Another Look at Diversity

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Diversity

This year, in my social psychology unit, I used a lesson from Echoes and Reflections, a Holocaust education resource program, to open up a dialogue about racism, discrimination, intolerance, sexism, hate crimes and other issues related to diversity. We viewed clips of Holocaust survivors and then watched a dated PBS documentary, circa 1996, called “Not in Our Town,” about a group of citizens in Billings, Montana, who joined together and stood up to put an end to anti-Semitism.

The documentary led to a social movement, and there is a wonderful webpage (https://www.niot.org/) and YouTube channel which highlights modern “Not in Our Town” messages across America. I highly recommend both as resources in the classroom. Ironically, this lesson coincided with an incident less than a mile from our school, where an anti-Sematic message was spray-painted across the front of a business in plain view of all of our students passing by. This happened in an affluent, middle class neighborhood, proof that it can happen anywhere.

I wrapped up this message by asking students to work informally in groups and choose a minority population for which to advocate, with the intent of expressing this group’s view points and any discrimination faced by them to the other students. The goal was to teach empathy and compassion. This part of the plan was literally put together on a whim as our conversations unfolded; however, I was stunned by how wonderful the presentations were. Here is an example of one of the beautiful messages that was delivered. It is shared with permission.

 

This month, our school participated in the First Annual Holocaust Education Resource Council (HERC) Living History Museum. I am on both the HERC education committee and the school’s committee, so I wanted to contribute something special. I asked my students to create a mural that would reflect that they had learned as part of our “Not in Our Town” unit.

This is the final product. We named it Diversity.

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Lessons from the Holocaust Learned by a Young Child

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My son, M, who is now eight and in the 2nd grade, attended a Holocaust Education Resource Council (HERC) education committee meeting with me at Tallahassee’s Temple Israel in October. I had no sitter and, the quiet little man that he is, I knew that I could depend upon him to behave. At that meeting, we discussed how the book And Every Single One Was Someone by Phil Chernofsky can and should be used in high school curriculum. This profound publication literally lists the word “Jew” 6 million times. Something about the number intrigued him and, even though I did not think he was paying attention to our conversation due to his tablet in one hand and a piece of cake in the other, he actually very much was.
Since that meeting, M has regularly asked when he can go back with me to visit the Temple. He has asked me simple questions about Jewish culture and how it differs from ours and our Baptist faith.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, he surprised me. M told me that he had read a book about Anne Frank in school. He is extremely bright and reads on a very high level, but he is also sensitive and internalizes emotions. I worried a little that he was exposed to content too mature for his age.
I questioned him about what he had read, and he told me basic facts about Anne Frank’s story, including her death.  He was matter-of-fact about it, but then he said, “Mama, at the end of the book, I really wanted to cry. I had to hold back my tears so my friends didn’t see me.”
This touched me so much, and I told him that he should have wanted to cry, and that it was horrible what had happened during the Holocaust. I explained that everyone should want to cry about Anne Frank’s story and others’ and that it is bad when we do not.
Several mornings later, while driving to school, M spoke up out of nowhere again. He said, “Mom, was Anne Frank one of the names in that book? The book that had ‘Jew’ written 6 million times? Was her family in that book, too?”
I told him yes, and I praised him for understanding that truth. I realized once again that he is like a little sponge and absorbs so much more than I give him credit for. I also thought how profound it is that an eight-year-old can make such important connections, when adults often cannot.
NOTE: M’s teacher confirmed that the book that he read in school was Who Was Anne Frank? by Ann Abramson. This book is part of a popular series that he loves and is age appropriate.

A Night of Stars Benefitting Honor Flight Tallahassee

Lawton Chiles Student Government Association is hosting A Night of Stars Benefitting Honor Flight Tallahassee on Monday, March 6, at 6 p.m., at Cross Creek Banquet Room, a beautiful facility off of I-10 and Mahan Drive, which has been generously provided by the Tallahassee Auto Museum, one of the event’s sponsors.

The mission of Honor Flight Tallahassee is to serve veterans in North Florida and South Georgia by transporting them to visit the memorials in Washington, D.C. This year’s trip will take place on Saturday, May 20, 2017.

A Night of Stars will feature two WW2 liberators, Mr. Bryce Thornton of Tallahassee and Mr. George Aigen of Valdosta. Aigen, who has been featured in a Georgia PBS documentary honoring the state’s veterans, was recently nominated for the French Legion of Honor.

The $25 admission will include dinner by Marie Livingston’s Steakhouse and performances by the acclaimed Chiles High School chorus. Tickets may be purchased from the school’s website under the “Announcements” tab. For more information or to make donations, contact Rebecca Bandy, SGA sponsor, bandyr@leonschools.net.

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Moments That Take Your Breath Away

My good friend, Tammy Rabon, has been taking our family photos since the kids were born. I love her work, and she took our annual Christmas card pictures again this year.

However, about the same time, one of my other friends offered me the opportunity to do a “lifestyle” photo shoot. This is a new style for Casey Asa, Captured by Casey, and she wanted to experiment. I gladly welcomed her into our new home, and she shadowed us for about four hours on a Sunday after church.

I was nervous and thought we would bore her; but, while Mason relaxed watching football, Miss J and I played. She is the sweetest, most kind professional, and I enjoy Casey’s company, so we literally just relaxed and let her be a fly on the wall. It was actually therapeutic, because electronics were away and we were completely engaged without distractions.

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When it was all done, the kids did not want her to leave.

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I was not sure what kind of photos we would get out of the shoot, but I was and am AMAZED at the beautiful memories she captured for us. My favorites are of Miss J and I rocking in their nursery chair. She and I were just chatting away, then we embraced, as we often do. Casey actually pointed out that the last shot is priceless, because Miss J is smiling as I hold her. I often wonder about their faces when I embrace them, and now I know. I feel so loved just seeing her warmth. I am truly blessed beyond measure.

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