By Sam Piha
Now more than ever, people across the country are engaged in discussions about race, ethnicity and equity. While February is Black History Month, we wanted to learn more about recent history- the reflection of young adults on their experience with race and ethnicity in America.
We invited a group of young people enrolled in a local community college class, focused on race issues in America, to answer a few questions. We asked about their early experiences with racial and ethnic differences and how those early experiences shaped them. Below are some of their responses.
"I grew up in a town which has a very diverse population, so my early experiences with racial and ethnic differences were abundant and positive. Starting at age 5, I played soccer where I was introduced to many families from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. My supportive and hard- working parents raised me to not judge people by the color of their skin or their ethnic background, so I was able to interact with people based on their actions or how they treated others. As I grew up, I continued to learn about other cultures and I became more interested in various international areas."
"My early experiences with racial and ethnic differences really started when I transferred to another high school where I felt like a fish out of water. In all my classes, I was the only person who was mixed race. Being biracial, I would get looks of curiosity or people would ask, 'What are you?' I always hated when people would ask me that because I would always wonder if people thought different of me. My core group of friends were Latino. Since I am half Latino, we could relate on that, but I learned that we had different cultures, holidays and eat different foods. I felt more comfortable with them because they never judged me about being biracial. When I joined the Black Student Union at my high school, the teacher and some of the students would say, 'I’m not black enough' or that 'I was whitewashed' because of the place I was raised.
These early experiences shaped me into the person I am today by making me very comfortable with who I am, a strong biracial woman. In my early years, I was almost ashamed of being biracial and not being able to connect with a specific group. Now with everything that is going on in the news, like Black Lives Matter, I see the importance in embracing who I am as a person of mixed race. I see that a person doesn’t need to specifically connect with a group just because they are the same race but being able to connect with them because they don’t judge who you are and the actions you take."
"Middle school was definitely harder because people were comparing themselves to each other and were less tolerant of individuals who were different. There were times when people said things about those in my race or other races, but this helped me to be kinder to others and tolerant. People have physical and cultural differences, but it’s the kind of person they are on the inside that really matters."
"My early experiences with racial and ethnic differences began when I was in 5th grade and could start to realize what were the differences between me and other students. An experience I could remember was when in class I was being accused of something I didn’t do and when everyone else pointed out the person who did do it, the teacher was in denial because they saw the other kid as innocent because 'that’s not in him to do, and not in his nature.' When I started to figure out what she meant, I realized that people of color are targeted at an early age."
"My mom raised my brother and I in an environment that was very diverse so we wouldn't have to experience racism as children. When she finally tried to teach us about racial differences and the history of racism, we didn't believe a word. Instead, my brother and I were actually upset; we thought our mother was racist for acknowledging the differences between races, for we saw everyone the same. We sat and argued with her, so sure that 'those kinds of things don't happen anymore,' and 'no one cares about that stuff like they used to,' not because it held truth, but because it was something we genuinely believed. As I started to get older and my knowledge grew, so did the people around me. Kids I’d gone to school with since elementary became more curious and more vocal about each other's differences."
"As someone wearing Hijab (headscarf) to represent my religion and modesty, I have seen people looking at me and treating me differently. It is challenging to live in a place where people think of me differently from other individuals. However, seeing minorities experiencing racial differences makes me stronger in different aspects. It makes me stronger in an encouraging way. It reminds me that I have a chance to prove them wrong for wrongfully hating us. My parents always taught me not to let racial discrimination or other issues in my life stop me from being who I strive to be. I was taught that if I have a chance to make a difference, nothing should stop me from achieving it. As an immigrant, I have an opportunity to prove to individuals that race doesn't affect whether someone can be successful."
"My first experiences with racial and ethnic differences was when I was younger and I would visit my sister’s house. My sister lived in a predominantly white town, and I lived in a predominantly Latino town. Her town was very quiet and everyone was in bed by 9 P.M. In my neighborhood the noise never stopped. It felt like being an outcast to be in her town because when people there saw a person of color, they often liked to stare.
Another time I experienced an aspect of being different was when my parents divorced. At first, I tried to hide it, but it was inevitable that people would find out. I didn't want to be seen as different. However, when people found out, such as students and teachers, I noticed I was treated a little differently at first. Teachers were more lenient accepting late work. My peers would avoid talking about their family outings around me. These experiences have shaped me into the person I am today because I learned that racism is not in the past and it still exists."
"My early experiences with racial and ethnic differences were good. As a kid, I grew up and went to school with people of all backgrounds and everyone got along. I thought of kids that looked different than me in class as just other fellow humans, not categorized as a different alien race. I still carry this mindset with me today as it feels easier on the mind because of its simplicity. In my opinion, if you try to simplify everything around your environment and not complicate things, it’s easier to achieve bliss."
"I’ve had a bit of a negative experience with dealing with differences such as caste. My family are Sikhs and part of the 'Jatt' caste (a farmer caste). My parents can sometimes look down upon other Sikhs that they would consider are part of a lower caste. I tell them to abolish this caste notion, that it’s outdated now that we’re in America. They don’t listen to me and still keep their biased view of thinking. These early experiences shaped me to be more welcoming of others and view everyone as a fellow human."
As schools prepare to re-open, afterschool program staff need to consider the experiences of youth who have been away from school and their friends due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know these vary greatly depending on family income and racial/ ethnic background. What are young people's needs? What should we, as afterschool staff, do to help youth thrive when they return to afterschool programs post COVID? How might we build back school and program culture and a sense of "family" spirit and connection in our afterschool programs? Join Stu Semigran and a panel of afterschool program experts to learn how best to help youth thrive as they return to school and afterschool. To get more information and to register for our next Speaker's Forum, click here.
By Sam Piha
Between the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures, police shootings and the calls for racial justice, 2020 was a very difficult year. We asked people from the afterschool community to share any lessons or take-aways they've gained from this crazy year. Below are some of the responses we received. You can read all the response here.
“Expanded Learning plays a vital role in the continuity of education during this time of pandemic, not only by providing staffing for a wide variety of educational configurations for distance learning, Expanded Learning is in a unique position to offering programming and learning experiences that not only address racial issues and equality, but gender issues and equality, marginalized groups and equality and Social Emotional Learning as whole. One take away is the need to identify more clearly the demographics that make up the Expanded Learning Field, who works in expanded Learning from a race perspective, gender perspective, cultural perspective, orientation perspective and so on.” -Director Expanded Learning, Los Angeles County, CA
“Distance learning was good in that it showed us 1) How poorly many teachers support student learning and SEL development; 2) Online learning apps are not the panacea; 3) Educational bureaucracies get bogged down in regulations and labor rules. When this happens, resourced families and CBO's are able to overcome barriers to effectively serve students; 4) teacher-parent/caregiver communication has to improve even post-COVID.” -CEO Youth Service Non-profit, Alameda and Santa Clara County, CA
“I think our organization has learned the important lesson of really listening to the community and developing plans that work for them! Flexibility and patience are key.” -Youth Worker, Harris County, TX
“When the pandemic began, I was an Elementary School Assistant Principal. I was tasked with providing support to teachers as well as families in our at- home learning model that was not yet virtual. From the beginning our goal was to ensure student and family safety and well- being. What we all quickly learned is what we always knew, school is not just a building that students attend to learn curriculum. Our schools are the center of our communities and when they closed, we quickly rallied to ensure we did not miss a beat providing families with the support they needed to grow and nurture our students. During the pandemic, I was transitioned to a district level administrator working in Education Services as the Coordinator of Student Services. In this position I have several responsibilities that support the learning happening in schools but shifted my focus from curriculum and instruction, which had been my focus for my 15 year career, to supporting the social and emotional well- being of our students, families, teachers, and community. My role includes a focus on attendance, supporting the counseling departments, implementing professional learning with restorative practice, PBIS and focus SEL lessons, run the daily operations of the district community center and guide the work of the district and site nurses, the district social worker, and the community and site- based family liaisons. Through these interactions my takeaways are that in order to focus on teaching and learning the curriculum it is most important we meet the mental and physical well- being needs of not only our students, but our families and communities as a whole. My ability to be a strong instructional leader has only been strengthened by my understanding that stakeholder needs extend outside the classroom and the four walls of the school building.” -Coordinator of Student Services, Los Angeles County, CA
“Have a fluid plan to help address new needs as they come. Work closely with partners to help meet the needs of the whole child and address needs specific to the community.” -Director of Programs, Los Angeles County, CA
“Don't be afraid to try new ways of doing things and try and try again. Get ideas and reflections form the students you are serving. Don't under- estimate the tool that continued zoom meetings have on all participants. Take care to balance your time between work and home. Hold high expectations where necessary and let less important things go.” -Executive Director Youth Serving Non-Profit, CA
“My take- away from 2020 would be thankful for my finances that saved me from having hard times. Be thankful for a job. My main take away is even though we marched for racial justice, until the cops who kill us black men are charged and sentenced, we still have a long way to go.” -EXLP Coordinator, Solano County, CA
“The year taught us to put ourselves in a position where we must be more understanding, more flexible, and ready to expect and appreciate anything that comes our way. Working with kids has taught me that even they are having their own struggles, but they are willing to cooperate and put in the effort to be where they want to be. There are so many connections and differences we can make in their lives even if it is through a screen!” -After School Program Tutor, Fresno County, CA
“Take-aways include needing to master better ways to have discussions about systemic racism and how to be anti-racist without stoking contentious anger...” -Youth Worker, Stanislaus, CA
“I think the biggest take away for the year is to remember to appreciate what you have. Whether it's your family, your kids, your house, your job, friendships, relationships, love, nature, health, time... Appreciate it all. I know I've come to appreciate much more over this past year. Life goes too fast. Slow it down and enjoy it.” -Program Coordinator, Fulton County, New York
“Constantly adapt. Our staff members are outstanding. Love and connection are our strengths.” -Executive Director Youth Service Non-Profit, Mendocino County, CA
“We are resilient; however, we need time to heal and mend. In 2017, we had the Oroville Dam crisis. In 2018, we had the Wall Fire. In 2018, we had the Camp Fire. In 2020, we had the North Complex Fire. Not to mention the COVID Pandemic. We are strong, dedicated and determined to serve our students and families with positivity and gratitude.” -Director of Expanded Learning, Butte County, CA
“The lessons and take-aways for me, from 2020 are these: 1) put people first, focus on relationships; so many relationships have been fractured this year leaving people vulnerable and isolated. Our field excels at relationship-building we should be operating from our strengths and centering relationships, ensuring that staff have the necessary supports, tools and time to do so. 2) Funders can really make the difference between whether an organization not only survives but thrives in the coming year; they should focus on building and strengthening organizational capacity in a number of ways.” -President of Afterschool Training Organization, Philadelphia County, PA
“We used to mistakenly think that success is the amount of time you put in at work. However, 2020 taught us that success is the quality of time we put in.” -Afterschool Coordinator, Solano County, CA
“Relationships rule!” -Program Administrator, Alameda County, CA
“Both personally and professionally, I've had two major takeaways from the year that was 2020. The first is that, as humans, connection with others is vital to our continued growth and development. The second lesson I learned is that we have to overcome the instinct to be fearful and engage in difficult and courageous conversations - with family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and leaders.” -Associate Executive Director/National Program Director, San Francisco Bay Area, CA
“We have seen how many classrooms have tried to operate as they used to before the pandemic, employing the same curriculum but through distance learning. As afterschool programs, we cannot ignore the world around us. Our work is intricately tied to the issues, concerns, and ideas around us. We have to address and incorporate the current climate into our work with children. We cannot go on "business as usual," trying to hold on to old norms. We are skilled at adapting and meeting the needs, requirements, and new guidelines, coming from all directions, placed on us. We have been doing the work throughout the pandemic and have experience to share with those who'd care to listen.” -Assistant Afterschool Director, Contra Costa County, CA
“The pandemic has laid bare that all our systems from education to healthcare to sustainability and every other system we live under are cracked at their foundations. Care for each other will be the starting point to reimagine new systems based on love and equity.” -Co-Director, National Afterschool Training Organization, USA
By Sam Piha
When there are disturbing events that fill the airwaves, it is important that caregivers have resources to guide them on how to talk to young people about these events, and how to turn to self- care. Below are some resources that caregivers, including teachers, afterschool workers and parents, may find helpful.
Brooke Anderson is a Bay Area organizer and photojournalist. In the interest of self-care, she developed 6 Daily Quarantine Questions, which she expands on in detail in her article from Greater Good Magazine.
Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation launched the My Pal, Luke project. My Pal, Luke features a virtual, talking comfort dog who promotes social emotional learning through his words and questions, including a “feelings” check-in with young children. Luke reads his favorite books with kids and educates them on how to make sense of current events.
I am a clinical child psychologist and I've watched how Covid-19 has presented so many challenges for children and their parents. What children never forget how to do is play, even in the toughest of circumstances. And My Pal, Luke helps them do exactly that, with the added benefit of soothing and educating our children who are now pandemic on-line learners. What a great gift to all of us." - Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D., Developmental and Clinical Psychologist
INSURRECTION IN THE CAPITOL
Caregivers are struggling on how to best talk to young people about the historical significance of the violence that erupted in Washington D.C. on January 6th, 2021, when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building and disrupted the Congressional certification of Joe Biden's presidential victory. Below are some resources. The first is one that offers questions for different age groups and is available in English and Spanish.
More resources provided by EdSource are cited below:
Below are resources provided by the California Afterschool Network (CAN):
The 4-H Organization writes, “Being able to help young people understand topics such as racism, implicit biases, and discrimination requires facilitating difficult conversations and providing youth with information that will help them to learn and grow… Both adults and youth must challenge themselves to learn and grow through these conversations to be better prepared for a more culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse world.”
To this end, 4-H’s Program Leaders Working Group developed Just in Time Equity Dialogues for Youth: Lessons Designed to Foster Honest Conversations with Youth About Social Justice Issues. They also published Supplemental Resources which offers resources, readings and other relevant content to support guide use.
It is important to note that there continues to be a proliferation of partisan news sources peddling deeply skewed or even inaccurate information that has helped fuel conspiracy theories and other harmful perceptions of the integrity of U.S. elections. Below is a resource to help educators prepare their youth for deciphering fake news:
Brooke Anderson is a Bay Area-based organizer and photojournalist. She has spent 20 years building movements for social, economic, racial, and ecological justice. She is a proud union member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, CWA 39521, and AFL-CIO. She’s on Twitter and Instagram at @movementphotographer.
Dr. Diane Ehrensaft is a developmental and clinical psychologist, Director of Mental Health at the Child and Adolescent Gender Center and Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of California San Francisco. She has been a frequent contributor to our LIAS blog and the How Kids Learn conference. You can review her blog responses here and view a video presentation here.
By Sam Piha
This last year (2020) has been a difficult one, due to in part the needed calls for racial justice, a divisive election and the COVID-19 pandemic. You can click here to see how we worked to respond to these issues. Throughout 2020 Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation have posted over 50 blogs, some featuring the words of guest bloggers and interviews with afterschool leaders. We also released a number of papers and new initiatives. Below are some of our favorites from 2020.
Spoken Word (with Daniel Summerhill)
Most Viewed Blogs
Speaker’s Forums/ Webinars- In partnership with the EduCare Foundation
My Pal, Luke: This project is designed to promote social- emotional learning through his words and questions, including a check-in with kids. Luke also reads his favorite books and educates kids on how to make sense of current events and the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be easily embedded in distance learning efforts or used with in- person programming. To watch episodes of My Pal, Luke, click here.
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.