Great educators have great stories. This series gives a glimpse of the ideas, practices, and experiences of the recipients of the NEA Foundation’s California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence. Today, we’re sharing the words of Kim Pelzer, a 4th grade educator at Tipton Elementary School in Tipton, IA.
I believe strongly in trying to model for my students empathy and compassion for those different from ourselves and to find the value in being different.
A few years ago, I began teaching literacy through a novel called Rules. It is a story about a young boy trapped in a body that doesn’t function well for him. However, his mind is clear, intelligent, and talented. The story is told through the voice of another character that is the sister of an autistic little boy.
When students can make connections to the stories of these children, they can then also add to the fabric of their own lives. I know when students make reference to these story people as though they really existed – refer to them when trying to understand a situation in their real lives – then I know that they are thinking.
My goal is not to tell them to appreciate the diversity around us, but to get them thinking about it so that their thoughts can turn into behaviors and actions that support a compassionate world.