Guest Blogger: Virginia Nguyen
Xin chào các bạn và các thầy cô giáo. It is May and it is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. This is the month in which we celebrate the contributions and achievements of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. In this educator guide, I invite educators to practice meaningful reflection on their own knowledge of AAPI experiences, achievements, and contributions. I also offer resources for doing the work to needed to build a more equitable, anti-racist, learning environment for all students.
The Why of this #CelebrateAAPI: An Educator Guide
Rebecca Wong, a high school junior, was and recently named a finalist in the New York Times “What has it been like to be a teenager during the first year of a historic pandemic?” project. Rebecca says, “This is how I felt in 2020…I wanted people to see what I saw.”
As we think about ways in which we, as educators, can highlight AAPI achievements, I invite you to reflect on your own knowledge of AAPI. Are you able to list at least three AAPI and their achievements? In the #STOPAAPIHATE Educator Workshop I host with fellow teacher and AAPI, Stacy Yung, participants are asked questions adapted from Liz Klienrock’s survey that she gave her 4-6 graders after the events of Atlanta in which eight were murdered, six of which were Asian. The deaths of Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, and Yong Ae Yue brought national attention to the Anti-Asian hate the AAPI community had been facing since the start of COVID-19 in March 2020 and educators took time to address it with their students.
In our #STOPAAPIHATE Educator Workshop, participating educators are asked to list up to three Asian Americans, either from history or present day. Some educators could list three or more but about 35% could not. The famous AAPI listed included historical figures such as Fred Korematsu, authors like Amy Tan, public figures like Vice President Kamala Harris, and mostly actors and actresses such as George Takei, and Sandra Oh. When asked “What do you think you know about Asian American history, identities, or experiences?” Some participants' responses were “definitely not enough”, “Very little. I would like to know much more.”, and “I only know very few from what is briefly taught in school’s history.”
Taking Stock: Auditing your own knowledge, curriculum, and classroom environment
Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, the author of Cultivating Genius, An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy shows us that by honoring of our student’s identities, it develops students academically, brings out their genius, builds confidence, empowerment, and fosters lifelong learning. Have you honored your AAPI student identities this month? How about throughout the year? To help you do a self audit of yourself, your classroom environment, and your curriculum take a moment to answer these teacher reflection questions found on Learning for Justice.
After reading and reflecting on these questions, what have you learned about yourself? Most importantly, what are some steps you can take to learn more about the Asian American Pacific Islander experience? How can you use what you learn to cultivate genius in all your students? Learning about AAPI history and experiences is not just for Asian Americans, all students benefit from learning about other communities. The goal is not simply windows and mirrors, the goal is honoring our shared humanity.
To help you in your learning, I have curated AAPI and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) and Allyship resources. Please visit them to learn more about AAPI experience, history, and achievements. One lesson I am especially proud of is the #CELEBRATEAAPI Write a Book Proposal.
This project invites students in grades 3 and up to research famous AAPI and their achievements. Students then write a book proposal for the company Little People, Big Dreams. The educator guide offers next steps such as having the students create the books and host a book fair in which students can spend the class period reading one another’s books and learning about AAPI.
Creating Classrooms that Celebrate Identity and Bring Joy
In a recent conversation with AAPI high school students, I asked them the question, “What is it like to be an Asian American student?” What became a two hour conversation led to some heartbreaking realizations that my personal experiences as an AAPI student almost 20 years ago has some similarities to what these high schoolers are still experiencing today. As a Vietnamese American, my K-12 experience only mentioned Vietnam and Vietnamese once. It was in my U.S. History class, in the context of the Vietnam War and how the U.S. left that war embarrassed and ashamed, promising never to repeat their mistakes again. That was harmful to my identity as an American and left me feeling like a foreigner. Sadly, I saw that my love for America was only one sided. During our conversation, Charlotte, also Vietnamese American, shared how she wants to be known as more than the Vietnam War. She reflected and shared what it felt like to read the book Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai during her elementary experience. Inside Out and Back Again is about Lai’s childhood experience as a refugee fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon. Charlotte shares the joy she felt and reflects on what it means to her as an AAPI:
“It tells you your story is accepted, and who you are as a person is accepted. I think being able to have people see, not even just seeing one aspect of your culture, but other aspects of your culture. Being an Asian person and not necessarily being good at math. Just having all those different perspectives and being able to know that you can be whatever you want, you don’t have to fall into this little box in order for America to accept you. In order for you to feel you can be loved and accepted can be really powerful.”
I feel extremely grateful to be a teacher. There is so much opportunity to bring joy into our classrooms. Because of this, it is hard to imagine a better profession. It is with excitement and gratitude that I share with you my hopes that celebrating AAPI in May is where we start, but the ultimate goal is to celebrate AAPI, and other BIPOC and marginalized people all year long. Cảm ơn và tốt nhất cho bạn.
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