all the work manifests itself in its own way within the classroom.  So much of what happens in these three weeks is what we wish could happen all year– being provided guiding resources with the autonomy to bring the art and life of teaching into the classroom in the way we best see fit for our students.  KC Kids Unite believes in the power of professional judgement and freedom.  Teachers are THE experts in their field, and we work to center them as such in our approach to this project.  Thank you for taking the time to look at the student work being created in classrooms by these very experts and their brilliant students.  As I read through the work, I’m always inspired to go learn more about my family’s history and traditions, and dig deeper into who I am as well.  I wish the same for you.

More poetry inspired by George Ella Lyon:

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Family history and traditions research slides:

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KC Kids Unite 2019 is Rolling: Week 1, Where We’re From

_Unity is the only plausible path to justice.

 

Students from across the Kansas City, Missouri area are doing just that–coming together across space and districts to learn more about each other’s personal stories and what it means to overcome the barriers the work to divide us.

KC Kids Unite is entering its 4th (and most exciting!!) year yet!  Our teachers have been working since January to plan and put the finishing touches on deploying this work in their classrooms, and the time is FINALLY here!  Each year, I am in awe of the students’ work with their willingness to dive into the inner reaches of themselves, navigating and sharing what exists there with admirable transparency, unbelievable poise, and the sophisticated craft of budding authors.  I could keep talking about it, but I’ll just let you see for yourself.

In the first week, each classroom pairing sends pen pal letters to each other by way of introductions.  They continue sharing with their partnership class and pen pals the work of each week.  During week 1, the work involves students really understanding where they are from, who they are as individuals, and what has made them the people they are today.  To do this work, students spend time conducting family interviews and ancestry research all to culminate in a “Where I’m From” poem, using the mentor by George Ella Lyon.

 

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See what I mean?  Amazing, right?!?  This work fuels me in ways nothing else can touch.  If you want to learn more about the weekly classroom curriculum, check out this post from the blog and listen to the KC Kids Unite podcast found on Anchor.

Stay tuned!  More work coming in the days and weeks to come!