CINDY ASSINI


INTERVIEW


How has race and intersectionality impacted your life?


I did not learn much about race from school until I got into high school. I definitely wasn't learning active anti-racism until college. There, I really learned some steps that I could take as a White person—to act as an ally, to learn from Black people, Indigenous people, People of Color, to listen and try to be supportive. As far as intersectionality, I'm second generation from my mom’s side, so my experience has included figuring out what it means to be American. I’ve also had to find my own definition of what I want being a woman to look like, and fight against the pressures that women in the United States feel.


Why is talking about race in the subject(s) you teach necessary?

Our students will not be empowered to vote in ways that will create the society that I really want to live in.

I think it's a priority. Students can't have a true understanding of American history without the basic knowledge that race is a social construction, designed to oppress people and empower others. Without it, the story that can be told of world history is one of White power. White people deserving power. I don't think that's at all true. It's really damaging to our global community, and our relationships.


When I think about students who have kept in touch with me over the years, I'm proud to say that there are many who identify as Black or Hispanic. I think part of that relates to me being one of the teachers who is willing to talk about identity, who tries to empower them and their classmates with knowledge about how to create a more equitable society.


As an educational leader, talking about race forms the basis of creating a more equitable and inclusive set of educational opportunities for our students. Until we [do so]... our students will not be empowered to vote in ways that will create the society that I really want to live in.


What was it like teaching this lesson or unit plan?

That was the first time she really understood that there was nothing biologically different about her that made her lesser than anyone else.

Teaching those lessons, it's really challenging to confront White people especially about privilege. A couple of instances come to mind, where even though the lesson objectives were explicitly anti-racist, students would feel uncomfortable. They’d insinuate that talking about race was racist.


When I discussed the social construction of race in the beginning of my U.S. History I course, I had students with all different types of identities tell me that those lessons were among the most powerful they've experienced. My husband also taught similar lessons. He even had one student write to him in appreciation—that that was the first time she really understood that there was nothing biologically different about her that made her lesser than anyone else.


How did your community react to your work?


We actually had a community event on the National Day of Racial Healing, where we used the “How To Share Your Story” discussion norms in Tell Me Who You Are. Students created art about them, and we watched the authors’ first TED Talk. I was extremely proud of the reaction. We had a number of informal conversations about how pleased participants were to get to talk intergenerationally, and between people of different roles. One of the teachers came up to me and was like, “How can I do more of those discussions in my classroom?” He's only a first-year teacher, so I'm really, really excited to work with him.


Being an administrator helps me to connect with all stakeholders in the district—from teachers, to students, to parents, to board members and central office administrators. Building that community, especially through storytelling, has been powerful to begin the conversations and hopefully move the district in a more equitable direction.


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


For White people striving to be allies or co-conspirators, listen to people who have lived experience. Honor that. And just keep going, even when it gets hard. Because that's when you're really doing the work.



Cindy Assini's Lesson plan:

TYPE: Lesson (full class) TITLE: Social Construction of Race CONTENT AREA: Social Studies

GRADE LEVEL(S): 9th to 12th Grade

DESCRIPTION: Social studies requires students to study cultural diversity and understand the variety of perspectives on the world. This lesson may be part of a unit that addresses the racialization of slavery in history or current issues of race in the United States today.

Click below to download a PDF of Cindy Assini's full lesson plan.


Social Construction, Assini
.pdf
Download PDF • 57KB




TYPE: Lesson (full class) TITLE: Native American Activism CONTENT AREA: Social Studies

GRADE LEVEL(S): Kindergarten to 4th Grade

DESCRIPTION: This lesson may be part of a unit on citizenship or leadership. It may also be taught as part of commemorating Native American Heritage Month in November.

Click below to download a PDF of Cindy Assini's full lesson plan.

Native American Activism, Assini
.pdf
Download PDF • 60KB





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Last Updated: October 2020

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