Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tolerance and Understanding

      Tolerance and understanding is a topic that can get me going and fill Hiawatha House with a few posts. A few posts ago I wrote Visible Minority and it got me thinking about differences which we encounter from time to time.

     When I was teaching I used the small novel, The Cay, with my grade seven classes. This novel had several obvious themes that made it easy to discuss racial prejudice at a level grade seven students could easily understand.

     The novel was about an eleven year old boy who gets shipwrecked in the Carribean. He washes up on a small island with an elderly black man who was part of the crew. The boy had received a head injury and was blinded. The elderly black man is skilled in survival skills and helps the boy to survive, as they were not found for about nine months. Old Timothy helps the boy through his loneliness and homesickness, all the while teaching him about racial tolerance and understanding. For a little boy who was quite prejudiced , he had much to learn. One quote from Old Timothy that I really liked was that, "We are all the same color inside." That quote really made kids think about things from another perspective.

     For a first novel study, I would read most of the story so that we could stop and leisurely discuss at opportune times. Students were given a couple of comprehension and understanding questions to make sure that they were really following the story and not just having a nap. Most kids were on task as they found the story interesting and they wanted to find out if Timothy and the boy were rescued. There was also a very old movie version of the story that we could watch after we finished reading the novel.

     I hope that many of my students picked up a few things and were able to see others as human beings who are either good or bad and see individual characteristics in each person, rather than label somebody with a set of general characteristics gathered from prejudice.