Out of the mouths of K Babes:
Another Circle Time story included Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winters. Afterward, this conversation was sparked and overheard during snack/choice time while Ks were busily sitting around the large table.
Child 1: “Let’s play slavery.”
Child 2: “Yeah, _ is the slaver and _ is the dog.”
Child 3 (sitting across the table): “Why didn’t they (the slaves) just put on white skin?”
Child 5: “Yeah, like a costume.”
Child 2: “Michael Jackson put on white skin and died.”
Child ?: “...and played basketball.”
Child 1: “Michael Jackson?”
Child ?: “No, that was a different Michael Jackson.”
Child 6: “Michael Jordan.”
|Kara Walker, Silhouette Artist. porcelain vase.|
Time is set purposefully set aside for both the children and I to ask and answer questions, make comments, and express feelings. Do you give a child context for the information being read? Of course, as with any other information that you would teach. Do you ask other people (and sources) who are knowledgeable on the subject for help about the content? Yes, otherwise a little or incorrect knowledge can be dangerous.
|Grandma's Twynnes. Paper collage. 2016|
My students often create scenarios for their free choice time activities based on
the books they have just heard. Ks decorated a picturesque carton after studying The Caves of Lascaux, acted out a puppet show after listening to the story of The Mitten, and wanted to joust and erect cardboard castles after hearing tales of knights and kingdoms.
(Above right.) Detail from Memory Artist Clementine Hunter's African House Murals. Natchitoches, LA.
|Former Ks "patchwork path quilt" patterns|
|My Mom's college graduation portrait.|
We, as parents, have a responsibility to follow up with our child about, ‘What did
you talk about at school today?’ just like any other day. It would greatly benefit each child to have an age appropriate conversation with their loving adult about these topics of slavery and racism. Also, we should continually educate ourselves and reflect on your own experiences, biases and opinions. The longer we wait to address this difficult but necessary subject, the more challenging it may become. The undercurrent of life’s background noise will become more prevalent and drown out our parental influence and potential for growth.
Overreacting to your child’s comments, like when a student tells you that you are fat, is not helpful and may discourage a child’s innate need to express themselves and willingness to share in a safe space. Over explaining runs the risk of information overload and disinterest. They’re 5 and 6. Avoid operating in guilt. No one can undo or edit out the past. Don’t panic when you don’t know. And actually, it is helpful to tell your child when you don’t. And a great opportunity to seek out information to learn and grow -together. Have your child share and restate their knowledge about slavery and race and guide them through the process of acquiring new knowledge and understanding what each really means. Lastly, don't wait too long, someone else will expect your child to form opinions about slavery and race sooner than you might think.
(Above, The Washington Monument reflected in the side glass panel of the Smithsonian's African American Museum of History and Culture. Washington D.C., 2016
“You can’t get mad at ignorance." -J.G.
“The legal system can force open doors, and sometimes even knock down walls. But it cannot build bridges. That job belongs to you and me.”
- Thurgood Marshall, First Black Supreme Court Justice
“If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you and you don’t do that, you are wasting your time on Earth.”
-Roberto Clemente, Baseball Legend
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”
-from The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
Select quote from the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument and Memorial wall,
Let’s Talk About Race, Julius Lester. This book was recommended and given to our class by our Head of School, Walter.
The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism by Debra Van Ausdale and Joe Feagin.
|My backyard peony.|