A few weeks ago, I was feeling particularly down one morning. As I sat down with my Primary class of 3-6 year old children, they could immediately tell I was not myself. One of my students asked, “Ms. Cassy. Are you ok?" I am usually very open with my class but I had to sit back and think for a moment before answering this question. Do I tell them I am sad because a horrible injustice had just happened to a black man in my beloved state? Do I tell them that I am angry that this man died for no reason? Do I tell them that I am scared for them, myself and others because there are now riots in our streets? Should I tell the children?
After some thought, I decided talk with my kids about how I was feeling and about the events that had unfolded. Many of them had already heard from their parents or the media, and they all had questions that I tried to answer as best I could. This conversation, though tough, was important, as I know that silence can't protect them. And I know that racism persists. Sometimes it's the most difficult conversations that make the biggest difference.
Ramalynn's mission statement has always been to teach children respect, tolerance and compassion to all life on earth. Krishna, myself, and all of our teachers and staff feel very strongly about this. We strive each day to embrace our amazing school-wide diversity and to celebrate it. We strive to protect even the smallest of creatures in our midst. The spider we find in the hallway is always carefully set free outside where it can live and breathe. Shouldn't that same compassion and respect be given to every race, every gender, every person on earth?
We must show our children, not only through our words, but our actions how we can take this mission and make it a reality in our world. Though it can be difficult to talk about racism, violence and social injustice it is important to do so.
How do we do this?
For younger students, let them know they are safe. Children are extremely perceptive. They are often noticing and feeling much more than we anticipate. Check in with and let them express their feelings. Name those feelings and let them know it's ok to have them. Openly discuss racism, and take the time to answer questions they may have. Be conscious of news and media they are exposed to as children do hear everything. Remind them that they can help, too. Involve them in donating items to others, making cards, cleaning up, etc.
For our older children, we can start by doing much of the same things. Let them know they are safe. Involve them in furthering the cause for social justice and ask them how they would like to help. Engage in conversations involving race. Listen to their thoughts and ideas. Be calm and open to having these conversations.
Additional Resources to Guide You
- Racism & Violence: How to Help Kids Handle the News from the Child Mind Institute
- A Kid's Book About Racism by Jelani Memory
- Something Happened In Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano PhD, Marietta Collins PhD, Ann Hazzard PhD
Ramalynn Academy's Plans for Diversity & Social Justice
As we take the time to pause and reflect on how our school community can address issues of inequality and further the cause for social justice, we at Ramalynn are committed to implementing the following as we prepare to enter the next school year:
- Building a diverse and inclusive library for PreK - 8th Grade
- Emphasizing and discussing civil rights in our civics and history curriculum
- Featuring monthly a BIPOC historical figure, such as scientists, historians, composers, athletes, etc. in our Primary curriculum
- Hosting guest speakers addressing issues of civil rights and racial equality for our students, faculty and staff
- Completing faculty and staff professional development on the topics of social justice and racial equality in education
- Incorporating volunteer opportunities for our students that further racial equality
We thank you all for your support and we welcome further questions, ideas and suggestions, as well as any diverse and inclusive donations to our school's library and resources.
We are always here for you and your children and will continue to do our best to educate respect, tolerance, and compassion.
Cassy & Krishna Ramalingam
Directors of Ramalynn Academy