Wednesday was an interesting day to say the least, it was our final day of term before a day of trust wide CPD. If I’m honest my motivation was low, energy was low and morale wasn’t at its usual heights. The toll of a tough half term was showing and I think the children in my class were seemingly aware that we needed a break from each other. On my way to work in the morning it had dawned on me that I had nothing prepared for an English lesson as we had finished a week long piece of work the day before. Now most people would make this a priority to sort out immediately, however being the fairly relaxed person that I am, I decided to ignore it and bemoan the fact I was hungry instead. This turned out to be the best decision I’ve made all term.
Come break time my brain finally caught up and realised I still didn’t have a lesson ready and frankly I still didn’t have much motivation. Watching my class deal with wet play told me a lesson of writing may not be as successful as I’d like so I decide comprehension is the route for me. I then decide it’s time to do our first bit of text marking this term, year 5 have never done it, what better day to start? I start combing the shelves for a text and then I came across Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang. Now I love this mini series and despite not being a big Superman fan it really blew me away with how well it covered such a sensitive topic. As I flick through the pages, it dawns on me that we had a discussion about the KKK only a couple of weeks ago because it was referenced in HIgh Rise Mystery. A Youtube comment in the book was from someone who had KKK in their username. The day we read that part of the book we had a really honest but very brief discussion as a class about what the Klan stood for and how it related to the story.
As break time came to an end I’d just managed to photocopy the page (on the furthest away copier because obviously one was broken) and I strolled in ready for either a engaging discussion involving racism or a lesson where I wonder why I thought it would work. As always I started the lesson demonstrating how to mark down your thoughts as you explore the text, using the visualiser they can see how much I manage to extract from one panel. I show the questions, I make it okay to question yourself or be unsure and then in pairs they are let loose. Some of the year fives start looking around wondering what is actually going on and if I’ve lost my mind.
Like most lessons when you permit talking and encourage discussion, no one talks or even thinks about making a noise. At this point the doubt creeps in and then slowly like a miraculous ripple, noise starts to permeate around the room. I hear year six children taking the lead and demonstrating how to approach the work. I watch pairs questioning each other and looking for answers. I also deal with two boys who seem incapable of working together and choose to spend their time blaming each other for not being able to annotate much or come up with ideas.
After about 20 minutes we came back together as a class and we shared our ideas. Children add new ideas or answers to their quesitons in blue pen to show it’s from our discussion. As we go through the page, I slowly feed them subtle clues or question them about the people on the page and what they’re doing. Especially the ones in the weird robes. About half way through the penny drops that these are the bad people we talked about the other week in High Rise Mystery because the person had a username with KKK in it. At the this point the conversation starts to erupt. More children are willing to share ideas, more questions are answered by using the text or the informations we’ve worked out, more children are realising that there was a point to this lesson after all. By the end I barely needed to do anything as another child is nearly always capable of explaining what is happening or answering someone elses question.
We covered a delicate subject, gained a greater understanding of it and then I did my best to help the class with their inquisitiveness about it. Now this last one means my headteacher probably has some strange search results coming his way because unsurpisingly I didn’t exactly have a photo of a cross burning to hand. But it was important that they realised this story was all too familiar for a lot of people. Maybe not us, but too many people had suffered for me to just say they were bad people and leave it at that.
The class responded well to this and expressed their shock and disgust that so many people could be so cruel. It pleased me that my class was appalled by it but it also shows that in order to prevent these issues continuing to plague society we have a responsibility as teachers to keep educating pupils about them. If we choose to ignore or downplay thr atrocities of the world to children then they won’t be able to grow up fully comprehending why things are happening or even what is happening. Yes we need to deal with these matters delicately and at the right time, but this summer has shown that they have to be raised or history will continue to repeat itself.