Love Thy Neighbor (No Exceptions)

This week, the K–2 classes gathered for a discussion on inclusivity. In light of the exclusionary rhetoric that has been in the national discussion right now, Karen and the teachers determined that making sure that everyone sees Chicago Friends School as a safe and inclusive environment is of utmost importance now more than ever.

Meghan and I began our discussion with students in the context of the civil rights movement. We remembered that Dr. Martin Luther King and his peers would see “white only” signs, and we discussed how that made them feel and whether or not that seemed fair. I then asked the class if they think any individuals or groups of people may still be or feel excluded today. We talked about how people from other countries may not always feel welcome into our country. I asked the students if we should exclude certain people from our school or if we should welcome everybody. They unanimously agreed that they wanted their school to be a place that welcomed all types of people. I asked the students how we might indicate to others that this school is a welcoming place. Together, we decided that a sign welcoming all people might serve this purpose. We quickly got to work!

I told the students we would be making a sign listing ALL the types of people who are welcome at our school. As I read the book People by Peter Spier, I asked students to notice as many different types of people as they could. Afterwards, students listed all the kinds of people they could think of. Some gems included, “all sizes,” “all colors,” “all languages,” and “all hair-dos.” We then painted the background of our sign using various colors. The students used teamwork to be sure every part of the sign was painted. They took turns, collaborated, and as their colors touched and mixed, they coped with the fact that the portion they painted may be altered by a classmate. This collaborative painting was, in and of itself, an exercise in inclusivity, understanding, and teamwork. Meghan and I were impressed with the students’ cooperation.

Meghan and I will now take the students’ ideas of ALL the types of people welcome at our school, and will create a sign listing who is welcome, using the students’ painting as the background. Keep your eyes peeled for our sign in the coming weeks!

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Melanie Berlin

is a classroom teacher on the K-2 team. Before moving to Chicago, Melanie lived in Philadelphia and worked for five years as lead kindergarten teacher at Mastery Charter Mann Elementary School. Previous to that, Melanie lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and taught at an independent school in Oakland, California. Melanie has her B.A. in psychology with a minor in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her teaching degree from San Francisco State University with a focus on social justice in education.

In her free time, Melanie loves playing ultimate Frisbee, drinking coffee, playing board games, and spending time with her husband and baby daughter.

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