Lesley E. Troppe
As an inner-city third grade teacher I am constantly reminded of the deterioration of expectations that is beginning to manifest itself in our society. As I listen to stories and experiences related to me by my students, it has become apparent that the number of positive role models is diminishing at a rapid rate. My students are accepting and even, in some cases, embracing a new ideology that seems to encourage single-parent families, out-of-wedlock (and very young) mothers, and an education that ends after graduating from high school.
These unsavory elements in today’s society are not only present in our inner cities, but can be found in many diverse areas across the United States. Television, music, movies, and a host of other influential media invade and brainwash our youth. With this unit I would like to provide a framework to introduce students to characters who possess a strong sense of self as well as the ability to overcome and triumph when faced with hard times and tough decisions.
This unit “American Girls Through Time and Trial” will focus on women of different cultures, races, and religions. The books presented will feature diverse American women from select time periods in our history as well as present day. I have chosen three books based on the criteria mentioned. In this unit each book will have approximately a one-page summary that will include the main characters, plot, problems, and other pertinent information. The second section will be a two or more page “history” describing and detailing some of the more important or significant characteristics of the culture, women, and time frame being studied. The third section will have a lesson plan for the classroom teacher to implement. Throughout the sections I will refer to other references available to the teacher and students to follow up on to encourage an environment conducive to the topic being studied.
This unit should allow the students to explore the historical perspective associated with the time period being written about. Simultaneously, students will discover and experience new cultures and the customs, foods, folktales, and traditions that make them so unique as well as educational. I feel that students should be exposed to a variety of cultures and the importance of each and every one of them in today’s world. If children can become educated then there is a realistic goal of eliminating racism and stereotyping that each of us has or will encounter.
The focus of “American Girls Through Time and Trial” was chosen specifically because I feel that the concentration of famous Americans usually centers on men. In an experiment the question, “Name four famous Americans,” was posed. The majority of the answers cited famous white, men. The importance of recognizing women in the past and present will serve many significant purposes. Firstly, as noted previously, young girls today need role models to help them build strong self-esteem and provide support when necessary. Secondly, young men and boys should learn about the hardships that women have endured, exceptional abilities both personally and professionally, and the contributions that affect our daily lives. Lastly, (but certainly not least), both boys and girls should be educated that anyone can break the stereotypic mold and become an intelligent, motivated, capable, worthy, human being
After spending some time reviewing different books that would meet my specifications, I compiled a very long list. The books are easily obtainable and all available at Barnes and Noble or Borders Books Stores. The books I chose represent a variety of time periods and cultures. The first book is entitled, “ Dear America A Picture Of Freedom The Diary of Clotee, A Slave Girl Belmont Plantation, Virginia 1859.” This story visits a young girl living during slave times. Her diary retells the struggles she encounters on a daily basis. The second book, “Plain Girl,” explores the life of an Amish girl who has to attend a public school. “Julie of the Wolves,” takes the reader on a journey to Alaska and the lives of the Eskimo people. These books will, hopefully, provide the teacher a large enough scope to initiate many different types of lessons and projects.
Finally, I would like to emphasize that there is a wealth of exceptional books that explore various types of cultures across all time periods. Any of these books can be easily integrated in the unit plan.