Allow me to ask: Did you share this activity with your students this year? If you did, what were your thoughts behind it? I know that tit’s really popular, but did you have your own reasons for participating? I am sooo just as guilty. I don’t know if you remember me questioning who the first teacher was to start the whole “Student Gift for Meet the Teacher” movement. I asked why we were buying gifts and making treats for students. It’s like a nationwide movement that so many of us participate in, but why are we doing it?!
In any case, I was just curious.
I did not do this activity. Actually, I never have. I can’t quite wrap my head around the connection. On the surface, I get it. But, is there a deeper meaning behind it? Isn’t there supposed to be?
Then, this thought crossed my mind: what about Asian students or Hispanic students? Does this activity focus primarily on Black and White people. Yes, you might say that it is a generalization. However, would you like to not be represented? We had a faculty meeting a few weeks ago where a Hispanic teacher interjected, “There are more than just Black and White teachers that work here”. At first, we were all taken aback by her passionate comment. Then, we had to sit back and reflect on what she had said. In that moment, she was feeling unseen and unimportant. I carry her reaction with me.
The New Dr. King Holiday Activity
Okay, tell me if you have heard of the Plain Chocolate M&Ms activity to celebrate inclusion? Again, I am always a little Leary of conducting activities with my kids that involves companions; especially through food. Something about different on the outside, but same on the inside really just doesn’t sit well with me. For me, it makes it seem like everybody is the same and therefore we should all love each other because we are the same. But, wonderful teacher, we are NOT all the same.
I think that these activities negate teaching students that we can still honor and respect people even when they are different, have different thoughts and beliefs, and everything in between. I honor, treasure and appreciate your differences- your uniqueness.
I don’t just mean tolerance, I mean acceptance. I see you. I hear you. You are seen, heard, and valued. I may not agree with you. Certainly, may choose to not spend private time with you. However, I can agree to not agree with your beliefs and I can still respect that. I was going to say that I still respect you, but truly I think it is more along the lines that I can be respectful towards you. AND I DO see your beautiful (insert color here) skin and I think that it’s beautiful and beautifully you. Seeing color is vital. It is a part of who someone is. It just is.
I do see color. I hope that you actively see mine.
The Plain M&Ms Activity With a Twist
We were set to do the Plain Chocolate M&Ms activity as a Team. But, you know how I feel about this activity. As you can imagine, it was twisting and flipping in my mind all morning. I knew that I couldn’t do it the way that it was laid out. Yeah, no, I couldn’t be a conscientious, culturally responsive educator and do this. So, “what did I do?”, you ask.
This is what I did:
- I shared 3 questions from a book on Dr. King that is brilliantly written in a kid-friendly way.
- Next, I passed out a small amount of the candies to each student.
- Then, I watched to see what they each did with the candies.
- After they were allowed to interact with the M&Ms, I asked thought-provoking questions.
- At this time, I didn’t give any indication to “correct answers”. Only a slight smile or smiling eyes were shown to keep them thinking.
Well, What Happened?
The book that you see me holding in the picture above was just right. I read three questions and answers from it. It was bite-sized and easy for my students to understand. It was on my Teacher Bookshelf- just sitting there. I’m thinking it was a purchase of maybe two to three years ago. Never read it. It wasn’t creased! I am definitely a book
The portions that I read talked about how young Martin was not allowed to play with a White neighbor and about Colored and White Only water fountains. They led to really good conversations. I was surprisingly impressed by what I heard!
As, I watched my students with the M&Ms for the Dr. King Day activity, I noted that some of them moved instantly into sorting them by color. Others just organized them into a large, neat circle on their desk.
Once the students finished observing and interacting with their M&Ms, I made comments about what I saw. I relayed,I noted that some of you immediately began sorting your candies- you put all of the same _______…. my sweet kids finished my sentence. All of the same colors together. Hmmm, just like during segregation. Why did you sort them by color? Now, mind you, I am pretty sure that it is because of all of the graphing with M&Ms activities that we do. So, guess what, my lovely, teacher friend? We need to switch things up more often! Right? LOL
It was sweet to see the students that had sorted them into colors quickly mix them all up.
If We're All the Same on the Inside...
Then, I began asking questions of them- history-based questions that I knew that they could relate to and understand.
- Do we all think the same thought(s) at the same time?
- Do we all feel the same way about different topics?
- Do we all like the same things?
- Do we have the same perspectives on things that happen all the time?
- Do we like to do the same things, eat the same exact foods…?
- Do we all practice the same religion?
- If we are all the same on the inside, would there be any way for racism and hatred to exist?
- We would all think and feel the same way because like attracts like.
- Would what just took place at the United States Capital have happened?
- Would the Native Americans/American Indians had to endure the pain of The Trail of Tears if we were all the same on the inside?
- Would we have American Indians for neighbors in our communities if we were all the same on the inside?
- Do you have any American Indians in your neighborhood? I don’t and just think, this land (Georgia for us) was their original land.
- Would the Holocaust have occurred?
- Would Dr. King have needed to protest, march, or give speeches? Would he have been shot and killed by a White person who didn’t want equality (spacial, legal, or financial) if we were all the same on the inside?
- Would women have had the right to vote from day one if we were all the same on the inside?
If you teach older students (especially middle school or high school-aged students), you can go really deep and have some powerful and thought-provoking conversations with your students! You can have them thinking like historians.
You could ask them if Ahmad Aubrey would still be alive today if we were all the same on the inside. The presence of his black skin would have gone unnoticed by the White men that saw him as someone that looked like he did not belong. Mr. Aubrey would not have been murdered if those men had seen him as being “the same on this inside” like them.
Celebrating our Uniqueness
Words have power.
Activities have power.
Presentation of thoughts is powerful.
Our students are watching us… learning from us.
No judgement here- none at all. I am just challenging each of us to reflect on why we do what we do. Maybe it’s not about hopping on the latest trend and doing what the popular teachers are doing. I had to stop and reflect on the long term impact that my lessons could have on my students, our community, and our world as a whole before I did that M&Ms activity the way that it was originally intended.
Here’s to seeing color!
Here’s to me seeing you for the unique individual that you are!
Cheers to you and me knowing how to respect one another’s differences even when we don’t have the same beliefs or don’t agree!