This past week I had my Graphic Design student create an individual artistic expression that reflected their research of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The pieces that were turned in were awesome! One theme that kept being repeated was that of multi-colored sections of vintage photos of Dr. King. When asked why using many colors in the imagery was important to the students, the one thing that they all kept saying was that their research showed that Dr. King thought that people of all color should get along, and that in a perfect world, they would. From the mouths of babes. I felt obliged to include some of their work on this post…enjoy. So this week’s assignment, and that fact that MLK day is coming up, gave me cause to stop and reflect the words and deeds of a what I consider to be one of the greatest Americans in the history of this great nation.
As a teacher, I have the blessed opportunity to interact with the future of this great country. I have had the pleasure of teaching in Title I schools (Elementary, Middle, and High school levels) since I acquired my teaching credentials, so I befriend and mentor all forms of students. Those who have money and those who don’t. Those who have dark colored skin and ones with light colored skin. I’ve seen it all. Ones with mental and physical health conditions and ones without. Children who have been abused both physically and mentally. I’ve seen it all. I’ve worked in schools where the population was predominately white, and ones where the population were over half Hispanic. I’ve seen it all. As someone who has not only witnessed what the public-school system is releasing into society but been a part of the education process of those graduating, I can honestly say (for the most part) what we are releasing into the “real world” reflects what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described in his dream when he stated, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.”
Within today’s classroom, or at least the ones in the deep South (I teach in Central Texas) that are classified Title I, students of all color get along. I stand and watch my students interacting and I see African-American students and white students working diligently together to meet the goals their teachers have set. Teams of students that include African-American, Anglo, Asian, Hispanic, Special Needs students, Vegetarian, Carnivores, Methodist, Baptist, and students of all shapes and sizes can and do work together in harmony to get the job done. Their differences don’t appear to keep them from attaining their goal because they each have upstanding character. As Dr. King noted, we should be recognized not by any physical trait…but by the character of our whole being. How we relate to one another and how we hold ourselves…even when we think nobody is looking. Character.
I’ll admit, there are instances when ignorance will raise it’s ugly head, but those are few and far between, and they are not limited to one color…all cultures, classes, and colors take part in it. But as stated, those instances happen once every year or two. Students are actually seeing each other and basing their thoughts of one-another on character.
I am happy to report that within our public schools, or at least those down here in the South, racism, ignorance, and hate are going the way of the do-do. Unfortunately, once we release these precious children into the world…the world attempts to devour them. Small pockets of influential “leaders” attempt to convince these innocent young bystanders that color, race, and culture should be what we judge others by…not their character. These organizations are not limited so called activist groups…the ignorance they spew come news organizations, politicians, college professors, and employers from around the globe. But we teachers…we select few…are trying our hardest to instill a sense of decency and humanity into these precious children while we still have the chance, so when they do come up against such prejudices, they’ll know how to protect their character and not let ignorance come between them and those around them.
If you are an educator and you are reading this know that you are loved. I am not only a teacher but a parent, and contrary to popular belief, most of us are grateful for the work you do. We have entrusted our most valuable treasures to you, and we support you in every way. We may not always agree with the way things get done, but in the end, we value the time and talent that you have invested into our children, and know that you have our their best interest in mind.
Continue to strive and meet the bar that Dr. King set, and know that there are prayers being prayed specifically for you on a daily basis. Enjoy the long weekend, you’ve earned it. I look forward to working beside you in the trenches come Tuesday.
God bless this country! God bless our children! And God bless the dream of a great man.
Happy MLK Day!