Lessons in tolerance
In light of recent events, I thought it important to talk about how I try to incorporate lessons in tolerance for my students.
While I've worked with a range of students, one of the things I love most about young children (under 7) is their honesty and innocence. They don't have the capacity to be malicious in the way that teens and adults can be. Rather, they often just comment on what they observe. Young children don't naturally pre-judge others. That's learned.
I believe tolerance and acceptance can be learned too. One way I aim to foster tolerance is by opening myself fully to my students.
As their teacher, I'm one of the first authority figures my students will interact with outside of their family. My students don't notice that I'm an African-American woman. Sure, they notice the texture of my hair or the color of my skin, but to them, I'm just Ms. Randa. I let them know when I'm sad, frustrated, or happy. They know the name of my dog and they've seen pictures of my parents. They know me as a person. For some of my students, I might be the first African-American they'll ever get to know, and I hope that they'll take this message with them: I'm human, too.
Another way I try and foster tolerance and acceptance in my students is by nourishing their self-esteem.
One of my favorite books to read is "I Like Myself," by Karen Beaumont. It features a frizzy-haired girl who claims she doesn't care what anyone thinks of her because she loves herself on the inside and outside. While the book focuses on accepting oneself no matter outward appearances, it also highlights the fact that we humans are all much more than what we appear. We all have unique thoughts and feelings, we have an "inside."
Lastly, I like to expose my students to as many different people and scenarios as worldly possible.
If we're on a walk, we can stop and wave to the construction worker and maybe ask how his day is going. He's human and he has insides. The firefighter, he's human too. So is the security guard. The more I can complicate the people in my students' world, the more I believe they can relate to them.
The world isn't black and white, it's complex with shades of gray and lines and maybe shapes thrown in there, too. I hope my students will grow into adults who are confident in who they are and that know they are so much more than their appearances. I hope they take the time to admire the beauty in the complexity that is the human experience.
Open Your Mind,