I once heard educator Angela Maiers say “If you really want to reach someone (child or adult) find out what breaks their heart and then start there”. There is so much truth in that statement. When we have something on our hearts, something that stirs our souls, and breaks us from within, we move heaven and earth to find a solution. It can easily consume us to the point of desperation.
When working with students, I’ve seen first hand how passionate they become about causes that are personal to them. And in my experience I’ve also seen the importance of issues that are timely and include children their age.
One important conversation educators need to be having with students today is the conversation around refugees. Poetry helps us see difficult topics in a new light.
One such poem is “How to Dismantle a Heart” by Rodney Gomez.
I think this is a powerful poem to begin conversation with a question as simple as, “How does this make you feel when you read it?”
An important video to show to go along with this conversation is “Home” by Warsan Shire.
When wanting to further conversation about the topic, the book Refugee by Alan Gratz is an incredible piece of literature that is easy to digest and will hook your students (and you the teacher) almost immediately. It tells the story of three refugee families from three different time periods, all from the perspective of the children.
We can not shy away from difficult conversations. As educators, it’s our responsibility to make sure we have those conversations and use literature as a bridge into them. But it is important to remember to put the politics and your personal beliefs aside and allow the students to guide the conversation. You’ll be amazed at the depth that can arise.
Todd Nesloney is an award-winning principal in Texas, international speaker, and author of 3 books including the hit Sparks in The Dark which he co-wrote with Travis Crowder.