Today’s OohBother is brought to you by the number 4, the letter Q and guest blogger Dedra Morgan. You can find out more about Dedra beneath the post. Happy reading!
I have spent a lot of time lately feeling down, lost and sad. When my state of Oklahoma went to the polls last June, they voted for many changes: Money to help people jailed in small drug crimes seek help through mental health programs, the ability to buy wine and some alcohol at grocery stores, and a few other progressive bills. But they voted down a raise in teacher pay, which was a hard pill to swallow as Oklahoma ranks among, if not the very last, in teacher pay. I feared the loss of many more gifted teachers to nearby states who paid better, or worse yet, losing gifted teachers to better paying jobs in other lines of work. And now, with federal changes in public school looming, I was getting more and more depressed.
So, I decided to do something to make myself feel better. I decided to figure out a way to at least let the teachers know that someone in their community cared. After retiring from my local school district, I had spent a lot of time thinking of ways to give back to the teachers who are still working. When teaching, I often used books to generate citizenship lessons, and one of my favorites was “The Color of Us”, by Karen Katz.
I would start by reading the book to the students in Read Aloud Time. (summary: A young girl decided to draw pictures of her friends but cannot seem to get their colors right. She goes to her mother, an artist, for help. Her mom shows her that mixing different amounts of blue, red, yellow, a little white and a little black, can make all the different shades she needs to match her friends’ skin tones.) After reading aloud the book, I would have the children find a crayon that was as close to their skin as they could find (using their crayons and the multicultural crayons that are in a special pack of crayons).
It was a learning experience to these students that no one is really the white or black, but that we are all just a little more yellow, red, beige or brown that the others around them. Eye-opening experience of how our class was really a mixture of all the same, yet still unique.
Free Download: Lesson Plan The Colors of Us
I reached out to a local group of women who bonded together to help the community in various projects. I was asking that we fund the project of handing this book, lesson plan and two sets of the crayons to each 2nd grade class in our district. I have figured that each class would cost about $20. There are six elementary schools, and if each school had four 2nd grade classrooms, that would make 24 sets needed to be presented. We would gift this set to the classrooms during Black History Month. I figured this would cost around $500, and wasn’t sure if it would get fully funded, but was willing to make up the difference. Not only did we fund every 2nd grade classroom with a set, but we were able to buy six additional sets and gift each elementary school art teacher with the same book and colors.
I went to our district office and got approval of the project, made sure the project was funded, wrote the lesson plan, ordered books and crayons, packaged books, delivered them to the schools….all in a two week period! This project was so easy and successful, I plan on doing one every year, targeting different grades, and different citizenship lessons.
I would like to say I helped the teachers, but I am not exaggerating when I say that this project helped me more than I helped them. Living in Oklahoma, we are facing a horrible time for our schools, our teachers and our children. I had been very sad, and this project allowed me to feel like I was actually doing something to help. For the first time, in a long time, I felt happy about something that was being done for our schools.
I recommend that each of us, in our own little way, find a project (or make a project) that allows our hearts to sing and our minds to focus of hope. Being the change you want to see in the world will actually change you. And it is a change for the good.
About my guest: Dedra Morgan grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. She returned after college to marry a high school boyfriend, staying to raise two children in their hometown. She was an elementary teacher for 20 years, becoming a National Board certified teacher in 2002. After retirement, she became active in a local art organization and now spends her time painting, playing with grandchildren, and is active in art leadership on a state level.