“Who am I?” is a question all of us ask at some time in our lives, and it is a particularly critical question for students’ own social, moral, and intellectual development. Our society—through its particular culture, customs, institutions, and more—provides us with language and labels we use to answer that question for ourselves and others. These labels are based on beliefs about race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic class, and so on. Sometimes our beliefs about these categories are so strong that they prevent us from seeing the unique identities of others. Sometimes these beliefs also make us feel suspicion, fear, or hatred toward some members of our society. Other times, especially when we are able to get to know a person, we are able to see past labels and, perhaps, find common ground even as we appreciate each person as unique.
Through the analysis of a short story and the creation of their own visual representations of their identities, this lesson invites students to consider how the answer to the question “Who am I?” arises from the relationship between the individual and society—the ways in which we define ourselves and the ways in which we are defined by others.