Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. –A Teachable Moment

I was born in 1948 and I grew up in Newark, NJ. I remember the Civil Rights Movement and watching Martin Luther King speak on our black and white TV very vividly. When my son was seven and in second grade, I was reading a children’s book about MLK that he was very interested in and interspersing the written word with my personal memories. Then my son looked at me with that wondrous look of a child and said, “Mom, were you alive when Martin Luther King was alive?” And I realized that could provide my personal living history. My son’s eyes widened as I began to talk about my personal memories. Today they call that “a teachable moment.”

When my son was 8 years old, his third grade teacher was Mrs. Einstein. That’s right – her husband was a cousin of Albert Einstein and she was a wonderful teacher. In those days MLK Day wasn’t a day off from school rather it was a day when the Dr. Martin Luther King was celebrated and children learned about him in school. Mrs. Einstein had something very special to offer. She had been a teacher in the Bronx and Dr. King had visited her classroom. He had sent her a handwritten thank note which she kept and cherished and every year she shared it with her class. More personal living history – which captures a child’s interest much more than any text book can.

Now that I am a grandmother I have even more history from a personal perspective to offer. Zach is only 19 months old so he isn’t ready yet, but if you have children in your lives who are ready to learn about history from a first had observer be sure to make and take advantage of these opportunities.

The photo in this blog is not from Mrs. Einstein's class but it is from 1964 - probably just a few years later than his visit.


Mauigirl said...

I wish I'd been a little older during the 60s. I would have loved to have gone to Washington and heard Dr. King's speech there. I distinctly remember when Dr. King was shot. I was watching That Girl on Channel 4 when the news broke in. I was 15 and had gotten interested in politics and the news about a year earlier so was very up on things. It was a shock, and very sad; and then came Bobby Kennedy on June 5. Such a sad time period in our history.

Mauigirl said...

Following up, I realize I didn't even address your post itself - great point, that kids learn by hearing stories from people who've been there and witnessed things. I know it always makes history come alive if I talk to someone who actually remembers it.