Sunday, January 21, 2007

Martin Luther King, Mood Swings, and Autism

Martin Luther King, Pan-African News Wire (Flickr)

I hope everyone is enjoying their Martin Luther King holiday. I just want to share what my 2nd graders told me about MLK this week. For those local Long Beach folks, I was at Horace Mann Elementary three days this past week over on Third and Orizaba.

I could walk there, but am always running late, so I drive. I love this school. It is small, only 400 students. I pretty much know them all.

I feel the love when I go there and try to go there as much as possible because there is nothing like being mobbed when you walk onto a campus with hugs by a bunch of 7 year old children to make your day.

For the teachers out there, as you know we are to start our lessons with the anticipatory set. For the non-teachers out there, this means we ask the kids what they know about MLK first. Man these 2nd graders knew so much about MLK and Rosa Parks. I loved it.

They told me about the separate bathrooms, schools, drinking fountains, restaurants, and how black folks had to sit on the back of the bus before Rosa took a stand.
Martin Luther King, Pan-African News Wire (Flickr)

I always bring my Mood Swings CD with me the week of MLK's birthday. They played it on KCRW about 8-10 years ago and I bought it. KCRW still plays it every MLK day. It has Chrissie Hyndes of The Pretenders singing on it and the voice of MLK giving his I Have a Dream speech. It is very moving.

I read a story for the kids about MLK, discussed it, then had them sequence it (what happened first, then, next, last). They draw a picture above each sequence. While they are doing this I play the Mood Swings CD. It never fails how silent the classroom falls as soon as MLK's voice comes on.

This classroom I was in has an autistic boy named Lucas. He loves me now, but was so scared the first time I came to this class. Autistic children have extreme difficulty with any change in their routines. He is a high functioning autistic boy like Dustin Hoffman in the film, rain man.

Lucas always sits next to me when I read stories on the rug. He rubs the end of my jeans between his fingers. After our discussion of MLK and his assassination, Lucas asked about the shooter. He wanted to know all about him.

It was the first time I have been asked by a student to see a photo of the killer of MLK. A little girl, Sage, said she had a book at home that had his photo and would bring it in for Lucas.

This 2nd grade classroom is made up of black, white, brown and Asian kids from Vietnam and Cambodia. We always discuss how that wouldn't be if it wasn't for MLK. So happy birthday MLK. And thanks for everything.

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