Astonishing Results on Diversity That are Unique to a Crayon

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I am going to tell you a story about a teachable moment, 

which was spontaneous

in my classroom.  All events are true and happened as described. The only change is the name of the student involved.


Setting:  Urban school in the mid 1990's in January.  Population of the school was 50% white, 50% black students.  This is a first grade classroom with 28 students.  Students desks are grouped in sets of four. Each group of students shared job responsibilities.  

I was finishing up with a reading group at the reading table.  I had a moment to check out what was happening in my class.   

I then overheard this comment from Michael.  "I am the only Black child in this group, so you have to listen to me.  I am the Boss of you!" (The others, three white students just looked at him, but didn't comment.) 

I didn't like what I heard, but knew that Michael's family was very insistent on teaching him that their skin color was better than anyone else's.  I also didn't like the idea of him bullying the other children.

I called Michael up to my reading table, and said, "I heard what you said to your group about you being the Boss, because you are black. But Michael you are not black."

Of course he looked at me like I was crazy!  I asked him to bring his crayon box up to the table.  He did.

"Michael take out your black crayon and put it against your hand."  He did, and it didn't match.  "So Michael you can't be black, because you don't match."  I asked him to get out a white crayon and put it next to my hand, which he did. "So Michael, I'm not white either, I don't match the white crayon."

His response was a quietness, and less arrogance after seeing this.   We then went through the other crayons and tried to find matches to our skin.  His turned out to be a beautiful shade of brown, and mine almost peach.

We then shared our findings with the rest of the class, and everyone was trying to find a match to their skin tone.  

After that, we had many discussions about how we all were people with unique qualities.  However, no one was the BOSS of anyone else in the room, just because of skin color.

I have to say that Michael did become a kinder student as the year progressed.

As I stated at the beginning this was all spontaneous.  I might never had thought of using the crayon shades, if I hadn't overheard Michael's remark to his classmates.  But we all learned a lesson.  We were a diverse group of people making up this first grade classroom.

Since this is the time of year honoring Martin Luther King and his peaceful response to disparity, and the upcoming love month of February.  You might want to try getting out crayons and finding the multitudes of shades in your own classroom.

Mickey

by Michele Strayer

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