January 20, 2014
With a few adjustments, I am re-blogging a post that I originally published in May of last year. I thank you for your indulgence.
Each year that I have been a teacher, I have made it a point to create a lesson with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech at its core. Most, if not all of my readers are even now clicking their mouse to move on to read a more interesting, more relevant, more up-to-date post. I mean, hasn’t Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech been done to death? Perhaps, but in His infinite wisdom, God has always allowed each of my years’ lessons on Martin Luther King’s legacy to hold something different and memorable for me and my students.
One year, it was the spark that lit a fire in my students to publically protest an injustice they saw happening on campus. Another year, it allowed a group of my students to come to grips with the fact that they were throwing away priceless opportunities that had not been afforded them not so long ago. Whatever they have been, the lessons my students learn from this single lesson have rippled out into new generations of young people around the globe, who are destined to make this world a better place. This is one such story.
I have turned the proberbial corner, dear Readers. No, I take that back. To say that really underestimates my skills as a teacher and doesn’t quite fit what happened to me, recently. There are Kodak moments in our lives that will be forever etched in our memories. This week, I had one of those. In fact, it was by far, the most rewarding and joyous moment in all of my teaching career.
I have spent a considerable amount of time and word-space exposing my flaws and human frailties. Now, however, allow me to sing my own praises. If teaching is an art, then I am an artist. I can finesse even the most stubborn of students to learn. I have that knack. I can’t really tell you what it is about me that makes me a good teacher, except to say that I am deeply passionate about what I do. I teach the way I parent, with a great amount of love, respect and knowledge of everyone’s individual wants and needs. I am also fervently enthusiastic, bordering on zealous. My delivery has caused more than one teenager to roll her eyes at me. However, I am inspiring. I have a wonderful lesson on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Well what teacher doesn’t, right? Dr. King was a fantastic orator and I love the cadence of his delivery. Consequently, I can use my MLK lesson plan to fit any subject and/or standard. This year I used it to teach listening and speaking skills. And although the basis of my lesson was to teach my students to listen effectively, it served a double purpose.
As I began to play an audio of Dr. King’s speech, I was painfully aware that although my students were proficient in English, they would stuggle to undertand some of the colloquillisms and metaphors Dr. King was so fond of using in his speeches. Thus, I wrote some of his phrases on the board as I played the speech for my class.
At first they were bored. Not having a television, computer and/or cell phone screen in front of them, they wondered how they would be able to learn anything. “It’s possible,” I assured them, and I began to play the speech. At first the students rolled their eyes in mock exasperation. Soon, they began to listen, I mean really listen to Dr. King give his speech, they were hooked. Now, mind you, they did not exactly understand what it was that he was saying. However, Dr. King won them over with his eloquent speech patterns and unshakable fervor.
By the time the speech was through, my students were sitting up, leaning forward in their seats and clamoring for more, “Miss, Miss, what did he say? What did he mean?” This is where the real lesson began. I began to explain certain parts of the speech and how it pertained to them as individual, citizens of the world.
“We refuse to believe that the bank of injustice is bankrupt.” People who crave equality believe that justice is a worthy goal, an attainable goal.
“…rock of brotherhood.” We are all brothers and sisters. When we speak of our brotherhood being a rock, that means it is solid. We must begin to believe that although different in culture, traditions and mother tongues, we are all human. And, it is only when we begin to see each other as individuals that we begin to build the foundation that is the rock of brotherhood.
“…drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” We must not be bitter and hateful. Hatred and bitterness only creates more hatred and bitterness. In addition, it begins to turn you ugly from the inside out.
“We cannot walk alone.” No man can stand alone and survive. We rely on one an other. My survival is based on your survival. If we eradicate even one of our brothers, we ourselves, will be eradicated.
“…they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” By the time I had reached this part of the lesson, I must admit, my students were riveted, mesmerized even as I spoke from the very depths of my soul. I began, “We live in a very volatile world. I have been hearing about “Peace in the Middle East” since I was a child. I don’t get it, the girls in this room come from the UAE, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Iran, Sudan, and Kuwait and you all get along beautifully. I stand here before you today to tell you that you are no different from the girls I taught back home. Yes, as a group we are different. However, individually, we are the same; we live the same, we learn the same, we love the same. We hurt the same, we cry the same and we die the same. We are the same. When we, as human beings begin to realize this, we will have no more hatred, we will have justice. We will have no more war, we will have peace. I want to live in that world and I know you girls do to. So go out there and make a difference, change the world or change your mind. One is just as dificult to do as the other. And then, begin to make this world a better place. I want to be proud of you. And I want to tell the world that I taught the girls who taught the world how to be a better place.”
At this point, my students broke into a resounding round of applause. And then, they stood up. My beautiful students were giving me a standing ovation. It was the purest form of love and gratitude that I have ever felt from any of my students. They may not have understood every word of my speech, but they understood the gist. They understood the passion I was trying so desperately to instill in them…and they applauded me. Wow! I was touched beyond belief.
I taught that lesson a little less than a year ago to a group of graduating seniors in the United Arab Emirates. I had no idea the ripple effect my words would have.
One of my former students attends a university in Egypt. She is studying to be an engineer. She writes that “of course we have troubles in Egypt,” and that her studies are “hard and tough.” She also mentions that she will use her education to help change the world. She remembers most, my “really great heart” and she wishes to be like me. Ripple effect.
Another one of my students attends a university in the UAE. She tells me that she misses me and it means a lot to her that I had faith in her. She also remembers that I told her she was “friendly, thoughtful, and magnificent.” She says she is ready to change the world. Ripple effect.
Another student is attending college in Iraq. She writes that she is ready for all of the adventures of her life. She remembers I told her she was intelligent and it had her nearly in tears. She is looking forward to taking what she is learning and helping people. Ripple effect.
And this is just a small portion of the students who have been inspired by Dr. King’s words. It’s the Ripple Effect and it has spread over thousands and thousands of miles around the world. Thank you, Dr. King. It is through your words that I have been able to make a difference in this world, one beautiful student at a time. Ripple Effect. Peace, ~v.