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?
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