This week I am celebrating truth. Three pieces of the truth.
Truth that just needs to come out. Truth that speaks to our hearts. Truth that is uttered so beautifully by children.
Truth #1 In the last few years I have learned an important lesson a few times over. Sometimes we need to write to have our truths have weight. More than venting, more than organizing our thinking, writing is also about being read. It is about the response. It is about knowing that someone else might feel the same.
Last week I wrote a post, that for me, needed to be written. In fact, it had been brewing for quite some time: The Part That is True This post talks about Harry, a student who needs flexibility, compassion and respect, not judgement and rejection. The amazing response – via twitter, blog comments and sharing gave me strength and hope. There are many Harrys who need us all.
— pattibacchus (@pattibacchus) February 9, 2014
@CarrieGelson your post on Saturday abt “Harry” is amazing. Beautifully spoken. Good reminder for us all. Sharing it with other teachers!
— Michele Knott (@knott_michele) February 10, 2014
— TrudyLudwig (@TrudyLudwig) February 11, 2014
— Julieanne Harmatz (@jarhartz) February 11, 2014
— Janet Steffenhagen (@jsteffenhagen) February 11, 2014
@CarrieGelson Wow. I know Harry, too. Thank you for sharing.
— Jennifer Kloczko (@jkloczko) February 12, 2014
— Anne Ursu (@anneursu) February 13, 2014
Thank you to everyone for honouring Harry and how much he matters.
Truth #2 Mid week, I came across this brilliant piece by author and parent Anne Ursu. I love Anne’s novels. Her words are magical. But her voice extends far beyond the world of fiction and speaks to how we treat each other and how we raise our children to understand their peers. Thank you Anne for this: On Autism, Birthday Cards and Empathy It is an absolute must read.
Truth #3 Listen to children talk about big issues and it can be kind of amazing. Especially because they have no idea they are talking about something big. They are just talking about their world – what they wonder, what they notice, what they think. So they talk in terms stripped of jargon, careful word choice and apologies. They just call it. This is part of why I love my job. Children’s voices.
Here’s the story I want to share: My Teacher Librarian and I met with our Gr 2/3 book club today to discuss our book Charlotte’s Web. One child talked about how even though it was fiction, it was kind of cool that we were learning about animals. Then we started talking about how many books have animal characters. We actually looked through a stack of picture books recently read by guest readers. Many of them featured animals. The conversation turned to why. Are animals easier to draw? Do authors/illustrators think we don’t want to see human characters in books? This brought us to what had been some of the most powerful books in our class this year. We realized many of these stories had human characters.
This is a long story to get here: One girl shared,
“But why do the illustrators not draw enough mixed/ different skin? Why don’t they show people from different places? It kind of makes me mad because there are lots of different colours of skin in our class. Lots of books don’t look like they have very real classrooms.”
Then these girls (five girls, all from a different ethnic background, it just so happens) put their arms next to each other and smiled about how all of their skin had different colours.
In this discussion about the big topic of diversity or lack of it in our picture books, not one child mentioned race, ethnicity or culture. They just talked about the colour of their skin: celebrated all of the different hues and lamented that they didn’t see this in lots of picture books. Simply, their truth.
I told this to my husband later and he noted how wonderful it is that these children didn’t see colour in a way that leads to judgement. Instead they boasted about how wonderful it is that we have lots of colours of skin in our room.
*Just before our session ended, one girl grabbed a recent read aloud, Emily’s Art by Peter Catalanotto and we all looked at the first few pages of the children sitting at the carpet.
“Oh he did a good job. Look there are lots of skin colours with these kids. This classroom looks real.”