Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Making Mistakes when Crossing Boarders in Fiction”

Enjoy this video interview with author Mitali Perkins as she shares her thoughts on “common mistakes I’ve seen when authors cross borders to tell stories.”  Mitali Perkins has written Bamboo People, Rickshaw Girl, Secret Keeper, Monsoon Summer, and Sunita Sen. 

Also take a moment to explore the rich and dynamic blog she has created, called Mitali’s Fire Escape in which she seeks to create a “safe space to talk about books between cultures.”


“Hanukkah Lights of 2011: Dates, Customs, and History Explained”

Read and enjoy here!

And as always, we would love to hear about how you celebrate Hanukkah!


Avoiding the Holidary ‘Balance Traps’

Avoiding the Holidary ‘Balance Traps’

7th and 8th graders on Hunt Middle School’s Solstice Team are learning about culture through Afro-Peruvian rhythms.

7th and 8th graders on Hunt Middle School’s Solstice Team are learning about culture through Afro-Peruvian rhythms.

by Dov Stucker
teacher at Hunt Middle School

How does this music weave into the curriculum? Students in my classes have been studying the Agricultural Revolution and the development of human societies.To understand this historical shift, students need to comprehend the concept of “culture.”

     Since culture is something that we all have–but that we rarely notice unless we’re in a cross-cultural setting–I bring cross-cultural encounters into my classroom. One day in early November began with students free-writing about a time when they experienced another culture. As the writers shared their pieces, a mosaic of diverse experiences filled the room: stories about dinner at neighbor’s house, where there were numerous shrines; the experience of attending a friend’s Bar Mitzvah; a disorienting trip to a Montreal’s Chinatown; riding a CCTA bus filled with multiple languages. Luckily, each one of these Burlington students had a cross-cultural experience to draw from.

     I then introduced a framework for understanding culture that my classes would be using for the coming weeks: The Universal Elements of Culture. After a brief overview of these universal elements, we watched a music video from the Afro-Peruvian band, Novalima.

Students weren’t told anything about the culture where the video was shot. They had to use their framework to identify the elements of culture seen in the video. Students were particularly taken with the unique street game shown in the video,  as well as the enigmatic shrine. As students continue to learn about the historical rise of the first organized societies, they will have a better grasp of what this thing is that we call “culture.”

“Writing Like a White Guy”

In this article poet Jaswinder Bolina eloquently shares his story of exploring the terrain and tensions of language, race, and poetry.

Bolina begins: “My father says I should use a pseudonym. ‘They won’t publish you if they see your name. They’ll know you’re not one of them. They’ll know you’re one of us.’ This has never occurred to me, at least not in a serious way. ‘No publisher in America’s going to reject my poems because I have a foreign name,’ I reply. ‘Not in 2002.’ I argue, ‘These are educated people. My name won’t be any impediment.’ Yet in spite of my faith in the egalitarian attitude of editors and the anonymity of book contests, I understand my father’s angle on the issue.”

Bolina’s analysis of the complexities of his being and the way it influences the lenses that he views the world through are insightful and keep the reader engaged. His story and analysis are deep, beginning with a look back to the “especially muted and disdainful brand of racism” his father experienced as a young brown Indian man in London in 1965, moving to the tension of being a first generation United States youth, and on to present day scenarios such as Joe Biden’s comments on how “articulate and bright” President Barak Obama is.  His analysis illuminates an important point:

“The one thing I least believe about race in America is that we can disregard it. I’m nowhere close to alone in this, but the person I encounter far more often than the racist—closeted or proud—is the one who believes race isn’t an active factor in her thinking, isn’t an influence on his interaction with the racial Other.”

Jaswinder’s voice is an important part of the story on race, language, gender, and immigration in the United States.  He leaves us will hopeful words and much to think about as we enter into our daily interactions with people of all racial colors, cultures, and backgrounds:

“Though ‘high’ English might be born of a culture once dominated by straight white men of privilege, each of us wields our English in ways those men might not have imagined. This is okay. Language, like a hammer, belongs to whoever picks it up to build or demolish. Whether we take language in hand to deconstruct itself, to confess a real experience or an imagined one, or to meditate upon the relationship between the individual and the political, social, historical, or cosmological, ownership of our language need not be bound up with the history of that language. Whether I choose to pound on the crooked nail of race or gender, self or Other, whether I decide on some obscure subject while forgoing the other obvious one, when I write, the hammer belongs to me.”

Straight Talk About the N-Word

Fantastic article about the layered complexities of teaching the “n-word” in school.  Arizona State University Professor Neal A. Lest has taught two courses on the word and shares his insights in the Fall issue of Teaching Tolerance Magazine.

Two questions that came upwhile reading this were:

1.) Interviewer Sean Price asks: “Why is the n-word so popular with many young black kids today?” Professor Lester gracefully explains to Sean that this assumption is not true. It’s importnat for us to think about why this sentimenet might be popular.  If people are able to say, “Well it’s popular with young black kids” or “I hear black kids say it, so why can’t I?”  Does the perpetuation of this idea that it is popular with black youth somehow pave the way for others to use it?

2.) Professor Lester suggests that teachers work with a fellow African American community member in preparation to teach this topic.   In theory this is a great idea,  but in practice approaching a person to discuss this word and it’s history is a delicate matter which should be approached with compassion, patience, understanding, and respect.  The Diversity and Equity office is here if you have quetions about how to appaorach this initial conversation, or to brainstorm with you about teaching this topic in your class.

We love to hear from you! Please share with us and the BSD community any success you have found in facilitating class discussion and finding new places of insight with your students in regards to the n-word.

You too can receive Teaching Tolerance Magazine for free!  Sign up here.

Other articles of interest:


Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month!

National Hispanic / Latino(a)  Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15)

National Hispanic Heritage Month honors the culture, heritage, and contributions of Hispanic Americans each year. The event began in 1968 when Congress deemed the week including September 15 and 16 National Hispanic Heritage Week to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the diverse cultures within the Hispanic community. The dates were chosen to commemorate two key historic events: Independence Day, honoring the formal signing of the Act of Independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (September 15, 1821), and Mexico’s Independence Day, which denotes the beginning of the struggle against Spanish control (September 16, 1810). It was not until 1988 that the event was expanded to month-long period, which includes El Dia de la Raza on October 12, which celebrates the influences of the people who came after Christopher Columbus and the multicultural, multiethnic society that evolved as a result; Chile’s Independence Day on September 18 (El Dieciocho); and Belize’s Independence Day on September 21. Each year a different theme for the month is selected and a poster is created to reflect that theme.

Helpful links:

Teacher Vision: Hispanic Heritage Resources for Teachers. Lesson plans, printables, activities, and references will enrich your classroom study. Read the book The House on Mango Street and Shadow of a Bull, learn about Mexico’s Day of the Dead, play mariachi music, practice Spanish vocabulary, discover the customs and traditions of Hispanic heritage, play Puerto-Rico’s circle game, create your own musical instruments, learn about the Spanish-language influence on English, and much more. Inspire your students to get excited about diversity!

Education World: Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month! Activities and resources help teachers focus attention on the contributions of people of Hispanic heritage to the history of the United States.