"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
In observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, we've had a long weekend. Much of Dr. King's encouragement and inspiration ultimately challenges us all to speak up with, as our friend Vicki Vinton has written, with "courage, confidence and compassion". Why is it that using our voices in support of the things that matter is often such a difficult thing to do? Where do we learn that the consequences of speaking about what matters most to us might be too much to bear? What role do the rote, scripted and narrow expectations we have for our formal learning environments play in the habit of silence?
How could a citizenry that has been taught to be silent throughout childhood be expected to know how to speak when it needs to rally cries for conscience, compassion, and reason? How could a citizenry that has been taught to be silent know how to listen to those that sound different from them?
In celebration of the value and practice of sustaining the power of human beings to share with one another, and to listen to one another, I am reposting a piece published early in the school year. As school begins, the children are given space, time and expectation that the classroom will be a place where what matters to them will matter to us all. Because sustaining this habit matters to us all.
Sneak Peeks by Nicole Simpson - Tanner
In the beginning of the school year we work hard to turn a classroom of 20 students and two teachers into a successful learning community. We are a community because we're together every day, but in order to build a strong learning community, we must put out intentional effort. One way we foster new relationships by getting to know the people around us. Every week, we share our "Sneak Peaks", a little story about our weekend or other time away from school, by drawing them and sharing them with our friends and our teachers.
By sharing these little snippets of our life, we let our new friends know more about what we like, what we do, our family, our lives, and more about who we are! Sharing bits and pieces about our lives also creates connections and a bridge to new friendships!
Here are a few of our first Sneak Peeks:
"I am sliding down the big slide. And then I'm jumping on the jumping thing."
-I.B., age 5
"We were catching a fish and we got lots of fish and lobster fish and we are going to eat the fish. We cut their heads off."
-B.L., age 5
"We went going picking and we found this pineapple. We went picking for pineapple. Then we saw a huge wierd pineapple."
-M.H., age 5
"I made a lego pterodactyl. Then I made a T-Rex."
-O.L., age 5
"This is a swing and I am twisting around in circles and these are the circles."
-E.H., age 5
"I slided down the shark slide but my brother just wanted to go down the red slide. He loves waterslides. I learned to swim there in little water. I went in the whirlpool."
-V.D-B., age 4
"There were a lot of apple trees. We picked apples and ate all of them."
-S.M., age 4
As the year goes on, this meaningful opportunity to express the stories of our lives is an opportunity to play with letters, letter sounds and the conventions of writing.
In what ways do you support the ongoing development of community and relationship building at the same time that you support literacy? What routines and structures do you use to allow the children a chance to joyfully connect and meaningfully author -- to practice giving voice to the things that matter to them? We'd love to hear your "stories from the field".