Monday, October 9, 2017

A Reminding Story

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    I have two posts today, am participating in a blog tour and giveaway of an adorable book for young ones, HERE!
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        This is a story, a slice from my life years ago that I mean to connect from that long ago yesterday to today and to tomorrow, too. I am alarmed at the recent call for boycotting of those who think differently than others, to demean them instead of defending their right to speak out. It is not always agreeable to give someone the right to act or speak words that differ from one's own or what one imagines to be "most everyone", but they do have that right. 

         Here is a brief explanation from the U.S. Court site of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

          Years ago when I began teaching, my first year as a first-grade teacher, one of my student's family's beliefs did not include any kind of celebrations. Not birthdays, not saying the Pledge of Allegiance, not celebrating those fall holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the years since, I've had many students who need time to celebrate or to observe various other holidays from their chosen religious beliefs, students who have needed to find a way to pray at certain times of the day, even on overnight trips.


       But back to that first student, a young girl, my first time to teach what it meant in our country to respect beliefs. I knew that I didn't want to give too much attention to her differences, but wanted to support her in that difference. After all, in first grade, birthdays and other holidays are kind of BIG things. Each time someone brought in a birthday treat, she could not have one. Her parents wanted her to go to the library during the short time of celebrating. Every time I taught about other holidays, and in primary school, Halloween is a big deal, and so on, she could not participate. It was hard, for me to plan, for her to feel different. 
        What did I do? I found activities as close as I could to what we were doing so it was "almost" the same. When kids drew Halloween things, she drew different kinds of people's faces--her siblings, her parents, her dog. That was okay because I checked with her parents each time I created a new task. If we wrote stories, that was easy because she and every other student could write any kind they wished, although at certain times of the year, like Christmas, it meant most wrote about Santa's surprises, etc.  This young girl could also write about surprises. 
          At this time, a long, long time ago, remember that everyone did many holiday activities. They even produced worksheets filled with holiday pictures. What did I tell my class about their classmate's choices? I told them that all kinds of people have different beliefs and shared some with them from the world, and from America. And that in our country, everyone has the right to express their beliefs without being punished. And, I gave them a few mild examples of when beliefs weren't respected.
           That's it, I did what I could to help this young student and all the other students know that it was just fine to follow individual beliefs.
            This is one of my fondest memories of being a teacher, to support the individual's needs, not only the group's, though I know that the group is important too. At the holiday winter break that year, this young girl brought me a gift from her family. I was shocked, yet they made a choice, too, to 'bend" a little in order to show appreciation. I still have it and it hangs on my tree every year, reminding me that thoughtfulness and respect for beliefs bring people together instead of dividing them. 

            

    22 comments:

    1. The world needs more of this acceptance and understanding. Thanks for sharing.

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    2. This is such a great story. It reminds me of the way we worked and worshipped with everyone during the years my husband was an Army chaplain.

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      1. That sounds like another story to share, Diane. I imagine each of us has a story like that, and hope that they will tell it! Thanks!

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    3. What a great way to show that everyone's beliefs are valued and no one should be discriminated against just because their beliefs differ from ours. What a valuable lesson you demonstrated for your students, Linda.

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      1. Thank you. I wanted to share that it is possible to include every belief and still be "together"!

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    4. This is beyond beautiful, Linda... what you did to support your student so as to not single her out for her difference. You celebrated her differences and her family clearly appreciated it.

      I can't believe the First Amendment is under attack. This is 2017.

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      1. Thanks, Stacey! As I wrote at the beginning, I am dismayed by the rhetoric that makes it sound like it's wrong to choose a different way to express one's beliefs, & dismayed that some support that. I won't stop fighting back!

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    5. Linda, I'm sure that girl and her family still remember you. I love how you were so thoughtful and respectful of her beliefs, something we need to have more of today. It saddens my heart to see the current state of affairs in our country. All the more reason that we must speak up in defense of .free speech.

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      1. Yes, we must keep speaking up, I agree. I don't know if she remembers. It was a long time ago, but I remember that it was a first lesson for me as a teacher and I did not change in that particular stance. Thanks, Ramona.

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    6. There is so much beauty in these words, "I did what I could to help this young student and all the other students know that it was just fine to follow individual beliefs." We teachers can change the world with this philosophy!

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      1. I hope we can, Maureen, and hope that teachers realize that there are differences and they can be supported. Thanks!

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    7. This is a beautiful reflection of tolerance and acceptance and I wish all teachers could read it. Thank you, Linda, for this inspiration today.

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      1. You're welcome, Jennifer! It seems so important to write this week. I wish all teachers would believe it!

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    8. I have a Jehovah's Witness student this year for the first time. Our gifted kids do a play at the local plantation home for Christmas. He will not be able to go. This is so awkward as we usually practice during class time. I also feel like he will be missing out on something that is a part of being in the gifted program. We will respect his beliefs, but I feel bad for him and will have to take your advice to honor his beliefs and make this as smooth as possible.

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      1. It isn't easy, and I've done different things through the years. I hope you can work it out the best for everyone, Margaret. Thanks for telling me.

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      2. The subject of the play came up today and I listened as my students talked with each other. I was proud of how accepting they were of their classmate. I think it will be OK. This boy is so kind to others that I can't imagine anyone would be less than kind to him.

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      3. How wonderful to hear! It's a learning opportunity for everyone. Thanks for sharing.

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    9. I love this story, Linda, for the way in which both of you reached across the divide of beliefs to find common ground and simple kindness.

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      1. Thanks, Tara. I am convinced that trying to work together for a common positive goal works!

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    10. International School is a place where figuring out what and how to celebrate is a delicate matter. So many cultures. I think it may have been even harder when only one child had different beliefs from the majority. You did an amazing job being respectful and supportive to this child.

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      1. Yes, it was something we tried to do with thoughtfulness at my recent school, too, Terje. Long ago, as you understand, it was often just one or two who followed different beliefs. Thanks!

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    Having a conversation is a good thing!