Equity and Diversity Newsletter
Elementary Edition February 2020
Growth Mindset and Positive Affirmations
Why Positive Affirmations Are So Effective For Children
By Gwen Marshall Equity and Access Specialist
When I think back to my elementary, middle school, and high school years. I think about the little voice in my head that kept saying to me amid adversity; you are smart, you are capable, and you are a valuable human being.
I am a product of segregated schools in the south. I must say they were the best of times and the worst of times. The best of times because we were told by our Black Educators that we had the potential to became anything we wanted to become and the worst of times because we were denied fundamental civil and human rights. It was during these formative years that my beliefs about my potential and capabilities were developed. As students, we were told we were overcomers; we were told we would live in peace, and we should not be afraid. These affirmations were not just words, but they were character-building words and overcome is precisely what we did.
As children learn positive affirmations, they are learning new behaviors, new thoughts, and are wiring their brains every day for the rest of their life. Our children must develop positive self-belief during childhood because it will shape and frame their future. Children with a positive-self-image are less likely to use put-downs and bully others. Every aspect of life is affected by our self-confidence. It could have an impact on our academic achievements, our ability to participate socially, and limit our dreams.
According to Carol Dweck, author of The Growth Mindset sharing positive affirmations with your children could be as simple as sharing one declaration a week. Research shows the more you repeat the affirmation, the more likely you are to believe what you are saying.
It seems that research also shows that as children get older, they feel less capable of achieving success. Some research indicates that by the time a child reaches third grade, nearly half of them do not believe their brain and intelligence can grow or change. So, we must begin to share positive affirmations with our children early in life.
I was very impressed with a YouTube video about a three-year-old boy, Ayaan, reciting positive affirmations as he walked to school with his mom. Ayaan's mom Alissa had taught him the phrases a year previously, but his sudden outburst caught her by surprise!
What's In your Tool Box?
Five Ways to Avoid Whitewashing the Civil Rights Movement by Coshandra Dillard
In an article from Teaching Tolerance, Coshandra Dillard suggests Five Ways to Avoid Whitewashing the Civil Rights Movement. She states that while introducing new projects during Black History Month, it is crucial to avoid the temptation to reduce the topics to feel-good factoids devoid of context. In many cases, the History of the Civil Rights Movement has been whitewashed, and important faces have been omitted.
Remember that Black History is more than the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther and, Rosa Parks. Students need the real, complete History of the movement and African Americans in the United States of America. Now more than ever, we can not afford to gloss over this period of American History. Use these five practices from Teaching Tolerance to make sure your civil rights instruction is on the right track.
1. Educate for empowerment.
Learning about the Civil Rights Movement helps students understand civic engagement and how they, can too and affect change. Share with them about the brave young people who risked their lives to fight for equity. Films like Mighty Times: The Children’s March and Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot free from Teaching Tolerance.
2. Know how to talk about race.
It is vitally important that educators create a safe environment where their students feel authentic freedom to discuss social and economic inequality, discrimination, and violence. A guide to consider is Let’s Talk! An excellent classroom resource to facilitate healthy discussions that build competency and empathy.
3. Capture the unseen.
Share with your student’s figures who were not as visible as the major civil rights leaders. There were many women civil rights leaders who fought for equal rights — women and girls who were not considered respectable role models and were not included in most historical accounts. You can dig into Browder v. Gayle, the Supreme Court case that outlawed segregation in public transportation. Figures such as Aurelia Browder, Claudette Colvin, and Jo Ann Robinson to show other Black women who came before Rosa Parks and laid the foundation for her success.
4. Resist telling a simple story.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks are usually discussed in classrooms, but as an educator, you can go further in exploring their activism. Your students will see that they did not teach color blindness or neutrality. Their lives were threatened, and they did not turn back. Rosa Parks not giving up her seat was not by accident but by planning and organizing alongside Dr. King and many others.
5. Connect to the present.
Help student s to understand that they must learn what happened in the past to create a better world in the future. Explain to them the goals and tactics of the civil rights movement, and show them that some of those issues related to race, class, and gender are present today. Start with having them compare the activism of the past to modern-day #BlackLives Matter as this teacher did with his first-graders.
We must continue the core mission of the movement: a demand for equity, justice, and the respectful treatment of people of all identities. We can make Black History Month—and every month a time to celebrate.
“Five Ways to Avoid Whitewashing the Civil Rights Movement.” Teaching Tolerance, www.tolerance.org/magazine/five-ways-to-avoid-whitewashing-the-civil-rights-movement.
March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell (Illustrator)
Congressman John Lewis is the son of Alabama sharecroppers. Lewis was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. At 21, he risked his life during the 1961 Freedom Rides, where he was beaten by police and arrested. Lewis also gave a speech during the 1963 March on Washington.
Two years later, he led the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, that ended in police violence, including against Lewis. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper's farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.
March is a first-hand account of John Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, it looks at the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis' personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader Civil Rights Movement. Now, his comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations to come.