The month of February is a month of many holidays and celebrations. As a teacher, it is very important to create a culturally rich classroom environment. You will have students from various backgrounds. We should be teaching our students in a way that expands the content we need to teach so that it can be connected with the real world. I incorporate lessons that will teach my students to be empathetic, culturally aware, and overall good citizens. I want my students to understand that there is more to the world beyond their school, neighborhood, and classroom walls.
February recognizes Groundhog Day, Dental Hygiene Month, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and many more Holidays can be named. February is also Black History Month. For Valentine’s Day, it’s not foolish to see hearts posted in the classroom or cards given out. The month of February is not over yet, and it’s not crazy to see St. Patrick’s Day decorations and classrooms turning green. The same spotlight that is put on groundhogs, the copious books read about teeth, and the weeks spent where we focus on our presidents, shouldn’t fall short when it comes to Black History Month.
Relating this to my own experience, I have met elementary students who do not have any knowledge about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. — These are two historically profound people that play an integral role in the history of this country.
It is not enough to send home a packet about Black History Month or to simply have students name the black celebrities that they know. There are countless African American icons that have left a positive footprint on the world.
When students are naming African American figures that are in the limelight, it’s essential to discuss why it’s so amazing that Barack Obama was the first black president, or why it’s so incredible that Beyoncé does what she does.
It’s great that this new generation is open and accepting. However, the struggles that came before should not be forgotten. Barack Obama is not famous because he’s black. Simone Biles is not famous because she is black. The same goes for Oprah, Will Smith, Drake, and so many more. It’s not enough for students to just name the famous black celebrities that they see on TV and in the news. The talents, the personalities, and the knowledge found within these prominent figures are what make them famous. We celebrate because of the struggles that came before. It’s incredible that African Americans, among other cultures that were suppressed, are able to do the things that are being applauded because in the past, we were not afforded the opportunities to make such strides.
This discussion does not have an age limit. Kindergarten is not too early to start talking about why we celebrate black history month. Elementary school is not too soon to chat about how black students were not allowed to go to school with white students. It’s not too early to talk with our students about how we too can make a difference for the better.
Some of my favorite books that I read to my students are:
Henry’s Freedom Box
Testing the Ice
Daisy and the Doll
I am Rosa Parks
Let’s Read About.. Rosa Parks
The Story of Ruby Bridges