“That’s kinda stupid.”

My favorite part of every school day is “Read Aloud Time.”  I love to read to the kids.  I love the looks on their faces as they react to the action in each story.  I love it when I try to stop, and they beg me for just one more chapter.  Its the closest I’ll ever come to getting a curtain call, you know?

A few years ago I was reading the book “The Liberation of Gabriel King” to my fifth graders.  The book is set in Georgia, during the Presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter.  It is a great story, and I often use it to begin the school year, as the main characters are an unlikely pair of best friends who are about to enter fifth grade, one with enthusiasm, one with total fear.

The subtext of the story is the racial tension in the South in the 1970’s. The book talks about bigotry, racial prejudice and even the KKK.  The children in the story have to learn how to stand up to these things, and how to face their personal fears.

As I read the book to the class that year, they asked a lot of questions.  One of the reasons I love this book is because it leads to such rich and interesting discussions.  Ten year olds are honest, and they’re very curious.  They keep asking questions until they find out what they want to know.

I remember one particular little boy in that class. He was a serious, quiet kid.  Not a great student, but just a really good kid. He was the kind of typical fifth grader who spent a lot of our day waiting for recess so that he could play ball with his friends.  But he was a thoughtful kid, insightful in his own way.  I’ll always remember him for one comment that he made, as we were discussing racial prejudice.

One of the other kids had asked, “Why did some white people think black people weren’t as good as them?” (Note that past tense ‘did’, please).  I tried to explain it briefly, referring back to the history of slavery, doing my best to shed some light on a dark story.  “But why would they think that?”, the kids kept asking.

You should know that my class at the time had a few students from Asia, South Asia and Central America, but none of them were African American.  All were equally bewildered by the descriptions of racial prejudice, but all of them wanted to understand it.

I remember looking at the group, feeling somewhat at a loss. But I remember that particular little boy, slouching back on the rug, both hands in his pockets.  He had on a baseball cap, and his eyes were shaded.  I remember him saying,  “So let me get this straight.  Some people back then thought they were better,  just because their skin was lighter?  Well, that’s kinda stupid.”

Don’t you love it?

As I watched the news coverage of the Supreme Court rulings on marriage equality yesterday, I pictured a classroom of the future. I pictured a cute kid, ball cap tipped rakishly over one eye.  I imagined him saying, “So some people back then thought that one kind of marriage was better than another kind?  That’s kinda stupid.”

18 thoughts on ““That’s kinda stupid.”

  1. Another beautifully written post! Reading aloud to kids was always my favorite activity too. You describe the joy so well. And, most of all, the hope and inspiration that comes from recognizing changes in society as they show up in our children. Thank you.


    • No, thank YOU. When I think of retirement, this is one of my big questions. Who will I read to??

      That boy really summed up so much in that one comment; I loved the moment when I told his parents about it.


      • Well, once I no longer had a school full of children I signed on to be a big sister…and also have been graced with two granddaughters. They all love being read to! But, it is one of the things I miss most about school. I used to read to the kids in the lunchroom. The quick eaters gathered at my feet and the others listened at their tables. Pure joy!


  2. I love this story. It is all kinda stupid, isn’t it.

    And who will you read aloud to when you retire? How about if you write up your memoirs and read aloud at book signings … When Jacob was in 5th or 6th grade, we went to see Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series. He was as magical in person as he was on paper. I can still see his impish Irish eyes! I bet you would be too!

    But better start writing!


    • Oh, how I love your idea!!! Unfortunately, I am a terrible story writer. I have three children’s books begun, but can’t find a way to end them.
      I guess I had better just a) hope for grandchildren and b) volunteer at my local library.
      I am a pretty good reader!

      But I do so love your encouragement, my dear!!!!


      • I disagree completely. You tell a lovely story. Like all of us, your technique can be improved, but that’s true of everybody. You have wonderful stories, a great voice and a huge heart. Try it. You’ll be good at it. You already are.


  3. I can’t tell you in words how wonderful this wee post of yours is but I’ll try. It’s like a big pot of soup with all the best bits thrown in – you know the kind, you don’t follow a recipe but you know it will be wonderful. Equality is a big part of my job and over here we are, as a nation, I think struggling with the whole debate. For me though I think truly if folk think that their heterosexual marriage is threatened because two people of the same gender fall in love and want to marry then, frankly their marriage is probably already in trouble. You are one fab teacher lady. 😊


    • Oh, I love hearing from you! And to have my writing compared to good soup is the highest of compliments to a cook, from a cook!
      You reasoning has been used quite a lot in our debate over here about marriage equality. People like me, living in a state that has had marriage for all for quite a while now, are able to say loudly and clearly that it hasn’t made one bit of difference to our marriage or our lives!


  4. Funny…we’re sort of on the same page. My last post was about our recent ‘Discovery day,’ which celebrates the discovery of the New World (Newfoundland actually)by Giovanni Caboto aka John Cabot. The fact is, though, it was already home to several thriving cultures and had, in fact, been visited several times prior by Europeans. But…people don’t really like it when the facts interrupt an otherwise good story, I suppose :>)


  5. Aren’t they wonderful before the World gets ahold of them? Before the preening and posturing of the teenage years, before the media and jaded adults change them…I always hope that kids can hang on to a shred of that childhood wisdom somehow.
    We’re all the same, no matter where we come from, what we look like, or who we love…


  6. It really seems that simple, and all the rest is beside the point. I love reading your stories about the kids. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a teacher, and this was why. 🙂


  7. You have a lovely way of capturing the best moments of teaching. Thank you for sharing some of the wonders of our profession and giving others a glimpse into classrooms and the beautiful minds of the people who inhabit those spaces.


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