Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Happy Constitution Day!

When I was teaching in California, we were required to devote the week of September 17th to the study of the Constitution. At all grade levels. In the low primary grades, most teachers confined themselves to writing a "Class Constitution" that set out goals and rules for the year.

I had second graders, so they were able to handle a little bit more. As long as they finished the week knowing that the Constitution is a list of rules for how to run the government, I was happy. We also made a "Freedom Quilt" (I know, I know), which was a 6-foot long piece of construction paper on which each child decorated a square with "America is . . . " It was goofy and indoctrinating, but some of the kids actually wrote pretty touching things. Not too surprising when you consider that most of the kids in the class were first generation Americans or immigrants themselves.

Whenever we talked about America or immigration, the kids always had hair-raising stories to tell. One little girl told us about how her father had to fight off snakes in the desert and eat rats when he went back to Mexico to get her mother. A friend of mine who taught fourth grade had a student who told the whole class about how he and his mother swam to San Diego one night, only to be caught, be sent back, and try again. I never really knew what to say to them.

Anyway, happy Constitution Day, and good luck to all of those kindergarten teachers who have to find some way to work these lesson plans in. Making a construction paper flag counts.

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