Simone asks a lot of questions. These days she asks about the meanings of words. We’re lucky if we can read a book to her with only a few interruptions. We welcome those pauses. It shows us she has a thirst for learning, is questioning the world around her, and trying to understand it.
It can be quite frustrating, breaking down large issues or big words into pieces children can digest. Sometimes after a Q & A session with Simone, I am thankful I have the patience to think about her questions and deliver age-appropriate responses. We are our children’s first teachers, but we are not our children’s only teachers.
When I read about the students at a Georgia elementary school greeted with math problems about slavery and beatings, a fire burned in my gut.
“Each tree has 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”
“If Frederick got two beatings each day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”
Like most things, school curricula need context. Without context most subjects, especially history and race, make absolutely no sense. While both questions are an attempt at accurately portraying what once happened in our country, they are confusing to students. Children can be very concrete in their learning. If they hear or read something, their minds are flooded with questions.
I don’t know what I would have said to Simone had she asked me why slaves were picking oranges in her math problem, or why trees only have 56 oranges or a lot less than 56 oranges. As for beatings, she doesn’t really know what those are. Why would someone want to do that to someone else two times a day? I can imagine her asking.
Teaching is a tough job, and many teachers try to make their lessons relevant. They try to link math or history or English with something that is happening in their students’ lives or to real events. It makes learning easier, sometimes it makes learning fun. Creating relevant lessons plans does not mean plucking pieces of historical information out of a book, setting them down inside a math problem, and expecting children to somehow understand. Good teachers, those how have given their lesson plans any amount of thought, know this. They know how children’s minds work. The teacher at the Georgia school deserves an F for a serious lapse in judgment.
ETA: NAACP calls for firing of teachers.