Gloria and the Indians

‘Gloria’ was very involved in a recent discussion on Indians.  It was a huge moment in teaching.  She understands being different.

It happened like this…
I have finished reading “Little House on the Prairie” to my preschoolers.  At the end of the book, the Indians ride by in a long line, led by the chief that Pa had met in the woods.  As Laura watched that long line pass her house, she was smitten by a papoose with black eyes who stared at her.

Black eyes.

She wanted that baby Indian.  She kept crying and talking about those black eyes.  As always, children jumped in to start a  conversation.

“Jennie, remember the Indian that liked Laura?  The one who came into the house?  His eyes sparkled at Laura.”

“Yes, I remember.  His eyes were black, too.”

The child recalled this from much earlier in the book.  She remembered the word ‘sparkled’.  We had talked about the eyes back then.  And, we had talked about Indians.  That was the first time Laura had seen an Indian.  She was scared.

Let’s back up, because what happened earlier in the book was quite a build-up to what happened with Gloria and the Indian baby’s black eyes.

Pa’s neighbor and friend, Mr. Scott, had remarked:

“The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

Whoa!  That’s where I stopped and put the book down.  Well, I actually slammed the book down.  The words “Can you believe he said that?” came pouring out of me.  Most fellow teachers are hesitant to read aloud that statement.  Not me!  How can children learn true acceptance if they aren’t faced with prejudice?  If they know of oppression, they can understand, and therefore they can become better human beings.  It’s how the heart grows.

When the Indians rode away, Pa’s friend said again that the only good Indian was a dead Indian.  Gloria heard.  She was there on her stool listening to chapter reading, too.  I looked over, and I could tell she was sad.  Or maybe it was something else.

“Gloria, I can see you’re not happy.”

Silence.  All the children looked over at Gloria.

“Gloria, Mr. Scott didn’t understand.  He said that because he doesn’t know.  He never met an Indian.”

Still silence, and the children were glued to Gloria.

“I know that makes you unhappy.  What?  You remember when children called you a witch?  I know, it was a terrible thing.  But Mr. Scott is just like those children.  They didn’t know any better, and neither did he.”

“Jennie!  Gloria has black eyes, too!”

“My goodness, she does.”

“Gloria, you have black eyes!  Laura loved black eyes.  Laura knew they were friendly.  Maybe everyone knows you’re friendly because you have black eyes, too.”

Children were excited.  Gloria has black eyes, like the Indians.

This was big.  Things all seemed to come together.  Gloria was ‘the real deal’, the person who brought the story of Indians and prejudice to life for the children.  Thank you, Gloria.  No wonder everyone loves you.  We’re so glad you have black eyes, too.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in America, chapter reading, children's books, Diversity, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Gloria, history, reading aloud, reading aloud and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

63 Responses to Gloria and the Indians

  1. Ritu says:

    Always a learning point, everywhere!

  2. beetleypete says:

    Wonderful, Jennie! An example to teachers everywhere, and a genuine lesson that we don’t need political correctness and banning books to stop us understanding the truth.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. beth says:

    what a powerful and wonderful lesson, Jennie

  4. Excellent way to further get across to the munchkins how hurtful and wrong bigotry is Jennie. Bravo!

  5. Norah says:

    Gloria is such a great teacher.

  6. quiall says:

    Gloria showed them how much alike we are to each other. When we ignite their passion, we are ignite their soul.

  7. Darlene says:

    This is a great lesson. One the children will always remember. Sometimes I have my character do something she shouldn’t, so she can learn from it. If all stories were peaches and cream, children would not learn what not to do. I’m glad you read that offensive sentence out loud. Others may have hesitated, but you knew how to turn it into a lesson.

  8. A great lesson, Jennie. Thank you for sharing.

  9. I adore your way of teaching, what need to be tought, as early as possible, Jennie! How can we build a better world, without teaching the yougsters the truth, not the myths invented. Thank you, and have a beautiful rest of the weekend! Michael

  10. A great lesson in life to learn and you gave it so well Jennie. Your children will grow up to be good people.

  11. Wonderful way to teach a lesson. Sure glad Gloria could help.

  12. Don Ostertag says:

    Hurrah for Gloria, and more a great teacher

  13. Oh, Jennie…I think YOU should write a book about how stories such as those found in the Little House books can be used so effectively! I’m afraid they’re just getting a bad name and will eventually be ignored by teachers. That would be such a loss of teachable moments like these. But not everyone knows how to use them as well as you:)

    • Jennie says:

      That’s so nice, Becky. Thank you! I would love to write a book about how to turn stories into teachable moments. It’s the moments like these that are opportunities for the best teaching. Reading aloud naturally has a captive audience, which makes it perfect. Like you, I would hate to lose these stories and the teaching they offer.

  14. An important lesson for your kids, Jennie. Gloria is a wonderful teacher and partner in the classroom. 🙂

  15. What an important lesson. Kudos to you for teaching it so well and not being afraid to do so.

  16. willedare says:

    Wow. That’s a hugely important series of moments in your classroom. Hurrah to you and Gloria and your students!

    • Jennie says:

      I’m glad you think so, Will. All it took was Gloria looking sad, and the rest was natural for teaching. I call it seizing the moment. Many thanks!

  17. I will try not to gush here but you and Gloria are doing the real work in the world. Touching just a few young minds who in turn will touch a few more and maybe someday, the subject won’t need to be broached ever again. Hurray for you both.

  18. Ren says:

    I simply LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your teaching skills!!! Thank you again and again for helping to change the world to a more positive vibration.

  19. Hi Jennie, this is a perfect post on how to handle this sort of situation with children. You can’t hide things from children and pretend they didn’t happen. You need to face them and explain them and how things have changed because people understand so much more now. We have all grown over time and our minds have expanded.

  20. Dan Antion says:

    How wonderful that you are tackling one of the hardest concepts these children will ever deal with, and you and Gloria are hitting it head on. This is remarkable Jennie. I am really impressed.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you very much, Dan. I love your comment, because it hits the nail on the head. This really is one of the toughest concepts for children to deal with. In past years I have slammed down the book and had the ‘big discussion’. But this year, Gloria was ‘right there’, and I knew what to do. My best teaching is often spontaneous. Gloria was perfect, just what the doctor ordered. She was the link to make it ‘real’ for children.

  21. Shoes says:

    A beautiful and powerful read aloud! I read Because of Winn Dixie to my third graders and we end up having some very heavy and important conversations about family, alcohol addiction, and kindness.

    • Jennie says:

      It’s one of my favorites, too. I just finished reading aloud Winn Dixie to my library group. Reading gives the best opportunities to talk about big issues. Thanks, Shoes!

  22. good for you!! You are a wise teacher and I loved your lesson!!

  23. A. L. Kaplan says:

    What a wonderful lesson. Much better than banning books.

  24. You and Gloria are a formidable team!! What a great lesson! I agree it’s much better than banning books!!

  25. dgkaye says:

    Another excellent lesson for the children, demonstrating by using Gloria in the story was affirming for them. Beautiful. ❤

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