Marisol Moreno: Enacting Multicultural Education


How does Marisol enact multicultural education in her classroom?

Developing Positive Academic Identities

Marisol discusses how she develops students' academic identities in the context of a low SES school. What strikes you about what she says?

She explains that "most of the class activities are done in groups. This helps students build on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Since nobody is good at everything, every student gets to shine during different activities. This in turn promotes a positive academic identity. When students struggle, we praise each other for trying and say it is normal to make mistakes. Again, most of the class activities are done using inquiry and working in groups with a lot of talking. Engaging students in critical discussions and giving them plenty of opportunities to talk and ask questions has indeed made them the highest performing class in the grade level of 13 sections."

Developing Positive Social Identities

Marisol connects students' academic identities with developing positive social identities among her students. Here she explains, and gives a couple of examples.

"Every student is welcome in our class. By this I mean not just their physical body but their personalities, quirks, languages, backgrounds, interest, and families. In order to encourage and facilitate positive social identities I make sure to verbalize my student’s worth on a daily basis. Also, we sit at the carpet in a circle and say something we appreciate about each other. Everyone shares an appreciation and everyone receives one. We write poems about what makes us special and then read them to the class. I read to my students a variety of literature that tells stories of marginalized communities and peoples that have struggled through oppression then we have discussions about it. This allows me to engage my students in critical discussions about unknown histories and why they are unknown. One of the main ways that I foster a positive development of social identities is through using the student’s funds of knowledge." 

Developing Respectful Engagement with Diverse People

Marisol develops her students' ability to engage respectfully with diverse people in various subject areas, even math! As she described, "Not only was I able to cover many social studies and language arts standards but also have very critical discussions on the danger of a single story and the benefits of having many different stories and perspectives. The students were then able to connect this concept when we talked about the Arawak’s perspectives versus Christopher Columbus’s. Respecting and engaging with diverse people, whether in our classroom or through literature, is of upmost importance to me and my students."

Watch her explain what she does, and think about how her work illustrates the research about teaching students to engage respectfully with diverse people.

About the video, she explained: "I started the video with the title A living hope, and ended it with A vivid reality…,  because that is how I see my students. There is hope for change for a more just society and it is living before my eyes, and I get to experience that very 'vivid reality' on a daily basis."

Developing Social Justice Consciousness

Out of the work she does developing students' academic and social identities, and their ability to respectfully ask questions about difference and fairness comes consciousness-raising. In this student-created video, Marisol's students share examples of their experiences in her classroom that have made a positive impact on their ability to read the world around them in order to act ethically and justly.

Developing Social Action

Marisol wrote: "As I tell my students, wanting justice alone is not enough; there must be action! Every year the students create their own class rules. This year the school counselors created a poster that had school rules they had decided were important. The rules said things like, “always answer yes ma’am no ma’am or sir”, “walk on the right side of the hall”, “have shirts tucked in at all time”. When the counselors gave me this 3 by 2 feet poster I told them I refused to hang it in our class. I showed it to the class and they said they did not think it was fair to follow rules they did not have a vote in creating. One student said, “plus our rules are higher than those”. Meaning that those rules only focused on outward things not the more important “higher” inward rules of respect and fairness. Another student said that those rules were only to try to control the students. After our discussion we agreed to roll the poster up and place it in the back of the closet. The students see themselves as discriminated against when their perspectives or voices are not taken into consideration when making rules or policy. They are very aware of their position in relation to adults.

"Another way in which students demonstrate their criticality and activism is through creating their own spaces of resistance such as the Spanish club. The students started this club during recess. As my students came in from recess I heard one student say that Kiana is learning Spanish in Spanish club. “Spanish club?” I ask. “Yeah, we made a Spanish club and we teach under a tree like Fredrick Douglass”. Another student adds, “and the teachers are all the kids that speak Spanish, anyone can come”. As I question them further I find out that the students created a club where they meet under a tree during recess to learn Spanish. When I asked them about it they told me they got the idea from Fredrick Douglass.

"When I asked Victoria about this she stated: 'because we were inspired by Frederick Douglass and we wanted to imitate him like under a tree and we thought it was very cool… very cool idea, and because we are providing knowledge, like Fredrick Douglass, that’s what we want to do.' The connection the students made with Fredrick Douglass clearly demonstrated that in some form they knew that Spanish was something to liken to early slaves’ position of being denied knowledge that had the potential to set them free. Here was an example of how exposing children to multicultural stories can translate into activism and resistance."