Civil Rights and Small Children

January 22, 2015

Preparing our students for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day always presents an interesting challenge.  Our school—Early Childhood through 5th grade—holds class on that day as a way of teaching children that it is a day to honor working for social justice and doing acts of tzedakah (charity).  Books and research play a significant role in what students learn in the process.

This year, as the school librarian, I had the opportunity to work with all the students in preparation for that day.  All of the classes were working with the Jewish value of “b’tzelem Elohim,” or the idea that all people are created in the image of God.  If, as our teaching tells us, everyone is created in God’s image, we must necessarily see all people as having a spark of holiness that makes them both like God and like us.  On the Friday before MLK Day, we read aloud Woodson’s “The Other Side,” which nicely articulates how to find ways to make friendship possible, even when society works against you.

For the Early Childhood students (33 months to 5 years old), we focused on the idea of how to be a good friend.  We read a delightful book, Delton’s “Two Good Friends,” that explores how two very different creatures—neat Rabbit and chef Bear—can still be good friends even if they are very different from each other.

The Kindergarten and First Grade class could take a more sophisticated approach to the topic.  In their classroom, they had been learning about Dr. King as well as Rosa Parks, so they had already grasped some of the major issues in the Civil Rights era.  In Library, I worked with them to explore the meanings of the words “civil” and “rights”; by thinking about other ways we use these words, they could begin to puzzle out how it works as a concept.  Together we read Johnson’s “A Sweet Smell of Roses” to learn how the March on Washington might have felt to children their age.

Our Third and Fourth Graders had even more knowledge to work with.  They had been learning about various people who in their youth had worked to bring about more civil rights.  They had read and taken notes on the stories of these people and had written short summaries of their lives as if they were the people telling their own stories.  They then turned these into a performance piece.  In the near future, they are going to hold a “conversation” in which they converse as if they were the people they researched.  Additionally, they are working on reading a biography of George Washington Carver.

I read this class two stories.  The first, Hopkinson’s “A Band of Angels,” tells the story of students from Fisk University who toured in the years immediately after the Civil War as the Jubilee singers to raise money to keep the school funded.  Students were surprised to learn that even in the north these singers faced discrimination and mistreatment.  They also began to think about why education was so important to recently freed slaves.  The second book, Lorbiecki’s “Sister Anne’s Hands,” recounts the experiences of a young girl in the early 1960s who has an African-American nun as her teacher.  My class audibly gasped when a child in the story makes a racist remark about the teacher.  They couldn’t imagine such a reaction and were very upset that someone would say such a thing.

On MLK Day itself, our school celebrated in a variety of ways.  Our two guest speakers told stories of their personal experiences.  One, a graduate of our school, talked of the discrimination he faced as a child and as an adult who is a Jew of color.  The other, a history professor who grew up in South Carolina, spoke of her sense of injustice as a white child of activist parents and how they worked to change the laws of the time.  Our older students participated for part of the day in a march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In addition, students prepared food to take to a women’s shelter. 

And their studies don’t end there—each child chose to commit to one task that they would tackle in making the world better, by walking in the ways of Dr. King and Rabbi Joshua Heschel.  These goals were not to be lofty “I want to make the world a better place” sort of goals—we wanted children to commit to something very specific that they could do as part of their daily lives.  Their goals include things like “if I see someone by themselves at recess I will ask them to play with me” to the preschooler offering of “if someone is sad I will give them a hug.” 

I encourage everyone who teaches to think about ways that we can teach this next generation how to take on the duty of social justice in such personal and meaningful ways.


Experiments, Evolution, and Education

November 17, 2014

Okay, the title is may be loftier than the reality, but the results were fun, so I wanted to share.  Our third- and fourth-graders were working on a great unit that explored the idea of “Who am I?” through the lens of autobiography, family trees, and evolution.  Their final project was amazing (I’ll say more about that below), but I really enjoyed a little piece of their learning that I got to do with them in Library class. 

To focus on the idea of adaptation, I decided to read to them t...

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Back at Work

October 13, 2014

Okay, I admit it.  Sometimes I dream bigger than my ability to keep up.  This website sometimes proves to be that for me.  I haven't stopped reading or teaching--I just stopped writing about it in a coherent, consistent fashion.  But today I felt that need to write about that and to explore some of the reasons why.

  1. I was busy doing things I am officially employed to do.  Last year I again had a full-time homeroom class.  It was challenging, exhilarating, and exhausting.  Plus, I was teaching o...

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Juggling -- The Reality of Being a Classroom Teacher

February 12, 2012


Well, now I know one thing that the new school year brought – busy teacher syndrome!  While I am greatly enjoying my (newish) teaching duties this year as a homeroom and language arts teacher for our fifth-graders, I am often overcome by a sense that I will never feel completely ready, never be truly organized, never be totally prepared. 

What is interesting is that I’m finally okay with that.  I am at heart an extremely logical, prepared, focused person.  I went into this school y...

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What will the new school year bring?

August 8, 2011
'First day of school' photo (c) 2010, Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup - license: am anticipating this fall in much the same way as many students are—I will be facing new challenges, learning new material, trying new things.  I have many hopes and dreams for the school year, as do they.  And like them, I am partially responsible for preparing them for an uncertain and unknowable future.

This year, in addition to being the librarian at my school, I am tackling the challenge ...

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Jewish Book Carnival: July Edition

July 15, 2011

It's that time again!  Bloggers who write about Jewish-themed books collect their posts once a month to share and reflect on what is going on in the Jewish book world.  This month's collection, which you can find at Ann D. Koffsky's blog, includes a wide range of topics, ranging from Life Is Like a Library with its take on Being Mirka from the book Hereville by Barry Deutch (which I reviewed elsewhere in this blog), to Linda K. Wertheimer's Ode to Spirituality, to much more.

The Jewish Book Ca...

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Camp for Librarians--The Pleasures of Spending Time Reading

July 14, 2011
I am a lucky camper -- literally.  I am participating in a program sponsored MELSA public libraries and MetroNet for people who teach literature and/or who are children's librarians called Camp Read-A-Lot.  And this has been the summer camp experience I have always wanted!

The wonderful people behind this program have put together a fun bunch of new books for all of us campers to read.  We get to read books, write reviews of them, and then participate in discussions, either virtually on the Ni...

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Jewish Book Carnival

March 15, 2011

Today is the 15th of the month, so it must be time for the Jewish Book Carnival!  Each month bloggers who write about and who review books share their entries so that we are easy to find.  This month's carnival is being hosted by Linda K. Wertheimer, who blogs about issues of faith and family.  You can learn more about the Jewish Book Carnival by visiting their site -- it is sponsored...

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What Computer Programs Do We Really Need? -- Free Alternatives for Small Schools

February 24, 2011
Disc drivephoto © 2006 Louise Docker | more info (via: Wylio)
In this time of budget crunches in the world of education, I have learned to be creative in how I choose what to pay for and what to find for free when it comes to computer programs.  Here are some free alternatives that serve as good substitutions for their more costly peers.

1.  Tux Paint => Kid Pix     For years my school has struggled to keep...
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Be My Tweetie—Using Twitter to Build a Personal Learning Network

February 4, 2011
Twitter Profilephoto © 2009 Rosaura Ochoa | more info (via: Wylio)I first was introduced to using Twitter during the 23 Things on a Stick and More Things on a Stick programs sponsored by the Minnesota’s Multitypes Libraries.  Much like the Teacher Challenge, these programs encouraged people to try out the growing technologies and explore how they related to our work as librarians.  By participating, I grew to “kno...
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About Me

Lydia Schultz I am a school librarian, a technology teacher, and a part-time college English professor. I hope to review many of the books I read, both in the context of my research about children's books as well as in my pursuit of recreational reading. I want to share what I read--so what else is new?

Please feel free to contact me.  I welcome hearing feedback and advice.  If you would like to comment on a particular post, click on the title of the post and a comment box will appear after the post when the page reloads.



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