Different does not mean bad…just different.
My students will hear me say this a lot this year. Some kids are able to inherently accept and understand this idea…they just don’t notice differences, or if they do, they don’t register as bad or scary or weird. This is a beautiful thing, and my wish is that they carry this with them along the whole journey of their lives. For others though, anything or anyone different makes them giggle, or squirm, or worst of all, look down their noses in disdain. Different does not mean bad is something they need to hear. The truth is, we all need the freedom and confidence to be who we are, and we are all from different families, different backgrounds, different parts of the state, the country, the world. That is what we began to celebrate this week.
We checked out this video. It’s catchy and the kids loved it. Will.i.am played over and over, and the fact that my seven and eight year olds were watching Sesame Street was a good step towards being strong and confident in who we are and what we liked, and not worrying that it was a “baby” show (Yes, we had this conversation!).
Any good message has books that inspire and bring that message to life.
We Are All Alike and We Are All Different was written by a group of kindergarten students from Cheltanham Elementary School. It spurred a discussion on ways that we are alike and ways we are different.
The Colors of Us, by Karen Katz, and the collected works of Lois Ehlert, both inspired a week long art project that proved that although we are all different, we are also alike in so many ways. We used tempera paint in the colors red, yellow, blue, black, and white to color match our skin. The results were incredible!
We then spent time investigating the collage techniques of Lois Ehlert, and continued to be inspired to create ourselves out of paper.
Seeing our class line the hallway makes it clear that we are all alike in so many ways, but we are different in so many others.
We are each a unique piece of the puzzle that makes up our class and our school, our city and our country, and ultimately, our world. I’ve written before that a big part of what I do as a teacher is lay foundations. Foundations of understanding and awareness that students can build upon now and through their lives. If I can lay the foundation for the idea that different does not mean bad… just different, then we are one step closer to embracing this simple yet profoundly important part of being citizens of our world.