A civil rights learning moment

Something has been brewing for a bit now and among other solutions, it seems like I should write about it.

I’m honestly not sure how it started. The election? The rhetoric? My ongoing journey teaching at a private school this year? (I taught at a Title I school in Reno from 2010-2015.) Regardless, there was quite a confluence of events

One is that I read several books about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to my kindergarten class. I was surprised at how interested they were in his life, and how sad they were when they heard that he was arrested, that he spent time in jail, and that he was assassinated. Several times they interrupted me to check if this was a fiction book. As if that would make him come back to life.

We recorded our learning and knowledge throughout7yu66. The green is what we knew the first day; the read is from the 2nd day.

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These are our highlights after some learning.

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Because of their age and sensitivity, I edited my read alouds and made sure we had plenty of time to discuss what they were hearing. My favorites are Martin’s Big Words, my brother Martin, I am Martin Luther King Jr. and My Dream of Martin Luther King.

We had fun with our first directed drawing, thanks to FirstGradeBlueSkies.

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During this same time, Zack and I watched Selma one Friday evening. I heard a lot of interviews with Ava Duvernay when Selma was released. NPR  Vulture and my favorite from Fresh Air The movie is everything that critics say. And for me it was a stark and blunt reminder that the Civil Rights movement is not just a picture book.

Because we had a week of snow days in January, our kindergarten study of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rolled into Black History Month and we have read several books about Rosa Parks. We spent several days doing a close read of If a Bus Could Talk and on the recommendation of someone on twitter, I just ordered and received Back of the Bus. We’ll read it together next week to participate in the National African American Read-In, which I learned about from Mark Lewis in the #BMoreEdChat.

In an earlier #BMoreEdChat, which is moderated by my friend whom I’ve never met Justin Holbrook, I learned about the March trilogy of graphic novels written by a team including Congressman John Lewis.

I tend to read in bed and these are that rare kind of book that I don’t want to put down but are also disturbing and real and so thought provoking that they can keep even me (a really good sleeper!) awake for a while. Maybe it’s because I’ve pushed the violence of the 1960’s Civil Rights movement out of my daily consciousness. Maybe it’s because that violence is disturbingly similar to some things happening in our country in this decade. Maybe because they came into my life at precisely the right moment to help me be a better kindergarten teacher, a more aware person, and a more proactive citizen.

I wholeheartedly recommend them, even if you’re like me and don’t have a lot of experience with graphic novels, and the movie Selma as well. A couple friends have recommended Hidden Figures, and I look forward to seeing that as well. I thought I was having a civil rights moment. But maybe our country is as well. My favorite signs from the Kings Beach Women’s March were about love and equality and affirmation. I felt empowered to contact my senators about Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education and will continue to find ways to resist and persist in respectful ways.

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