Tuesday, December 13, 2016

One Month Later - Young Children Processing the Election

A month has passed since the election and our last post.  Teachers all over the country figured out a multitude of ways to address children's observation and questions.  In Somerville, a kindergarten and first grade teacher each embarked upon longer term investigations to support children's understandings of the election.

The topics are challenging and complex, yet compelling and developmentally appropriate - being brave and leadership. This is a longer post than usual, but there is a lot of detail from the classrooms and you might get some ideas to explore in the new year, especially as the inauguration approaches.

Being Brave In Kindergarten
Helen Schroeder - East Somerville Community School

Reflections From a Kindergarten Teacher - In Words and Books: 

The aftermath of the election required a lot of thinking, listening, and recalibrating. While the results didn't seem to register with some children, for others, it was very confusing and very real. The morning after, I had a student come up to me with panicky eyes saying, "but teacher, Donald Trump hates children!" I had some children saying some pretty confusing things that had clearly been filtered through parents, then siblings, to them. The election is so beyond what kindergarteners can truly understand and the palpable fear and tension the results produced in our community and in children and their families were very real to them. My first priority was making sure everyone understood how safe and welcome they were in the classroom and in our school, and sharing that message on our classroom door.

I found free downloadable everyone welcome here poster and added text with the message in the languages spoken by children in our classroom. We talked about how important it was for everyone to feel welcome in our school, talked about the woman in the picture, and took turns reading it before we decorated and hung it up.

In thinking about how to move forward in the following weeks, I decided to focus on the idea of being brave. We talked a lot about what it meant to be brave, "like when you're not afraid of the dark, or anything." We talk about how you could be brave for yourself and brave to help other people, like "Hey, leave my sister alone!" We explored the idea of different kinds of bravery, both individual and collective, through read-alouds and conversations. 

Here are some of the books the teacher and children explored along with the teacher's descriptions.

This book helped us think about what bravery was, and how you could be brave in big ways and small ways. We learned about individuals being brave, including a lot of kids.

In this book, not only does Carmen navigate a new school and language, but she teaches her new friends and teachers Spanish, and stands up to kids who make fun of her accent. This is a great book about an immigrant kid in a powerful role.

This book centers on a child with a physical disability who had to be brave in many different ways to achieve his goal of cycling around his home country of Ghana to raise awareness and visibility of people with disabilities. My students were amazed by all Emmanuel did for his family and how he kept getting on his bike even when he fell off, something many could relate to. 

We read a story about a brave kid who helped others in his class understand that there are lots of different ways to be a boy (and a girl). This book written in a wonderfully developmentally appropriate way, and is great because the hero both stands up for himself and has allies. It also prompted a great conversation about what it would mean to stand up for Jacob and be brave for him as his friend - the beginnings of bystander education.

We also read and talked about how people can be brave by working together in groups. Swimmy is a great introduction to this - it's much easier for the little fish to brave and chase the big fish away when they work together as one. 

People have been brave together for a long time. This book is so great because the beautiful illustrations do most of the talking, the text is very simple, and it focuses on children and a family and their experience at the March on Washington, taking a big event that can be abstract to young children and making it real and relatable to their lives. 

We also learned about how sometimes people sing songs to help them feel brave. We learned about the history of "We Shall Overcome," and added the song to our repertoire. While this book has big concepts, focusing on ideas of freedom, fairness and the many brave people featured in the story made it a powerful read-aloud for our class. My students loved singing along throughout the pages. 

I am trying to listen to my students and families as I think about next steps. I know that I want to start a family unit in the next several weeks that lifts up and celebrates family knowledge, stories, and roots. My students see many examples of people who look like them doing both amazing and ordinary things through our read-alouds and projects, and along with that, there is a need to know and understand the everyday experiences of people who are very different from them.  I am trying to make choices as a teacher that give my students power - solving problems like who will sit next to me during morning meeting each day together, when it would have been easier to solve on my own, produced a solution better than the one I was considering. Or, taking a child with a choice time activity request over to the choice board and letting her decide which choice her idea would replace. Helping children understand their ideas have value and can make things better. And that sometimes big ideas need bravery to become reality. This is what democracy looks like. 

What is Leadership? First Graders Explore What it Means to Be a Leader
Emily Voigt - The Brown School

Reflections from a First Grade Teacher - in Drawings and Documentation (Newsletter)

A leader helps the country.
I learned that Donald Trump won the election.

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