Teaching about leaders and historic figures is critical component of educational practice; especially primary school. It seems like children have no idea who paved the way for their very little footsteps. So, I opened January’s morning meeting discussion, with my sprouts, on how important it is to know Y(OUR) history. We talked about reasons why it would be important and how can we follow the path that our ancestors have paved for us. You would think, “How can a kindergartener understand anything about the past, present, or future?” My reply is simple, “They attend DAA and they are in Ms. Johnson’s class.”
Great leaders are important to our development as a community, society, and world. Students are never to young to learn about them, but it is important whom they are learning about. In my classroom, great leaders –especially ones that look like them- are present in conversations, lessons and habits of character. I want my students to develop into these leaders and how does that happen if they are never taught?
It is important to teach great black leaders in ALL classrooms. I find it difficult when great black leaders are framed within the context as, “just great black leaders;” as if these leaders were only innovative within the black community. Most of these leaders did not only pave the way for black/ African American people, but they invented things that have saved the entire world. These are the people that ALL students should know about.
Teaching these leaders should not just exist in February; although February is a great month to celebrate these leaders. Great black leaders should be taught right alongside George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and John F Kennedy, all year long. I want my kids to know that they are not just leaders in February, but they will ALWAYS be leaders.
My students have discussions about race, abolition, segregation, and discrimination. Yes, they are in kindergarten. I think it is important for students to know about the true history of America and not some watered down version. It is important to understand how far we have come as America and how far we have to go to be “progressive” (yes, I use this term with my sprouts). They need to also contextualize their environment. They are at a school where I am the only teacher that looks like them; why would I neglect conversations of race relations?
My job as a teacher is to teach them about things they do not know. My jobs as a black teacher are to incorporate our history into the curriculum, year round; have difficult conversations with them without having the savior complex; provide a role model that looks like them; give them what they deserve; and to let them know that Martin Luther King, a great black leader, has not only helped black people, but has help people of all shapes, colors, and identities.
Excuse me while I bred conscious activists.
Black history lives on,