Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mayflower Courage, Perceptions, Sensitivy and Racism

photo of: Mayflower Kindergarten Bulletin Board via RainbowsWithinReach

PILGRIMS, MAYFLOWER, SENSITIVITY + COURAGE

As we approach Thanksgiving in earnest, how much time have you given to considering the original Pilgrims and their unique brand of courage? This is the perfect time for reflecting on courage. It's unlikely that you or I will ever sail across uncharted territory for an unknown destination in defense of our beliefs (short of intergalactic travel ahead.) Yet we each have crossroads of courage to confront. Let's begin with courage.


photo of: Close up of Pilgrims Created with Paper Plates via RainbowsWIthinReach

We each have moments that wake us in the middle of the night or leave us quaking under the bright glaring light of a new responsibility, unexpected assignment or an unforeseen health quagmire. How do you build courage? 
How do you develop resilience in the face of the new -- the unknown -- the challenging? What can we learn from the hearty kindergarten portrayal of Pilgrims as paper plates? The examination of 'history' is tricky business, whether its personal reflection or the documenting of an entire country's metamorphosis over time. 


photo of: Kindergarten Drawings of Native Americans for Thanksgiving via RainbowsWithinReach

In kindergarten, by November it's pretty exciting if all of the children in the room are holding their crayon with competence and writing their first name with ease. Far be it from me to pontificate over the 'gen-u-ine' history of what our countrymen did to those who first lived on this glorious land that I now call home. Imagine attempting to 'teach' the story of the first Thanksgiving to a room full of a couple dozen squirming, restless little ones. Stereotypes and generalizations are typical. Simplification is critical.


photo of: Kindergarten Drawing for Thanksgiving via RainbowsWIthinReach

The more I blog and enter the cyber-experience, the more I realize how easy it is to offend. I have read amazing 'cyber-conversations' over the feelings of racism that can originate from the portrayal of the Thanksgiving story -- as OVER simplified for young children. These conversations make me exceedingly aware of sharing these images today. 


photo of: Kindergarten Drawing for Thanksgiving via RainbowsWIthinReach

In fact I am aware that there is not even one 'term' to use for these children's drawings that is accepted by all. Some would use 'Native Americans' while others prefer the term 'Indian'. Since this is not my heritage, I can certainly appreciate that this week is VERY challenging for those who have the deepest roots to this soil. So it is that I call for the greatest sensitivity possible, for ALL concerned.

photo of: Kindergarten Drawing for Thanksgiving via RainbowsWIthinReach

[I have read entire conversations where bloggers are unaware that a child's 'Indian-costume-for-Halloween' could be viewed as racist by native peoples. Likewise I remember a whole series of conversations about the use of the term 'Eskimo' used in a teaching packet of materials being considered offensive by some. So where does the teaching begin? We need to listen to one another. Many have never heard of the concept "people first" when referring to a child with special needs, ie: a child with Down Syndrome vs. a Down Syndrome child. It all makes much more sense when you are walking any given experience personally. The issues go WAY beyond political correctness, which become exceedingly clear when the issues are near and dear to you.]


photo of: Kindergarten Drawing for Thanksgiving via RainbowsWIthinReach
Marvel at the amazing details portrayed by this kindergarten artist.
I offer these glorious drawings here as a celebration of diversity as interpreted through the eyes of children. I am aware that their simplification and feathered portrayals have the potential to open very real pain for some whose own heritage was pillaged. Yet I believe that it is with the children that we can start a dialogue of acceptance and appreciation. It is with the children that we can extend a new era of tolerance and acceptance.


photo of: Kindergarten Drawing for Thanksgiving via RainbowsWIthinReach

As we sit down to turkey and every possible seasonal goodie ahead, let us reflect on courage and heritage. Let us consider cultural sensitivity. Let us acknowledge that our great nation was born through strife that is yet to be resolved. Let us hold hands together with the children and count our many blessings, doing our best to appreciate those who are different than our own family. Let us listen to those whose experience is different than our own.


photo of: Bulletin Board of Kindergarten Drawings of Indians in a Celebration of Thanksgiving via RainbowsWIthinReach

Let us give everyone, especially the teachers charged with the responsibility of opening the study of history to young minds, the benefit of doubt. Let us celebrate all that makes this country great. Let us appreciate our diversity and depth of personal stories. Let us give thanks. Let us be courageous as we move forward and think long and hard about all that we can do to support one another, whatever style moccasins we wear.


photo of: Kindergarten Rules and Reminders via RainbowsWithinReach

P.S. One of my cyber-kinder teacher friends shared that yesterday one of her kinder kiddos remembered the name of the boat that the Pilgrims sailed on as "The Cauliflower." Yes. We that work with young children know that we need to keep the message simple. Tolerance and acceptance. 

P.S.2. All of this amazing artwork and the projects in today's post are from the hallways of Dr. Rodriguez Elementary in southern Texas, just a few miles from the Mexican border. I'm appreciative of all that they have done to tell the Thanksgiving story with insight and sensitivity. As a former Art teacher I absolutely MARVEL at the depth of the children's drawings -- their attention to detail and capability. These drawings were created with care and the blessing of time. Thank you teachers.

-- Debbie -- 


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7 comments:

  1. Darling drawings that convey love on the part of children and sadly do offend. There is so much for us all to learn and understand and it can't all be accomplished in the first years if life or maybe even in decades. American Indians is correct now as is "The nation of ---" (tribe name next). I am resisting the adorable clip art stereotyping people but see it all over the web. Thank you for discussion on a difficult topic and for offering a thoughtful post.

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  2. Debbie, What a beautiful and thoughtful post. I enjoyed reading this. Very well shared, and very thought provoking. I read a quote just today that I felt really related to this for me... "Strong people don't put others down. They lift them up." I feel this really is true, especially when handling these types of situations.

    Thanks for this. And thanks for sharing this lovely artwork :)

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    1. Rachel thanks so much for stopping by and adding your supportive comments. The entire issue is indeed thought provoking. I LUV the quote you've offered. It lends so much insight to the conversation.

      We all learn together from the interactions we share.

      Debbie

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  3. Hello Debbie and Happy Thanksgiving,

    I wanted to share with you my own little story. I am 1/4 Native American...I prefer that term, rather than indian. We as a family prefer that term because my family was native to this country. My father was 1/2 Native American and my grandmother was full Cherokee, born in North Carolina. My grandfather met my grandmother in North Carolina in the 1800's. She lived on a reservation. She was a very tiny baby and was named Little Star. When she married my grandfather, she needed to have an English name...so they named her Mae Phillips. It was the month of May, and the magistrate was smoking a Phillips cigar...true story. My cousin has all the documentation.

    As a Native American, when I hear Indian, it makes me think of the old cowboys and indian movies and I cringe. That is why I do not prefer the term "American Indian." I think those old movies are what contributed to the sterotypical issues that we face today.

    Thanksgiving to me is about being with family and friends. It is about giving thanks for those people in our lives who support us and love us.
    In light of it all...the drawings are beautiful and you have some great artist:)

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    1. What a blessing to have your family story recorded here in this article. I am so grateful for your sharing. Such an insightful piece and from your heart.

      Your story warms my heart and I'm grateful for your taking the time to inform me and any others who will read this article.

      I agree completely -- the drawings are beautiful. I hope that others view them with the same enthusiasm and respect.

      Debbie

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  4. Dear Convienent Teacher: thank you for your comments and why you prefer the term Native American. I am not sure where you live and I assume different parts of the country use different terms. We live near the Grand Portage reservation in the most northern tip of NE MN, the Arrowhead region. Thank you for explaining your information. It is best when we educate each other. Yes, those old movies didn't help. Carolyn

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    1. Isn't it interesting how there is such a range of approaches even to terminology? The geography certainly comes into the difference(s) I'm certain. It is indeed 'best' when we can learn from one another.

      Debbie

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