Promoting acceptance and respect in our diverse communities
Guest Column by Michael Tapia
June 12, 2023
This school year, drawing on my past experience developing resources for LGBTQ+ professional learning presentations and Ventura Education Partnership grants, I started curating educator resource guides for the various affinity group celebrations and recognition that occur annually across the country. The guides were published on ACSA’s Resource Hub.
While I was initially hesitant to develop these resource guides, one of the important particulars of these celebrations relates to their genesis: members of each respective affinity group were responsible for creating them and advocating for them via the political process, including at the national level.
While I support year-round inclusivity, in light of the high visibility of these recognitions during certain months of the year, and, as I mention in each of these resource guides, educators may consider delving more deeply into the contributions and experiences of each of these groups during the timeframes of their celebratory recognition.
This year, I developed the following nine guides:
• Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15). • LGBTQ History Month (October). • Native American Heritage Month (November). • Black History Month (February). • Women’s History Month (March). • Arab American Heritage Month (April). • AAPI or AANHPI Heritage Month (May). • Jewish American Heritage Month (May). • LGBTQ+ Pride Month (June).
For the coming school year, I plan to create several more: one that focuses on students dealing with the socioeconomic issues of poverty, homelessness and hunger, as well as another that features students with disabilities/special needs. Again, it is important to consider our students’ intersecting identities and expect that you may find some of the same resources included in multiple resource guides.
The resource guides are not meant to be exhaustive but, rather, a sampling of the kinds of materials available for educators to use in the classroom. Hopefully, they pique interest and/or provide additional background knowledge for each respective affinity group.
Each of the guides offers lessons, articles/guides/publications, book lists/related materials and videos. For the elementary level, there are usually many lessons based on literature while at the secondary level, the lessons often incorporate the use of videos or other media.
With the demands placed on today’s educators at all levels, I am hopeful that these guides are viewed as quick and helpful sources of information related to the affinity group being addressed in the classroom.
As I state in each resource guide:
While the custom of cultural monthly observances may seem out-of-date, please consider them as additional opportunities to highlight the achievements and contributions of a particular group of our citizenry in greater depth — a worthy goal. At a time when there is a critical need to promote acceptance, respect and harmony throughout our diverse communities, please consider engaging students in experiences that lead to a greater appreciation of the collective contributions made by others of similar, as well as differing, identities. Please also remember to provide adequate context to these accomplishments in light of the challenges our marginalized citizenry had to overcome to reach their goals. Hopefully, these learning experiences help students understand we are all woven into the rich cultural tapestry of humanity in this place we call America.
When I was an elementary school student, I did not see myself in any of my classroom materials; not in my Ginn reader nor in my textbooks. On the rare occasion coming across a storybook with someone who was brown like me, it was usually a stereotype with the character dressed as a peasant, shoeless and accompanied by a burro.
Representation of diverse people in the curriculum has progressed since I was a child, though there is still room for improvement. I am hopeful that providing our students with more mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors will assist them in becoming more self-aware and self-confident, as well as more empathetic and accepting of others.
Michael R. Tapia is a retired principal from Ventura USD.
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