Keep in Rhythm

One of the best parts of being a member of the 6th Grade teaching team is a guaranteed spot on the two Outdoor Education trips a year. When I interviewed for the position of 6th Grade science teacher, I tried not to let my glee show too much as I was asked, “How do you feel about tent camping?” As a young person, I loved going to camp. As a young adult, I worked every week I could at camp. Every opportunity to try something new– from knots to fire building, from constellation identification and legends to exploring tide pool communities, and from popsicle-stick crafts to small boat sailing– was another opportunity to learn by engaging in play. I felt like I had a lot of background and skills that could enhance Trinity’s Outdoor Ed program. What I didn’t realize was that even with my vast camp experience, it would be the 6th Graders who would teach me something new on our trips together.

“Keep in rhythm,

Jolly, jolly rhythm.

Ready- o?

Let’s go!

Starting with?

Ze- ro!” begins one of my favorite hand-song games from my days at Girl Scout Camp Mahachee. Two weeks ago, as the Oaks and I bumped along in our “hayride” back from feeding the chickens at Camp Twin Lakes, I taught the group sitting around me this simple game. Rhythm is kept by players hitting their thighs twice, then clapping twice. Each player is assigned a number from zero on up. “Zero” begins the game by saying “zero, zero” as they hit their thighs twice, and then as “zero” claps twice, he or she says another number twice. The player with the number called by “zero” then says that number twice while hitting their thighs and then calls a different number while clapping twice. Play continues like this until someone falls out of rhythm, doesn’t respond to their number, or calls a number that is already out. It’s an easy game to learn, and the Oaks took to it quickly, with several of them choosing to continue to play it over putt-putt, archery, or tennis after we met back up with the rest of the Leadership class.

Before I knew it, the circle of players had gotten quite large; I think at one point there were players numbered 14 and 15! I was tickled to watch some of the original Oak players beginning to instruct those new to the circle… “Here, just watch for a bit, and you’ll get it…”, “Don’t worry, we’ll give you a Mulligan the first time you’d be ‘out’ so that you can learn before it counts…”, and “Okay, now let’s review; which numbers are left?” There was lots of laughter as 6th Graders and adults “kept in rhythm” that afternoon.

After a time, I left my place in the circle. This old brain had a hard time remembering if I was number seven or two, and the tops of my thighs were getting quite red. As I sat on the grass and watched the happy group continuing to play I thought how prepared these 6th Graders were for the next stage in their lives and education– a stage that would find them as members of a new community, a new circle.

Our Trinity students see the value in watching for a bit and giving and getting encouragement during the learning process. They understand that everyone needs to take “Mulligans” when they are in the learning stage because that will encourage risk-taking and experimentation without punitive consequences. Trinitians know that it’s a good idea to assess where they are and what they know as they go along. They do know how to keep in with the figurative rhythm of the group and keep it “jolly.” And even though in August they will be “starting with zero” at their new schools, they are ready and eager to see where this game takes them.

These are good lessons for all of us– it doesn’t matter if we’re 12 and heading off to a new school, or 43 and returning to the science lab again next year.  Everyone needs to find some “jolly, jolly rhythm,” but if you’re struggling to find yours, I can highly recommend 33 excellent “teachers.”

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Kate Burton serves the Trinity School community as 6th Grade science teacher.

Contracting a Creed

Kind of like that tickle in the back of your throat that signals that you might be coming down with something, I’m not sure when the idea for having a classroom creed infected my brain. It likely started sometime last school year when the faculty was working on our SAIS self-study. With all of the work we were doing to collaboratively describe what it is we do here at Trinity School, I started thinking about what it is I do in my classroom. Now, by looking at the tagline at the bottom of this piece, or by asking someone around the building, you might decide, “She’s a science teacher. I bet she does labs.” And, yes, I “do” labs. I also “do” notes, and questioning, and lecturing, and reflecting, and problem-solving. But, that really doesn’t cover all that I want to do and all that I promise myself I will do for my students.

Much like the annoying cough that you grapple with once you’ve succumbed to the cold you were fighting, I don’t remember the first time I watched Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk on how great leaders inspire action (https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action and totally worth the investment of 18 minutes). I’m sure I saw it before our self-study work, we probably also watched it as a faculty during the work, and then since then, it seems I can’t escape running into his talk. Sometimes a professor at Kennesaw State would mention it, sometimes it’s referenced on Twitter, but everywhere I turned, I was being presented with his golden circle. And that forced me to think about how knowing my why influences the how and the what of  what I “do” in my classroom.

So, in the same way we might start dosing ourselves with extra servings of orange juice, I started tinkering with what would become my classroom creed. Of course, I wanted to state clearly that knowledge was important in my classroom, but I also wanted to include that just having knowledge was not as important as being able to work with knowledge and work towards knowledge. I also wanted to include within my creed something that would address how I would model, and expect students to mirror, how we would all behave around learning and the knowledge we were gaining. It was important to include something about what success looks like. And, I wanted to include a directive for me, and some reassurance for those who might struggle, about how knowledge will be gained. Scrawled within a composition notebook that holds notes from a quantitative research class I took summer of 2015 and drafts of a few “welcome to our class” letters, there is a page that lists: knowledge- shared, built, dive deeper; passionate learners; success- more than one kind; and buttressing learning toward success.

Occasionally, the composition notebook would fall open, and I would look at my list and make some tweaks, but nothing ever happened with it. Like admitting I actually have a cold, I knew I was avoiding completing my thoughts on a classroom creed because I wasn’t sure I was going to like putting it in print. What if I had it posted and someone questioned whether I was doing these lofty things?

And then, just recently, I came across a quote from feminist, civil-rights activist, and poet Audre Lorde that spurred me to complete my creed. Lorde said, “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” I had a vision of why, and how, and what I wanted my classroom to be; I trusted in my strength to be the kind of classroom leader my students deserved; and I wanted to be powerful rather than afraid, so I went to work and set something down on paper.

If you find yourself downstairs near the science lab, stop in, and check me on it. Honestly, I’m hoping that you will be infected by the “creed bug,” as well. We can start our own creed movement!  Because in taking a stance on what we do, we begin “treatment,” and we move ourselves closer to all we hope to be.  And in 1005 we strive to… Share, recycle, construct and deconstruct knowledge. Have passion about knowledge and learning be unmistakable. Celebrate multiple forms of excellence. And build bridges to move learners closer to knowledge.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Kate Burton serves the Trinity School community as 6th Grade science teacher.

What’s in a name?

If the first thing that pops into your mind after reading this title is Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, then you are not alone.  In the play, Juliet questions “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell so sweet.”  Juliet is implying that Romeo’s family name, Montague means nothing and they should be together.

I disagree with Juliet.  I think a person’s name means everything.   When you are having a conversation and someone’s name comes up, you immediately think about the characteristics and values that individual possesses.

You may have experienced being in an unfamiliar place and hear your name called.  All of the sudden you might feel more welcome, more known.  The opposite is true when you hear your name and you turn to see who was calling for you and they were referring to a different “Brian”.   Talk about a total let down.

I have witnessed the positive power of a name right here in the hallways of our school.   A student with hunched shoulders, head down, and dragging feet walking down the hallway will quickly stand a little taller and walk with joy from hearing the words, “Good morning, Stephanie!”

I have seen a child sitting alone in the farthest area of the field, head in their lap,  turn into an energetic athlete playing soccer upon hearing the words from a classmate, “Hey Sam, would you like to play soccer with us?”  I’m sure you have experienced the positive “name” effect as well.

I love the quote, “Once a Trinity student, always a Trinity student.”  Each Trinity student has a name and I challenge everyone to learn the names of as many of our students as possible.  I guarantee it will make a positive impact on you and our Trinity community.  Once you know a child’s name, you will be more willing to interact and build a lasting relationship with them.  If we stretch ourselves to learn five additional student’s names, then each student at Trinity School will have one more adult taking an interest in them.  For a child, there is no better feeling than someone caring about them.  Let’s do our part and make sure each student feels special at Trinity.

You may be reading this post and thinking to yourself “I’m out, I am horrible at remembering names.”  So, here are a few helpful hints:

  • Review last year’s year book, try to memorize photos and names
  • Review a substitute binder, they have updated photos and names
  • Read Forbes article, The Five Best Tricks To Remember Names by Kristi Hedges.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Brian Balocki serves the Trinity School community as a lead Physical Education Teacher

The Painfulness of Growth is the Pathway to Flourishing

“Not the twizzlers! NOT. THE. TWIIIIZZZLERRRRS!” my friend’s toddler would scream at the sight of tweezers in the event of a splinter. It seems other than fingers, the bottoms of feet are where small children most frequently experience the assault of splinters, impeding their ability to move about freely and shooting pain into their tender feet. And yet, the fear of the solution, the antidote, the instrument of healing, convinces the small child that the impediment of the splinter is better than the terrifying pain of removing it.

As adults, our response is not all that different when it comes to change, whether that be external changes in our circumstances or the changes that are inherent in learning and personal development. As teachers of children, we recognize their resistance when introduced to new concepts and asked to struggle through the process of learning. Children and grown-ups alike momentarily assume that the uncomfortable process, one that begins with not understanding and then moves into a period of disorientation, is the sum total of the event and therefore to be rejected immediately upon introduction. And yet, this process is much like a vaccination. The pain of the injection is not the doctor’s purpose but rather the prevention of the greater pain of viruses in the future and the ultimate flourishing health of the patient.

Reading through my Facebook feed after significant national events over the past few years, I see very intelligent, “good” people giving impassioned arguments from opposing directions. There unfortunately appears to be this same resistance to listening and learning from one another because the initial reaction to an opposing view is so distressing that we just want it all to go away. I can be so committed to my own interpretations of my personal experiences that I just refuse to see them from another perspective.  This fear of the “twizzlers” is certainly why a large number of people have begun begging for their newsfeed to return to pictures of babies and food. Those cute and happy images do not require that I move through dissonance and disorientation. But those images also do not help me to grow.

Educators are forever promoting the ability to see a situation from another point of view and to embrace a growth mindset. But in order for this to be achieved, one must submit to momentary intellectual and emotional distress just as muscles must be broken down to be strengthened. It is helpful for me as a teacher to recognize that my own default mode is to resist change, to be an object at rest that stays at rest and might throw a tantrum at any implication that I should be asked to become an object in motion. I am not inclined to be moved until I am convinced that life without the splinter in my foot might actually be more enjoyable, might allow me to run without pain, might allow me to go further and experience more.

What if we as adults begin to more tangibly model a willingness to see beyond our own experiences of the world to understand the validity of someone else’s? What if instead of resisting the discomfort, we welcome it, not as martyrs but as those who truly believe it is the golden ticket to enjoying life and loving others even more than a chocolate factory? What if we could then invite our students into the process of change not just for its own sake, but because we had come to believe that a growth mindset requires a moment of distress, but that struggle leads to a lifetime of flourishing?

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Jane Gilbert, serves the Trinity School community as a 4th Grade Assistant Teacher

Just Ask…

“Be Strong Enough To Stand Alone,

Smart Enough To Know When You Need Help.

And Brave Enough To Ask For It.

This quote, sent from the founders of Black Girls Run! to their members, stood out to me. True, it is one of those quotes that people like to pass around at the start of the new year – an attempt to motivate you to reset your life, to take a stand, and to be brave. Yet this quote is more than that, its about advocating for yourself, knowing when you need help, and asking for it – seemingly simple tasks, yet often difficult to do. Many of us do not like asking for help. I can rattle off some reasons why – it makes us seem weak, someone might think we don’t know what we are doing, we might look unprepared. The list can go on.

Yet when we teach we expect students to ask for help. We encourage them to do this on a daily basis. We write it under the “Areas of Growth” section on the progress report. We have individual conversations with students that end with, “Why didn’t you ask for help?” Yet we do not model the act of asking for help very well. Do students observe us asking each other for help? Do they know that we collaborate together to create a healthy and thriving environment for them? Do they know that asking for help only makes us braver, smarter, and more confident?

Maybe I am projecting my reflection on the Trinity community, or maybe there is someone who can identify with this. We are fortunate to be a part of a community that is resource rich and innovative. We have faculty and staff who are trained and experts in a variety of areas. Let’s capitalize on that by being brave, knowing when we need help, and asking for it. At Trinity, you only have to stand alone for a moment. There is always someone who is willing to help – especially if you ask.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Javonne Stewart serves the Trinity School community as a 6th Grade Lead Teacher

 

 

 

Passing Along Our Faith

I have very few memories of showing anyone my report card during my school years.  No one checked that I did my homework or studied for a test.  It wasn’t due to a lack of interest in my academic success.  My family understood the importance of a quality education, and we lived in a neighborhood that provided the best public education available in the city.  Grades in school were simply not their measure of success.

I do remember many talks with my family about making good choices – choices about who I considered a friend (because the answer to their question of “Who are their people?” when I mentioned a new name provided my family with all they needed to know about this person; choices in how I presented myself to others (because respect and decency came before anything else); and choices about what I did with my time (I still hear my grandmother saying “Make sure you do something with yourself.”).  It was always clear to me that people make choices in life, and I was called to reflect on mine regularly.

My family collectively worked to provide me with opportunities, modeled and explicitly taught what they believed were core character traits and habits of mind, and they regularly expressed their faith in me to be my best self.  The message of faith was so prevalent that it transferred to me, and I developed faith in myself.

My family’s faith built my confidence by reminding me of the skills, abilities, and accomplishments I’d worked to attain.  It caused me to set goals for myself and develop a sense of responsibility.  It motivated me to work through difficulties and setbacks so I could live up to the expectations that they set for me and I adopted for myself.

As parents and educators, we work to provide children with the best learning experiences and opportunities we can provide.  We strive to cultivate curious, lifelong learners and often find ourselves wondering what more we can do to prepare our children to be thoughtful, contributing members of society.   This question persists in my mind as a school administrator and parent of two teenagers.

As I was thinking about my grandmother recently I found myself wondering, what would happen if we were more intentional about passing along our faith to children – to our own and other’s?  I don’t mean shallow praise or fleeting compliments but empowering messages of belief and expectation.

What if we shared our faith in them and their abilities, imploring them to believe in their own worth and beauty in spite of what others may say about them?  What would come of regularly reminding children of the skills they have developed and the knowledge they have acquired, encouraging them to stand firmly on their past efforts and accomplishments?  What about deliberately coaching them to look to examples of those who came before them as evidence of what is possible and as motivation to persevere when times are hard?  Would it build them up inside?

Then, what if we made it clear to them that our faith is not hope alone but is coupled with expectation and a history of planning, preparation, and sacrifice?  How would they feel about a warning that we’ll be trusting them to do something with themselves – something greater for all of us.  What if our words and actions taught them that life is full of choices and then we gave them some to practice so they would know for themselves.  Would this promote a sense of responsibility and agency?

Research on locus of control and the Adlerian theory were not on my family’s reading list.  Yet the ideas of choice and autonomy promoting motivation (internal locus of control) and the need for a sense of belonging along with contribution (Positive Discipline) resonate with me as a critical part of my childhood experience.  Since these practices shaped me so strongly, I will use them more intentionally in my own parenting and teaching practices.  However, please note that I will continue to check progress reports.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Rhonda Mitchell serves Trinity School as Early Elementary Division Head.

New Year’s Thoughts

“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt

This quote imgreswas recently brought up at a meeting I was in.  I thought about it for many days after hearing it and decided to write down some of my thoughts. However, the holiday break happened and my thoughts stopped for two weeks! It’s funny how when you’re out of your routine the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality can kick in!

Of course, I happened to remember the post I had begun (all two sentences of it) right before bed the night before we returned to school.  I lay awake for quiet some time thinking about the above quote. Being a teacher I think of the students immediately and how it’s important at the beginning of the school year to show them how much we care.   It made me think about the little things that we take for granted on a daily basis; a hug as a student gets out of the car, a smile walking down the hall to a familiar face, the simple “hello” or “happy new year” greeting upon returning from winter break.

Then, with this quote still in mind, my thoughts drifted to my colleagues and peers.  In the same way we show our students how much we care it’s so important that we don’t lose sight of the little ways to show one another we care and value each other.   Each one of us has so many things we are juggling in our own everyday life.  Our students, our family, pets, friends, the list goes on and on.

I will admit, I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions. However, sitting at brunch with some friends on New Year’s Day one of them mentioned forgetting to make a resolution.  What if we all resolved to do one act each day to show someone different that we care?  I know it may seem insignificant and small.  However, what if we could speak to someone new each day?  Maybe we could be more caring out in public as well.  Actions like holding a door for someone, letting them over a lane in traffic, honestly there are so many ways to show we care.  How will you show it?

What it really comes down to for me is a word that has been brought up over the past year or so a number of times.  Mindfulness.  If we are more mindful of ourselves and one another, what a nice environment we can help to create.  Will you join me in this?   Happy New Year and here’s to being mindful and showing others we care in 2017.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Erin Collini serves Trinity School as a Lead Teacher in PreK.

Planning rich mathematics lessons

There is so much to think about when planning and teaching mathematics lessons. At many schools, there is an adopted text that dictates what teachers teach and when they teach it. At our school, the adopted mathematics textbook provides a resource for lessons, but that text is not the mathematics curriculum. This can feel freeing but also daunting. How can teachers be certain they are planning rich mathematics lessons when they aren’t following a lesson from an adopted text?”

As a math specialist at the school I have wondered, “Could a lesson-planning template be helpful to teachers when they plan their own math lessons? And what would that template look like? In order to plan a mathematically rich task, I wanted that template to include:

  • A reference to national standards
  • A context
  • A connection to recently revised progress reports and “I Can” statements
  • A way to provide mathematical progressions (developmental sequences) for the target skill
  • An outline for teaching the lesson – (launch, explore, summarize)
  • Anticipation student responses
  • Connections with the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions by Margaret S. Smith and Mary Kay Stein–Anticipate, Monitor, Select, Sequence, and Connect.

Gratefully, I collaborated with Jill Gough about that template. Jill is the director of Teaching and Learning at Trinity School in Atlanta and is my colleague. In addition to her mathematics expertise, she is masterful at listening to ideas and illustrating them through her sketches.

With her help, this is our latest iteration of a mathematics lesson-planning template.

gough-holden-template

This is one of the completed templates for Pre-K.

prek-rotation6And this is an example of a completed template for a First Grade lesson.

1stgrade-rotation7
I believe the important part of this math-planning template is understanding the mathematics content necessary to effectively plan with it.

Mathematics content knowledge is needed to anticipate student responses for a lesson. Anticipating responses helps us be strategic in providing entry points for the lesson and meeting students where they are during the lessons.

For example, during a lesson asking students to physically act out, and later use objects to model How Many Feet in the Bed?, these were anticipated students responses:

  • Counting the feet by ones to tell how many.
  • Counting the feet by twos to tell how many.
  • Starting the count over to know” how many feet in the bed” after another character gets in.
  • Counting on from the last count when another character gets in the bed to tell ‘how many feet in the bed”.
  • ‘Just knowing’ “how many feet in the bed” without counting.
  • Struggling to count or to tell how many in all as the number of feet in the bed increases.

Content knowledge is also necessary as we monitor what our students do during the lessons.

For example, during that How Many Feet in the Bed? lesson, it is important to notice and note:

Can students model the story with objects?

Are students keeping track of an unorganized pile of objects?

Does a student demonstrate one to one?

Do students know how many after counting?

Can students count on?

Where students are in their mathematical understanding is demonstrated in what they are doing and saying. And what they do and say helps us know what to ask, when to nudge, and what should happen in the next lesson.

postits

Creating this template reminds me of planning for guided reading. When planning for a guided reading group, I wouldn’t simply ask students to read and then tomorrow pick another book and ask them to read again. I would choose a focus for the lesson: decoding, fluency, or comprehension (the target). Then I would choose a proper supporting text to match the focus (context). During the lesson, I would notice what students know how to do as they read. I would also notice what they struggle to do and what strategies they use to help themselves when they struggle. I would realize what tools students don’t yet have that can help them with future texts (notice and note). I would know how to notice all of this and make instructional decisions because I know what tools students need to become readers. There is a path. Deepening our content knowledge helps us understand the path in mathematics.

So, this math lesson-planning template is a beginning to planning rich tasks. The template helps us think about the content and the path of learning for the lessons. And it is helping us notice what students do.

What’s next:

It is crucial for me to create efficient and useful meeting agendas as grade level teams and I continue to build our collaborative math communities. During 30-minute meetings once per rotation, we have shared our notes, noticed trends across classrooms, talked about content, and discussed future lessons.

The lesson planning template should evolve to explicitly include the math practices. Routines for Reasoning by Grace Kelemanik, Amy Lucenta, and Susan Janssen Creighton states that a math practice goal is a thinking goal. Those math practices describe how students will reason mathematically about a problem.

So this journey continues… 

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Becky Holden serves the Trinity Community as the Early Elementary Mathematics Specialist.

The Art of Badging


Growing up in rural Pennsylvania I was extremely active in Girl Scouting. One of the joys of scouting was earning badges. Badging required me to fulfill a variety of criteria, skills, goals, and objectives in all areas of life. From drawing and painting to sewing and photography, I learned skills that are the basis for my teaching career to this day! Earning badges and awards (specifically the First Class award, equivalent to the Boy Scouts Eagle Award) and receiving it demonstrated to me the skills I had acquired and the honor of receiving the badge or award validated that fact.

gs-badgeswww.pinterest.com/explore/girl-scout-badges/

When Nina Chamberlain, my teaching associate at the time, returned from the 2015 National Art Education Association conference held in New Orleans, she brought back the idea of “badging” to our art classroom. I was totally on board with using them within the Choice-Art studios! She hand-drew over 100 badges for the 10 studios we have in the Choice-Art Studios. We had a “soft opening” last year, awarding the badges to students who demonstrated specific skills with materials, techniques, or concepts in the studios. A big THANK YOU to Nina! Thank you for sharing your talent. I couldn’t have done it without you!

art-badges

Photo by Pat Kerner, Art by Nina Chamberlain

This year I have taken the art of badging to the next level. I have developed learning progressions in each of the 10 studios. After demonstrating their skill earning specific badges and fulfilling the criteria in a studio, the student can earn a “ribbon” signifying their attainment of the skills at that level of the learning progression. The Green ribbon signifies the “Novice” level, then comes the Yellow Ribbon for the “Emerging” level, after that is the Red Ribbon for the “Proficient” level, and finally the Blue ribbon for the “Advanced” level. In some studios, such as the Architecture studio, I have changed the names of the levels to reflect historical terminology: Novice, Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master Architect.

drawing-ribbons

Photo by Pat Kerner, Art by Nina Chamberlain

Students have enthusiastically embraced the earning of badges and ribbons, and I am finding their motivation and engagement has increased. Many students are determined to earn all of the badges and subsequent ribbons in a studio to become a master of their craft!

Little did I know that when I was a Junior, Cadette, and Senior Girl Scout that badging would come full circle and become a focus for my work with students in the arts!

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Pat Kerner serves the Trinity School community as the Lead Upper Elementary Department Art Teacher.

Developing Empathy Through One I Love

This past year in our country has brought a number of hard conversations to the forefront, and we all tend to respond based on our personal experiences of the world, our individual realities.  Empathy, which we advocate to our students, means stretching to see the world through someone else’s experience of it, someone else’s reality.

The first bit of research recommended was the Chris Rock documentary, “Good Hair.” We drank in this foreign information about weaves, straightening products that could potentially cause emergency room worthy scalp burns, and the money spent and made on black women’s hair. “We are not getting a girl!” we agreed after that horrifying reality was introduced.

We were matched with a Ugandan girl.

Her baby’s home had shaved her head, along with all the babies, to make their care easier. As it grew out, we were told to “moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!” Her skin couldn’t leave the house without lotion or it would appear that she was uncared for, disdainfully stigmatized, “ashy.” Hair, skin, stigma.

Our family has enjoyed the privilege of being “low maintenance” in our presentation, because we sport the majority culture’s coloring and hair texture. I rarely apply lotion to my cracked and dry legs because, after all, who is looking? My first manicure was for my wedding. My ears weren’t pierced until I graduated from Trinity because my grandparents had impressed upon my parents that if God had wanted holes in our ears, he would have made them that way.

When we brought our baby girl home from Uganda, our black neighbors wanted to know when her ears would get pierced. When we go to Target, or Kroger, or the library, hair products are recommended from strangers who share her same skin tone. My friend, a thought leader in the Black Lives Matter movement within the mainstream, Christian churches, explained from her own experience that when our daughter walks into a store or community of any kind, we should not give others any additional reason to look down on her than she will already face as a person in dark skin. In other words, even our freedom to have messy hair, understated attire, and dry skin is a privilege that I don’t even have to consider.

We watched Dark Girls on Netflix, and cried.

I didn’t own slaves. I don’t make racist jokes. I have black friends.   And yet…my black daughter is treated differently in public places than my white daughter. I can walk into any gas station on our way to the beach and blend in while they keep an eye on my baby girl. She has already been harassed by middle school girls in our low income neighborhood, who share her skin color, and heard her call my white husband, “Daddy!” They taunted her, repeatedly even though she was only 5 at the time, “Black people aren’t supposed to be with white people! We don’t even go to school together!” She shrunk into her daddy’s leg, clinging tightly in fear and confusion.

On MLK, Jr. Day, three months later, she brought this experience back up at our dinner table. It was what he had fought against, but the battle continues to wage. My older two children would never have known how painful current day racisim is, from all skin tones, if they didn’t have a sister who weeps like an old soul trying to figure it all out.  Empathy grows when we place ourselves in a position to experience the perspective of another.  The emotional complexities of living life in different skin can remain at a distance until we are hurt deeply by the deep hurt of one we love.

 

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Jane Gilbert serves Trinity School as 4th Grade Assistant Teacher