Thursday, February 21, 2019

Single Story Continued

In July of 2009 there was a Ted Talk posted from the amazing author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I didn't watch the video that year, but I have for at least the last five. The notion of the “single story” of a person was new to me, somewhat. It boils down to stereotyping, but in a way that makes me think, wonder, push myself to ask questions, explore bias, and more.

For the past four years I’ve used a blog post by Jess Lipshitz as a jumping off place for this exploring this topic. You can check it out HERE. Using Jess’s ideas, I’ve added videos and articles to explore with my students and consider when we boil down a group of people to a single story. Why do we do that? We ask questions, push each other with gentle nudges, and grow.

This year, more than ever before, that unit from September has stayed with us. For example, every day I read a picture book in our challenge to read one each day of this school year. Always, when we’re done, I’ve asked the kids what they’ve noticed or wondered about. Recently when discussing the picture book Ada Twist, Scientist, a student pointed out how important it was that a female was the main character in the book because sometimes the single story we might believe about scientists was that they were male , but of course that isn’t true. I nodded while they went on to discuss the reasons they felt the author and illustrator had made the choices they had. It was fascinating to sit back and observe their conversations.

The single story came up again last week. We do daily quick writes, often from videos that hopefully inspire them to think and wonder. Then we write for a set amount of time. Last week I was watching three videos from a YouTuber named Louis Cole with them. You can learn how I used those videos in this old blog post HERE. In my first hour class on the second day, one student wondered aloud whether Louis' videos were giving us a single story of Kenya. I agreed that that could be true, so I pulled this video to watch the following day.

We then had an amazing conversation about the Kenya we’d have in our minds had we only watched any one of those videos, but by seeing all of them we had a more complete picture.

Single Stories. It’s so easy to reduce people, places, or beliefs we aren’t familiar with to one thing, but we are all far more complex than that. And inside that complexity lies true beauty. That’s what I want to strive for, to learn from. I’m grateful to this class for pushing me to do just that.