Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr.

As I graded papers today, I was struck most by the notes my fourth graders took on an animated movie about Martin Luther King Jr. While it would be impossible to encompass the work of Martin Luther King Jr. in one hour, their notes show that his message was very clear. The following sentiments are the ones that showed up, in some version, repeatedly in my students notes:
~Anyone can make a difference in the world.
~He was always doing good things for other people
~He wanted everyone to be friends.
~He believed in non-violent protests.
~He changed the world.
There is so much to say about who Martin Luther King Jr. was, the impact that he made on the world, and the work that is still left to do. But, these five ideas, noted time after time, are powerful components of that conversation.  They are also a great place to start if we want to change our world.

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First Things First

Now that it is November – goodness, how did that happen – I have figured a couple of things out.  The first, and most of important of those things: kids are kids.  They need love, structure, consistency, and some fun sprinkled into all the hard work.  Fourth graders are still curious and eager to learn.  And that’s what is important.  That’s why I teach.  Not just to pass on knowledge, but to pass on the excitement of learning. To teach kids how to learn, so that the rest of their lives they have a structure and a system for adding new information.  I want to teach them that they can all learn, and that putting effort into learning is a good thing.  A fun thing.  I know that all sounds so basic, so simple.  To me, however, it was a huge shift in my thinking.  It means I can relax a bit – because it doesn’t matter what the curriculum is – what matters is enjoying it.  I am still scrambling to understand all that fourth grade entails – especially the math! But, I’m doing my best to be excited about learning with them.  And that is making a difference.

Figuring out Fourth

Never did I think there would be so much to figure out in fourth grade!  Fourth grade is wonderful!  The students are eager to learn, they are capable of doing so much independent learning, and they are a ton of fun!  What I didn’t realize is just how difficult the concepts were to teach.  It’s just crazy!  But one step at a time, with help from some amazing co-workers, fantastic kiddos, and many a friend along the way, I’m getting there.  Let’s hope there is lots and lots of progress before we get to fractions!

Fourth grade teachers out there – what is our greatest piece of advice for a new fourth grade teacher?