“Why are some people racist?” How do you answer that question to a 4th grader? What if you are a teacher? How would you address this question with 24 children staring up at you? Or, how do you respond as a parent when your child asks an awkward question in public?
While the question in this TED Talk was not specifically asked in our school, it’s a salient reminder of the importance of small moments that happen all the time in school. It’s also a reminder that teachers have to make many consequential split-second decisions throughout the day.
February is Black History Month. We have some special conversations and presentations happening in different age groups and classrooms to further children’s interest and understanding of topics surrounding race and black history. Perhaps even more important than these teacher (or presenter) initiated conversations is how we respond when children ask questions during any month throughout the year.
This could be questions about race, puberty, fairness, LGBT issues, homelessness, religion, something they have heard about politics, the list goes on… If we simply shut down the topic or brush past it, this can send the message that their question is too taboo to talk about. It's not our job to teach children what to think. As Liz Kleinrock puts it: "It is about giving them the tools and strategies and language and opportunities to practice how to think."
Getting comfortable with uncomfortable conversations is a hot topic that will be discussed in our March newsletter. Stay tuned for some more tips about what this means in a school setting. And, if you watch one Ted Talk this month, let it be this one: “How to teach kids to talk about taboo topics.”