Sunday, January 20, 2013

Difficult to understand

It is so hard to even begin to teach about Martin Luther King and segregation. Every year I find myself grappling with it. Just how do you tell 5, 6, and 7 year olds that in the past, but not that long ago, we were put into groups by colors. Sure, we sort their plastic bears by color- red, blue, green- but that is far different than sorting people by color.

They stare at me like I am crazy,
                       like I am making things up,
                                        like I am trying to be mean.

There is beauty in their disbelief. Innocence, that they made it this far in life without experiencing what I'm talking about. They don't get it because they don't have to. They already see every body as the same- what's wrong with us grown ups?

Natalie's hurtful words- adapted in simple boardmaker language-
 suddenly makes it seem so much worse.
This year I am trying to go at it through the story Amazing Grace. I tried adapting Amazing Grace with Boardmaker icons to make it a bit more tangible and tried to focus on Grace's feelings. Once we talked about her feelings we brought that to MLK- the guy who taught us to all be friends so that we won't be sad like Grace. It is simplistic, but I think it is where my students are. We needed to connect it to something real that could happen to them. Bus boycotts, discrimination, segregation, separate schools- it all seems so unreal and far away.

It's important to teach about our past, important to understand where we came from and everything it took to get us away from there. And eventually they will learn that we haven't finished our journey yet- that we still have a ways to go.

But we are getting closer.

Charting Grace's feelings. I love the sad face- it's just the right amount of mad.

1 comment:

Miss Trayers said...

I always have the same difficulties-it's just a past so far from where they are now. I love the Amazing Grace story-I think that's a perfect way to frame it.