Together is a Wonderful Place to Be (Being Thoughtful, Informed and Brave About Race)…Days 77 and 78

Our country is suffering. As we navigate a “new normal,” as a result of a national pandemic, my heart breaks over the injustice and inequity that has plagued our nation for centuries. The recent death of George Floyd and countless others is wrong and intolerable. We can do better. For our children and for the future of our country, we must do better.

To my black friends and neighbors, although I know I will never fully understand, please know that I stand with you. I lift you and your families up in prayer. I will continue to implement an anti-bias classroom when teaching my young daughter and learners across our country. I care about you. You are not alone.

I stand with the peaceful protesters and pray that justice will be served, progress will be made and no more innocent lives will be lost.

The Anti-Bias Curriculum– My interest in the anti-bias curriculum began when I was taking graduate courses in curriculum and instruction some twenty years ago. As an early childhood educator who taught in a diverse classroom (with multiple races, languages and cultures represented), I needed help in creating a better environment for my students and wanted to become the teacher they deserved. Louise Derman-Sparks and her contributions to the anti-biased curriculum caught my attention. Derman-Sparks challenged me to reflect on my own practices and to do better. I implemented changes in my classroom and began to look at life in a new way, embracing opportunities to discuss our differences and having natural conversations with my inquisitive students. I examined my curriculum, restructured my classroom library (making sure I included books that represented the diversity in my classroom and not just books about animals and white people) and I discontinued celebrating “traditional kindergarten holidays” that were culturally inappropriate. 

“Because the realities of prejudice and discrimination begin to affect children’s development early. It IS developmentally appropriate to address them in our work with young children.” A quote by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen-Edwards

Below are some resources for families and educators

On the subject of race. This is simply a sample as there is a wealth of material available. I invite you to share the websites and resources you are using with the children in your life by clicking on the comment section.

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The above graphic was put together by Pretty Good Design. CLICK HERE for a list of resources on their website in talking to your young children about race. Don’t be silent!

I watched this Zoom discussion titled, “Talking to Kids About Racism” a few days ago. Led by Dr. Kira Banks, with a panel of both black and white participants. I found the discussion helpful. CLICK HERE to watch.

Embrace Race– The Embrace Race website contains articles, lists and action guides to help us raise a generation of children who are thoughtful, informed and Brave About Race!

We Stories  We Stories engages white families to change the conversation about and to build momentum towards racial equity in St. Louis through the use of children’s literature and discussion. We Stories just launched their first national cohert.  

Inclusive Story Time– A website with information on children’s literature that contains diverse characters, authors and illustrations, Inclusive Story Time helps you raise conscious kids by diversifying your bookshelf. 

I am proud to be part of an organization that stands for justice and equality for all.

I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb…Good Shepherd Sunday on Day 48

This Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter, is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The name derives from the Gospel reading for the day, taken from the tenth chapter of John. CLICK HERE to view our worship service and make sure you watch the sermon!

I recommend listening to his moving words but here are some notes I took from Pastor Rouland’s sermon. He asks us to remember what it feels like to be lost and challenges us to think of the voices in our lives that drown out the clear voice of our Good Shepherd, Jesus. Pastor Rouland made me question, am I always being spiritually safe? Are there times in my life where I rely on myself to be safe, where I have created paths that are straight and safe and fail to listen to Jesus, the One who calls me by name? By spending time reading His word, singing His word and putting myself in places where I will hear Jesus, I will gain the spiritual safety I so yearn. Pastor Rouland reminds me that Jesus is here to carry me, to bear my burdens, to lead me home. Listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd, Jesus.

The Lord is My Shepherd- After reading Psalm 23 from my daughter’s Beginners Bible, we made a little lamb with cotton ball fleece to remind us that we are Jesus’ little lambs.

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During this time of uncertainty we shouldn’t be afraid because Jesus, our Sheperd, is there to guide us, provide for us and love us, through good days and during dark times. We sang the Lutheran hymn, “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb” while we worked together. CLICK HERE to listen to a recording sung by children.

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I got the lamb template from the blog www.startsateight.com. CLICK HERE to download the lamb template.

Symphony No 3 (fourth movement) by James Barnes– In January 2017, the Saint Louis Wind Symphony closed their performance at the Missouri Music Educators Association’s annual conference by playing the last movement of Barnes’s dynamic Symphony No 3. I play third clarinet in the SLWS and the piece, although challenging to play, is emotionally moving. The Third Symphony was commissioned by the United States Air Force Band in Washington, D.C. Barnes, the composer, was told the piece needed to be a major work for wind band but was given no other parameters. Barnes began writing Symphony No 3 at a very tragic time in his life, shortly after his baby daughter Natalie died. The program notes state… The fourth movement (finale) represents a rebirth of spirit, a reconciliation for us all. The second theme of the last movement is based on the old Lutheran children’s hymn, “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb.” The hymn was sung at Natalie’s funeral and was the closing hymn my congregation sang on Good Shepherd Sunday.

CLICK HERE to hear the United States Air Force Band in Washington, D.C. play the finale from Symphony No 3 by James Barnes.

I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb– While my family of three sang the closing hymn, “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb,”‘my daughter declared, “I wish you were still a child. Then I wouldn’t be born yet and I wouldn’t be here for the virus.” Then she went off and began to play. Deep thoughts for a five year old and a reminder that our children are continuing to process their new normal… a time of virtual church, virtual school and physical time away from extended family and friends. Although it’s OK to be afraid, upset and lost during this time, I want my daughter to find comfort in Jesus. To know that Jesus, her Good Shepherd, is here to carry her through this difficult time.

The painting, “The Good Shepherd,” by artist, Richard Hook. Hook created a lot of art for Concordia Publishing House. This painting, or one similar to it, is what Pastor Rouland refers to in his sermon.

Two Noteworthy Teachers “Changing Lives Through Music”

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week I wanted to highlight two teachers who have touched my life. To them, teaching isn’t simply a job, it’s a passion! Through their gift of music they are changing the lives of children in a positive way. Portions of this article appeared in the Community Music School of Webster University e-blast in May 2018.

I began taking clarinet lessons at the Community Music School of Webster University (CMS) as a young adult. My teacher, Jeannie York Garesche, helped me with the fundamentals and gave me the confidence as a performer to become a member of the Saint Louis Wind Symphony. “Jeanine personalized each lesson, was patient with me and always set high expectations. Through her instruction, mentor-ship and support, I was able to perform at a level I never thought possible!” Over the years Jeanne and I have kept in touch and my husband and I were honored when she accepted the invitation to perform at our wedding. She is a talented professional musician and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to study under her.

Jennifer and her clarinet teacher Ms. Jeanine York Garesche.

Music brings a lot of joy to my life and I want my daughter Lillian to grow up appreciating music and having opportunities to express herself musically. So I enrolled Lillian in Kindermusik classes at the CMS when she was 8 months old. Lillian and I enjoy going to class together and we both love her teacher, Ms. Jeanne Magee! “Ms. Jeanne is outstanding! It is clear she is passionate about music and is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to child development. She is warm and welcoming and makes learning fun.” Jeanne has a beautiful voice, supports my blog and is one of the sweetest people I have ever met! I consider her a mommy mentor and a friend.

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Lillian and her Kindermusik teacher Ms. Jeanne Magee.

A busy life as a full time mommy, part time educational consultant and active musician have sadly made it challenging for me to continue taking clarinet lessons. Even though I don’t currently study privately, when I perform with the Saint Louis Wind Symphony or the Northwinds Concert Band, I continue to apply what Jeanine taught me. If I ever slow down I hope to study with Jeanine again some day. Lillian has learned to keep a steady beat, recognize loud and soft and often sings the songs or does the dances she has learned in Ms. Jeanne’s class. Lillian is three so we get to enjoy two more years of Kindermusik at the CMS! I will always be grateful to the CMS and their dedicated teachers for providing me and my daughter with quality music instruction.

Teachers often don’t get the opportunity to hear how they have changed lives. So I challenge each of you to take the time to write a note or send an email to a teacher who impacted your life. Let your child’s teacher know how much you appreciate the work they do or encourage your child to write a note or draw a picture. As a former teacher I valued those personal notes far more than any of the lotion, scented candles or coffee mugs I received!