How has race impacted your teaching?

Oftentimes I have really high anxiety about that class, because I want so much to do it well.

I teach a multicultural studies class in the pretty conservative, very White state of Indiana. I want my students to hear from folx who they might not have heard from in their entire lives. I was very excited to get hired at the community college where I teach, because it's a very diverse student body. To me, that means that we have much richer conversations in class about sociological issues. With our current political climate, with our realities of inequality of various kinds, it's super important for all my students to hear some facts about how the idea of race was created, and why.

I've taught the class twice so far, and it’s been a lot of fun. It brings me a lot of joy—it's such a meaningful subject, as well as a very important subject politically. But I also find that oftentimes I have really high anxiety about that class, because I want so much to do it well. Sometimes I think I'm concerned that, as a White person, I'm not presenting a point of view correctly, or being as respectful as I can be to other points of view. Something like that.

What was it like teaching your first lesson?

So I was delighted to discover Tell Me Who You Are. Again, for many of my students, I'm not sure how much opportunity they've had to hear from people with pieces of identity different than theirs. I felt like this might be a great way for them to be able to do that, and to absorb some of the ideas we were already talking about in class.

I started by sharing the TED Talk the authors did about racial literacy, learning with our minds and also with our hearts. That was the jumping off point. Then they chose a story. I encouraged them to choose one where at least some of the identifiers for the person or people in the story were different than their own.

On the whole, their responses were good. Many of them expressed appreciation for hearing from a different perspective than their own. But I would give myself probably a B on how well I set the assignment up for them to apply related issues we've been talking about—socioeconomic inequality, political inequality, things like that. Moving forward, I’ll spend a little more time breaking down a story together in class, looking for those pieces.

What about the second lesson?

There are many students out there who really don't know even the meaning of terminology used in the LGBTQ community.

This lesson’s about race and sexuality. To begin with, I will share that my sister is lesbian. And when she came out to me, that was a really important time in my life—I had a somewhat different perspective on that community at that point. My sister really inspired me, the way that she was so transparent and gracious and willing to address that with me. Because when you come right down to it, she didn't owe me any kind of explanation. The fact that she was willing to bring me along was just a super important part of my life.

I was excited to hopefully do maybe just a sliver of that in my class, through the use of stories in the book. There are many students out there who really don't know even the meaning of terminology used in the LGBTQ community. One piece that really motivated me was finding quotes in Tell Me Who You Are—someone said that she someday hopes she could go somewhere where she felt like all of her was welcome, and that seemed to me just a great jumping off point. And then I found that activity where you put different components of people's identities around the room, and then ask questions about them. I thought that was really helpful too, because, you know, for some of us who are seen as the “default” race and sexuality and ability and so forth, we kind of just go through life thinking, “Oh, I'm just me.”

What would you like to tell any educator looking at your work right now?

I have this overwhelming feeling of being very privileged to be an educator—because I get to learn from my students. Technically, that's not what they're paying me for. But I do feel very fortunate.


TYPE: Unit (series of lessons) TITLE: TMWYA Story Response CONTENT AREA: Sociology (Multicultural Studies, SOCI-164) GRADE LEVEL(S): College

DESCRIPTION: Students will complete three of these assignments over the first part of the semester, incorporating concepts introduced in the first 8-10 weeks. As part of the assignment, students will first complete a written reflection on their own experience of race.

Click below to download a PDF of Amy Hemphill's unit.

Hemphill TMWYA Story Response
Download PDF • 66KB

TYPE: Unit (series of lessons) NAME OF LESSON/UNIT: Gender and Sexuality with an Intersectional Lens CONTENT AREA: Sociology (Multicultural Studies SOCI 164)


DESCRIPTION: This unit will focus on the experiences of people in various sexual and gender orientation groups, and allow students to compare and contrast their own experiences.

Click below to download a PDF of Amy Hemphill's unit.

Hemphill Gender and Sexuality
Download PDF • 64KB

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CHOOSE is a student-led organization working to equip every American with the tools to talk about race and act on racism. An intersectional and intergenerational movement.


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Last Updated: October 2020

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