Developing Student Identities: 22 Days of Anti-Racist Resources for Teachers

Hi everyone, my name is Nicole and I teach 6th grade in Southern California. When Chrissy reached out to me to be a part of an anti-racist project to honor the 22 people who died in the El Paso shooting, I could see great necessity in this campaign.
I am so grateful to be a part of this community that shares resources about anti-racism. It is more important than ever for students to be educated about the difficult topics and the controversial events.
Students deserve to be taught about systemic racism, to understand its effects on them today, and to be equipped with the tools to rise up against the injustices they face.

Creating the space for students to develop and understand their identities is especially crucial in today’s world.

As students are bombarded with social media constantly telling them what they are and who they should be, we as educators need to ensure that students are given a safe place for reflection, exploration, and acceptance. In my middle school classroom, we begin the conversation with exploring who we are: our identities.

The Social Justice Standards include five identity anchor standards. These standards guide my instruction for the beginning of the school year:

  1. Students will develop positive social identities based on their membership in multiple groups in society.
  2. Students will develop language and historical and cultural knowledge that affirm and accurately describe their membership in multiple identity groups.
  3. Students will recognize that people’s multiple identities interact and create unique and complex individuals.
  4. Students will express pride, confidence and healthy self-esteem without denying the value and dignity of other people.
  5. Students will recognize traits of the dominant culture, their home culture and other cultures and understand how they negotiate their own identity in multiple spaces.

I love using this lesson from Facing History entitled “Who Am I?”. Here is an excerpt from the overview on the website: “‘Who am I?’ is a question we all ask at some time in our lives. It is an especially critical question for adolescents.

As we search for answers we begin to define ourselves. How is our identity formed? To what extent are we defined by our talents and interests? by our membership in a particular ethnic group? by our social and economic class? by our religion by the nation in which we live? How do we label ourselves and how are we labeled by others? How are our identities influenced by how we think others see us? How do our identities inform our values, ideas, and actions? In what ways might we assume different identities in different contexts? How do we manage multiple identities? Answers to these questions help us under tand history, ourselves, and each other.”
After completing the lesson, my students created their own identity starburst map (link to a template here: https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/image/sample-identity-chart.
First, we brainstormed aspects of our identity on a map.
So many great discussion topics were brought up by just creating these identity brainstorm maps. I guided the students in a discussion to figure out which of these traits are fixed, and which can be changed. We engaged in topics surrounding race and gender. Students brought up activists like Jazz Jennings, Malala, and Martin Luther King, Jr. who fought for equality and human rights.
Next, students took the template from Facing History to create their own map. They shared these maps with their peers as they got to know each other a little bit deeper. These identity maps helped create a classroom culture of both community and diversity. Students got to see how similar and different they are, and were given the chance to share some of their own stories that helps define their identities. 
This year, I am fortunate to be enrolled in a graduate program focused on social justice. One of the books assigned was “We Want to do More than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom” by Bettina Love. This book opened my eyes in so many ways, and I truly believe all educators need to read this book.
Bettina Love breaks through with her personal stories woven through historical cities and events as she begins to shed light on the injustices facing each of our students. She presents the bold and much needed theory of abolitionist teaching, a vision of educational social justice. I highly recommend this book to anyone searching for a deeper understanding of systemic racism and how to teach and love on students who continue to face it today.
This blog post is written in remembrance of Angie Englisbee. Angie is one of the 22 victims of the El Paso shooting.
The mother of eight children, she was taken too soon and undeservingly. She had the biggest heart and was always doing whatever she could to help people get jobs. Let us continue Angie’s legacy of helping people. As educators, we can vow to do our very best to spread anti-racism, to create safe places for students in our classrooms, and to ensure each and every student has a voice to be heard. 
Thanks for reading,

Let’s connect on Instagram: @caffeinateandeducate

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