“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
For the second year in a row, the French American Academy designated Martin Luther King Jr day as an opportunity for our community to unite and celebrate the diversity and inclusion that makes our school so special. This year, we invited parents to participate in a shared learning day, completing projects, engaging in discussions, and enjoying activities as we “Dare to Dream” of a more just and equitable world.
Celebrating differences together
For our youngest groups, the Martin Luther King Jr day was a chance to celebrate the diverse backgrounds of our students and their families. Through songs, stories, presentations, and food, children shared their own cultures and discovered others. Such activities, especially when enjoyed with parents and trusted adults, open young children’s minds to other people’s experiences. Furthermore, the act of educating one’s peers about oneself helps to uplift children’s individual voices, and teaches them to take pride in their unique identity. Through these sharing activities, teachers and parents collaborated to give space and attention to every member of the group.
Modeling an open and enthusiastic attitude about embracing cultural differences, and being intentional about including every voice, are two important aspects of teaching about diversity and inclusion. We want to push back against stereotypes, allowing members of different cultures to speak for themselves. Our community, like the population of the United States, is multicultural and plurilingual, and exploring our diversity strengthens our connections with each other. As Maya Angelou said, “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength”. We take every opportunity to celebrate this fact with our students!
Seeking kinder solutions
While young students cannot solve all the world’s problems quite yet, they can collaborate to find solutions for everyday problems that reflect Dr. King’s emphasis on kindness, compassion, and peace. Students in Jersey City’s Kindergarten worked with their classmates and parents to create “Dream Clouds” with ways they would peacefully resolve problems they have encountered in school. These clouds serve as lovely classroom decorations, but they are also excellent resources, serving as
reminders of kind solutions that teachers can use in class when difficulties arise.
Reflections about women’s rights
Our Englewood third grade class engaged in rich discussions about racial justice, the history of segregation, and persecution in different countries throughout the week before Martin Luther King Jr. day. Their focus shifted to women’s rights and equality on the 16th, as they welcomed a class parent who works in the field of women’s rights for the UN. With him, they learned more about the state of gender rights both in the US and abroad. The students learned that due to disparities in rights and education, women and girls are still marginalized in much of the world … and they realized how much we all miss out when women are not given a seat at the table! Following that, students prepared letters that will be sent to President Joe Biden, encouraging him to stand up for equality and justice in many areas. Doing so reminds students of the importance of acts of service and the value in standing up for your beliefs – both of which were central components of Dr. King’s message.
Daring to Dream in elementary school
Martin Luther King Jr. famously outlined his dreams for the future in his “I Have A Dream” speech. This was the inspiration for our theme this year: “Daring to Dream”. Students and parents from kindergarten through third grade all worked on a variety of projects and activities in which they shared their dreams with each other and collaborated to create works of art inspired by all the things they hope will come to pass. Powerful themes naturally emerged in these works: hopes for environmental justice and economic equality, dreams of equal rights and fair access to resources and opportunities. Having parents, teachers, and children sharing their passion for these concepts added both gravity and joy to the day. As an added bonus, our school walls are now decorated with portraits, doves of peace, collages, and acrostic poems that all reflect Dr. King’s dream!
Life’s blueprint activities
Dr. King’s speech “What is your life’s blueprint?” reminds us to bring a sense of our own self worth, a passion for excellence, and a commitment to the principles of love, beauty, and justice to our life’s work. Our Jersey City fourth and fifth graders read and watched excerpts from this speech, and used it as a jumping off point for a discussion with their parents about their individual and shared dreams for their lives. They worked together to produce written projects and poetry about their hopes for the future.
Dr. King’s dream lives on
We are proud that our school is a place where diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging aren’t just words on a poster but also concepts that we try to actively enact. Sharing these privileged moments with our students and families was a powerful reminder that educating ourselves and our children about Dr. King’s vision is an ongoing process, and that embodying his ideals is a worthy goal every single day.
“Difference is the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity” – John Hume
Learn more about our commitment to diversity and inclusion by visiting our Diversity, Equity, Belonging and Inclusion page, where you will find information about our mission, initiatives and resources that support our community.