Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Day and Developing Character Traits of Service - Get codes for Facebook, Hi5, MySpace and more January 20th is Martin Luther King Day and  February is Black History Month. It is a great time of year to introduce students to this great leader, his life and his legacy. Teaching students about Martin Luther King's dream and encouraging them to think about how they would like to change the world is a great way to help children recognize the injustice in the world and instill in them the character trait of service.

No matter the seriousness of the topic, whenever you are working with young children you need to be ready to smile and be refreshed by their perception of the world. Here are a few stories I have heard that gave me a chuckle:
  • Grappling with the civil rights leader's long name is sometimes daunting. One kindergarten student called him 'Martin Lulu King' .
  • A first grade teacher had her students write about what they would do to change the world if they had a dream. One student in her class said she would provide coats for all cancer patients. Is there a slight disconnect here?
  • And finally, a friend of mine reported that her grandson was quite upset that his grandmother who works "right around where Martin Luther the King went to church" had not reminded him of the birthday. This same child, newly reminded of the segregation injustices of Martin Luther King's time, pointed out to his mother with great concern and indignation that the Egg Beaters carton clearly states on the front 'Whites Only'.

Schools Develop a Spirit of Service

Developing the notion of service is an important antidote to the self-centered nature of the typical child.  It is something that can be started early in small ways and then developed into bigger projects as the child grows.  Schools are perfect environments for this and in addition to teaching children to be service and correct injustice, schools can also initiate service projects throughout the year.  Not only does this inspire generosity, but it also brings attention the injustice and inequality in the world.  Everything from UNICEF collections at Halloween to collecting food and coats for homeless shelters can be a call to action for children.

Parents Develop a Spirit of Service

Parents too can encourage this mindset. Determining the child's interests and concerns and then finding ways to serve in those areas is the best way to get cooperation. Too many children (and adults for that matter) are insulated from the inequalities, the hardship in the world. Developing service projects as whole families is one way to overcome this. For instance, I know one family that went to the Union Mission to serve lunch on Martin Luther King's birthday. Even young children can learn to give food, toys or clothing to those in need.

The best and most life changing service however, is service that involves giving of more than our excess. It involves giving something more substantial such as our time and energy. Spending a Saturday morning in a soup kitchen for the homeless, or volunteering in a nursing home to visit with residents who have no family are great ways that families can impact their community and ultimately the world. Service that moves us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to make a difference develops children and ultimately adults, of compassion and character.

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1 comment:

  1. Excellent points, Lynne! Just shared it with my FB service group. I just LOVE the I Have A Dream letters!!