I like to encourage writers and readers alike to look at their own creative process, and to think about how their identities inform how they receive and interpret and create things.
How has race and intersectionality impacted your life?
I was born in 1963, when society was in chaos, like today. It’s interesting to be this age and realize those same problems have somehow gotten exacerbated instead of resolved. Thinking about race and intersectionality has been a since-birth thing.
Why is talking about race in the subject(s) you teach necessary?
We have to talk about race when teaching writing or reading. It’s all been very Whitewashed. There's an assumption that characters are always White, unless it's explicitly stated that they are not, or that their gender identity is always male. I like to encourage writers and readers alike to look at their own creative process, and to think about how their identities inform how they receive and interpret and create things.
What was it like teaching this lesson or unit plan?
I was teaching in an urban high school, and my students are primarily refugees, migrants, or first generation students. We have around ninety percent free and reduced lunch, and fifty three different languages. There’s another school close by, like 10 or eleven miles, and it's predominantly White, middle class. When teaching this lesson, we brought students from my urban high school and this predominantly White, middle class high school together. We brought them together first as pen pals, then they met in-person, and then they visited each other's campuses for a day. As they got to know each other, got to know each other’s schools, it was very clear to the students, and it was very clear to us: there were huge inequities between the two schools.
This whole thing struck me the most as an educator because my students seemed to believe that they didn't deserve what the students from the other wealthier school had access to. They had this attitude that it was just sort of a fact of life; that because of their skin color, their backgrounds, their different languages, they weren't entitled to those things. So this became a big part of my work and teaching: giving them a sense that they do have advocacy and agency over their lives. I tried to instill in them that they do deserve the type of education we saw on the other side of town.
What would you like to tell any educator looking at your work right now?
Be very conscientious about who you’re talking to, and where they might be in their own racial literacy journey. If you’re an educator, your role is to guide them further along on that journey, and to never stop learning yourself either.
DIANE MORA'S Lesson plan:
TYPE: Lesson (full class) TITLE: Building a Classroom Community of Acceptance CONTENT AREA: English and Language Arts
GRADE LEVEL(S): 7th-12th Grade
UNIT DESCRIPTION: A lesson that centers around the idea that "This Is Who I Am."
Click below to download a PDF of Diane Mora's full lesson plan.