Written by guest blogger Cindy Koopmans
Hope. Right now, we need it more than ever. 2020 was hard.
We are all, to some degree, the walking wounded here. We are all a bit weary of pep talks, we are all feeling the strain of social distancing and wearing these (insert expletive here) masks...ready to throw up our hands, crawl into bed and pull the covers over our heads.
No can do. We still have students to teach. We are the leaders. The tone we set is the tone that will be lived out and, this is even a bit more scary, remembered by our students.
We can’t change 2020, but we have a huge opportunity to make an incredible impact in 2021.
Think how the current situation has stripped away those layers of certainty. We are open and vulnerable and teachable. And our students are too!
So, how are we going to meet the challenge? Well, for sure we need to dig down deep and find some way to communicate hope to our students.
We are teachers. We are the purveyors of hope. We are true believers in the redemptive power of education. So in this way, teaching is the most hopeful profession on the planet.
So, dear colleagues, here is a suggestion, a way that may help you to instill some much needed hope in yourself and in your students: Share books about kids who are making a change in our world.
I’m optimistically confident of this fact: the children of this generation will rise up and meet the challenges and meet them in a way that will astound and inspire us. This situation is a huge patch in their quilt of life, just as 9/11 is for many of you reading these words.
So is there any better way to guide and inspire our students than to share the stories of those who have triumphed and thrived and have written a book about it?
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10 Books About Kids Who Made a Difference In Our World
The sit-in which started in Greensboro ignited a movement among so-called, ordinary people, that was like stone thrown into a still pond...the ripples are being felt even today.
Here’s a great video featuring the author, Andrea Pinkney, and the illustrator, David Pinkney. The video explains the historical significance of the event and gives lots of background of information about the book. Don’t miss Andrea Pinkney’s comments at the end of the video that hits the nail on the head as to why this book is such a great read for now.
An author’s credentials influence my decision to introduce their work to my young readers. And you can check it by clicking on her name here: Andrea Davis Pinkney. Ms. Pinkney has a list of awards and accolades practically as long as this article.
This is a unique and insightful introduction to the famous Greensboro lunch counter incident. And this video link from The History Channel along with Pickney’s book is a powerful way to introduce this important historical event.
It is the perfect example of how a seemingly small act of bravery...(Discuss: For those young men, was it so small? Fact: The youngest of the four was only 17 at the time. And what were the possible consequences? What could have happened?)...could act as a springboard into an amazing conversation that might last the entire school year.
This is a memoir by the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala has become an advocate and super hero among girls and young women of countries where men attempted to thwart their efforts to get an education.
It will be clear to you that Malala was planted in a fertile bed of family support. It is no wonder then that the characteristics cultivated in her had an amazing result. What we need to remember is that we too have the opportunity to do the same in the children we teach.
A survivor of a massacre which took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sandra Uwiringiyimana has become a “voice for women and girls, refugees and immigrants, and forgotten peoples…”
Sandra Uwiringiyimana’s experiences have a humbling effect. Have we really been whining about the fact that we have to wear face masks everywhere?
A reality check is just the kick in the pants many of us need right now. This book may be exactly what the hopefulness doctors ordered.
We are gobsmacked! How did this young woman not only survive, but thrive?
The resilience and inherent hope it must take to move on a cataclysmic life event like the one Sandra Uwiringiyimana experienced (A massacre? Not just what I did in my Call of Duty video game?), is the engaging jolt into reality that is guaranteed to spark loads of conversation in your classroom.
Described by one reviewer as a “hopeful, optimistic winner to read,” this book is a compilation of the true life stories of 45 children and young adults that span the world and represent a gamut of educational backgrounds.
The book will only open your students’ eyes to the possibilities that may be available to them as it shifts their understanding of how children of many different economic and educational circumstances have ignored limitations and concentrated on possibilities.
If I were using this book in my classroom I might begin with a video from this series of World’s Most Dangerous Ways to School. One of my favorite things to do is put a dent in my students’ attitudes of entitlement and serve them a small slice of humble pie. The videos in this series accomplish that goal with grace and aplomb.
Garth Sundem is a Cornell graduate, obviously a super smart human, and has created a very thoughtful and inspiring book that will get kids thinking about their own potential to do extraordinary things.
We all possess within us the possibility to, with a bit of natural adrenaline and beset with an experience that is outside our comfort zone, rise to the occasion and channel our inner superhero.
Stories of how and when this happens along with the exciting aftermath is the stuff of Garth Sundem’s book.
This book constitutes yet another eyeopener and possibilities creator for our students. An enjoyable and lighthearted read, your students will be inspired to explore their own inner resources and imagine the possibilities of what they might do in a clutch situation.
This book was written by a teacher and award winning author who has indeed published many inspiring books which you can find here.
According to her bio, she led her students at Jackson Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah to clean up hazardous waste, improve sidewalks, and fight crime. That last item on the list kind of blows my mind.
All this to say, a book by a woman with her boots on the ground has what it takes not only to inspire your kids, but to inspire you to inspire your kids. A real shot in the arm in a time when we need to replenish our own supply of hope so we lead the way.
Adult activists started out as kids, and some actually started their activist activities as kids. However, the point of this book is to allow kids a window into the fact that even those who rose to greatness, did so because they overcame the challenges they faced.
As a parent and teacher, I want to teach young people to navigate the bumps in the road, not smooth the road before them. That underlying theme is what binds together the disparate true life stories in this book.
These stories, which include activities like Malala Yousafzai, will inspire your kids to rethink what they are experiencing as struggle that leads to growth in character, rather than struggle that leads to discouragement and disconnection.
An epiphany that even some adults have never realized...we have the opportunity to choose our response to tough times. This is the perfect time to introduce this concept to our students.
Aileen Weintraub is an established author of more than fifty children’s books and the 2018 recipient of a Parent’s Choice award.
Your students will enjoy the 50 inspiring stories in this beautiful book that will launch them into daydreams about how they too may have an impact on their community and the world.
You can check out more of Aileen Weintraub’s books here.
9. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
“If you stand up for what is right, people will join you.” - Sylvia Mendez
You may be familiar with the Ruby Bridges story, or Brown vs. Board of Education, but may not know the story of Sylvia Mendez vs. Westminster Board of Education. This lawsuit was initiated when Sylvia and her siblings were denied access to an all white school. The case was fought in the courts of Orange County, California.
The Mendez family convinced four other families to join them in the lawsuit, which won the attention of Thurgood Marshall who fought for student rights in the Brown vs. Board of Education nearly 10 years later.
The astonishing turning point in the case came when James L. Kent, then the superintendent of the Garden Grove, California school district, took the stand and said in court that he believed he believed that people of Mexican descent were intellectually, culturally, and morally inferior to those of European descent. He said he would never allow them to enroll in a white school.
Many years later, at her mother’s deathbed, Sylvia Mendez promised to tell the story of how her family stood up for integrated schools in California that eventually spread throughout the United States. Sylvia Mendez did just that, touring and speaking all over the United States, bringing attention to this landmark case.
Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February of 2011.
This year it is even more important to include the stories that showcase heroism and character of all shades of white, black, and brown.
Ben Brooks’ message to boys is powerful and quite different from that of the other authors on this list...he is challenging the traditional understanding of masculinity and puts forward the idea that it can mean many different things to different boys. Brooks gives us an alternate and much-needed narrative voice.
So although the author profiles famous men like Barack Obama, Jesse Owens, and Salividor Dali, in this compilation of 75 stories he also includes some not so famous people...introverts and innovators to name just two...who nonetheless have the potential to make a powerful impact on the student reader.
Ben Brooks has other offerings that you can check out here. His is an unique and compelling voice that has the potential to challenge, motivate, and encourage students who often simply need to read a book that affirms the message, “there is someone else who feels like I do.”
Never Stress Over Sub Plans Again!
Make copies, find a fiction book, and you'll be ready for any emergency that comes your way!