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Talking about race when teaching "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Discussion in 'English' started by anon1029, May 12, 2012.

  1. I am currently teaching "To Kill a Mockingbird" to a low ability Year 10 class in an ethnically diverse school, but this particular class of 30 has just one black student. As a new teacher I feel unequipped to talk about issues of race and am worried that despite hoping to teach sensitively, the pupils will pick up on my awkwardness or that I might accidentally end up making a complete mess of it. It seems easier to just avoid the issue by just emphasising the specific context of 1930s/50s U.S.A., but I feel like that would be doing the text and pupils a disservice.
    Does anyone have any advice about how I could approach the issue sensitively in the classroom or any resources that could help?
     
  2. I am currently teaching "To Kill a Mockingbird" to a low ability Year 10 class in an ethnically diverse school, but this particular class of 30 has just one black student. As a new teacher I feel unequipped to talk about issues of race and am worried that despite hoping to teach sensitively, the pupils will pick up on my awkwardness or that I might accidentally end up making a complete mess of it. It seems easier to just avoid the issue by just emphasising the specific context of 1930s/50s U.S.A., but I feel like that would be doing the text and pupils a disservice.
    Does anyone have any advice about how I could approach the issue sensitively in the classroom or any resources that could help?
     
  3. You really can't teach TKAM without discussing race. You need to cover the social and historical context and how the race issues help us form impressions of the characters. You could start by talking about what bigotry and prejudice and tolerance are and how attitudes have changed. You can incorporate other aspects of prejudice in your discussion- you'd be surprised how many students will have encountered it in one way or another!
     
  4. Don't be a such a wimp. You're a qualified teacher with a degree in English so you know a lot more about most things than your low ability year 10s. . Grasp the nettle, do boldly what you do at all. I leave no cliche unturned, but they convey the truth. Prepare thoroughly and just teach what needs to be taught. Good luck- you need it with 30 in a non-academic class.
     
  5. mediadave

    mediadave New commenter

    If it's low ability, why are you doing TKAM? It's a pretty challenging text, if for no other reason than its length.
    I agree with the above: if you're a qualified English teacher you really should be able to takle this, providing you're well prepared. I would perhaps do a lesson on social/historical context and make sure that any inappropriate comments from the students are dealt with appropriately.
     
  6. Crowbob

    Crowbob Lead commenter

    [​IMG]
     
  7. I agree, Don't faff around - just get on with it! The students will appreciate it. It's a great book.
    BTW it was written in 1960, the film was made in 1962. 3 civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi in 1964. It took until 2007 for one of the perpetrators to be brought to book for the crime.
    If you can, showing some of the film of 'Mississippi Burning' is a great way in (it's an 18 though but probably would not get that classification today). If not, the film, 'Freedom Song' also works well.
     
  8. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter

    I'm confused. How could you teach this text and not talk about racism?
     
  9. You would be. It is an integral part - it's the THEME, in fact.

     

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