Teachable moments do not always happen when planned. Teachers work hard to implement a rich curriculum and include all styles of learning. Yet, sometimes the best opportunities occur at unexpected times. That is exactly what happened this week in the Aqua Room. We learned first-hand, in a very real way, about peace and diversity.
During chapter reading, Doctor Dolittle’s Journey, their ship landed on Spider Monkey Island. Doctor Dolittle and his animals were met by Indians. Although Doctor Dolittle communicated to them in sign language that he had come in peace, the Indians became angry and went away.
A child in the class said, “Indians are bad. They eat people.” We stopped our reading in order to talk about this, and try to figure out why the people on the island became angry. After some soulful discussions, I said, “Do you know we have an Indian in our class?” The children’s wide-eyed silence spoke volumes! I then opened up my arms wide, and with a big smiling face said, “Trisha, please stand up and come here.” Trisha jumped up and eagerly ran up to be hugged by the outstretched arms of her teacher. I explained that Trisha is an Indian, and then asked the class is she is friendly. “Yes”, everybody said. I looked at Trisha and asked her, “Do you eat people?” “No”, she laughed. “Are you a good friend?” “Yes”, she said.
As Trisha went back to her mat, and the children were thinking about what had just happened, I said, “Do you know we have a child in our class from China and Hawaii? Michele, please stand up!” Michele, like Trisha, came to her teacher for a big hug, and to be asked, “Michele, do you eat people?” “No”, she laughed. “Are you a good friend?” “Yes” she said.
By now the children were beginning to understand. I said, “We even have a child in our class from the Philippines.” At this point, the class instinctively responded with ooos and aaahs, clearly a far cry from their perplexity of Indians. “Rhein, please stand up!” As he came forward for his big hug, things would change again. When I asked, “Rhein, do you eat people?” the entire class joined him in answering, “No!” “Are you a good friend?” also brought a full chorus of “Yes.”
Everybody understood this small, yet very real step in truly learning about diversity and about peace. We have often reflected that this school year has been particularly strong in that regard. Your children have not only developed a deep bond with each other, but consistently reach out to one another. Perhaps that is why Peep, our guinea pig and ‘Gloria’, our beloved puppet, are such an important part of our class this year. Have you noticed? Home visits abound, and our day-to-day events generally include Peep and Gloria. Whether it is something little, such as making sure Gloria can see the book we are reading, or something big, such as insisting that Peep be the cow in our Jack and the Beanstalk play, they represent diversity and also peace. Perhaps our school-wide theme of Peace, and our related classroom activities, has played a part in Peep and Gloria’s role in our class. We will definitely continue on this theme!