- Finish what you started. An activity may not have worked out the way you wanted it to, but you gotta see it through. You can adjust as you go, but students don’t know what you had in your head and most likely don’t know you messed up.
- Critical decolonization for children: Sometimes you just gotta start with exposure. My 6th graders only reference to Polynesia was Chick-fil-a sauce. Maybe instead of thinking about decolonizing their perspective I can think of it more as heading off some of the propaganda. Like I don’t have to define cultural appropriation when I can say, “Don’t get a tattoo from a culture that you know nothing about.”
- Questioning the binary/LGBTQ+ pedagogy: Pronouns. Like I’m eyeing the possibly queer (sexuality/gender) kids in my classes and the way they react when I blow up the binary. Also finding out kids who do not visually appear gender non-conforming may be/may be questioning their assigned gender. And all this from a short worksheet. No complex discussions, no debates. Just checkboxes for what pronouns they wanna go by.
- Current events: 6th graders watch the news. Not all of them but a lot of them. Children know what’s going on and they care.
- Current events & being culturally relevant: Some kids care about Antonio Brown. Some kids really want Fiji to win the rugby world cup, and are mad at how countries (USA, UK, France, etc.) can rig these types of competitions by stealing players away from their home countries. Some kids wanna rant about how the world is fucked by climate change. But you don’t know any of that if you don’t bring those topics into class, or allow for those discussions.
- Questioning the binary: You tell kids there are more than 2 genders and they won’t freak out. Like they really don’t care.
- Developing cultural identity: Kids don’t implicitly know how unique their experiences are. That their culture(s) is (are) special and unique and important.
- Reaffirming cultural identity: Recognizing the cultures that students come from is invaluable. Taking a neutral stance reinforces norms that say you have to have certain experiences to matter. I had a Guatemalan student who said she took French cause she didn’t want to learn Spanish bring in her Guatemalan doll and show it to the class. I had 2 Mexican students who barely engage in class light up when I showed them how to say Mexico in French. When I compared French and Spanish and asked for my Spanish speakers to help me, they lit up.
- Differentiated learning: I’m still trying to figure out how to balance the needs of my talkative, kinesthetic students with my quieter students. The former take up so much space and energy, and I forget about the ones who need silence to understand. But today, my eighth graders were jumping at the chance to say the date in French while others were excited about being able to write down what they said.
Finished my first full week of teaching middle school French and I’m exhausted but so elated.
Injecting critical pedagogy into a curriculum is hard. The county curriculum isn’t openly anti-critical, but upholds the status quo that accepts French as an esteemed language to be learned without questioning why so many people speak it outside of Europe.
My students barely know their continents, let alone the nations of Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas that have been colonized by the French. And I was initially frustrated with myself for feeling like I wasn’t making them think critically right away, and that we couldn’t discuss colonization right away. But teaching is all about patience. And at the end of Week 2, I’ve gotten some results that I’m going in the right direction. Continue reading