Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Diversity Day in Warren County, N.J.

Mrs. Patty Bell and me!!

April 16th, 2010

My visit to the Brass Castle School and the Port Colden School on April 16th were absolutely moving to me.

My niece, Patty Bell, is a third grade teacher in the district. She conferred with her administration who invited me to offer three school assemblies. The night before, I stayed at the Bell's lovely home with Ms. Bell's husband, Hank and their two wonderful children, my great-nephews, Christopher and Ryan.

The next morning, I went to the two schools and I spoke to grades 1st - 6th and did three distinct assemblies and later made two half hour classroom visits.

I must confess that, as a high school teacher, I was a bit nervous about presenting an assembly to very small children.

What would it be like? Would I connect? Would they enjoy my message and learn from the day?

It seemed important to think hard about creating an experience that would engage each of those age groups. Of course, for me, stories are the basis of all learning and so I structured the presentation.

I created a Power Point presentation which wove my story in Spain into a presentation of five statements that relate to diversity.

The students and I went over each point and talked about them. Everyone had a hand up and contributed with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. Ms. Bell had distributed packets on diversity to all of the teachers and many had read stories and done bulletin board art projects to prepare for my arrival! The whole place was buzzing with excitement.

I felt happy after talking to the 4th - 6th graders, but when I got to the 1st - 3rd graders, I wondered how that would be. I saw very small children coming into the gym and sitting on the floor. They all had eager, friendly faces and were ready to learn.

I found that my voice tone naturally changed and went into a story teller's rhythm. Again, students gave everything to the meeting and soon we were old friends.

At the end, I was thrilled that there were so many questions. I thought that we were done, but Ms. Bell said that the children had prepared a surprise.

Sure enough, they came up with posters and all one hundred or so children, broke out into "It's a small world after all!" This was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes.

As if that weren't enough, there was still another surprise. At the doorway, the Port Colden Teacher of the Year was holding an enormous bunch of flowers to give to me. All of the children clapped! Everyone was so excited!!

Later, I visited Ms. Bell's classroom, where the children had prepared cards and a great skit. I visited my nephew Ryan's classroom where I told the children more stories. At the end, they wanted my autograph!

This was truly a day of connections and a celebration of teaching and learning. The teachers and administrators in these schools deeply care about the children and it really shows.

I left the building with my gifts and children called out to me all of the languages they want to learn and the world they would dream of seeing.

"Are you coming back on Monday?" they asked.

I walked through the hallway and admired all of the art that the students had prepared to decorate the hallways as they thought about diversity. What a wonderful way to share a message of joy with the very young.

I clearly got much more from these little ones than I could ever give!

1 comment:

Patty Bell said...

HI Maryann,
This was one of the most exciting moments of my life. I'm so glad you came to my school district to show you off to all! They now know what a wonderful leader you are...just like all of us. My third graders were thrilled to meet you and chat. My colleagues thought you were awesome too! Thank you for coming and sharing your time and talent with us. I'll never forget this incredible day.
Patty :)