Every year our studies around social justice manifest in an organically unique way. There’s always a plan, and what actually happens emerges totally from the kids. Last weekend I was talking with one of my former 2nd graders, who is now a young mom, and she said, “I know you’re really into social justice right now. How is the conversation different from what the Seed has done before? It seemed like we always talked about social justice.” I thought about what she asked, realizing her words were true. Yes, we are constantly refining our practices, and it’s an extension of that early work.
I have a deep commitment to my own growth as an anti-racist, and it’s a high priority at this stage of my life. I’ve talked with teachers about how the personal and professional social justice work go hand in hand. An important part of it is to honor others where they are in the process. I’ve had several conversations with teachers about how to introduce challenging topics, yet stay true to what’s developmentally appropriate with young children. The past few weeks we’ve been working with a term that is a perfect fit for our Awakening Seeds—ally. One of the definitions I like best for children is someone who is on your side. In other words, it’s someone who is a trusted friend, even if they are someone you don’t know well.
With the two oldest elementary classes, we’ve read poetry about being an ally, and made lists of people who are allies. Some of the children have begun writing their thoughts about being an ally. This poem by third-grader Lemon Walden beautifully expresses the role of an ally:
I see you sitting
there, alone and scared.
I can be your ally.
I will be your voice when you can’t
I will help make unfair
I will be a friend
when you need it most.
In the coming weeks we’ll continue talking about allies in several classes, giving a label to the work we’ve done here at the Seed for decades. We’ll work on how to be an ally in relationships right before us, as well as those more distant. If we can cultivate a robust crop of allies, Planet Earth will be infinitely better off for it. And so will we.