Living Between Two Cultures: A Digital Literature Discussion of Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, Part 5

By Andrea García, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY, and Carmen Martínez-Roldán, Universtiy of Texas, Austin, TX

Stories, novels, are the truth according to character… you are not talking about the truth universally, you are talking about the particular individual embodiment of different truths. — Julia Alvarez (2009, Radio interview KUER)

Whether multicultural literature is alien or exotic is not inherent in itself, but rather lies in the perception of the reader. From the perspective of marginalized ethnic groups this new category of literature is not alien or exotic at all. Instead, it represents their world, reflecting their images and voices. When it is incorporated into the curriculum, children from these groups find characters with whom to identify in the books they read in school. (Cai, 2002, p. 11)

Graffiti Board response to Return to Sender

In the last decade, much has been written about the multiple and contested meanings of multicultural literature. In particular, scholars focusing on this issue caution that different definitions of what constitutes multicultural education may impact the ways in which this type of literature is used in the classroom. Making a distinction between a pedagogical and a literary definition of multicultural literature, Cai (2002) writes that, “the pedagogical definition of multicultural literature is predicated on the goal that this category of literature is supposed to achieve: Creating a multicultural curriculum and implementing multicultural education” (p. 4). In this respect, multicultural literature has the potential to help expand the curriculum and bring a pluralistic perspective, one that is inclusive and democratic versus exclusive and hegemonic.

From the discussions and responses that we have seen on this month’s WOW Currents, we know that our undergraduate and graduate students from Texas and New York have engaged in a critical discussion of their reading of Return to Sender. Some of those responses, as reflected by one student’s use of an acrostic poem in her Graffiti Board response, are uniquely personal; they reveal the how critical multicultural literature, such as Return to Sender, may help craft spaces for critical conversations in the classroom.

For this final week of our digital literature discussion, we focus on the use of multicultural literature in the classroom. Particularly, we are interested in discussing how this reading experience may help inform your decisions as educators when it comes to selecting literature for your students in your classroom. How does your role as a reader of critical multicultural literature inform your role as an educator? How does your reading of Return to Sender help you understand the pedagogical possibilities of multicultural literature in your curriculum? Does critical multicultural literature such as this novel have a role in the classroom?

Cai, M. (2002). Multicultural literature for children and young adults: Reflections on critical issues. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

[Editor Note: Return to Sender is reviewed in Volume XI, Issue 3 of WOW Review.]

Journey through Worlds of Words during our open reading hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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60 thoughts on “Living Between Two Cultures: A Digital Literature Discussion of Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, Part 5

  1. Jorge Segovia Jr. says:

    To begin with, when looking at Cai’s (2002) definition, the goal is to create a multicultural curriculum in order to expand and bring in all these other perspectives that don’t necessarily get the attention they deserve. As educators, we should take an ethnographic approach in trying to really understand our students, their families, and the communities they inhabit. It’s easy to just conglomerate all of our students, but it’s important to know that each of our students have individual needs, and as educators, it’s our job to meet those needs. When we create a multicultural curriculum that validates the knowledge and the language that our students already poses, we make learning a more meaningful process. The reason this occurs is that we start playing on our students prior knowledge, using the funds of knowledge that they already posses as a way of engaging them in the learning process. As the question asks, how does your reading of Return to Sender help you understand the pedagogical possibilities of multicultural literature in your curriculum? And does this type of literature have a place in the classroom? Based on what I’ve seen in the discussion board, a lot of people made connections with the characters in the book they identified with. At least in my example, I have some knowledge on the issue of undocumented people who live in the states because I have family who resides in the states illegally. Having that knowledge, it was easier to connect to Mari’s experiences because this wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered experiences similar to hers. By having this prior knowledge, I felt more engaged in what I was doing. As educators, we have to make schooling an engaging process. Once we hook our students, we can start to build on the knowledge they posses, pushing them to their zone of proximal development, leading to more cognitive growth, etc. That’s how I personally feel, but it would be interesting to hear someone who feels differently about the issues. Does anyone out there want to take an opposite stance for the purposes of creating a discussion on the issue?

  2. Karina Rodriguez says:

    This reading helped me to see a different reading perspective in terms of the interactions between the two different families interacting together despite their cultural differences. As an educator we have to provide different perspectives, points of views, and sides to each story because we do not want our students to attain a biased story or document, which won’t provide much insight to them. When we select text and books for our students we have to make sure that there is a wide range of variety for them to pick from and it is very important that one of the categories be books that are multicultural. There are so many possibilities when working with multicultural literature in our classrooms as future educators. Multicultural literature may even in fact provide a better turnout in participation and have more personal connections, which can then become knowledge that the students can store into their long-term memory. Return to Sender is a powerful novel, which can create students to think critically, and have strong discussions over such topics discussed in the novel. I would certainly use this book in order to create these discussions and enga

  3. Delia Singer says:

    Being exposed to literature like, Julia Alvarez’s Return to Sender, is a great way to open the reader’s mind to diverse experiences. It is very important to keep this in mind when selecting literature for our classrooms so that we can provide this diversity to our students. Last semester we watched a video titled: The danger of a single story (here is the link: This video provides a good example of how limiting ourselves to a single story about other people or country limits our critical understanding of others. My role as a reader of critical multicultural literature expands my understanding of different cultures and people. This allows me to be better educated and thus be able to provide these different stories to my students. The book Return to Sender is a good example of literature that can be incorporated into different pedagogical possibilities in the classroom. It can be used to inform students of different cultures through the different points of view that Alvarez shows us. Mari’s family exposes the side of an immigrant family struggling and sacrificing, sometimes their lives, for a better way of life. Tyler’s family shows the reader the other side to that, a family who has been in the U.S. for years and breaks the rules to do what they feel is the right thing to do-give Mari’s family work and a place for them to live at. Mr. Rossetti also represents another way that immigration might be viewed in the U.S. as he is opposed to it at first and believes that immigrants should be sent back. The Spanish teacher, Senora Ramirez and her “gringo” represent people who have been able to cross cultural boundaries and seem very happy with this. All of these different views make up the multicultural literature that this book represents. These types of books can be incorporated into the pedagogical curriculum to demonstrate the different points of view. I think that not only does this type of multicultural literature have a role in the classroom but also a classroom would not be complete without it. It is our responsibility as teachers to provide the information necessary to our students so that they become critical learners and having exposure to a variety of information will help this development.

  4. Elvia Jaimes says:

    There is no doubt that literature is not exotic, even less alien. Through literature one finds means of expressing who they are, linguistically, culturally, and spiritually. Literature speaks for the world when it is silent. It engages us into creativity, learning, and imagination. It unifies and connects us with the unknown. Literature allows children to cross boundaries and take part of the character’s role. In the novel, Return to Sender, I was able to relate my experiences to that of Mari’s, however; it also granted me the will to have an insight of Tyler’s thoughts. As a future educator, I would like for my students to take the stand out of the norm. Experience what they never have. Look at life from a different perspective. Indeed, multicultural literature has a role in our classroom. It permits children to value their language and culture. For many of us, it can be a burden adapting to a new a culture; therefore, multicultural literature can be an escape route to that burden. Students will be able to spark discussions, connect experiences, and open the door to new ideas. Multicultural literature makes learning worthy because their interests, uniqueness and experiences are taking into account. No child is alike, and should not be treated as. Also, they are able to connect to the characters and in a sense attribute their spice to then create a new character. As Karina mentions, we should select literature that is rich in culture and language. We should provide options and not limit them to strictly one genre. Literature takes us out of Earth into new planets where life is distinct. Personally, I would have wished that multicultural literature had been introduced to me before. It is until now that I am becoming familiar with such vital literature.

    I agree with Jorge, educators should go beyond and truly build of foundation of friendship. We need to validate our student’s uniqueness. Educators should step out their boundary and understand the students, their family and the community. As we have read in previous articles, children enter school with ample of knowledge. It is our responsibility to build on their knowledge. Our priority should always be to enhance their learning. Students should feel appreciated. Be proud of who they are as individuals.Multicultural literature can certainly meet the needs of our diverse students.

  5. Yehimi Saquiche says:

    Before addressing the prompt, I want to consider a fragment from one of the postings that we were assigned this past semester. The prompt for this day was to address a comment that Vasquez (2003) made, “It is not enough to adapt the child to the pedagogy, the pedagogy must adapt to the child.” It is important to understand that all students have individual needs, and that the teacher’s job is to facilitate learning by seeing the students as individuals. Now, going back to this week’s prompt, it is necessary to really appreciate our student’s backgrounds and individuality. Many times, teachers are taught that in order to create a good learning environment, they are supposed to work around student’s strenghts; however, once the teacher has his/her own classroom, this idea is not implemented. As future educators we need to change this trend. That is where the idea of bringing multicultural literature to our classroom becomes important. We are going to be opening new doors to our students, just as Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez was eye opening to many students that read it. I do not recall if it was Dr. Martinez-Roldan, or Dr. Andrea Garcia that said that Return to Sender was something new to the students at Hofstra University. They were really amazed by this book. I then started thinking that if this book brought these students such emotions, what kind of emotions would elementary students receive when reading multicultural literature. In addition, just as Elvia states, through this type of literature, the students will be able to find a way to express who they are in different ways.
    Personally, I think that this reading experience was helpful in that I got to understand the perspective of Tyler’s story. I was able to connect to Mari’s but the most important thing that I got out of the novel is that, it is important to understand other people’s perspectives. Through multicultural literature, children will enlarge their knowledge, understanding of other student’s customs, beliefs, ideas, viewpoints, ect. This will also give the opportunity to the teacher to also get to know the students to a deeper level. Elvia, adding on your comment about your childhood experience with literature, I think that as a future educator, you need to do all that is in your hands to be that teacher that will really implement this practice.

  6. Sharon Pozos says:

    Yehimi it is so true that all students are very different and they each have individual needs. In school they teach us the importance of individualizing instruction to fit the different needs of the students. Using Multicultural lit can be one way of doing it. But unfortunately what I have seen in the classrooms is the total opposite. I don’t see the differentiating of instruction that we are taught to do and when I talk to teachers they tell me that reality is that they dont have time to meet the needs of every student I dont even think that these teachers consider that just by using multicultural lit will help. Yehimi you are right as future educators it is in our hands to implement this in our classrooms and show our future students that they are special no matter where they come from.
    I was like Elvia where I did not introduced to mulitcultural lit at an earlier age. It was not until college. I was always very critical of other peoples culture and I could only see my side, but now I am able to see the other side just like in return to sender there are always two sides.

  7. Stephanie Ruiz says:

    Reading everyone’s comments makes me think about today’s Social Studies class and how it was brought up that our student’s are not getting their daily knowledge of current events. Students are fully absorbed in preparing and practicing for standardized tests and leaving school without discussing the critical issues of the day. This is how students become blind to the issues and grow up without knowing the various circumstances that affect their world. How will they be equipped to deal with these issues when they become adults if they are not exposed them at an early age? This is why Return to Sender and other multicultural literature bring the issues of immigration, for instance, right into the classroom. This type of literature helps students understand and most of all become aware of the lives lived by others. Multicultural literature in the classroom allows students to discuss and write down their thoughts on the various circumstances different kinds of people are placed under. It is through these reflections that students can find the differences and similarities between themselves and the characters of multicultural books they read.

    Just like many of you, I was not exposed to multicultural literature growing up in school. Now that we have the opportunity to be teachers, we can make it a priority to have a multitude of these kinds of books, just as varied as the cultures they represent.

  8. Elvia Jaimes says:

    Yehimi, I stand on your side that educators should understand her/his student’s strengths and weaknesses in order to maneuver and adapt to the student’s learning. All educators must be highly aware of multicultural literature, especially because of the diversity that exists in school settings today. Not only should educators and students be familiar with such vital literature, the family and community should be as well. The enhancement should extend beyond the classroom. It is essential that in the presence of every child should be a collection of multicultural literature.

    In the case of the novel, Return to Sender, it gives readers who are not aware of the struggle, sacrifice, and fear of undocumented immigrant families, and that perhaps have a negative outlook of who they are, an experience to withdraw from their ideology. For instance, Mr. Rosetti, perhaps if he would have take the opportunity to get to know Mari’s family, his harsh words of desiring for all undocumented immigrants to return back to their countries would have never arise.

    Thank you, Delia for sharing the video clip of Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story. Adichie portrays the danger of solely listening to the single story of individuals. Adichie shares her own experience of being hypnotized into listening to the single story of Mexicans. She was once bought into believing that Mexicans were fleecing the health care system, sneaking across the border, being arrested at the border, and so forth. Her misconception of Mexicans changed when she visited Guadalajara, México. As she witnessed the laughter, men heading to work, women flipping tortillas, her guilt grew. “I was overwhelmed with shame.” “I realized that I have been so immersed in the media coverage of Mexicans that they had become one thing in my mind, the object immigrant,” she expresses. Like Mr. Rosetti, she had bought into the single story of Mexicans. Not only should multicultural literature be introduced to children, multicultural resources take an important stance. Children must learn how to appreciate other’s uniqueness.

    I encourage everyone to listen to Adichie’s words and let me know what you think. 🙂

  9. Delia Singer says:

    Elivia, I’m glad that you took the time to watch the video, Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story, I have shared that video over and over with friends and family-anyone that is willing to listen (I even had my two children watch it). If we don’t take the time to educate ourselves and be accepting of other cultures we are truly losing out on great experiences and gifts of life. Literature is one way that we can broaden our understanding of the world and people around us. Elvia, I also liked what you said, “Through literature one finds means of expressing who they are, linguistically, culturally, and spiritually. Literature speaks for the world when it is silent”. You are so right to state that authors find the means to express themselves through their writings. The phrase, “Literature speaks for the world when it is silent” truly touched me. This phrase is very powerful and it states so much. Good and bad, happy and sad, it is all written in when a type of people are silenced, writing can sometimes be a way out. A way of communicating and a way of letting others know their pain. I hope to be able to give my students this kind of diversity so that they can make their own ideas with better understandings.

  10. Crystal Galvan says:

    This posting reminded me of a similar issue that’s just as important. I was watching “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and he shows a clip of Republicans and Democrats from Texas in a debate on Texas textbooks covering more Hispanics and minorities. A Republican says, “Since no one knows who Oscar Romero is, the Texas school board should include him in the curriculum.” Jon Stewart makes fun of this statement by saying, we shouldn’t teach people this because no one knows this. I found this very relevant to the issue of multicultural literature in the classroom. During one of our assignments of having to look for latino literature I remember reflecting how the majority of our class had the same literature books. I think this had to do with the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of literature material out there. This lack of material available affects the use of successful implementation of multicultural literature in the classroom.
    After reading Return to Sender I felt that a book like this could be a great tool to get different viewpoints on controversial topics. I like how Cai talks about multicultural literature as a way to identify with characters as a reader. Books like Alvarez’s novel allow for unbiased viewpoints at a level that children can relate to and understand more. Multicultural literature does a variety of things to our children’s understanding; it builds critical thinkers, builds on prior knowledge, and introduces new insights that they otherwise might not have known about. I think as an educator I play the role as mediator to provide my students with multicultural material.

  11. Crystal Galvan says:

    I too can agree with Elvia and Sharon about not being exposed to multicultural literature at a young age. It’s always been the case that in February students are taught a few things on significant Black leaders or people and teachers throw in a reading passage or book in the mix. Then comes September, Hispanic Heritage Month and teachers cover a few books or lessons during that month. This upsets me sometimes because I feel that there should be more Hispanic recognition and other minorities into the curriculum. It’s almost like if we’re cheating our kids by “watering” down the amount of multicultural content we try to get across to them.

  12. Giseyla Lopez says:

    I think it is very important to be informed on not only one perspective, but on many, especially as educators. Unfortunately, ike many of you, I too was not exposed to the history or real story of my culture. In fact, as I read through your responses I came to the conclusion that this is robbing us of what we are, and what we are to become. It is very sad to me, that being so close to the border and being highly populated with the Latino community, we do not learn about the history of this culture, OUR CULTURE! As educators, we MUST educate our students by providing them with all sides and views of the stories. They must decide themselves how to perceive it and where they stand on the issues presented. But we must not limit them! When we select literature, ESPECIALLY, Latino literature, we must provide rich literary works that provide cultural authenticity. We must analyze the books we read in class before reading them to our students. My reading experience with the book, Return to Sender, was a very overpowering one. I had never read a book that so thoroughly described many of my, and my peers’, personal experiences, especially with dealing with identity. Having critical multicultural literature such as the novel, in the classroom, guides students to develop their own understandings of the world around them. They also do not accept the “single story” presented in their previous knowledge. We must develop critical thinkers, and with providing rich culturally authentic literature, we can achieve this! Si se puede! 🙂

  13. Giseyla Lopez says:

    I think it is very important to be informed on not only one perspective, but on many, especially as educators. Unfortunately, like many of you, I too was not exposed to the history or real story of my culture. In fact, as I read through your responses I came to the conclusion that this is robbing us of what we are, and what we are to become. It is very sad to me, that being so close to the border and being highly populated with the Latino community, we do not learn about the history of this culture, OUR CULTURE! As educators, we MUST educate our students by providing them with all sides and views of the stories. They must decide themselves how to perceive it and where they stand on the issues presented. But we must not limit them! When we select literature, ESPECIALLY, Latino literature, we must provide rich literary works that provide cultural authenticity. We must analyze the books we read in class before reading them to our students. My reading experience with the book, Return to Sender, was a very overpowering one. I had never read a book that so thoroughly described many of my, and my peers’, personal experiences, especially with dealing with identity. Having critical multicultural literature such as the novel, in the classroom, guides students to develop their own understandings of the world around them. They also do not accept the “single story” presented in their previous knowledge. We must develop critical thinkers, and with providing rich culturally authentic literature, we can achieve this! Si se puede! 🙂

  14. Liliana Arriola says:

    I think it’s essential to use literature that is multicultural in our classroom. As teachers we should want to expand our students knowledge over different cultures and everything that comes within them (history, customs, values, morals). I truly believe that as educators we have an important role, in all we are teaching the future of tomorrow and we should do it in the best ways. More so, multicultural literature develops a notion of awareness to children and even us as educators, over the point that there are many other cultures that we still need to learn of. In addition multicultural literature helps us to be informed and in all move away from ignorance. Instructing oneself with multicultural literature is to me a great asset to continue learning.
    Regarding Gyseyla’s comment, I also agree when she stated that we should want to learn other perspectives not just one, and that is the great aspect about multicultural literature, because there is always another side or so. Even the novel Return to Sender gave us two sides! Two perspectives that overall carried on throughout the whole novel, and that was the identity issue (whether Mary should choose to be Mexican or to be American). When considering this point for example, this is something very strong that perhaps some of our students in the future might be feeling (identity issues) and that is why we should provide literature like this, to promote expression.

  15. Giseyla Lopez says:

    I agree with you that teaching our students about other cultures and ethnicities, with emphasis on customs, traditions, and morals, is necessary in our curriculum. In fact, not until you brought it up, did I think about incorporating other cultures beside our own, the Latino culture. I think it is like we all try to point out: we want to learn about us! And in fact, we will not only have Latino children in our classrooms, but many other ethnicities and races, aside from the different languages! We always do tend to be ethno-centric, but we, as future educators, must welcome everyone that steps into our classroom. Something that should be done everywhere, right? Like I learned in one of my previous classes, we must go above and beyond to reach out to these students that will be placed in our very own classrooms. We must find out all we can about them, including their home language, their customs, and their culture itself. By using various multicultural literatute works, we can welcome all our differences and be united through reading.

  16. Liliana Arriola says:

    Steph as I was reading over the comments and writing my own I as well thought about the things we are and have been learning with Dra. Monteverde! I completely agree with you, today kids only see one thing and do one thing, well at least here in Texas and that is test preparation. I feel like it’s a shame some students don’t get the opportunity to read great books like Return to Sender. The Novel Return to Sender itself covers so many issues that some of our students now in our placements can have had similar experiences or are dealing with something similar as well. Issues, like immigration, fear, identity, solitude, seeing parent’s struggle, seeing parents loose hope, lack of money, and many more. I totally agree with you as well when you stated, “This is how students become blind to the issues and grow up without knowing the various circumstances that affect their world. How will they be equipped to deal with these issues when they become adults if they are not exposed to them at an early age?”
    On my previous comment I mentioned how its necessary to be informed over other cultures and being fully aware of such issues that have and go on within the cultures, because if we don’t we are just enlarging ignorance. Multicultural literature such as Return to Sender can offer so much to children and increase learning in our classroom.

  17. Jorge Segovia Jr. says:

    I think you have all brought up great points ☺ A thing to remember though is that bilingual education is still an instructional approach that includes the continued development of the student’s primary language (L1), the acquisition of the second language (L2), and instruction in content areas utilizing both the (L1) and (L2). The purpose is to transition to all-English instruction, so eventually, the (L2) will eventually come to replace the (L1). The only differences between the program models is how long they get to stay in a bilingual program. In AISD, we’re in an early-exit program model, so personally, when we started placement, I anticipated that we weren’t going to be getting too much Spanish instruction, especially because of the TAKS test. We all know of the benefits of integrating culturally relevant curriculum, but my question to all of you guys is how do you go about doing that whenever there are so many pressures that exist because of standardized testing? What if the school you work in is labeled a target school where all you do is TAKS? What if your principal is only focused on the TAKS, raising scores because he/she doesn’t want to lose their jobs? It’s very easy to say I’ll do this, or I’ll do that, but as a first year teacher, I’m curious as to how you guys would approach this issue? What if your principal says you can’t? What if you’re in an early-exit program model? Have any of you guys considered any of these obstacles?

  18. Giseyla Lopez says:

    I’m glad you bring up these important points. And you’re right, having a major focus on passing the TAKS test is something we will have to focus on greatly. This is aside from the fact that we still have focus on the development of the L2 with help from the L1. However, I think that having an organized curriculum, and I’m being optimistic here, will enable us to focus on all the different factors that we have to take care of. In fact, I think that many teachers, especially the upper grades that deal with TAKS, don’t have to worry too much on having to focus on the foundation of the L2. This is because in the lower grades, the foundation of the L2 has been established and practiced. Now, if you’re talking about a newly arrived immigrant who does not know English, this is where modification in the curriculum takes place. I have not personally seen this practiced in my placement, but I have seen the teacher speaking more English than Spanish (this is 3rd grade, by the way). With the help of each other, and with the help of desk organization with varying levels, students are able to understand what the teacher says. Another thing, students have the right to take the TAKS in Spanish, enabling them to do as well, or even better than their peers. This is not excluding the fact that we want them to shift from taking the test in Spanish to taking it in English. There are many obstacles that we are faced with as beginning teachers, but I think if we come into the classroom making it a goal of ours to help our students learn English with the help of their L1, and focusing also on what we have to do to make them pass the TAKS, we can make our students learning experience an unforgettable one. But we must be prepared for anything, and everything.

  19. Sharon Pozos says:

    Giseyla I like the point you bring that we must analyze the book before we read it to the class. The multicultural lit can really empower students. I know that when I read return to sender I became more proud of my culture but at the same time that I just respect other cultures that are very different from mine. I also agree that the multicultural books we select for our class should demonstrate both sides just like return to sender. I do think its possible to bring this kind of literature into the classroom.

  20. Maria Eleni Hatzilambros says:

    I think that many of us forget that we do learn about different areas of the world through history lessons but what is often left out of those history lessons are a cultural component of the areas we learned about. For example, when we learn about the Aztecs or Ancient Egypt infusing current multicultural literature into the lesson would be ideal. It isn’t that we haven’t been exposed to other regions of the world as students in American school systems it is just that we didn’t delve deeper. I think as an American culture we are educated about the world but we are not “worldly” people. Often when traveling abroad once you are deemed “American” by other cultures it is often an insult. Many other cultures view Americans as un-cultured and I believe it is because more than often we are not taught to embrace other cultures or really have ever learned about other cultures so that when meeting someone of a different background we view THEM as being odd or weird. Their cultural practices aren’t “how we do it in America”.

    Essentially, I agree with almost all the posts that I would use multicultural literature in my curriculum and that it does have a role in the classroom. As educators we want to prepare our students to survive in the real world and in today’s society teaching them about all the different cultures America is home to is extremely important. Embracing the cultures our students come from and allowing them to understand their peers will only enhance their educational experience. Novels like Return To Sender are exceptional models of what kind of literature we should be choosing for the classroom not only because it exposes the immigrant struggle, Mexican culture, but also shows to sides to the story. There are always two sides to every story.

  21. Maria Eleni Hatzilambros says:

    RE: Crystal

    I agree that the use of multicultural literature in today’s school systems seems “watered” down. I agree that one month designated to Black History and Hispanic Heritage isn’t enough but at least those months are in place. What about the huge amount of Asian cultures and Arabic/Middle Eastern cultures that don’t have any month for representation. I think it is important to not forget other regions of the world as well. In the New York area these two cultures are very prevalent. And also considering world issues and foreign policy multicultural literature on Middle Eastern culture may be needed more than ever. And consider that most of the products we use in our everyday lives are manufactured in Asian countries, why not embrace the cultures that are inheritantly a huge part of our life.

  22. Celeste Beltran says:

    Crystal, I also saw this show and I just started laughing when they said that they were not going to put Oscar Romero in the textbooks because no one knew about him and what he had done. I think this is a very bad way of picking who is and who is not in the textbooks based on the idea that no one had head of them, in fact this should be an even greater incentive for them to put the on the textbooks because kids need to know who these people are. Providing the students with multicultural books and characters that are relevant to whom they are as an individual and part of a community, will promote them to be more involved with what is going on in school. I also noticed that everyone had the same books which was a little bit of a surprise but it was expected since not a lot of multicultural books are made available anywhere, even the city as a whole.
    The idea of having books like Return to Sender and other books that provide a different perspective other that the mainstream, hegemonic view provides an outlet for the students to feel safe to express their ideas and thoughts even if the do not fit with the “norm” that has been thought for many years. These books also build on the students prior knowledge and it could also helps build new knowledge for those students that have not been exposed what is happening in the story.

  23. Yehimi Saquiche says:

    As I was watching the video that Delia posted, I began to think that Mexicans are not the only ones that are being decriminalized. As Hispanics, if we are not informed of things that have, and that are happening around the world, we (and/or our students) will fall in that same error as well. That is why it is so important to stress the importance of multicultural literature. As I was reading Return to Sender, I began to think of my culture, and how other cultures have also suffer through the same struggles that people in Guatemala have. That is the same effect that multicultural literature has on children. By introducing multicultural literature at an early, we can change the way that students think of other cultures. Wouldn’t this make such a big difference in our society?

  24. Stephanie Ruiz says:

    Jorge, you bring up a good point. I have wondered just how my first year as a teacher will be like. We have been told it will be stressful but having the added pressure of standardized tests and principals telling you to cut out what they consider to be less important makes it even tougher for us as beginner teachers. For all of us UT students who have been exposed to the benefit of using culturally relevant pedagogy in our college courses, this will be especially difficult. As Giseyla mentioned, we must find a way to organize our curriculums to meet the needs of our students. If we truly believe that multicultural literature will benefit our students than it is our job to find a place for it in our classrooms. One of the things I will do in my own class is reserve a time slot every Friday for reading a multicultural book aloud to my students and discussing the issues that come up from the book. I feel this would be an appropriate day because after a long week of work hard students will find this activity a breath of fresh air. This literature could also be integrated into TAKS practice if need be as a way for students to use their reading strategies and also to gain a rich vocabulary.

  25. Celeste Beltran says:

    Jorge, I must admit that before I started my placement I thought we were actually going to be in a bilingual classroom where Spanish was used just as much as English. I did not have much experience working with the upper levels grades in AISD just Pre-K and Kinder and I expected it to be like that so it was a big shock when I was in the placement and all the lessons were in English, even those that were marked as ESL. The only thing that I have though about doing in my first year of teaching is to teach the foundations of the subjects at hand. We were told in one of out classes that teaching the foundations and intergrading the subjects will not cause us to be so stressed about teaching to the TAKS. And since the integration of the classes reduces the about that has to be spend on individual subjects while covering the same information then we would be saving some time that we can use to teach lessons that are more relevant to the students. About the principal not letting the teacher integrate culturally relevant lessons in the class because he wants to raise the test scores then I will just do it any ways. One of out teacher told us that what happens behind the door of the classroom is at our own discretion.

  26. Celeste Beltran says:

    In our Social Studies class we have been asked several times by Dr. Monteverde if we watch the news and keep out with current events and it’s a shame that none of us do but I think that it is the way we have been conditioned to be. At leas for me, I was never told about reading the newspaper or watching the new just to find out what is going on would help me in any way, so it has never developed as a habit. But keeping up with the news is important, especially to us as teacher because something might be going on in the students home country or even in the United States that might affect how the students perform in class. By having multicultural literature in our classrooms we are providing the students with the initiative to want to learn about different cultures not just the dominant culture or their own. Books like Return to Sender bring up many different issues that many of our students could be going through like living with only one parent while the other one is back in their home country, immigration, fear, solitude, and the list goes on. Very rich discussions could come from just one book and the knowledge gained will be carried with them through out their lives.

  27. Liliana Arriola says:

    Jorge I totally agree with you, yet if we are organized and continue to get experience within the years, we can certainly work something out in our classrooms. WE (future teachers) can’t really think that everything is TAKS, because then our kids will see and feel that. We have to use ways of doing TAKS preparation in not such a stressful way like it always tends to sound. To be honest with you, I have seen that in my placement, my CT has done such a great job at the beginning of the year that now even though she is to just teach and review for the TAKS, she knows what she should target and what she doesn’t’ have to target as much. How Gyseyla said, if we are organize we can maneuver something in. If we teach our kids the first half of the school year the right way, they will be where we want them to be by December, which reduces some of the stress, the second half of the year. The second half of the year is just a continuation, review and practice. I’m not just saying this just because; this is something many teachers have told me, teachers with 10 or more years of experience. So to answer your questions, I feel like we need to get a feeling of our own style of teaching and schedules. It won’t be easy at first I agree and certainly not like these experienced teachers, but if we set these goals for ourselves we can ultimately reached them. In all multicultural literature is just a HAVE TO in our classrooms. As I mentioned above in other responses, we have such an important role and we have to prepare ourselves to instruct our students the best way. (For example: Just the sole fact of using a multicultural text a Friday morning for about 20 min we are all ready giving a multicultural experience to our students.) We don’t have to start big, little by little we will see what works and how we can modify things to best fit our students, but at least they are being exposed to amazing literature. We want the children of tomorrow to be informed, to be exposed to different view points, to be instructed, to be socially aware, and for example Return to Sender offers that to a reader who has never been exposed to a culture other than his or her own.

  28. Yehimi Saquiche says:

    Stephanie (#7) adding on what you said about how Latinos have grown in the US, and how we still don’t receive a good quality of education, it is also true that in the US, other minorities are starting to grow in population, and drastic changes in multicultural education should be happening as well. However, this is not really happening. Does it sound reasonable to teach minority students a single story (just as the experience of Chimamanda Adichie). As I was listening to her words, I started thinking on my childhood experiences in history education. At the age of 8-9, I was not aware that other countries existed in this world. I don’t know if I was ignorant, but I do not recall any of my teachers teaching anything that was not Guatemalan History, Geography, Literature ect. Once I entered Elementary School here in the U.S. the same story was happening. WE mostly learned about certain topics in a biased way. In conclusion, during my primary and secondary school years, I was never exposed to multicultural education, nevertheless, multicultural literature.

    Crystal (#10) you mention that there is a scarcity of Latino Literature, however, we should not let this small obstacle impede us from not achieving our goal; to implement multicultural literature in our classroom. Return from Sender was not Latino literature, but it did let us understand the perspectives of two different worlds. In other words, by choosing GOOD literature, we can create the same effect as if we were using Latino Literature.

  29. Crystal Galvan says:

    I agree with Giseyla about letting the students decide for themselves where they stand on the issues. I think our kids need to be exposed to such issues because it prepares them for the future. I also agree with Maria about embracing cultures other than our own. The best way to do to this is to have the information implemented into our classroom everyday not just for celebrations or occasionally. Seeing as how the majority of us feel that same way about our past schooling I think we owe it to our future classroom and kids to change this. Let’s not have them find out years later about the importance of multicultural curriculum.

  30. Samla Velázquez says:

    Seeing the political state of our nation, and the basis on which much of the world’s hostility towards each other is based on, it JUST MAKES SENSE to want to use every resource possible, (and maybe even those beyond our seeming realms of possibility) to equip our students as functional, critical, participants of world society.
    The apparent good that we are doing the child by narrowing the curriculum to a few core subjects (which even then are not being taught to the max) will result in dire consequences when we think of tomorrow’s world leaders. Yes they’ll be able to tell how many miles Jenny drove if she drove at 40mph for 4 hours, yes, they’ll be able to find the missing number in the sequence, yes, they’ll be able to tell that venom is a synonym of poison using context clues but most importantly, will they be able to empathize with the starving child who is starving because of political nonsense and petty bipartisan tiffs.
    Multicultural literature allows us to bring to our child a comprehensive, holistic education (we cannot deprive our children of one aspect of education while drowning them with another). We cannot blame our upper-middle class children who turn apathetic to the woes of the world when we DENY them a realistic view of it; that window into the lives of those who are suffering. Empathy does not happen in a span of a mere year, or two, or three, or even four years…it is a life-long lesson that ALL of us must continue to re-learn and be exposed to. Multicultural literature such as Return to Sender does that. It brought me back to relive my own plight as an immigrant, something that get pushed back in the whirlwind of insignificance. Like Mari, I dealt with identity issues – I felt that I had to hide the truth of my identity for many, many years due to the negativity surrounding those of immigrant status to the extent that I denied the country of my birthright. Something like this is essential to discuss and for children to be aware of because this scenario is too often repeated in schools and outwardly in our society as well. Why should a child of 9 be so ashamed of her culture that she would hide it for the next 10 years? Why did that happen? Who caused it? It is fear stemming from ignorance and manifested in bigotry.

  31. Samla Velázquez says:

    I love the way Lilly and Giseyla put it. We cannot expect that things always go as they are outlined in our theory books, and I understand that goes both ways, which is the ENTIRE point of the intensive preparation that we are undergoing at this institution. It is unrealistic to believe that we are going to be able to take on EVERYTHING the district expects us to cover, as they expect it to be covered and really call it knowledge – because it’s not. Most of the time, these assessments are recall, applications of rules/strategies but they are NOT education, they are NOT acquisition of knowledge, and it does not mean the children understand what they are doing.
    It is imperative for us to think ahead of the district, think beyond the 9 months which we’ll have them, ORGANIZE and PRIORITIZE.
    Something Lilly wrote about her CT really caught my attention and I agree on completely – EVERY MOMENT COUNTS! Especially the beginning, it is where you set your pace, it is where you see where they are, and what you need to do to get them where they have to be. It is unfair to our children to place such an intense burden on them the last 3 months of school because of our unpreparedness.

    Multi-cultural EDUCATION is FUNDAMENTAL to their development as humans. We have been given the gift of shaping the future! We complain so much about the state of our union, about how the world views us. But there is also this other side we’re known as leaders in many aspects, we’re filled with such pride at athletic events chanting U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! But there is a fine line between being proud, and being prideful. It is this pridefulness that puts blinders on a majority of our country that only allows us to see the rest of the world through an egocentric perspective. Where will that get us? Is that going to fix our problems in the diplomatic department? Frankly, I find it embarrassing and am filled with envy at those other countries educational systems which require the child to have use of the practical language of at least two or three foreign languages. Maria put it beautifully ” I think as an American culture we are educated about the world but we are not “worldly” people. ” We don’t care to be either. This cannot continue, for it would be to trample upon the beginnings of this country.

  32. Ana Rosa says:

    Reading multicultural literature in a classroom is an idea that I welcome with open arms. Books such as Return to Sender provide students with different perspectives. From this particular story, students can try to understand how difficult it is to enter a foreign country and try to make a life there. Kids will be kids and they will tease one another but this type of literature can give students an opportunity to open their minds and hearts. Students would be able to see the other perspective and try to understand the hardships that immigrant children experience.

  33. Samla Velázquez says:

    Delia! Thank you so much for sharing that amazing video!

    It is as Lilly mentions in one of her first posts it is imperative that we incorporate a TRUE multi-cultural curriculum. Because as Chimamanda Adichie mentions in her speech – even if we do incorporate that multi-cultural literature into our teaching we must be cautious so as to not PROLIFERATE a single-story view of a people. Bringing the world into our classroom is the first step and it is a significant one, the next one is WHAT will we do with the world once it is in front of us. As I mentioned previously, we tend to have a one-lens view of the world (ego-centric), how will we guide our children to do away with it? It is a question I ask myself, for I know that it cannot be completely removed, as much as it can be reduced…and this is is not limited to the children, but it extends to us, I would say it applies more to us than it does to them. I remember one of the discussions about indoctrination that we had in Dr. Monteverde’s class – and how it includes the inculcation of COGNITIVE strategies. By the time we’re teachers we would have had at least two decades of North American Indoctrination (as awful as that sounds). Much of that indoctrination is based on the foundation of the single story. How do we not let this affect our students? How do we heighten this self-awareness? If we are to have HOPE in the expansion of the multi-story view of humanity we must begin with ourselves. For in order to speak, we must first listen, and in order to teach we must first be taught.

  34. Ana Rosa says:

    As an educator I would use multicultural literature in my classroom. My previous postfocuses on how chldren would be able to understand one another, but now that I think about it, it would help in many other ways. Students definately need to be well rounded individuals. I agree with Liliana that “we as educators have an important role.” We need to be role models for the students and lead them in a direction where they are ready to expect anything that would come their way. They need to learn about different customs, societies and traditions (even religion).

  35. Elvia Jaimes says:

    You are welcome, Delia. Thanks once again for sharing the video!

    I certainly agree with Maria that other cultures, such as the Asian and Arabic/Middle Eastern are not emphasized enough in school settings. Like Adichie, many of us have the single story of these cultures. We go by what we hear and see in television and it is not until we witness with our own eyes, that we finally begin to embrace and realize that there is more than just one story. As Maria mentioned, introducing multicultural literature will be ideal when teaching culture’s values, beliefs, and language to our children. You mention, “It isn’t that we haven’t been exposed to other regions of the world, it is just that we didn’t delve deeper.” This statement in a sense contradicts what the authors of the textbook Social Studies Content for Elementary and Middle School Teachers advocate: “One suggestion has been advanced that because of the size and importance of our country, we have not had to learn much about the rest of the world; rather, the rest of the world has learned about us”(Fritzer & Brewer, 2010 p. 65). This statement portrays the lack of interest that many United States citizens possess in desiring to know about other cultures. This lack of interest can be tied to the poor emphasizes that is given to multicultural literature in the elementary years. The introduction must be done as soon as possible before it is too late. I do not wish for children to feel the shame I was once did because I was an undocumented immigrant from another country. I can relate to your experience Samla. I wanted to assimilate completely into the United States culture and strictly speak English. I did not care for my native culture because I feared being labeled a “Wetback.” I denied that I was born in México. Multicultural literature can stop this shame, and stem a growth of appreciation of one’s language and culture.

    As an Intern I, I have incorporated in my lessons multicultural literature and I see the excitement that such literature sparks. Children are engaged. There is constant discussion, and a keen interest for multicultural literature can develop in children. Once again, it is highly essential that multicultural literature is part of our daily classroom environment. As it promotes critical thinking, new experiences, imagination, creativity, and a positive and safe learning environment, where all children are counted for who they are.

  36. Fatima Casas says:

    Having the opportunity to read Return to Sender was a great experience. I especially enjoyed the great discussions that the book ignited in our classroom. The fact that our professor presented us with multicultural literature was the reason why our class discussions were so rich. Having had this opportunity really influenced my view on multicultural education and literature as an educator. This experience definitely showed me the importance and great effect multicultural literature can have in a classroom. In my opinion the great thing about multicultural literature is that student’s can either relate with the culture represented in the literature or students are forced to view things differently and consider possibilities they had not considered before. Sadly growing up I never had the opportunity to be presented with multicultural education; in fact it was not until college that I was introduced to multicultural education.

    I believe that as educators it is our responsibility to provide and expose our students to different cultures so that they can be accepting of other cultures, and multicultural literature is a great and effective way to do that. I strongly believe that by using multicultural literature in our classrooms we allow students to think critically because they are presented with views that maybe they had not thought about before. For example, when reading Return to Sender I was able to relate to Mari and her family and as I told my friend about how powerful I found the novel she told me that she had never thought about the struggles and difficulties that immigrants face. Even though she lives in Houston, she never once thought about immigrants and their sacrifices and struggles yet by the little I told her about Return to Sender she was able to view things differently and rethink how she viewed immigrant. Therefore it is obvious that multicultural literature is a powerful tool that should be used in our classrooms. I believe that multicultural literature should be implemented into our curriculum and as a future educator I plan on providing my students with multicultural literature. Multicultural literature helps to enhance cross-cultural understanding and respect for individuals, which is something that our country is in need of

  37. Delia Singer says:

    Samla #27, your post really caught my attention. It really made me feel sad to think that you felt embarrassed because that was not very long ago. This is obvious proof that yes, we have come a long way but boy, do we still have problems! How wonderful that you decided to become a bilingual teacher. No one should ever feel embarrassed of their homeland and culture because every one is unique and beautiful in it’s own way. Remember this when you are teaching in the classroom but also if and when you become a parent one day. Just recently my children witnessed their father become a U.S. citizen. While they did have to miss school for this event, I felt that it would be a life long learning that I hope they treasure for the rest of their lives. It is important that our children don’t forget where their roots are and that we pass our experiences to them so that they can pass on to their children-with pride.

  38. Fatima Casas says:

    Giseyla, as I read your post I thought about how in the book Taylor is forced to rethink or reevaluate what he thinks is “correct” regarding immigrants because of the situation his family’s farm is in. His experience of getting to spend time with an immigrant family made him realize that there are other views regarding immigrants and the main thing was the fact that he was able to reconstruct his understanding and feelings toward immigrants. I feel that by providing our students with multicultural education we will allow them to learn and experience something new that makes them rethink their views. Plus like you stated, Giseyla, providing our students with “rich culturally authentic literature” will help them become critical thinkers. I also think that by presenting our students with multicultural literature they have the opportunity to construct their own knowledge and understanding of the world around them. Which is why it is important that they are presented with literature that represents different cultures so that they are able to experience different views and perspectives. As I stated in my previous post, multicultural education can challenge students to step out of their comfort level and consider other views or to related and truly understand what the characters in the novel are experiencing. And in both instances students have the opportunity to reflect and think critically of their experiences with the literature. I think it is amazing how powerful of a tool multicultural education is, therefore as teachers we must take advantage of this tool!

  39. Giseyla Lopez says:

    Before the blog closes, I would like to share that it is not only important to provide our students with culturally authentic literature, but it is also important for US AS LATINOS AND “MINORITIES,” to share our OWN stories! It is some of the best ways that we can contribute to the scarce Latino literature out there, but most importantly, it is important that the world read about what they do not yet have: a variety and diverse choice of culturally authentic books! Of course, we must not write for the sole purpose of getting our books published because they are written by a Latino author, but to get people, including teachers of all kinds, to have multicultural authentic literature for children and adults in their libraries and classrooms.

  40. Stephanie Ruiz says:

    There is a real disconnect between what we want our children to become and how our children are actually being brought up in the educational system. Don’t we all want our children to be understanding and appreciative of others’ cultures? What about having the opportunity to be able to grow up knowing that they can solve their generation’s problems? If we deny them multicultural literature they will miss out on the rich social knowledge and awareness that each of these books contain within their writing.

    I am glad that we all have had such deep-filled discussions about the topic of multicultural literature. I am optimistic that when we will all make a difference in the lives of our students.

  41. Fatima Casas says:

    Elvia (#37), I have to admit that I have been guilty of basing my views of a culture based on what I see or hear on television and it isn’t until I witness it or am confronted with and experience with that culture that I finally begin to embrace that there is more than just one story to that culture. For this reason I think that as future educators it is important that we present our children with multicultural education in order to expand their knowledge of other cultures. I think that multicultural literature allows us to educate our children about other cultures in a way that allows them to critically think and develop their understandings of that culture. Plus multicultural literature makes learning about other cultures interesting and engaging than compared to just doing an unit on a certain culture which at times can become boring. I believe that another great benefit of using multicultural literature in our classrooms is that we teach the acceptance of other cultures. For example, as future bilingual teachers we are going to be presented with students from different cultural backgrounds and by representing these different cultures in our classroom allows those students to feel that they are important even though their culture differs from the one of this country. In other words, it helps them feel that they are a part of the classroom even though they are different than their peers. It also helps them feel accepted proud of their culture and heritage. For these reasons and more I once state that multicultural literature is a great tool and resource for teachers, and it is essential that we use it!!

  42. Elvia Jaimes says:

    Lastly to answer your question, Jorge, I believe that it can present difficulty whenever TAKS testing is the focus in our classroom, however, we must not redeemed ourselves to strictly preparing students for standardized testing. There is still a lot that we can do to incorporate culturally relevant material. For instance, at the end of each day, I will have my students read Latino newspapers, such as El Mundo or ¡ahora sí! This will enable them to become aware of what is happening in their community and of the resources that are availabe to the Latino community. We will then gather for group discussion to reflect on what they read. Also, I fully agree with Giseyla that educators must remain optimistic and have an organized curriculum. We are in it for the children so let’s make their educational experience worthy to their future.

  43. Giseyla Lopez says:

    Fatima, you’re absolutely right that students have the opportunity to construct new knowledge and understand the world around them, by being exposed to multicultural literature! This is especially important when we, as their teachers and role models, provide them with the necessary tools to construct this new knowledge. This can be done by exposing them to all sides of the issue, not just what they believe. But we must also debate whether we want to include our input or if we just leave it to them to decide. Like Franki has told us, we will be biased whether we like it or not. In fact, we are biased just by choosing our career in choice. We are biased due to who we are and where we come from. And we are biased by the biased information WE ourselves are exposed to! This is why it is necessary to let our students know the facts and let them decide themselves where they stand. When I think about the biased information we are exposed to, I think about the media, our families stories’, and even our own teachers views. But most especially, I think about the literature, excuse me, the biased literature, I was personally exposed to in elementary school. Our textbooks were all biased, in that they only said what the American people wanted to hear or learn. Sadly, we had to receive this information and learn to accept it. However, until college, wil you look at that? 10 years later! We learned the many other sides of what we once learned was the only story. And it is then, that we constructed new knowldge and figured out a little bit more about the egocentric country we lived in. We must not repeat this!

  44. Yazmin Martinez says:

    Giseyla, I agree that is important to provide students with all the information that we can possible give them. I’d certainly love to expose my own students to all sides of the story before I let them decide where they stand, but even we can’t get rid of this bias. I’m sure that by simply choosing the topics we wish to cover will have some bias to it. I feel like is impossible to get rid of biased literature as every book will most likely be biased based on the author’s point of view, etc. I do believe, however, that by providing the students with various choices for literature we can let them decide what kind attracts them the most while providing them with as much information as we can muster. Of course, textbooks will show you what the government requires them to and people will talk about what they think will sell. This is a reality in our world. Even newspapers will cater to what interests their readers. I think that the only way to have students really thinking about their multicultural world is hearing it from each other and making information as readily available to them as possible. I’d love the idea of having the students make their own books and adding them to our own library. This way we can not only try to teach students about multicultural literature but learn about them ourselves. It saddens me that students now days read because they HAVE to read not because of the sheer love for reading. What best way to get kids interested in reading than making multicultural books available to them, books to which they can relate and make them feel validated. I certainly love it when kids I’ve worked with read a book and can relate to it, they get excited, expand on the story, can guess what might happen next, feel more confident about sharing their own stories, become more surprised when things don’t go how they thought they would, and feel like “it’s them” in the books; their identity, their culture, themselves, are validated.I’m one of the persons who believe that if students like themselves then they are enabled to like others, if they accept themselves they can accept others, and if they feel included, validated, and valued they themselves can do, feel, and think this way about others.

  45. Jorge Segovia Jr. says:

    I agree with all the responses I’ve heard on the question I posed ☺ A thing to remember, that regardless of what program model you’re in, as long as you make learning something that’s engaging, fun, and meaningful, then regardless of what language you teach in, I’m sure your student’s will enjoy learning. It all depends on how you present the information, and it starts by validating your students knowledge, including them in the learning process, and really establishing a relationship with them. I can see the reasoning of why AISD does an early-exit program. There isn’t any bilingual support after 5th grade, and you can only test in the L1 for three years only, and the cut off is 6th grade. So in a way, I guess they want to give students an opportunity to get as much academic English as they can. As mentioned, it all depends with how you present the information, how you scaffold, etc. I think that all this can be done in an early-exit model, but it takes more work, and teaming up with your children’s parents. They can help your students by stimulating their minds cognitively by communicating with them in Spanish, sitting with them when they do their homework, etc. That’s the approach I’d like to take, but I know that our first year will be difficult since it’s a transition from being a college student to a professional teacher. I’m sure we will all be fine though ☺ You guys are all bright individuals.

  46. Maria Eleni Hatzilambros says:

    RE: #39 Giseyla

    I really appreciate you saying that we should also incorporate our own stories. I think if the case may be that as an educator you may not share the same culture or heritage of your students it is still important to share your experiences. They may relate closely to the experiences of your students or they may provide another “side of the story” for them. Again, we all agree that multicultural literature has a place in the classroom but at the same token hearing “the story” straight from the source is extremely effective.

  47. Angelica Gonzalez says:

    Having multicultural literature in the classroom is necessary and crucial to the student’s education, social life, awareness, and future. I find it very important that our students expand their knowledge on the different cultures around them and their own culture as well. Through multicultural literature students are able to expand their knowledge by reading and learning about different peoples values, beliefs, traditions, way of thinking, etc. It’s a great way for students to see the perspective of other cultures and their way of thinking. The novel The Sender does a great job at showing the perspective of both the American and Mexican side. Many times when we are not aware of other cultures, people tend to think differently about the others ethnicity and at times creating stereotypes. Being aware and knowledgeable of the people and the things around us is very important. The novel in my opinion was not bias as it talked about both the Mexicans and the Americans and how it wasn’t choosing a side but only stating facts. I really liked how the novel allowed the reader to learn about both cultures. I would definitely like to use novels like The Sender and The sender itself in my classroom. Before reading this novel I had not realized or thought about the perspective of the Americans who hire undocumented immigrants to work for them, and how they are also at risk. Learning about different cultures really opens ones eyes and the way of thinking. My pedagogical, strategies of instruction would be to definitely incorporate and implement several cultural books. The reading of Return to Sender motivated me to certainly implement it in my future curriculum. After having read the novel I know my students will gain and learn so much information about their own culture and others. I also liked how the book was not bias, and how it doesn’t talk about a culture in a negative way. Having multicultural literature can get students to think differently, be open minded, be able to connect and understand people with different cultures, beliefs, values, etc. I would like to use multicultural literary to help eliminate cultural ethnocentrism with the students and the classroom. This multicultural literature novel definitely has a role in the classroom, considering it brings in the perspectives of two different cultures. Not only does it just relate to the Mexicans and Americans in America, but also all other cultures/races not mentioned in the novel.

  48. Elvia Jaimes says:

    Everyone has raised strong, valid points. Thank you all for sharing your input as it has been of a benefit to me.

    I agree with Jorge, it all narrows to what the educator decides for the students. Regardless of the circumstances an educator is in, she/he should create a learning environment where students feel safe, comfortable, and cared for by the educator. I cannot stress enough the essentiality of establishing communication with the student, community, and most important, the parents. I was saddened to hear the words of my Collaborative Teacher when he shared with Mónica and me that he is strictly a teacher, and nothing else. He does not wish for his students to view him as a father figure or a friend. “I am here only to teach them,” he stated. I was stunned by his words. How can that be possible? Being a teacher extends beyond its abstract definition. A teacher is a friend, a counselor, a listener, a role model, a guide, am advocator, and so on. Their individual needs must be met. As Giseyla expresses, “We must go above and beyond to reach out to the students that will be placed in our
    classrooms.” There has to be a unity, a bond between the student and their teacher.

    I stand on your belief that if children value themselves, then they can value others, if they learn about themselves, then they will wish to learn about others, and if they feel accounted for, then they will appreciate others. Also, you raise the idea of students creating their own books and adding them to the library as a way for educators to learn about their students. I really like your idea because not only will their peers and I have access to them, also, the principal, parents, other educators, will be able to read their life story.

    As future Latina/o educators we have the potential to change the outlook that Latina/o are perceived upon. The statistics do not represent who we are. Let’s change the numbers that for many years have silenced, pushed out, and underrepresented our knowledge. ¡Si se puede!

  49. Kerrianne Lynch (NY) says:

    I firstly want to say I agree with Maria Eleni when she said in one of her earlier posts that one of the most important purposes that multicultural literature serves is to show that there are two sides to every story, and to highlight how even though people are different there are also human commonalities across nationalities. I think that as educators we need to make our students aware of the world around them, and that the world is constantly changing and that there is always a new perspective to look at. I think that multicultural literature is one of the biggest tools we as teachers can use to help our students become critical thinkers and problem solvers in the world around them. Learning to consider the world from new perspectives is what students seem to lack the ability to do, and only through providing our students with multicultural literature can we help them to learn that the world does not revolve around us, but is a big place.

  50. Angelica Gonzalez says:

    I like the point that Stephanie Ruiz mentioned because she brings up a good point of how students are mostly preparing for the state exam. Because of the exam many teachers focus on preparing for the exam rather than teaching them in depth about other cultures. A book such as Return to Sender will be great in situations when students are preparing for the test, because students can read novels such as Return to Sender during language arts or reading time. Reading and incorporating multicultural literature in the classroom can be very useful and beneficial when there is not enough time to teach about different cultures. Students and learn and discuss about the different cultures when discussing the novel and reading it. I would definitely like to have my students reflect on the culture they are reading/ learning about and write about similarities, differences they find, or to reflect on information they found to be interesting, fair, unfair, etc. Through reflection or journals students will learn and have a better understanding of the different kinds of cultures that exist and are around them. Many times through the curriculum teachers follow, students do not learn in depth about different cultures and that is why bringing multicultural literature into the classroom is a good idea. As teachers we need to step it up and teach our students and help them be aware of the various cultures that exist and even about their own. As many of my peers and I were not exposed to such great multicultural literature or had learn a lot about our own culture, is no reason to not change it and instead expose our future students to this type of learning. Having students learn about their own culture, not only captures student’s attention, but also makes them feel worthy and important. Many times learning about ones own culture gets students to be more proud and important in this society.

  51. Nora Moreno says:

    In response to Yehimi Saquiche’s comment, I agree with the fact that not only Mexicans are the only ones that are being decriminalized. We as Latinos must be aware of our surroundings and what’s happening around the world. It’s our job as educators to make sure that our students understand the importance of multicultural literature. It’s our job to make them understand that it’s not only about their own world they live in but there is more out there (a bigger world). We should expand their minds to explore and investigate what’s out there. It’s important that our children learn about the different cultures in the world. I agree with Yehimi that if we start teaching our children early, we can change the way most students think about other cultures. Students will learn not be prejudice and to respect others. Of course, it would make a major difference in our society. It’s a change that will benefit many.

  52. Nora Moreno says:

    The importance of reading multicultural literature in a classroom is to teach about other cultures. Students gain knowledge about other cultures and become more open mind. This book, Return to Sender is such a great book. By reading this book many will understand why immigrant families come to this country. Hard working families come to this country to work and give a better life to their children, the life that they can’t offer (their children) in their native country. It’s hard to live in this country when you know that you are not legally and any minute you can be deported. Living with that fear is not life. I hope that whoever reads this book gets to think differently about immigrants . I hope it opens their mind and heart.

  53. Nora Moreno says:

    Comment 40 In response to Stephanie Ruiz’s comment: I believe many parents, grandparents and teachers want our children to have the opportunity to learn and appreciate other cultures. We should never deny the opportunity of learning of multicultural literature. They will miss out on so much and the more our children learn the better it will be for them. They will have a different view of the world. They will become better human beings and that’s our goal as parents, grandparents, teachers and citizens. As educators our major goal is to make a difference in a child’s life. When we accomplish this, then we know we have done a great job. Our children are the future, so let’s mold good citizens.

  54. Beth Winter (NY) says:

    I remember my first year teaching. I was having a really hard time getting my mostly “latino” population to get involved in the literature that I was given to teach by. Yes… I said “given”. These kids did not care about Bridge to Terabithia or Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet or any of the “white kids” that were having “issues”. I did a little research on Paulsen (the author whom we were required to teach) and learned that he had written a book called The Crossing. It is about an orphan boy living on the border of Mexico and the U.S. and his story of trying to find money and a way to cross the border for a better way of life. They ate it up. It was that connection to Mexico, the spanish words that were used, and things that they felt defined them (the food, customs, etc that were mentioned). I was so intrigued by their reaction that I made sure my next author study was Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. I cannot tell you how much more involved they became when they felt a personal connection to the text. It was wonderful and I am looking forward to continuing this trend.

  55. Carlos G says:

    How does your reading of Return to Sender help you understand the pedagogical possibilities of multicultural literature in your curriculum?
    As a future ELL educator, perhaps even a bilingual educator, I feel that multicultural literature will not be optional in my classroom, it will be the norm. It is essential that my students learn to appreciate multiculturalism in all its facets; books, movies, points of view, food, customs. I don’t know exactly when or how I can use multicultural books in my lesson plans, as I have not created a lesson plan for those fields, but I am certain that I will find a spot for them in my classroom. Of course, I will need to make sure that all of my multicultural books are representative of the students in my class, lest I created a sense of inequality in the classroom.

  56. Carlos G says:

    P.S. I meant to say that I absolutely agree with Beth above, when students(or anyone at all) feel a connection to a book, they walk away having taken a lot more from it. Not only does the reading become easier for students, who typically find reading a chore, but it will also have a tremendous impact on class participation and any assignments taken from the reading.

  57. Kristin Essig (NY) says:

    After reading Beth’s comment above, I realized how important it is for teachers to know their students and their backgrounds. By doing this, teachers can make a valuable connection to the students and the material they are teaching. It also makes the children feel important that their culture is being recognized in the classroom, and not just ignorned.

  58. Kristin Essig (NY) says:

    In response to Nora Moreno’s comment, I definitely agree that Alvarez’s book has the ability to open your eyes to how immigrants can be treated in the United States. By using this piece of literature in the classroom, I feel that it definitely can open children’s eyes to different cultures and how people from different backgrounds can work with each other no matter how different they are.

  59. Kristin Essig (NY) says:

    In response to Stephanie Ruiz’s comment about, I agree with the fact that teachers have the responsibility of making their students aware of the various cultures around the country and world. Although this may be difficult at times, it is important for students to be accepting of individual differences among not only their peers, but people that they may encounter in their daily lives. In doing so, we are helping to create a society that is more tolerant and socially aware.

  60. Theresa says:

    Another view point of how immigrants are treated in the United States. It used to be that it was a celebrated thing, coming to America was excting and new. Now, its problematic and heart breaking.

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