It was not a long amount of time, but on the morning of the 14th, our students had a powerful lesson in democracy. Discussions before and after spoke of the need for schools to be a place where children make sense of the world. And of course, this is not always easy especially when the inspiration is frightening news and the conversation is categorized as political rather than humane. Part of the job of the teacher is to frame these conversations in ways that are age appropriate for the children, but this can be hard as often children bring the scary things that they hear right into school.
In Abby and Sarah’s first grade classroom, the teachers framed the ‘walkout’ as the whole school along with kids all across the country showing together that we want safe and caring schools. Almost immediately, a child brought up learning about Parkland from a brother and television viewing at the grandparents’ house. Children had questions and worries. The teachers reassured them that the grownups in the building are here to keep them safe and protect them. They explained that the walkout was a way to feel safe, together and powerful when we say as a community that we want safe and caring schools.
Amanda’s second grade was on a field trip on March 14th, but these children were also aware of the greater world. Amanda paid close attention to the ideas that children were bringing into her classroom. She shared with the children that some people feel that there are too many guns and that students were walking out to support changing laws to make it harder to get guns. The children in her class had a long talk about toy guns. They talked about water guns and paintball guns and why it was important that toy guns not look like real guns. They talked about why some people play games pretending about guns at home and others don’t. And they talked about about not playing guns at school because some people find it scary. They also connected the soft lockdown drill to what they had seen on the news about Florida. Amanda talked about how our school is a safe place and about all of the people in our school who help keep us safe. We have had safety drills before, but the timing of this one seemed to require further reassurances for some children.
Third graders in Malika’s class also expressed these type of concerns, but they felt empowered by our engagement in democracy. After participating, they shared their inspiration:
Jessica and Carrie’s fifth graders were equally inspired. “Who needs math when we have protests?” asked Ezra. Charlotte commented, “When we were doing the protest, I felt like everyone was involved.” Nile added, “Starting chants. . . we really go the whole school to be involved. It is really something that will affect us!” Marin remarked, “Our class was basically the heart of this whole protest,” while Naomi expressed, “It really felt so great to me because I really felt like I was making a difference, and sometimes I don’t.” As Corrina explained, “Everyone was in harmony.”
All for now,
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