How has race and intersectionality impacted your life?
"It is my responsibility. "
My school is mostly African American, and I am a White woman. Many of my students have challenges in their lives that I will never face. So, I try to make my classroom a space where we talk about race, and often. For them to have a platform to speak about their experiences, if they would like to, is important to me. It is my responsibility.
My older brother is mixed, he's half Black and half White. Growing up, his life was different from his other siblings, because we’re not mixed. I think about him, what it must’ve been like for him in classrooms. It was hard, it was unfair. I want to do better in my classrooms. I want to bring in different stories, voices, different histories. I want education to include more than numbers, dates, but people, too.
Why is talking about race in the subject(s) you teach necessary?
A lot of my kids are just unaware of the cultures that come with languages. When they first think of Spanish in class, their first thought is just Mexican. Everyone who speaks Spanish is Mexican. It’s important, within Spanish classes, or other languages, to show that there’s diversity within cultures, that nothing is flat. We should let go of the stereotypes of different languages, and shake things up.
What was it like teaching this lesson or unit plan?
For “A History of Colonialism of Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S,” I think we don’t always think about who was in these places before the people that are there today. With the concept of colonialism, we started to talk about native populations, the Spanish empire, how race was brought about to categorize and hierarchize.
We had taken the pre-survey, and a lot of my students just didn't see race as a relevant topic of discussion. And so we started talking about colonialism. But they were just like, again, it's not relevant to us. And so in that lesson, we started with the past. I used “A Brief History of Whiteness” from Tell Me Who You Are, and some stories, and then we're able to kind of bring it to the future. So thinking about why were these categories created? How does it affect people today? Like, why do we still use them? And that was where they were kind of able to connect with it a little bit more.
What would you like to tell any educator looking at your work right now?
For my kids to really understand Spanish, they have to learn about the people behind the language.
All of our kids are individuals. Just be mindful of that. Also, no matter what you’re teaching—like, I’m a world language teacher—talk about race, it's so relevant. For my kids to really understand Spanish, they have to learn about the people behind the language; it helps them better understand why they're even in my class, and why what they're learning is relevant for their lives.
Alissa FOGLE's UNIT:
TYPE: Unit (series of lessons) TITLE: A History of Colonialism of Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. CONTENT AREA: Spanish (Vocabulary and elements of this lesson will be in Spanish or revolve around Spanish words and history. This will connect to our previous curriculum in relation to our look at racial inequalities in the movie “Selena” and cultural readings in our textbook [¡Qué chévere! 1] that discuss colonial influences.)
GRADE LEVEL(S): 9th to 12th Grade
DESCRIPTION: The students will research and explore the history of Spain’s involvement in colonialism while also looking at the treatment of the Native/indigenous people in different countries, i.e. the United States, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. TSW then investigate the creation of race/racial categories and, as a result, the consequences that continue to exist today.
Click below to download a PDF of Alissa Fogle's unit.