Thoughts by Kris
Yep, that's what is happening here
As I sat down with my son the week before he was the star of the week, I was struck with a profound statement by him. See we were trying to fill out an "all about me" poster that will be shared with the class during his special week. They often ask things like what is your favorite food, tell me about your family, and offers the student to sketch a self portrait. We were sitting just chatting about his life and the things he likes when he suddenly looked up at me and said, "Dad, there isn't a crayon to match my skin".
Now my son is white, he is just tans very easily and has some olive undertones but we could not find a match for his skin. He sat there and pulled out crayon after crayon from our giant bin and compared it to his arm skin. After a quick check he would put them back. After doing his for a while he just declared that there was not a crayon to match his skin.
In our shoes, this is not a big deal but what if my son wasn't white? What if the color of his skin did not match a crayon, or a colored pencil, or a marker? What if our ethnicity was not represented in mainstream consumerism?
This is reality for far too many students. We ask them to share about themselves but limit their ability to do just that. We provide them a task with a ceiling on how they see themselves and skew the lens of how they see their self portrait.
This limitation is not strictly to "all about me" posters. Think about any task where you ask students to create something where they would need to represent themselves.
-Write a step by step book about something you built
-Draw how you connect with this book
-Draw your family tree
-Share a family story
-Share how you would look in this novel
The more that we ask students to create these misrepresentations of themselves, the more we are chipping away at their very identity. They are losing the value of who they are and how they see themselves. Although this is accidental, it is real and it happens everyday in our schools.
Luckily there is a solution. Crayola released a multicultural color pack a while ago that is your answer. This pack will allow you to provide students the opportunity to create an accurate representation of themselves regardless of the task. You are bound to still have a student who chooses to represent themselves in a different color, but you are not putting a ceiling on their choices.
We did manage to finish our poster that night with some creative colored pencil work. Please be the teacher who has these in your classroom. Please open the options to ensure that no student looses their identity because of the crayons you provide them.