segunda-feira, 19 de dezembro de 2011

Final Translation Project


Problematization of the theme race and racism
at a sixth grade classroom of a public school

Maxwell Souza da Silva Matos

Problematization of the theme race and racism
at a sixth grade classroom of a public school

Research Project Proposal
 submitted to Professor Eliane
Carolina de Oliveira as a
requirement for the subject
 Estágio 3 – Inglês, Faculdade de Letras, UFG.
Advisor: Rosane Rocha Pessoa



I have to thank God, that always made me feel strong to continue my life and never think in give up. My mother, an example for me and also an example of warrior. Here is the result of your struggle. Without you I would not be here. To my advisor, that helped me to be who I am at University, I will never forget you. I also thank my parents who have encouraged me in my academic life.


Matos, Maxwell Souza da Silva, Problematization of the theme race and racism
at a sixth grade classroom of a public school. Final assignment submitted as partial requirement for a degree in Letras – Inglês. Goiânia: Faculdade de Letras da Universidade Federal de Goiás, 2011.

           The aim of this study is the demystification and consequent awareness concerning race and racism issues in a sixth year classroom of a public school in Goiânia. Amidst so many visible events nowadats, such as the election of the first black president of the United States, the casting of a black actor for the lead role in a primetime soap opera and the upholding of gay marriage in Brazil, it is about time to critically discuss such matters, which are being addressed in the society we live in. As educators, I believe that problematizing issues like the ones above cited is fundamental. Although students are pre-teens with little English language vocabulary and sometimes little knowledge on these issues, we can not have a neutral position. We are agents of transformation in education. Knowledge is produced between two entities: teachers and students (Freire, 1982). Language, in all of its senses, is not a neutral space, but an space for conscientization; why not giving room for transformation? (Rajagopalan, 2006). That is, besides teaching the English language with its rules, difficulties and peculiarities, we should also point out language situations our students are most likely to have not experienced (Smith, 2010). Situations such as critical issues that can be discussed so that there is a reflection and conscientization in the life of each of these students. Language, in all of its senses, expresses thoughts, expectations, pain and doubt that human beings can not imagine in their own identity (Pennycook, 2006). That is what we as teachers must urge in our students: a reflection on political practice, on the duties, rights and powers that they have through language. Therefore, I assert that the power of language is immeasurable and can turn cruel and racist stories into absolute truths. As English teachers, it is necessary that we use language as an essential factor in the civil construction and social development of each of our students.


It baffles me how during the twenty first century, filled with so much information and technology, a great number of people have not yet come to acknowledge some episodes that have been taking place world wide. These episodes have been brought about discussions, attacks and displays of prejudice all around the world. In other words, the world has been facing unexpected situations that, one way or another, deeply affect us, leading us to position ourselves for or against them.
In the fashion industry, there has been the success of the transsexual model, Lea T., daughter of the former soccer player Toninho Cerezo, which bewildered society as a whole. In the United States, the last elected candidate was not only a representative from the upper- lower- class, but he was also Afro-American, which astonished and frustrated some, as well as pleased others. In Brazilian television, the actor chosen to play the lead part of Rede Globo’s prime time soap opera in progress, is also black, sustaining the fact that black people have been ascending in current society. In American movie, the latest version of a Cinderella movie, from Disney, brings to the screens a black princess as the main character, bringing about a great deal of discomfort to a lot of people from the higher upper-classes. Last but not least, in Brazil, the most recent happening relating to a minority group was the approval of the homoaffective legal union by the Supreme Court.
These facts were very important to the elaboration of my project of course conclusion since they inspired me to develop an action research at the Centro de Ensino e Pesquisa Aplicada à Educação/UFG. The research will be developed in an English class of sixth grade students of Ensino Fundamental. Therefore, I made the decision to focus my work on issues regarding race and racism, for I believe that at the moment and context in which I am inserted, this is the best subject to be researched.
The critical matters such as class, race, ethnicity, prejudice, stereotypes, gender and sexuality have been approached at the school context, be it through textbooks or teaching materials elaborated by the teachers. Nevertheless, these themes remain excessively sanitized[1], since there is trepidation in discussing and problematizing these issues. Indeed, there is an exceedingly politically correct approach of these mentioned subjects in English lessons. However, these are subjects we usually face everyday in our lives in the most common situations and it is difficult to ignore them. In addition, we can not lay aside such facts that are so relevant to the construction of the character and education of a human being.
This study aims the problematization of the theme race and racism in a sixth grade classroom at a public school (Centro de Ensino e Pesquisa Aplicada à Educação- CEPAE/UFG). What I intend with the problematization of these specific critical matters is that the students, after the discussions led in the classroom,  reflect and think more consciously about the topics. Even if there is no transformation, once this is not the purpose, the research is meant to encourage the critical reflection of the theme race and racism. As a mean of pursuing this objective, this study aims at answering the following research questions:
(1)  What do the students think about race and racism?
(2)  What is the participants’ perception of the lessons focused on race and racism proposed by the student-teacher? 
(3)  Did the students reflect on the theme race and racism? How?
(4)  What language did they learn related to the themes?
My main aim with this research is to develop a critical-reflexive identity about the theme race and racism in the sixth graders from CEPAE.

Theoretical Background

The foreign language teacher has a fundamental importance in building their students’ identity. Meaning there is a cultural and critical learning that happens in a natural process in which human beings internalize the critical knowledge needed to function in a societal group as Savignon affirms, (1987), and the other kind of learning is the one daily transmitted by teachers in their classrooms, through their practices, as suggested by Sarmento (2003), practices such as discussions, readings, and current critical reflexive texts. In other words, the foreign language teacher is responsible for bringing awareness to their students, and directly responsible for their critical-reflexive learning. Educating cannot be seen by English as a Foreign Language teachers as simple language practice (Sarmento, 2003). On the contrary, it must be looked at as a conscious and modifying action. The teacher of English as a Foreign Language must have a critical- conscience filled speech.
As Sarmento affirms (2003, p.168), “English language teachers cannot excuse themselves from the critical position concerning the dominant speech of this language, which is oftentimes presented as being permeated by political and cultural neutrality”. (My own translation).
Undoubtedly, education must take place through critical teaching, because through it students may reflect on their attitudes. According to Ferreira (2006), critical teaching relates to the way it is taught in the classroom, its goals, role in society, and its ability to act reflectively. Furthermore, Ferreira asserts that the critical learning practice involves a dynamic and a dialectical movement between doing and reflect while doing it. Thereupon, I believe that to problematize current themes in the EFL class offers a great opportunity for language learning. In this sense, I believe that problematizing current themes in the EFL class, students can express what they think about them.
Students look upon their teachers as learning role models, and life mirrors. Plenty of them leave the classroom, and go to work observing the way their masters act on a daily basis. Accordingly, I strongly believe that teachers must take advantage of this image to motivate in their students the critical desire to communicate, think and act reflexively. The students need help to learn how to reason, respect other’s ideas, cooperate, help their colleagues in need and so on (Ferreira 2006). In the context of a classroom, so it is our role as English teachers to try to enhance our students’ capacity to reflect critically.
According to Freire (1996, p, 43, appud Ferreira, 2006), reflective teaching goes beyond a naïve mode of thinking; it makes the teacher responsible for their own education. It is essential to assume that we are able to critically educate ourselves while we teach others, students or teachers. We ought not to sanitize the critical matters around us, for is through the problematization that we learn to reflect on these matters and to make our students aware of them as well. Thereby, critical teaching must discuss the concepts of power, social class, race, ethnicity, prejudice, stereotype, genders and sexuality (Pennycook, 1999).
There is a need to problematize these issues mentioned above, taking into consideration the transformative power that critical teaching can possess. What I mean is that the awareness of and the reflection upon these issues are unswervingly connected to the selection of texts related to them made by the EFL teachers. Once again, it is the teacher’s role to problematize the critical issues, so that there can occur a reflection and consequently an awareness of them. There is a great need to act like that concerning, for instance, the racism in the school territory in our country. According to Ferreira (2006), in addition to problematizing, teacher must also be acquainted with ways of helping the students to deconstruct the existent racism inside and outside the school space.
If we take into consideration that the school is a micro representation of the society, that it contains different people, cultures, educational behaviors, and ways of thinking, we shall notice that the critical pedagogy can be developed with no difficulty in this context. Observing that it seeks to comprehend and criticize the sociopolitical and historical situation of schooling, as well as to enlarge the pedagogical practices that look for not only changing the nature of schooling, but of society as a whole (Pennycook, 1998). Through critical pedagogy, we must reflect on the theme race and racism longing to make the students aware of the fact that there are no differences among the human beings concerning, only, an asking color that distinguishes them. If knowledge is socially constructed, as Sarmento (2003) and Pennycook (1998) claim, it is through it that there must occur the awareness process regarding race and racism.

Considering knowledge as being socially constructed, and all the knowledge claims as being, therefore, “interested”, the critical pedagogy seeks to explore and question the knowledge types produced and legitimized at schools. This position leads to emphasizes how the subjectivities are constructed inside and from the schools and how the student’s voice and the popular culture are disenfranchised ways of culture and knowledge that students bring to schools (Pennycook, 1998, p. 45). (My own translation).

In conclusion, critical teaching is a political and cultural tool that deals with serenity with the issue of human divergences. Mainly the differences concerning race, power, social class, ethnicity, prejudice, stereotype, genders and sexuality.  Critical teaching problematizes such themes seeking the reflection about unequal and prejudicial concepts that society has preached during the years. Besides, it aims the improvement of education in general, and the construction of citizenship. Through the educational context, of which teachers and students take part, identities are built, whether they are ethnical, sexual or professional. Gomes, (1996, p.86, quoted by Ferreira, 2006). Consequently, the problematization of critical matters in the classroom is necessary. Through it, it becomes possible for us to realize the transformation of the human being, and accordingly stick to the pedagogical matters that try to problematize racism so that we can at least be aware that it exists in our society.  


In the first semester of this year, while doing internship in public school where I taught classes, I realized the need for an action with students, which I was observing. I noticed that the students discuss current issues in class. Whenever we had a chance to talk in the classroom and even in the corridors, they always touched on matters that the media was showing, as well as citing those who always come in my work (racism, prejudice, stereotypes), so I had the idea of ​​making an action research focusing on these topics for discussion. The main aim of this research was to demystify and problematize critical issues, besides emphasizing the concept of "race and racism." Therefore, this current study is an action research. This type of research was chosen because it allows me to watch, take action, and to reflect on what we do in our day-to-day experience in a more systematized, consistent way. An action research is nothing more than an engaged participant research, in contrast to traditional research that is independent, does not produce action, and is therefore objective. In action research there is the desire to put theory and practice together. In other words, it is the act of using theory in a context where practice can and should have an effect. Action research is carried out when there is need for change, improvement and, above all, results for the research which you are working on. An action research usually works on reflection, that is, through the results obtained; I analyse and then I devise a new action. We must not neglect to mention how action research is important for the professional development of teachers of English. This type of research is a bridge to the "inside out" professional development, since it is because of the difficulties of those involved in the practice, through their engagement, that professional development happens (Nunan, 1992). Action research is a path to guarantee a reflective addition concerning the existing knowledge about the issues that will be approached by me (André, 2000). It also means fabricating change, such as action and comprehension, which would be the research done to make change possible. Through both concepts, change (action), and comprehension (research) I aim to produce change or improvement in the process of teaching and learning. One of the best contexts for application of action research is the school environment. The environment where there is social interaction, cooperative and just a lack of human actions transforming absolute truths, such as racism, prejudice, stereotypes and inferiorization. In this context my action research aims to achieve a practical relevance of the studies mentioned in Theoretical background, so there is an action and subsequent transformation. I can also add that action research is cyclical, that is, the final results are the basis for improvement and possible change of the initial stages of my research. This action research is a qualitative study. Qualitative research is particularized by presenting a naturalistic approach, that isare carried out in their natural environment, in my case, I conducted this research in a classroom of English language (Denzin, Lincoln, 2006).
The action research I wish to develop started to take place in early August, 2011, and ended in mid-November of that year. It is worth to highlight that I should give eight action-research-oriented classes; as the school had some events or situations which prevented me from carrying out my research for longer, I managed to teach only four classes. This group of students was suggested by my collaborating teacher , since my project was to work with critical education for pre-teens. The classroom where I carried out my research consists of 25 students, mostly white, being only two black students. The classroom is comfortable and suits the standards of education and the teacher works with a blackboard, uses the book as a resource for their classes and an extra workbook. With these features and a lot of good will, the Center for Teaching and Research Applied to Education, a model public educational institution of the state, has opened its doors so that I could apply my action research.
The participants’ age vary from 11 to 13 years old.  Moreover, I am counting with the unswerving contribution of the sixth grade collaborating teacher. He will help me with the lesson planning, the reflective and descriptive observations and the reflective sessions following each class given by me.
In order to gather data for my research I shall use instruments and procedures such as questionnaires, descriptive and reflective observations, diaries, and reflective sessions. The questionnaire is an instrument to collect information and data. It is an investigation technique comprised by a small number of questions presented in written form and has the objective of provide specific knowledge to the researcher. The questionnaire is one of the ways through which I will obtain data for the planning of my research about the school plan in which I am immersed. According to Nunan,
the questionnaire is a relatively popular means of collecting data. It enables the researcher to collect data in field settings, and the data themselves are more amenable to quantification than discursive data such as free-form fieldnotes, participant observers’journals, thetrasncripts of oral language.
There are many types of questionnaires; they can be open, closed or mixed. For my research, there was the necessity of using open questionnaires, for it would be better to have answers presented textually and written freely (Nunan, 1992). The use of questionnaires allowed students to express in a deep, real way, thus bringing up in their answers representation of what they have already lived in their lives. Open questionnaires always allow students to say what they actually want to say. I shall apply an initial questionnaire and also a last one to my collaborating teacher. The question will be like: what theoretical principles underlying his work? / What about the English classes at the 6th grade? Moreover, I shall apply questionnaires to the students in each class I will teach them such as: what did you think about the activities we did? / What did you learn in this activity? So it will be an initial one and a last one as well. Besides, my collaborating teacher will do after each class descriptive and reflective observation about my class. Those observations will help me to improve my difficulties that may have been noticed by him. Observing means studying and collection data about an activity. The collaborating teacher would do it in order to contribute to my identity of a teacher and a transformer of the reality of the context I was teaching in. Then, I shall those observations into consideration to be better in the next class. I shall write on a diary after each class, my observations about my own teaching. Diaries are of extreme importance in language research. They work as a bridge which unites the teacher and his/her confessions, that is, the teacher's intimate impressions make his diaries a vabluable instrument in the development of his/her identity and the consequent development of his group of students. Diaries are important when carrying out an action research. They are the daily notes the investigator take on the development of the project. In general, the comments on the diaries can be used as data. However, they are different form the other information, notes, questionnaires or other data collected aiming to obtain information for the reseach. In addition, the diaries feature information about the researcher, what he/she does and how the research is going. In fact, the diaries represent with its notes the process of investigation (Nunan, 1992). And I will have reflective sessions after each class with my collaborating teacher. My intention by using them was to collect as many data as possible during my research, so that I may, subsequently, analyze the results. After having collected all the data, I categorized all of them and from then on I started to analyze them. I confess I was quite surprised at first with the results I saw in the analysis; on the other hand, in a second moment, I could see that my action was having an effect. Then, I had a series of reflections on all the data that was collected by me and then I will present, discuss and comment about all data that is mentioned here by me.


The classroom where I performed my research was in the top floor of the school, and it had a proper size for the amount of students. Altogether, there were twenty five of them, mostly women. They were organized in single lines. The age group was from eleven to thirteen. The majority was white, but there were also brown students, and two black ones.
In the first day of class the students were very welcoming, despite being quite restless. Initially, I divided the class in four groups of six people, and then conducing a warmer with pictures of people from different races (black, white and brown) in everyday situations. By teaching superlatives, I proposed the following activity: the students had to choose, among the presented people, the most beautiful one, the most intelligent, the coolest and the friendliest. The goal was to observe possible individual and group driven racist manifestations, and, in case they happened, how did they occur.
In the second activity, still using the same pictures, I taught the students some legal and some illicit occupations, by making use of the repletion technique (drill). It was also an opportunity for me to review the verb “to be”, content taught the previous class. With that, I had as my goal verifying a possible unconscious racism from the students. Among the occupations there were serial killer, drug addict, thief, prison officer, and miner. The students presented the following result: As a serial killer, 22 indicated Lucas (black) and 3 chose Patrícia (brown). As a thief there was a balance, in which 10 students indicated Otávio (white), and 13 indicated Carla (black). As a thief, 7 students opted for Carla (black), 9 for André (black), and 8 for Joana (white). As to prison officer, there were 15 indications to Frederico (black and burly). At last, as to miner, once again there was a balance, with 8 indications to Júlia (black), and 9 indications to Antônio (white). Therefore, he data confirmed an unconscious racism, arising from the context in which the students are emerged. Consequently, this shows in the behavior and choices within the classroom.
In the following activity I delivered a handout with the definition of race and racism, according to the Collins Cobuild  dictionary, (2006). After the reading I promoted a discussion on the theme with the students. They participated intensely, sharing examples and opinions contrary to the ones displayed in the previous activity, in which the black people were primarily chosen for the licit and social marginalized occupations ( miner and prison officer), and the illicit ones (serial killer, drug addict and thief).
At this point, the students realized on their own that they were acting in a racist manner, considering a group of white students that made the following comment:

            “Nossa, professor, nós só colocamos nas posições mais baixas as pessoas negras, porque, na nossa cabeça, elas são as que ocupam as classes mais desfavorecidas” (Teacher’ diary from the first class).

They also reported that they could not visualize a black lawyer, legitimating  then their answers to the previous exercise. In counterpart, a brown student shared that his father remarked, after Obama had won the presidential elections, that the White House should now be called the Back House. With this example, the student took the opportunity to controvert the girls’ argument, demonstrating the possibility of ascension of black people in the American society, branded by racist practices.
Once the activity was over, I applied a questionnaire about the class, then a homework exercise, in which students should write about race and racism.
As expected by me, the students initially demonstrated an unconscious racism that was only acknowledged through their interaction with the teacher by means of the proposed activities.  In other words, our interaction enabled an opening to the awareness of a practice internalized for years, and, for that reason, hardly noticeable without the mediation of a proper environment to the confrontation of different discourses.  This confrontation, however, is indispensable to the deconstruction of racism in the school atmosphere.
On the second day of class, the students showed curiosity from the beginning, on account of their interest from the topic the previous class. It was not hard to keep their attention. Some of them handed me the homework, and then I began the class.
First I displayed pictures on the board of black, white and brown men and women, from different social status. The goal was to identify the students’ perception regarding stereotypes. I divided the class in four groups of six people, and asked the following questions: “If you ran a modeling agency, who would you choose to join it?”, “If you were a soap opera director, who would you cast in the role of the leading character, the villain, the supporting actress, the stud and the murderer?”.
As an answer to the first questions, two groups selected Renata and Luiz Felipe (a white couple), and the others, Débora and Felipe (a black couple). As to the second question, three groups chose Débora (black, with frizzly hair) as the leading character, two groups opted for Luiz Felipe (white, with straight hair) as the stud,  one group put together a black couple, selecting Felipe (black and bald) as the stud, and Débora as the leading character, and one group put together a white couple , choosing Renata (white, with straight hair) as the leading character, and Kauã (white, with wavy hair) as the stud. As to the villain and the supporting actress the groups were unanimous, selecting Carolina (white, in a party dress) and Gisele (black, in a uniform) respectively. Concerning the murderer, three groups chose Paula (brown, with straight, long hair), and one group opted for Renata (white, with straight, long hair).
Accordingly, the results clearly show a shift between the first and the second classes, concerning the acceptance of black people in prominent positions in society. There was even the formation of black couples as models and leading characters of a soap opera. But even so, I could notice the stereotype of black people in social positions considered to be inferior and marginalized, as the supporting actress and murderer.
Next, I proposed a drill, in which the students would have to orally translate a definition of prejudice. The goal was to, through this translation make room for a discussion concerning the students’ opinion about the topic. We debated the following questions: “Do you believe there is prejudice against black people in Brazil? How about the gays and the poor?” and “What can we do to change this situation in our society?”.
Throughout the discussion, it was possible to notice that the students agreed with the existence of prejudice not only against the suggested social groups, but also against handicaps and overweight people, even if subtle. I had no doubt that, by means of the problematization of critical topics, such as race, racism and prejudice, the students’ awareness on these subjects became even wider. Meaning that the racist and prejudicial practices became more perceptible for each one of these students.
Once the activity was over, I applied a questionnaire about the class, and then a homework exercise, in which the students had to write about prejudice.
On this day, I came to the conclusion that the classroom can and must be an environment for the problematization of topics that are of importance for the building of individual and collective identities. The students showed a transformation, even if incipient, of their conceptions concerning stereotypes against minority groups in society, which can lead to a decrease of their prejudice.
As an answer to the questions raised in the research, I could observe that the students, in a general way, comprehend race as the color of the skin. That is, white race, black race, brown race, etc, as it is clearly illustrated by a student’s composition:
            “Raça é a espécie que constitui uma pessoa, por exemplo, broncos, negros, amarelos, mistos…”.

As to the racisms, it is comprehended as the superiority feeling of a race over another, as it can be inferred by the concept formulated by another student:

 “…racism é quando  uma raça se acha superior à outra, subjugando-a. A exclusão é um exemplo de racism; quando uns nem chegam perto dos outros.”.

Through the classes of about race, racism and prejudice, the students notice a bigger participation from their part, in contrast to the ones focused exclusively on the book, which are considered by them monotonous and not much productive, according to the answer given to the final questionnaire:

 “Achei muito bom falar sobre raça e racismo; desenvolvemos muito, e aprendemos que não podemos ter preconceito e que devemos aceitar as pessoas como são”.

Moreover, the students could realize their own racist and prejudicial behaviors:

 “Ótimas, amei, aprendi várias coisas legais que me ensinaram como lidar com o racismo”; “Gostei muito de aprender sobre isso, porque estava aprendendo coisas que ocorrem no dia a dia e que afetam a sociedade” (final questionnaire).

Concerning the language, the students remarked the learning of vocabulary, such as adjectives to describe appearance, superlative qualifying of personality, nationalities, new verbs and different occupations:

 “Essas atividades ensinam a lidar com o racismo, não só no Brasil, como nos EUA, Canadá. Não só aprendemos sobre racismo, como aprendemos palavras em inglês. Além disso, aprendemos a trabalhar em grupo, um ajudando o outro. Foi muito divertido” (final questionnaire).

Since I started college there was nothing that would tell me the opposite: I would be an agent of transformation of such an unjust and cruel society. I belong to this society and also collaborate for it to be so. There was within me a longing for conscientization and transformation. For that matter, I worked up that very much on this project, which made me think, grow, and undoubtedly keep dreaming. Throughout all the days taught and all data collected, I realized that my desire to change the perception of "racist and prejudiced" in that sixth year classroom of a public school was working. The first time problematizing issues on race and racism I walked out of the room very sad; it was visible and hearable the racist and prejudiced behavior of most students present there. In the second activity I already could go home much relieved and with thedesire to return, as students' awareness seemed to start to arise.
I also noticed how my role as teacher is responsible for the transformation of each identity that shared knowledge with me. In the school context, especially within the classroom, each time a critical issue was problematized, teacher and students produced knowledge. I realized that there was an unconscious racism within each student; this unconsciousness would came from situations experienced on a daily basis and especially showed by the media. That being said, the best of all was to see that, once questioned, explained and discussed, those issues that were filled with unconscious racism and prejudice were made clear and demystified. That is, we, in the role of educators and active agents in society, must stand against such facts and realities of society and bring these discussions to the classroom for pre-teens. The students seemed to be much more interested in the class due to the questioning of the subjects and thus learned a lot more English.
I cannot neglect to mention how much this research has served for my personal and professional growth. I have no doubt of how much I have become more human and respectful after my research. I learned even more how to deal with the human beings that are around me and learned in practice how good it is to respect and value human beings by their differences.As for my identity as a professional, it is impossible to measure how much I have grown as an in-service trainee teacher at the Center for Applied Education and Research Education. The bunch of experiences acquired during this research will be useful to me and all the paths I may come to walk. The changes will be significant to me for ever and and I will always fight to make our society more just, respectful and, above all, fight for equal rights for all human beings.

[1] When I say sanitized, what I mean is politically correct themes. There are no taboos, nor more serious matters that should already be seen and discussed by the students.

Nenhum comentário:

Postar um comentário