Saturday, January 13, 2024

Reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

With this weekend being Martin Luther King Day I've been doing a lot of thinking about all that 39 year old Dr. King accomplished in his life.

Monday (MLD Day) is seen as a Day of Service, one the only holidays we have dedicated as that. A day "on" versus a day "off." Of course, people are free to use it as they wish. As a teacher, even though we are newly back to school after Winter break, the 3 day weekend definitely felt like a timely gift. Already. 

Every year, right before MLK Day, I teach a curricular lesson with tech integration to the 4th graders, all about Dr. King and his 6 steps of nonviolent social change. 

I use the principles from the King Center and tie it into how the ideas of non-violence can be adapted on the playground, in their own home, or in big ways as they were used during the Civil Rights era. We discuss what "civil disobedience" means and how that would have looked during the 1950s and '60s with sit-ins, marches, bus boycotts, and peaceful protests. There's always a bit of shock and awe when I paint the picture of how sitting in at a Whites Only lunch counter could have people yelling or spitting or pouring milk shakes on black protesters quietly sitting there, peacefully making their point, and only wanting to purchase a burger or coffee, which really should be everyone's right. Then we discuss how courageous it is to sit there, trying to silently, peacefully showcase your point in a nonviolent way--how the violence being bestowed on theses protestors speaks louder and in a stronger, more poignant way... especially in a time period where watching the news unfold on the TV screen in your house was a new concept.

I always am hopeful that, as a white woman, I can convey my empathy, historic facts, and the fact that we aren't always proud of our history. I'm hopeful that I present it in a compassionate way to be heard by my students--especially my black students. I found myself this year, more than ever before, thinking that in this very partisan world, this classroom conversation was one that could create personal ramifications for myself and my own employment if I was living and teaching in a different school--in certain some of which I once taught. 

My guiding principle of teaching has always been "to educate." Especially with the following principle being at the heart of who I am as a teacher:

Yet here we are, in 2024, living in a very divided society where book banning happens and being "woke" (which isn't that really just being educated?) is seen as a problematic putdown. Sometimes, when doing the math, it feels like we are going the wrong way from the world in which I lived in as a child. We are 70ish years removed from the American Civil Rights movement, which was approximately 100 years after the Civil War. 

Perhaps we would do well to refocus as a society on the words and teachings of Dr. King to strive to do better, to be better, to embrace the ideals set forth in the Constitution, and work for the betterment of our community. Imagine the nation (if not the world) we'd live in if we had more days of service, taking action to help out our neighbors...for we are all indeed neighbors. 

If you need some ideas of what you can go out and do (on either Martin Luther King Jr. Day or any other day), revisit my GTG post from last year: "Go Beyond a Day of Service and Give Back All Year Long.

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