I meant to take it easy on my kiddos today. I really did. They’re just coming back from break, and I was fully prepared for a slow start to ease them back into big ideas, big thinking.
It all started when I realized we needed to finish up our conversation about Dr. Seuss’s allegory Yertle the Turtle.* I asked the kids to discuss what Seuss was trying to say about the world through the story. You know…we need fewer Yertles and more Macks in this world. I thought it would be a five-minute wrap-up.
I thought wrong.
We started as a whole group but I quickly saw most kids had more to say than they were getting the chance to share. We used a partnering activity to encourage conversation.
What followed was astounding.
At the end of our time, I asked kids to reflect on a thought they’re feeling most strongly. Here’s a sampling:
*Do dictators realize it when they become a dictator? If they do, then why do they want to be one?
*If becoming a dictator is a transformation, how do these people not realize that they will be more accepted as a leader if they change their ways?
*Why do people get greedy in power and turn allies into enemies?
*Power is often built off of emotion.
*There needs to be someone who will say, “enough is enough.”
*Why does America not let as many refugees in, though they deserve it because it is dictators that force or drive them away?
*Are we (the United States) better than our others?
*Who is our friend? What don’t we know about our enemies?
*So far the world has never come up with a solution that gives us complete world peace. Human greed has made it so that many of the problems will be extremely hard to solve.
*Sometimes it feels like the people have no voice. They have to listen. And to me, it feels meaningful. I wonder why such terrible things must happen, and they keep going on. We can’t just live in peace. Why?
How on earth did a brief task develop into a discussion of dictators past and present, of power dynamics, of why those in power abuse it, of why citizens elect dictators in the first place, and of what we can do to notice and fight abuse of power?
It’s easier than you think.
Simply put, I noticed my children NEEDED to talk about these big ideas. They watch this world. They think about this world, and they have more to say about it than they (or the people around them) give them credit for. They just need someone to hear them out.
I don’t know quite exactly how we got to these places, but BOY am I grateful we took the detour.
So much perspective and wisdom wrapped up in the minds of ten- and eleven-year-olds. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
*YES, I do know how very problematic Dr. Seuss is, especially when juxtaposed with conversation around social issues. I promise we’ll get there =)
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