Thursday, January 13, 2011

Poor Rosa Parks

Working with a economically disadvantaged population brings many struggles to my day, struggles that I happily take on because it's what I chose to do when I became a teacher. My kids don't have access to most things that I provide for my own child. They don't have a parent at home when they're home, they don't have nourishing meals, they don't have someone to read them a story, they don't have doctors that are concerned with their well-being, they don't have clean clothes, and the list goes on and on.

What they do have, and what knocks me on my ass, is a unbelievably sad perspective on the world.

I began my lesson on Martin Luther King, Jr. today by introducing Rosa Parks. Kindergarten students need to know that MLK, Jr. helped change laws that were unfair. So we read Rosa by Nikki Giovanni (edited as I went for their level), watched a short clip of the story on United Streaming and then talked about what happened. I wanted to set up that Rosa was treated unfairly, she wasn't doing anything wrong, but she was arrested anyway.

We were having a good conversation. The students seemed to understand that she just wanted to sit down and that the bus driver was being very mean to her for no reason. We discussed black skin, white skin, light skin, dark skin and all the shades in between. It was one of the best discussions we've ever had. (If you haven't ever been in a kindergarten classroom, you might not know that discussions about anything are hard. They're still learning to converse, not just answer questions. They're still learning to listen to the question, and respond on the same topic.)

Towards the end of the discussion, I prompted the class with, "So why was Rosa Parks arrested?"

I was answered with, "because she was poor."

Ugh. On my ass.

I tried not to tear-up and instead asked the child, who is poor, if she thought people got arrested for being poor. She knew where I was going with my question (she's quite bright), but it was clear she thought that her previous statement was correct. We talked more and moved beyond this, but I'm still thinking about it. Over and over and over...

Um, society? You have a whole lot of work to do if our five year old children in poverty think the police are there to arrest them, simply for not having money.

I look at a police officer and feel safe. This five year old looks at a police officer as a daily threat. And it's my test scores that are the problem........


Danielle said...

I understand your feelings..I'm in the same boat. These kids need so much more than testing, standards, etc. My heart breaks for my little street smart children who just need to be loved and allowed to be kids.


Earl and Vickie said...

Don't sell the kids short, they see an important part of it. Poverty is one of the important aspects of how discrimination has been kept alive.