I grew up in a racist family, and I've worked hard to cleanse myself of prejudice. When I hear kids make racist remarks I want to share my own past with them. After all, I changed -- so can they. Should I reveal my story? Students often ask me if I ever experienced racism. In fact, I have. Should I talk to them about my experiences?
Sharing personal history with children -- whether from the perspective of the aggressor or the oppressed -- can be a powerful teaching tool. By speaking from the heart to students and sharing our journeys and struggles, we can serve as models for coping with complex issues like racism. Bear in mind, however, that your revelations must be carefully thought out. Start by asking yourself some questions: Why do I want to share this information with my students? What will they gain from it? Will anyone be harmed? Can I share this with them in an age-appropriate way? If you believe that by talking to students about your experiences you can help them consider new information or rethink their own prejudices, then integrate that information into class discussions about diversity, prejudice, and bias. The only caution here is to make sure that the discussion does not become about you and your experiences, but that your experiences are used as examples and as part of a larger discussion.