Our school year is starting in two weeks. Turn on the television, open social media, pick up the newspaper and we are reminded that our world is in unrest. Neighbor is lashing out at neighbor, others are ridiculing our iniquities and differences with malice and hatred instead of celebrating or embracing them with with love and compassion. Children turn to the adults in their lives to help them make sense of this world. As an educators in today’s society, we definitely have our hands full.
A childhood influence of mine, in addition to my teachers, was Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. He reminds us that in the dark times, there will always be light. We need to look for the helpers.
Well my fellow colleagues, we are the helpers. We are the ones on the sidelines. Like it or not, teachers ARE involved. We do it by doing what we do best. Educating, guiding, advocating, and most of all loving our students. Our students know that we are going to be there each and everyday. We are that constant in their lives. We are that loving adult in their lives. We are the ones who stand up for those who do not have a voice of their own.
Our students know that we will try our best to answer what questions they may have. We will create the safest environment that we possibly can for them. We will care for them as if they are our very own children.
School needs to be the place where bias and racism are nonexistent. In order for that to occur there will need to be some awareness lessons in personal biases, compassion & empathy training, and community & team building.
There are a multitude of ways that we, the helpers, the chosen ones who are with the “future of our nation” can be the necessary “beacon of light.” A light that shines dimly or brightly through the hate that seems to be casting an encompassing shadow upon our society at this time.
Teachers have been actively working to build strong communities in their classrooms. Many classrooms in my district use morning meetings. These meeting help start each day with a positive message as well as to build a connected structural format where students can share socially and academically. Children’s picture books are a fabulous avenue to address any and almost all social issues. They can be used independently, in small group or as a whole class read aloud. Students tend to openly discuss opinions more easily when they are are talking about a character in a story as compared to someone who resides next door. Once rapport, comfort level and trust is built, students have been known to feel less intimidated when discussing real-life issues or current events.
It takes more than just talking, discussing and sharing. Students need to build trusting relationships with one another. They need to become a unified team. Team Building exercises, games and activities allow opportunities to spotlight various strengths in members. The planning of these activities can be worked into students’ pre-existing curriculum or teachers can be innovative and set aside a small block of time weekly to continue strengthening the classes’ community.
In the mass chaos, civil unrest and foreboding shadow of hate that is being shown, our children are preparing to come to school. Some will be eager and ready to learn; others will be wishing for more vacation time. Regardless, educators are the endless beams of light flickering in the darkness. Our students look to us for guidance as we direct them towards a path of hope filled with acceptance, compassion, and love.
Morning Meeting: https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/what-is-morning-meeting
Picture Book Ideas:
Team Building Activities: