Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2011 – For Teachers

Someone always seems to have a problem with holidays commemorating or bringing awareness to a certain issue. I’m sure you’ve heard people say:

Earth Day? Shouldn’t every day be ‘Earth Day’?

AIDS Awareness Week? Shouldn’t we be aware of AIDS all the time?

And such rhetoric can be heard with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). Why only a month? How can we confine ethnic identity and pride within only thirty days? Well, you can’t. And you shouldn’t. But that’s not how I see APAHM.

I feel like the importance of APAHM spans beyond the individual, though it definitely starts with it. It’s about the community and how it’s grown from the contributions and efforts of individuals trying to make a difference. In having a month dedicated to Asian Pacific American Heritage, we can look back at the past year and see how our accomplishments as a community have moved us forward. Similarly, we can look years and decades back and see how the accomplishments of our predecessors have gotten us where we are now. It’s a tradition of recognizing the past, living in the present, and looking forward to the future. Like all things, we never appreciate them if they are ever-present. At least once a year during the month of May, we can reflect and of course celebrate the part of all of us that is both diverse and unifying, that defines but also challenges our identities and what they stand for.

As a teacher, APAHM is certainly a unique and exciting month. In one of my graduate TESOL classes, several classmates recently did presentations on the importance of teaching not only English but also incorporating culture into ESL classrooms. Their presentations were awesome; they included practical suggestions such as avoiding stereotypes, encouraging acceptance and diversity, and having them compare and reflect upon issues of cultural clashes in both America and their native country.

For another class, my group did a grammar lesson plan presentation today on teaching comparatives and superlatives by bringing brownies for students to eat and compare based on using comparatives and superlatives with sensory adjectives. Two other group members and I each baked a batch of brownies: one a plain chocolate brownie, another with marshmallows and toffee, and mine with dark chocolate and crushed Oreos. It wasn’t until we put all three brownies in front of the class to present and distribute to our classmates as part of the presentation that I realized this was the perfect way to present a lesson on cultural diversity and awareness about stereotypes.

I imagine that the teacher would start the lesson by asking students what a brownie is and adjectives to describe a brownie. Students will probably describe something close to the plain brownie. Then the teacher could present the other two brownies and have students taste and describe those brownies. Students would then compare the similarities and differences but all based on the fact that they are all considered “brownies”. The teacher could then apply that to real life examples of stereotypes prevalent in America and how by stereotyping, you don’t recognize the rich variety always existent in any community, even with brownies.

I picture Culture as the shadow of Language, not because Culture is somehow inferior or less substantial than Language, but because its lines are blurred and so much harder to grasp. There are no clear cut ways to define Culture, it’s boundaries constantly in flux. Yet, it follows us everywhere, and as language teachers, it follows the language we learn, whether we decide to consciously teach it or not. How do you teach a grammar lesson using brownies when many of the students might not really know what a “brownie” is? After all, brownies are very American.

Here are some APAHM resources for teachers who want to teach Asian Pacific American history: 

–  Educational Primary Resources for Teachers (from Library of Congress; ready-to-use lesson plans, student activities, collection guides, research aids)

–  Bay Area Mosaic: Asian Pacific American Studies (from KQED; educational media resourcesfilms, videos, interactive activities, lesson plans)

* * *

List of other things happening this month for APAHM. I will update it as I find out more… feel free to send any my way!

HBO’s East of Main Street  (from HBO On Demand; a second season documentary mini-series commemorating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month)

Living Well (from Hep B Free and OCA are partnering with Nordstrom to help raise awareness of the importance of getting tested for hepatitis B)

SF State University’s Asian American Studies Department (from Hyphen; APAHM Profiles)

Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Website (from The White House)

Presidential Proclamation – Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (from President Obama)

Asian Pacific Anerican Heritage Month in San Francisco (from City and County of San Francisco)

7th Annual Asian Heritage Street Celebration in San Francisco (from AsianWeek Foundation)

Fuck Yeah API History  (from Tumblr; Historical Photographs and Blurbs about Asian / Pacific Islander American History)

KQED Community: Asian Pacific American Heritage Programming (from KQED; links and schedule of radio programming dedicated to APAHM)

MYX Loaded (from MYX TV, Comcast Top Picks, and Cox National On-Demand; a YouTube artist concert event at California’s UC Davis commemorating)

Broadcast Programs for APAHM (from Center for Asian American Media, information and links)

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