What is the difference between contributing and taking? Do the students of today understand this distinction? Can they put it into practice? As educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that the youth of today play a role in positively contributing to our society. After all, we want our future leaders and caregivers to build our communities up and expand our resources, rather than become those who tear down our quality of life.
It is important to discuss with students, on a regular basis, the value of contributing. Contributing to conversations, to programs, to the world in a positive way. Contributing means giving or donating. It could refer to time, energy, talents, money, or resources. Students should see that everyone, regardless of age or race, has the ability to contribute to our world in a positive way and make a difference. That is how we learn about each other – values, cultures, beliefs. And that is how we make our world a better place for everyone.
Taking is just that. Taking. It doesn’t offer anything in return. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t kind. It doesn’t improve the quality of life for anyone – except the taker, and that is usually temporary and minimal. All actions have consequences. Taking can suggest a negative action and has a negative consequence. Contributing, on the other hand, is a positive action with positive consequences. Contributing often has a ripple effect – impacting people positively miles away and generations apart.
How can schools and teachers impart these valuable life lessons to students? Below are a few tips:
- Value the opinions, beliefs, and experiences of every student. Encourage students to form their opinions based on fact, not rumor.
- Encourage students to share in class. Tying academic lessons to life experiences cements understanding of those lessons. Don’t be afraid to allow the lesson to drift to this area. The results are priceless.
- Provide opportunities of service and volunteerism for students. Some schools even require students to participate in some sort of service. Have students select a service, and then have them sign an agreement to complete the task.
- Expect students to participate positively while in school, and support activities that promote student service.
- Set up a field trip (or several) during the school year where the entire class participates in an act of service.
FOR FURTHER IDEAS ON THESE THEMES SEE RACEBRIDGES RESOURCE :
What can students learn today about the highly influential Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? So much is accessible for students to learn about the man and his works that it is impossible for students today to be a part of our society and not know of him. He changed our country, our mentalities about liberty and human rights. It is nothing short of amazing what one man with a powerful voice can accomplish in a fleeting period of time.
Students should be able to take away from a study of his life and accomplishments the strong set of values
that he possessed. Values that he saw as so basic, everyone should have them.
He was, and still is today, a commanding authority on the rights of the individual. He spoke for those who had no platform and no hope. He opened doors that had been sealed shut. He encouraged volunteerism and a serving spirit.
Below is a list of service opportunities that students could participate in during the school day, either in school or in the community. There is no more fitting place for Dr. King’s values to be put into practice than with the youth of today. Explore these opportunities with your students, and let them choose one or many to participate in. When students are allowed a voice, their voices become much stronger.
- Organize a food drive
- Make crafts for kids in the hospital or those in nursing homes
- Shovel snow, rake leaves, sweep floors, etc. for neighbors
- Paint a mural in the community
- Clean up an area of the community that needs work (parks, for example)
- Plant trees for the community
- Research your community to see what their needs are
- Help out at an animal shelter
- Deliver meals to the elderly
- Babysit for a single parent for an evening
- Collect recyclables
- Serve meals at a homeless shelter
- Organize a clothing drive for kids in need
Explore the many free lessons, resources and videos with themes of community building and inclusion found on our web sites.
Dr. King Day : Turning Dreams Into Deeds
For so many students — and teachers alike — the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. is just another day off, rather than an active celebration of the life of America’s most prominent peacemaker. White students in particular may not think this holiday has much to do with them. And with an African-American leader in the White House, today’s young people may be thinking that racism is a thing of the past — a problem for older generations, not theirs. But in spite of great strides made since the Civil Rights era, racism still presents serious challenges for America.
King Day offers a timely opportunity to remind students of these challenges, and encourage them to reverse the damaging beliefs, behaviors and systems associated with discrimination. So what can you do? The educators at RaceBridgesforSchools, a nonprofit initiative that offers free lesson plans on diversity and community-building, have these suggestions to help you bring Dr. King’s message and mission into your school.
- Promote service learning.Many people are not aware of the service component of the holiday: in 1994 Congress designated the King Holiday as a national day of volunteer service. Instead of a day off, Congress asked Americans of all backgrounds and ages to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy by serving the community. Do this at your school by organizing a day of service: students can serve at a soup kitchen, plant trees or deliver meals to homebound persons..
- Write a commitment pledge to racial unity at your school. King Day is an excellent time to develop and commit to a pledge against racism. Get students and faculty engaged in the process where all can contribute in a reflective and honest way to write this pledge. Have the completed pledge printed up in a large format, and encourage school administrators to adopt the pledge, distribute it, and have the students say it together at a special time during the week before King Day..
- Start an anti-racism or diversity club for students and/or faculty.Now’s a great time to form a group that focuses on many of the challenges Dr. King spoke of. You can begin by discussing issues and themes of ethnic and racial differences and conflicts at your schools, and move on to consider what positive actions you would like to take as a group to address these issues..
Martin Luther King’s son, Dexter, in a speech initiating the national holiday for his assassinated father, said, “The holiday for my father is not just for black people…the holiday for the birthday of my father is for all people of goodwill everywhere.” As schools work to recognize and celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, MLK Day can become more than a day off, and a more meaningful celebration for students of all backgrounds.
For more ideas about celebrating the birthday
of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. –and resources and
lesson plans for encouraging diversity year round —
visit RaceBridges Studio
by Storyteller Susan O'Halloran
Dr. Martin Luther King marches through Sue’s southwest side neighborhood in Chicago in 1966. Her family’s and neighbor’s reaction plus her own conflicted feelings rise just as the KKK makes its appearance. (more…)
Stand Up! Redlining During the Great Migration and Marching in Marquette Park with Dr. Martin Luther King
by Mama Edie McLoud Armstrong
Take the journey with 14-year old Mama Edie as she relives her 1966 experience of marching through the violent streets of Marquette Park in Chicago, Illinois with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ride the back of the train “up north” in the “Negro section” during the Great Migration from the slave south in search of a better life to only find the practices of “redlining” and Jim Crow blocking your way to a better life for your family. NOW take a serious look at someone who would tell you to “just get over it.” How do you heal?
50 years later, Mama Edie was in Marquette Park again to commemorate the original march! (more…)
by Megan Hicks
Megan was confused when her 9th grade classmates reacted differently to the assassination of President Kennedy than her family did. She didn't know who was right. And then she learned to listen to what her heart told her was truth for her.
by Storyteller Bill Harley
Bill gathers a group of musicians together to record an album of Civil Rights freedom songs. However, they learn that they can’t assume they are all on the same page or that underlying emotions and biases aren’t in play. (more…)
The three short stories offered here—“Davy Crockett,” “Us vs. Them,” and “The Dr. King March”—all explore Susan’s experience growing up in Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s when the relationship between blacks and whites in the United States were tense and changing quickly.
By Diane Macklin
April 4, 1968 may have been the end of one dream with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, on that day, another began in a young woman who pushed past despair, journeying from Mississippi to New York City, to discover that the "dream" lived on in her. (more…)
By Stephen Hobbs
Growing up, Steven was involved in Boy Scouts and his church and as a teen he advocated for community development in his New Jersey neighborhood. But could he get involved in the rising black militancy of the late 1960s? (more…)
By Susan O'Halloran
In 2011, Sue meets a group of young people at an Occupy Chicago demonstration who are unaware of activists’ movements in the past that occupied public lands. Sue shares the story of The 1968 Poor People’s Campaign – Dr. King’s last crusade that was carried on after his death in 1968. (more…)
By Storyteller Kate Dudding
In 2010 when the members of the Memphis Islamic Center bought property on the street nicknamed Church Road, they thought they’d have a hard time proving to their Christian neighbors that they were a peaceful community. When the pastor of the Methodist church across the road learned of the purchase, he didn’t know what he should do. (more…)
By Mama Edie McLoud Armstrong
Because she had grown up in a predominately white community during the turbulent Civil Rights years, when Mama Edie’s new friend, Renee, went to college she learned the pain of being treated as an outsider by some of the other African American students. But Mama Edie and Renee both learned that a strong sense of identity can combat bullying, provide a sense of direction and belonging and create meaningful bonds that can last a lifetime. (more…)
by Brenda Wong Aoki
Brenda recounts a story that was told to her by a woman who was a nurse and who, along with 120,000 of other Japanese Americans, was forced to leave her home and all she and her husband owned to be imprisoned in Incarceration Camps during WWII. A baby who should have been in the hospital is placed on board the train to the camps with her mother. The nurse does all she can to help the mother and baby but the end-result is out of her hands. (more…)
By Margaret Burk
Finding herself on a historical tour of the Wall of Derry in Northern Ireland, Margaret discovers within herself that she is holding on to an ancestral hostility, the kind of hostility that perpetuates hatred, violence and war. Is this who she wants to be? (more…)
By Kiran Singh Sirah
Kiran reveals the experiences of living between two worlds: on one hand, his experiences with racism being one of the few brown boys in his town contrasted with the kindness of strangers as well as the inspiration he received from his storyteller teacher, Mr. George. (more…)
By Onawumi Jean Moss
While getting a passport to prepare for a trip abroad, Onawumi Jean discovered that her name is not on her birth certificate. Her aunt is able to clear up the mystery by disclosing a concession Onawumi’s mother made to get along and keep her job in the Jim Crow South. As an adult, Onawumi arranges a naming ceremony where she is able to honor her past and celebrate her creative present and future. (more…)
Some claim that civil society is breaking down as political rallies turn ugly. People text and take cell phone calls during concerts and in audiences before speakers. Sometimes it feels that everyone is only looking out for number one.
It’s easy to look at the behavior of others, but it is essential that we examine our own actions. Are we being kind? Are we taking time to listen to one another? Really listen.
Do we apologize when we have hurt another? Do we treat others as we want to be treated? As the quotation says above, civility doesn’t just happen. We have to commit to behaving civilly ourselves.
As Election Day approaches in the USA and given the increasing volatility of political discourse from vitriolic editorializing presented as news to recent Tea Party protests or Occupy actions, there is a need for students to learn how to disagree while remaining civil.
Not only should students learn how to engage in civil debate, but they should also learn the value of listening to points of view and opinions that differ from their own. Being open to different kinds of people and ideas help students maintain open minds and to get along in a diverse society.
One of the difficulties teachers face in the classroom is that we as a society are not modeling for young people how to have vigorous conversations, even debates, about significant social and political issues.
In recent decades, we’ve seen two extreme approaches to hard conversations: privileging agreement over individual opinion on the one hand and a “take no prisoners” approach on the other. When agreement and avoiding conflict is privileged, debate tends to be squelched when someone suggests that all “agree to disagree” or that “everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.”
Here are some points to ponder on the human skills of being civil. For ourselves as teachers and for our students.
Present a Definition for all to reflect on. E.g., Use the one at the top of this lesson which is repeated again here, or find one of your own.
Definition : ”…formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech..”
Use : “I hope we can treat each other with civility and respect”
Establish : why be civil? It is a central value of a flourishing group, family, society, community or school. Genuine civility leads to cooperation and community..
Examining our Civility
Do you and your students believe that civility is diminishing ?
. . . What is your response when someone suddenly cuts into line before you ? In the car? In the cafeteria? On the train ? In the bus stop line ? In the store?
. . . Review how often you hear curse words or the F-Word being used in and around your school. Why ?
. . . Is it a common occurrence ? Is it when someone gets into a verbal fight ?
. . . Review the behavior of people – and yourself – when you are on your cell-phone in a public place.
. . . Is it easier to be rude than civil ? What are the consequences ?
. . . What happens to civility when we compete academically ?
. . . What happens to civility when we compete at sports ?
. . . What examples of civility and/or un-civility do you see on TV ? Online ?
Seeking to Be Civil
There are many online sites that explore the teaching of civility to students and children. Here are two sets of ideas that explore ways to focus on and practice civility:
What are some of the ways of teaching that encourages civility ?
❧ Teaching about multicultural tolerance and acceptance.
❧ Teaching children to care about others because it brings them meaning rather than expecting anything in return.
❧ Involving children in public service at a children’s hospital.
❧ Teaching children to respect senior citizens by volunteering at independent living facilities.
❧ Teaching common courtesies, such as introducing oneself, shaking hands with others, and thanking people for doing kind gestures for them.
❧ Teaching children to share and play cooperatively with others.
❧ Teaching children to respect and assist those who are disabled or have learning limitations.
❧ Parents can demonstrate through word and action what civility means.
Teaching Children Civility Begins at Home
Here are some ideas worth pondering :
15 ways children learn civility from adults:
- Lead by example.
- Think about the impact of our words and actions on others first.
- Treat children and adults with the respect that we expect them to treat others.
- Apologize when we are wrong.
- Disagree with intelligence, humor, and civil discourse.
- Don’t let anger and emotion get in the way of listening to others.
- Teach character strengths, like respect and empathy, at home and in classrooms.
- Demand civility of our politicians and public servants.
- Set ground rules for civil behavior at home and in classrooms.
- Challenge people’s views but don’t attack the person.
- Be tolerant of people who are different from us.
- Praise others for their civil behavior, regardless of their viewpoints.
- Empower children to take a stand against bullying.
- Remind kids often why we should be civil.
- Teach kids how to become engaged citizens.
Teaching Civility in an F-Word Society
Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D.
- Consider creating a “code of civility” or “civility pledge” for your classroom/school or group.
- Review the area in your classroom/school that needs behavior improvement in the civility climate.
- Take a few of these issues and develop ways/plans/action that the un-civility can decrease or end.
- Place this code of civility on the wall. Review progress throughout the school year.
- Celebrate victories. Pass on the Civility!
Look at one or more of the lists / guidelines for civil behavior on the resource list below. Use these as a model for creating a guideline for civil discourse in your own classroom.
Related lesson plans on RaceBridges site :
- Sticking Together: Sharing our Stories, Our Differences, Our Similarities
- Claim It! Differences and Similarities: Creating a Climate of Inclusion
- Keep the Peace! Preparing for Conflict, Dealing with Anger, and Creating Communities of Harmony
- Including Everyone: Small Changes to Create a Welcoming Classroom
- Resource : Be Civil! The Search for Civility
Resources to help you plan lessons about the topic :
- Dr. J.M. Forni, a professor who co-founded the John Hopkins Civility Project that aims “at assessing the significance of civility, manners and politeness in contemporary society.” Forni authored two books on civility: Choosing Civility: Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct and The Civility Solution: What To Do When People Are Rude.
- “From Enmity to Comity: Restoring Civility and Pride to American Life,” by Robert Fuller. This article addresses the root cause of incivility—fear—and argues for ways to return to civil political discourse where we don’t have to disagree but where all are respected.
- Choose Civility: This website was created in response to the book Choosing Civility: Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. There are a variety of resources there, including in-depth book lists for children, teens, and adults.
- The Civility Project: This website seeks to encourage civility in the political arena. Contains a bibliography of books on civility and examples of civility and incivility in contemporary culture.
Many of the scholars who are exploring the issue of Civility
today focus on one of the ways of learning civility – which is to
explore other cultures and those people who are different than ourselves.
By Amber, Misty and Autumn Joy Saskill
Amber, Misty, and Autumn – three multi-ethnic sisters – offer a sneak peek into their thoughts about self-identification. These storytellers also share a medley of emotional experiences about how they have sometimes been viewed by others. From skin color to hair texture, from humor to poignant reflection, these dynamic young women personify Dr. Maria P. P. Root’s, Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage. (more…)
By Noa Baum
In 1965, there was a war between India and Pakistan and Bilal wanted to know "Why is there all this hate?" This is the true story of a special gift Dr. Bilal Ahmed, a Pakistani Muslim, received from his father when he was thirteen. He offered his story as a gift to storyteller, Noa Baum, to shape and retell and, now, having told it to you, she hopes you will pass it on. (more…)
By Jane Stenson
At age 16, in 1855, Jane's great-grandfather sailed from Long Island, N.Y. around the Horn to San Francisco where he was stranded! He took a job with Wells Fargo as a treasure agent in the Sacramento-Shasta Mining District...the home of the Shasta Indian Nation. In 1860 he rode the first leg east for the Pony Express. He was also a member of San Francisco's Vigilance Committee, a group of 6000 men, committed to establishing "law and order." How do we seek understanding of both the pride and the discomfort our ancestor's stories? (more…)
By Connie Regan-Blake
Storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, was invited to come to Uganda by "Bead For Life"(www.beadforlife.org), an NGO helping women lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Many of them are displaced people from the horrors and atrocities of civil war in northern Uganda and are dealing with the ravages of AIDS. Connie was welcomed into their homes and hearts as if she was family and she listened to their profound and transformative stories. This is Namakasa Rose's story. (more…)
By Lyn Ford
When Lyn was young, "Finding Josephus" was a "legend" told by her father. But curiosity and research brought forth its reality, and a connection both to the lesser-known history of the Underground Railroad and the heart of her father’s story. (more…)
By Lyn Ford
Empathy grows from sharing stories; this story was shared to encourage others to know, to understand, and to remember. This is a personal journey tale from Lyn’s childhood living next door to a Holocaust survivor and, then, her adolescent small but mature steps into the greater Civil Rights Movement. (more…)
By Emily Hooper Lansana
From voluntary busing to being called an “Oreo”, Emily navigated the color lines of her elementary and high schools until she finally landed with the “theatre kids” who moved more easily between different groups. Attending Yale University, Emily studied African American Intellectuals with Cornell West and she came more fully into herself, finally accepting that she, like everyone, deserves the best. (more…)