I’ve been making the rounds of junior high classrooms in the last couple weeks visiting my student teachers.
I visited a grade nine class where students were reading a speech Justice Murray Sinclair gave at a community forum during Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation hearings. The kids had lots of questions about the speech. Did only white people practice colonialism? What exactly was reconciliation? How many different treaties had the government signed with First Peoples? The teacher asked the kids to write poems based on ideas from the speech. They wrote about peace, justice, racism and residential schools.
I dropped in on a class of grade nines discussing issues raised by the play Romeo and Juliet. Is revenge justifiable? Does the end justify the means? Why do teens commit suicide? Is love worth dying for? Can love conquer all?
In another junior high class kids had watched Andrea Gibson a gender fluid poet recite her work. She talked about the challenges faced by transgender people. The students wrote journal entries in response. Many were sympathetic to the challenges transgender people face in society but they had lots of questions.
A grade six class was doing an inquiry project about conflict in the world. The teacher had divided the class into groups and given each a series of photos of places in the world where there is conflict. The students were required to come up with open- ended questions about the pictures they saw. They wanted to know why they saw images of children carrying guns. Why weren’t those children in school? They wondered if war does damage to the environment. They wondered if people went hungry during a war or where people go when their houses are destroyed during a war.
Kids are looking for answers to important questions these days. If they keep looking when they become adults are world is in pretty good hands.