|Credit: Marianne Lo Monaco, her shop at Etsy|
In these past two weeks I have been very busy with my reading practicum and had one day of subbing (at my fav school). This means I have spent lots of time with kids! Some days have been pretty good and others have been the type where you ask, "how many hours are left?" Needless to say, I have been learning a lot from those youngins.
Less than two weeks ago I subbed in a first grade class after being in a 3/4 split in he morning. Unfortunately I was not feeling good that day -- literally felt like my thoughts were moving through sludge or super thick molasses. Anyhow, the afternoon was totally off kilter. The kids were riled up and then one of them threw up in the sink while I was reading a book about Martin Luther King, Jr. The custodian came to clean the mess. The custodian told me her machine was loud so I took the kids out for a recess. In which, of course, someone fell down and had to go to the office. At that time I was getting a serious lesson about flexibility. I always learn about that whenever I teach but boy did I get an intensive lesson that afternoon! Getting better at dealing with what comes along...
After "recess," once I got the kids settled and an argument resolved. I continued with reading the book about Martin Luther King, Jr. This was the part of the day that glimmered and sparkled. Whether it was driven by my state of tiredness or not, I dug into the heart of MLK's legacy (or a piece of it that is). I talked to the kids very seriously about MLK and really wanted them to understand that his story is real. When I got to the part of blacks and whites being segregated I reinforced the fact that this injustice happened in our country. The kids, those that were paying attention, were in disbelief and in their own way, disgusted. I contrasted in telling him that things are different-- skin color doesn't ban a child from school (if these were older kids you could pose the question if things have really changed). Thanks to MLK.
When got to the part where MLK was murdered they were quite emotional about it -- they didn't understand why that would happen. One boy in particular kept responding to the text aloud and I didn't stop him from blurting out. Purposefully. He had such complex thoughts on the event and he was trying to wrap his head around the tragedy. He kept asking "Why would someone kill someone who was so nice and good?" and just didn't know why on earth a great person would be killed. I was almost awestruck with his comments. I didn't know how to respond either but my only answer was that while it is so sad we can make sure that we never hurt someone else like that. That we treat each other with love and kindness. And to keep MLK's dream alive.
I think what I learned from this is that it's not necessarily about the questions we ask but that we ask them in the first place. Injustice needs to be questioned or it will never be changed.
I hadn't given it much thought until that day but I am a fighter against social injustice. I'm an advocate, first, for children and then for those that are treated unfairly (won't get into specifics tonight).
I learned too that though I honestly don't know that much about MLK's life I do know about his story. I feel his frustrations and can share in his heartache. I also know there is much work to be done-- his dream is not a complete reality yet.
Just this week I had a run in with the choice, "Do I firmly discipline this child or do I encourage him with assistance?" It was a matter of Love and Kindness. Not that firm discipline isn't loving but this child was getting out of hand and needed some quick redirection and I was debating on going about it gently. The poor child was just having an awful time following task directions and felt incapable of being able to do anything. After watching him struggle I sat down with him, put my arm around his shoulders and told him I would do part of the work if he did the rest. He needed that gentle encouragement and felt good about his efforts afterwards.
Sometimes that is what we need, an arm around us and a strong voice telling us we CAN. A child taught me that lesson.
I almost wonder some days who the teacher is! I think a lot of teachers could and do say the same thing. Kids are heart shapers. They sure know how to change mine.