One of many reasons that I love Sam’s kindergarten teacher? Her appreciation of color. I don’t just mean the lack of white space in a drawing and the relationship of that to “quality work”. I mean that almost every photocopied activity she offers allows with ease for a child with dark skin and/or curly hair to color the image to look like them.Sam derives so much pleasure from making EVERYONE look like him.
A friend of mine recently asked her classes of over seventy plus 7th graders to draw a draft picture of themselves doing a random thing they loved. They were asked to put in as much detail as possible. Crayons and markers of every color and hue were provided. Out of seventy students, two choose to color in their skin brown. Over thirty children would have identified as Black or Mixed or Biracial in her class.
She followed this up with a discussion that included explicit instruction to color in their skin to reflect how they saw themselves, modeling how a few students had done so. She praised these few examples. The students were then asked to redo their images for the final draft (they were practicing their figure drawing skills for some project posters coming up the next week). The second time around the results shifted dramatically. The hallways were covered with images of brown skinned children in the final posters weeks later. This happened after students were GIVEN PERMISSION to do so.
Sam is learning from age six that his skin color is the desirable outcome for success in a school project. He is being given explicit praise for placing himself in the world. His teacher was incredibly “with it” from the beginning. But, I still initiated conversations having to do with issues of race, and picture books, adoption, and how important it was that he be allowed to express his own story from day 1. The coloring piece–was all her. I have been so impressed with her attention and intention all year.
Next the family is planting the pea plants mentioned above in container garden this morning along with several other seedling, herb, and perennial plantings. This followed by two soccer games (Marcel is going to try once more), and a baseball practice. What’s on your first Sunday in May agenda? Or second, or third?
REMINDER: Today is the last day to enter to win one of two free subscriptions for you or a friend to The Adoption Constellation magazine.
I almost cried reading this. The idea of giving children “permission” to reflect who they really are hit me hard. Research has taught us that society has taught our children that black = bad to simplify it. It is refreshing to hear that children may want to express themselves, but sad that we must give them permission to do so.
Your comment has been sitting with me all day. I suppose as I wrote it I was in the hopeful piece around Sam’s pure confidence. I know as a White teacher prior to having kids of color I may not have made the leaps I make now. Many are more evolved then me from the start. In my friend’s case she invited me into a discussion about the first round of drawings, and we hypothesized as to all the reasons kids might not choose to draw themselves “accurately”. It’s all progress I’d like to believe. Would you agree?
When I used to do psych in schools I found it fascinating that most of the kids coloured clothes, not faces on those sheets, once I pointed out that the faces needed to be coloured too, and handed out peach crayons, brown, tan etc I was amazed at the results. We talked about how everyones skin is a bit different and we could blend colours or change colours to celebrate that. But how sad that the default was to leave the skin blank and white.