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Today was an amazing day at school. I mean, I know that the anti bias work we are doing is important, and that the little bits of conversation and activities we have here and there help, but this is the first time I have felt completely blown away seeing the fruits of our labor.

The kids today were very high energy, feeding off of all the hype and excitement that has been accompanying a lot of Seattle homes with the upcoming Inauguration. Their attention spans were almost nonexistent and they were edgy and easily irritated. Today was my turn to take care of circle time and I had wanted to read Martin's Big Words, but seeing as it is more of a serious book, I had given up hope to get them tos it long enough to get through it.

When we sat down and started talking about why we weren't  at school yesterday they all seemed to have a lot to say about the upcoming Inauguration. I steered the topic back to MLK and began reading the book. There was a lot of questions about the whys of segregation. It was a hard concept to understand and I don't blame them, they haven't experienced enough of the world out there to grasp what it would be like to have lived back then. The closest I was able to bring it home to them was by explaining that if this was the same time as MLK was alive, our school would probably be a whites only school and I would not be allowed to be their teacher, and neither would my coteacher and a lot of our friends would not even be allowed to walk in or be any part of the school. When I put it that way a lot of them commented on how mean and awful and sad that was. They said they liked their friends and one child even went on to say that she was glad that it wasn't like that anymore. Bingo! Now I know they are starting to get it.

We moved on to talk about the marches and protests MLK was leading and how he focused on using his "Big" words rather than fight to get his point across. They made the correlation to our rules at school of using words and not fighting all on their own. Just when they started feeling good about who he was and what he did and what he stands for, it mentions that he was getting threatened and his house getting bombed as well as his brother's house. The kids felt bad about this and kept asking why.... why would people do that? Then came the part where he got shot and died. There was silence accompanied by gasps of shock. One of the little girls was near tears.

It was at that moment that I saw just how much they had found a connection with this boring old book that doesnt even have any cool pop up pictures or a cute or action filled story, or at least thats how I had expected them to see it in their minds. Throughout the day they kept talking about it and connect it to Obama, and how he can do what he can today because of people like MLK. I was touched, in a deeper way than I have been since I have been with these kids.

After nap, the same little girl who was near tears at circle time was one of the first ones to wake up. I took her with me and we were talking about Obama and MLK and how they were African American just like her. She is very proud of being African American. She is adopeted to 2 white parents, but she knows her biological parents look like her. Lately shes been having a hard time, saying she is ugly and doesnt like her face or her hair or her skin. It has been breaking our hearts and we have been trying our hardest to help build up her self esteem.

She was supper excited that MLK was African American just like her and that Obama had a black dad like her biological parents and a white mom like her own white mommies. And suddenly she has a wealth of things in common with these 2 people who are strong and fair and beautiful people. She says "they are brown like me."

At this point I am struggling to hold back tears and I feel so proud and happy for her. Then she turns to me and asks me if I am African American too. I tell her that I am not, that I am Mexican, and she says "but you are brown and beautiful just like me." Now I am totally undone and tears actually escape my eyes. It was probably the best moment in my teaching life.

It is empowering to see the collective effort of a family, a school, a teaching team, a group children, flourish into something that is so huge and so beautiful and so valuable. I feel good, I can make a difference, I have made a difference. Granted I couldn't have done it alone, and they could have done it without me, but isn't that what makes it even the more beautiful?

Part of my mind, heart and sweat made this happen, and it is something that I will never forget.

People now have just lost that concern and wanting to care for each other you know? Mmmmm let me close my eyes for a little bit and let my mind dream about a future where maybe as a nation we all extend our hand and heart and spirit to each other... wouldn't that be nice?


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 22nd, 2009 05:07 am (UTC)
I got goosebumps reading this post. Awesome stuff, teaching them something like this and having them understand why it's important. You're mega ;)
Feb. 12th, 2009 03:27 am (UTC)
Ty ty, only wish I knew how to do it all the time. Been working on making more of our curriculum as meaningful as this little moment. Right now we are starting some work around real superheros, scientists, activists, moms, dads, teachers etc. Eventually we are going to have each of our kids decide what their superpower is, hopefully after the whole process they will give us something besides "shooting lasers out of my eyes to kill bad guys" lol.
Feb. 12th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
That's great! Eye-lasers are pretty handy super powers though. Might be hard to get them to give that up ;)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )