Another Chapter in Room 204

photo(127)February was the month of love that we started celebrating in January.  January 15 to be exact.  Set Up is key.  This is true if  you are giving a party, telling a joke, or painting a house.   It is really true when you teach something new to third graders.  And it is really, REALLY true if the topic requires analysis, connection, problem solving, and application.

February is Black History Month, but we start it in January.   I introduce Black History through the concept of Freedom History on Dr. King’s birthday, along with the notion that until everybody has equal rights that are protected under the law, no one really does.  Dr. King understood the twin engines of intellect and imagination in change and transformation.  Through his brilliant “I Have a Dream”  speech, word was entwined with image and became  hope– a rope to pull  people, white and black, out of entrenched injustice.   Our collective imagination leaped (and leaps still) at the invitation to see something new. The heart was stirred and the intellect sparked. The gargantuan, epic task of tilting the axis toward justice began.  He used imagination to make his dream our dream.  I was entering the third grade when he gave that speech.

Fifty years later, I am still in a third grade classroom — now as a teacher.  I try to follow Dr. King’s model and use imagination to amplify what was and what can be.  Imagination was taken for granted as a part of every third grader’s life in those days… but now imagination is an endangered commodity inside classrooms and out.  And so is our hard won diversity.  I am lucky to teach in a school that treasures both.

It is tempting not to acknowledge the importance of imagination in the classroom.  After all, it is not part of the Standards of  Learning or Common Core, and will never appear on a high stakes test.  But imagination is the fiery furnace that refines mismatched standards into golden threads that weave a fabric of deep understanding.

February is over.  We take forward what we we learned; each of us will spend our lives writing the next chapter in Freedom History.   It takes hope, imagination, and love. Beginning our March chapter has been postponed by snow, but I am excited about what comes next.  I haven’t revealed it to my students. When we get back to school, each child will find a brown paper package tied up with  string  We will begin by unwrapping March together. Set-up is key.

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About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a third grade teacher and loves her work. She especially enjoys teaching children how to be enthusiastic readers, writers, and problem solvers. Every year, she hopes to inspire her students to be committed citizens who know they can make a difference in the world around them. When she is not teaching, Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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2 Responses to Another Chapter in Room 204

  1. Tom Hartman says:

    Three things. 1. I am stirred by your comment that until all have equal rights none really do. I realize for the first time that this must apply globally– to all of our brothers and sisters around the world. No nation is an island. 2. Tilting the axis toward justice is a more powerful image than is bending the arc of history toward justice. Pace, Dr. MLK, Jr. 3. We gotta get you up against the SOL testaholics somehow. It’s not so much that imagination per se is a terrible thing to waste as that life is a terrible thing to waste. No human imagination, no humans.

    There’s nothing wrong with testing. But measuring weight with a thermometer doesn’t work.

  2. Catherine illian says:

    Annie
    It was fun to see the other side of Freedom History and writing through March in your classroom as your children unwrapped their packages and began writing.
    Moving to hear their analysis of freedom history from the perspective of March.
    Beautiful to see the words you inspired them to write from their own experiences and so moving to hear how you called them to proclaim their words proudly standing on their chairs!
    Teachers can only give from their own place of wholeness and healing and it was so wonderful to walk into the gift you are giving to your students.

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