Next week, we will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s dream. A dream for a world where everyone is treated equally, regardless of the color of their skin. We will show videos, do worksheets, and probably even a craft. All good stuff meant to help students make connections to the lessons from our past. But what about that deeper meaning? How can we go about teaching our students the true meaning behind Dr. King’s message? How can we teach our students about tolerance?
Some of you may be unsure about teaching tolerance. What about acceptance? Isn’t that the ultimate goal? Yes, indeed it is, but we have to start somewhere. As with any new skill in special education, I find it best to take a step-by-step approach. It can be difficult to truly accept something you do not understand. In addition, it is difficult to understand something you cannot tolerate. So, I like to start there, at the beginning with tolerance.
We actually spend a lot of time indirectly teaching our students about tolerance. We teach them to tolerate:
- Sitting in a chair rather than rolling around on the floor
- Raising your hand and waiting rather than calling out the answer
- Having a food you HATE even present on the same table
- Listening to the sound of the vacuum as the custodian is working next door
Sometimes I feel like all I did was work on my students tolerating “the world” as the first step to being an active participant in it. So, perhaps talking about tolerance when it comes to civil rights and Martin Luther King may feel like a stretch and unimportant. But, maybe not.
What is the goal?
Our goal is to provide our students with the skills they need to be the best people they can be. One of those skills is learning how to tolerate people who do not look, act, or talk like you do. Tolerance means knowing what questions are appropriate and not appropriate to ask if you don’t know the person.
My goal is that by teaching tolerance, it will eventually grow into acceptance. My hope is that by high school, my students are blind to the color of the skin of the person sitting next to them. Actually, this is my hope for all students.
If you would like a free social story to use with your students on tolerance, then click the button below this video. Add it to the lesson plans you already have for Martin Luther King day next week.
“The highest result of education is tolerance.” ~ Helen Keller