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A Teacher's Painted Face Offers Lessons

Susan Notes: Surely this teacher's approach will make you smile.

by Constance Garcia-Barrio

A dollar ninety-nine, plus tax, bought me a box of 45 faces - or the equivalent - one for each day I'm teaching this fall at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. I've used my set of children's paints to adorn my face before I serve up nouns and verbs to students in my advanced Spanish classes.

A sunflower on my right cheek greeted students the first day. A bolt of lightning slashed down my face at our second meeting. The third day, when I came in with a big red question mark on my forehead, a student finally asked: "Qu es lo de la cara pintada?" (What's up with the painted face?)

A fair question. Turns out, it has more answers than I thought. I've learned that a painted face trumps a brown skin when it comes to students' perceptions. The face paint catches students by surprise, throws off their expectations. The flowers, fish, and bees on my face sweep away, or at least suspend, preconceptions. My students can take me in with less racial garbage. We have a straight shot at connection and knowledge.

A colleague, also a black woman, shed more light on the racial angle. "Our students expect us to be angry because they know we've struggled," she said. "They're afraid they'll bear the brunt of it. The fish on your face gives them a different message." NOTE: The Christian Science Monitor does not permit full articles to be posted. For the rest of this piece, go to the hot link below.

Constance Garcia-Barrio teaches advanced Spanish at West Chester University.

— Constance Garcia-Barrio
Christian Science Monitor



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