In after school, we highly value the work that our community does in the diversity, equity, and inclusion realm. Last year, the after-school team started doing DEI meetings where we focused on topics such as identity, intersectionality, positionality, and oppression. We identified certain equity-related challenges we saw in after school and came up with plans on how to address them.
One activity we did early on in our meetings was an activity that allowed us to explore our own identities. First, we were tasked with finishing the sentence "I am..." We could answer it in any way and with any words we wanted to. This exercise was important for us in establishing what identity is, how we perceive it, how we perceive ourselves, and what we should explore more about ourselves and others.
We decided to take this exercise and try it out with the kids in PM. We want to do this activity with kids of different ages and backgrounds so that we'll get a more thorough and diverse group of answers. In each article, we will focus on one student from each grade (kindergarten through fourth grade).
Our first article in the "I am" series focuses on a second grader. When I first sat down with her, I wanted to explain a little bit about the project and see if she knew what the word identity meant. When I asked her that, she said she thought identity was something about a person or who the person is.
Then, I explained what we were going to do. I told her that the PM teachers all did this exercise too, and we wanted to try it out with some of our PM students so that we could learn more about them. I told her I'd give her a few minutes to write down as many things as she could think of that could finish the sentence "I am..." I told her it could start with her name (which I'll leave out of this article), and then from there, she could describe herself in any way she wanted to.
I offered to help her but didn't shape the way she answered the prompt. Here were her answers:
Once I saw her answers, we discussed them. We talked about how a lot of her answers had something to do with school. As a seven year-old, she spends a lot of time at school, she goes there every day, and she has lots of friends there. Therefore, it's a big part of her identity.
She also mentioned one of her interests: basketball. She might've said this because I was conducting this exercise with her and I also teach the basketball class she's in, but she chose it because she said it's something she really enjoys.
She, lastly, mentioned that she is a person. Hearing this beautifully simple answer was like a breath of fresh air. A seven year-old shouldn't be defined as any specific gender, race, ability, etc. But just as a person. It was refreshing to see her perspective on that.
This student enjoyed this exercise, and we are looking forward to talking to more students about their identities as the year goes on. Make sure you keep an eye out for the rest of the articles in the "I am" series!