Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It Takes A Village

I know I am getting older when I make comments to my husband like, “Kids these days…” and discuss the worry that they don’t appreciate what they have, that they are entitled, or a plethora of other worries that pop in my mind. It isn’t necessarily my students I am referring to, I could just as easily be talking about my own boys. No matter how much I have tried to raise them to appreciate what they have, to be compassionate, to be giving – I worry that it isn’t enough. It is never enough.

So while I have a whole fabulous flipchart listing all of my Common Core State Standards that I must teach in a given year, I often add my own standards ahead of those: to teach empathy, to teach compassion, to teach gratitude, to teach the need to reach out and help another human. I want my students to realize there is more world out there than our tiny little town would have them believe. That there is goodness and ugliness. That small acts can make a difference. We’ve done this through discussion, picture books, our current class read aloud, and more. This week, we jumped into the world of YouTube.

It began with an older article from my Comprehension Tool-kit Texts. It was from Time For Kids and discussed the state of education for girls across the world. My students were horrified to learn how many children don’t go to school across the globe, but want to. In each class, at some point in our discussions, a child would say, “So other kids would do anything to trade places with us, wouldn’t they?” The looks of realization as they understood the education they have take for granted really moved me. We talked about Malala and her story. The kids wanted to know more.

The next day I shared with them three videos I came across last year. (I shared those videos in a blog post HERE.) The kids were so quiet, especially about the families that scavenge in the dump in Africa. We talked about how it reminded some kids of the book Trash. (Which was quickly checked out by others who now had to read it.)

As we read the articles and watched the videos, the students recorded evidence to the prompt, I am lucky because… on a graphic organizer. Our plan is to write an essay after we are done gathering evidence from all of our sources this week. The discussions they have had on the carpet after each video have been incredible.

Today I introduced them to one of my favorite YouTubers – John Green. I shared the following two videos:

They were floored by the conditions people half a world a way live in on a daily basis. In response to Green's first video, Looking Away, a child made a connection to people looking away from Auggie in Wonder. They decided it was all about feeling guilty for what you have and someone else doesn’t. They wanted to do more. I informed them that I donated to Green’s campaign for all of them. I didn’t want them to feel like they had to run home and demand that their parents donate.

Tomorrow we will wrap it up by staying in Africa, but moving to Tanzania. I picked my son, Liam, up from fourth grade basketball this week. His coach had all twenty kids sitting around him while he talked about Kyle Maynard and his No Excuses platform. Listening to Liam’s coach talk about Kyle, I knew I wanted to share his story. I will tomorrow with the following video:

Watching Liam’s coach, I was filled with gratitude. It truly does take a village to raise our children. I will work my best at home to install values in them, to help them appreciate what they’ve been given, to create the desire to give back. But when other teachers and coaches do this work too, we all win. What a fabulous reminder of that I had this week.

Friday my students will craft their essays. Why are they lucky? What should they appreciate about the life they have been given? I think this chance for reflection is exactly what we need as we move forward this year. Will it make them all suddenly be fabulous students who consistently put forth their best effort in all ways, I doubt it. But the seed will have been planted, it is up to them to continue to grow.