“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I had the great fortune of seeing and hearing writer, activist, teacher and poet Clint Smith at Reed College’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Engagement yesterday. I find Clint’s honesty, bravery, grace and power deeply inspiring.
As we adults consider the power of our words, I continue to think about how we can nourish our children to use their voices for good. I think about how we can help build the foundation for young children to become change-makers. Children are clearly following our modeling, so we can take our daily actions most seriously; we can remember that young ones watch what we say and do, and they notice our silence and inaction.
At HFP, we teach children to use their words to solve problems and to speak up for what is kind, inclusive and fair. On Friday, we shared a variety of children’s picture books depicting people who are using their voices and abilities to stand up for what’s fair. W, who is newly loving to write, makes signs that echo these sentiments: “No!, Stop, Enough, That’s Not Fair.” I laminate the signs and adhere them to our Family Share on the next day of school. I add the prompt “When something is not fair, people can say ‘no,’ ‘stop,’ ‘that’s not fair.’ People use their powerful words to make change and make things kind and just for those who are not being treated right. What do you say when you don’t like what is happening?”
During class, we have follow-up conversations about situations children have experienced that don’t feel good or right; and I share stories that highlight some societal issues of injustice and those taking action against injustices. More children make signs and laminate them. The laminating steps seems to be a key step in making it clear that we take these words seriously. Later at circle, we hold up our signs. We use our bodies as we say “No,” and shake our heads, and we put out our hand, spreading out our fingers and say, “Stop.”