How and Why To Use Scrambled Sentences In Elementary

There are many factors that go into reading comprehension. There’s decoding, vocabulary, grammar, fluency, and sentence structure, to name a few (check out my post here to learn how teach reading to follow directions).

Sentence structure sounds simple, but for younger students, it can be a challenging topic. They have to understand the components of a sentence and how to put them together in a way that sounds fluent and natural. That’s no easy task! 

Sentence structure is important because the way sentences are put together can make a huge difference in meaning. This is also a huge part of developing writing skills. When students understand sentence structure, they become better writers! 

scrambled sentences

One of the best ways to work on sentence structure is by using scrambled sentences. 

This is a pretty popular method, for a good reason! It works! Students will get practice with capitalization, comprehension, fluency, content, sight words, and punctuation. To do this, give your students parts of a sentence for them to arrange into the right order. 

I love using these in my classroom because they are so easy to use and versatile. You can base them around themes and can be used for small group instruction, centers, or for individual practice at a desk. 

In my experience, students LOVE trying to figure out how to arrange the words into sentences. 

Another reason these are so versatile is that you can base them on common, grade-level appropriate sight words that can be practiced over and over in context. 

Interested in trying them out for yourself? Check out my free Cinderella Scrambled Sentences Resource. 

scrambled sentences

This FREE themed sentence scramble has a total of 33 cards for students to arrange in the correct order to build a sentence and then write them. 

scrambled sentences

If you love them, make sure to check out the full bundle! 

You’ll get 13 scrambled sentences products with different themes. Halloween, Fairy Tales, Thanksgiving, Sight Words, Presidents Day, Martin Luther King, and more! 

scrambled sentences

All of these activities are perfect for first, second, or third grade students. I love these because they are effective and easy for teachers to prepare and organize for centers.

Are you using scrambled sentences in your lessons? Let me know in the comments!

The Importance Of Reading To Follow Directions

In first and second grade, students are starting to get the hang of reading. We spend so much time focusing on reading-level books and reading comprehension. It is so important! 

reading to follow directions

However, another important part of learning to read is reading to follow directions! 

As first or second grade teachers, we may be surprised to find that students didn’t follow directions. They continue to ask questions about how to do things even though the instructions have been explained and listed. 

Reading to follow directions is a skill that students need to learn. They don’t just naturally understand it when they learn to read. Their whole lives so far, they have learned what to do by being told or shown. This is a new way of communicating so it is important to focus on this in the earlier grades so they are able to use this skill in day-to-day life.

reading to follow directions

Here are some ways you can teach your students how to read to follow directions.

 

  1. Always list directions on the board. This may seem obvious, but it’s important so it is worth mentioning. Use big letters and a numbered list to help them understand the format. 
  2. Go over commonly used words in directions that they may not know. Something that can trip them up big time with reading to follow directions is words they don’t know or are struggling to sound out. Looking at instructions full of words they don’t understand can be overwhelming and discouraging for them. Going over those words ahead of time will boost their confidence. 
  3. Use worksheets that have instructions listed on them. Tell students that the instructions are on the worksheets so they can read it to find out how to complete it. 
  4. Make it fun with games! Create centers that focus on reading directions. In each center, include the instructions for a simple game that students have to read in order to play. You can also pair students up, and have them race to read their instructions to complete a task first. There are so many possibilities! 

Reading to follow directions is a skill that students will need for their whole lives. College assignments, job applications, instruction manuals, the list goes on! Practicing and perfecting this skill early on is vital and will set them up for success later on. 

Another great way to practice this skill is with this Reading To Follow Directions resource! 

reading to follow directions

This bundle comes with activities for every month of the year that will have your students perfecting their reading to follow directions skills.

Students demonstrate reading comprehension by simply reading sentences and coloring a picture to follow the directions.

They can read the sheet using many sight words and then follow the directions to color pictures. It’s fun and creative!

Try out some free activities with my FREE 120 Day of School Read To Follow Directions resource. 

You can also try out my Veterans Day Read and Follow Directions resource here! 

 

 

reading to follow directions

Looking for more back to school resources and tips? Check out my post here! 

Sand and Water or Sensory Table

Do you have reservations about using a sand and/or water table in your classroom? Do your parents and administrators think your students are JUST PLAYING when they are at the Sand and Water or Sensory Center? If asked, can you justify the objectives your preschool or Kindergarten students are learning at the center? Do you know what research says about the benefits of using the Sand and Water/Sensory Center?

Why Should I Use a Sensory Table?

Research shows that multisensory exploration-based activities are best for brain development.  It is the foundation of all the skills children will use in school learning to read, write, solve math problems and to explore science concepts. Some of the objectives/skills covered at the Sand / Water or “Sensory” Table Center include; (1) higher-level thinking, (2) problem-solving, (3) vocabulary building, (4) oral language skills– more/less, larger/smaller, (5) small motor development – scooping, sifting, and pouring, (6) exploration, observation, and discovery (7) introduces scientific concepts such as sink/float, and changes like dry/wet (8) measuring practice – full/empty, (9) social and emotional development– cooperative play and sharing.

Vestibular input is also an important reason to use sensory tables. Some children’s nervous systems are wired so that they do not efficiently process sensory input and this can contribute to behavioral and emotional problems. These are just a few of the many reasons to use a sand/water table!!

Some ways I have used the sand/water/sensory table in my classrooms.

Students “fish” for letters.
Students find letters to spell thematic words. Rice was used for this sensory bin.
Students match letters they “caught” to an alphabet chart.

Click HERE to see an awesome resource with task cards, recording sheets, and ideas for using a Sand/Water/Sensory table! You will be so happy you decided to add this phenomenal center to your classroom. It doesn’t have to be hard, I promise!

Dig for letters to make words or just to identify letters!


To allow administrators, parents, visitors, and students to understand the important concepts each center provides, take a look at these EDITABLE center signs!

Labor Day in the United States for Kids

Labor Day

We think of Labor Day as a signal that summer is over.  We think of having the day off from school and work. So what’s behind Labor Day?  Why is it a federal holiday? What do we teach our elementary students?

labor day

Questions to Ponder

Do your parents get weekends off from work? Do they have lunch breaks? What about paid vacation? Do they work for eight-hours? Do your grandparents have Social Security? Do you have to work at a job? You may not know the answers to any of these questions. Go home and ask.

If they say “yes” to any of those questions, you can thank labor unions and the U.S. labor movement for it. Years of hard work to make changes have resulted in many of the most basic benefits we enjoy at jobs today. Then, children do not have to work (besides going to school). On the first Monday in September, we take the day off to celebrate Labor Day and reflect on the American worker’s contributions to our country. How? Why?

Labor Day History

At the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked seven days per week for 12-16 hours a day. They had to do this just to make a basic living. In spite of the fact that some states had restrictions about child labor, children as young as 5 or 6 had to work in mills, factories, and mines across the country. Furthermore, children did not earn nearly what the adults did, even if they did the same amount of work.

People everywhere faced very unsafe working conditions. Many did not have access to fresh air or clean facilities and were not given any breaks.

Labor Day

Information About Labor Day For Upper Elementary

Take a look at this resource to help your third through fifth graders understand why we celebrate Labor Day.  The non-fiction informational book explains in their language what took place leading up to Labor Day being deemed a national holiday.

It is designed to provide basic information about how Labor Day came to be, what it stands for and why we celebrate. This resource is perfect for 4th and 5th graders but can be used with 3rd grade as well (it is a much higher level for 3rd.)  A FUNstress-free way to teach your students about Labor Day.

Language Arts skills are practiced while learning the history.  

If you are distance learning or prefer a digital copy, check out the Google Slides version of this resource here!

Labor Day

Fun Quotes About Labor Day (I LOVE quotes!)

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”
Colin Powell

“My father taught me to work; he did not teach me to love it.”
Abraham Lincoln

“The problem is that those of us who are lucky enough to do work that we love are sometimes cursed with too damn much of it.”
Terry Gross

“Don’t mistake activity with achievement.”
John Wooden

“Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.”
Ralph Marston

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
Mahatma Gandhi

If you are looking for even more American history lessons, check out my American History Activities Series!

You’ll get 17 resources all about U.S. history, including the Labor Day resource! These activities will carry you throughout the entire year.

Labor Day

Included with this series you’ll get activities that cover:

  • Labor Day 
  • Christopher Columbus 
  • The History of the Pledge of Allegiance 
  • Constitution Day 
  • American Symbols 
  • Veterans Day 
  • Thanksgiving – The Real Story
  • Christmas Around the World, Holidays Around the World
  • MLK Build-a Sentence
  • Presidents’ Day 
  • St. Patrick’s Day in America
  • Memorial Day 
  • Critical Period 1783-1789 
  • American Revolution
  • Civil War Review 
  • Industrial Revolution

What are your favorite ways to teach about Labor Day? Let me know in the comments!

How To Use Mathematical Glyphs In The Classroom

Have you ever used glyphs in your classroom? Do you know what a “glyph” is?

glyph is “the specific shape, design, or representation of a character”. This representation is a collection of visual objects. These visual objects are collectively called a Glyph.

Glyphs are fun activities and worksheets that keep kids engaged, focused, and help students learn to decode data .

These skills are important in math, science, and social studies. Glyphs build skills, like counting, time, directionality, and practice reading comprehension. Students read and follow directions.

Teachers Love Glyphs Because:

  1. They are NO PREP.
  2.   They require students to use reading skills. It is especially helpful when the glyph legends used are written using sight words. That way students are practicing reading their sight words in context.
  3.  Graphing glyphs by different attributes each day means several days of lessons from just 1 glyph!

glyphs

Students Love Glyphs Because:

  1.  They get to color, cut, and assemble. (Some glyphs are just color.)
  2. They get to post their glyph where everyone can see and they can see how many others are alike or different.
  3. Glyphs are interactive and the students change their glyph daily to graph for a different attribute.

glyphs

How to Use Glyphs in the Classroom

So how have I used glyphs in the classroom? There are so many different ways that I could probably write a book! However, here are just a few ideas. Please note that these ideas are done over several lessons.

glyphs

 

First, in whole group instruction, I  discuss what glyphs are and why we use them. Next, I draw a picture as an example on chart paper. Then I use the students to make a graph. For example, I line all the boys up on one side of the room and all the girls up on the other side. After that, we discuss the differences in mathematical terms.

glyphs

“Which do we have more of, girls or boys? How many more ____ than ___? Can we make a math sentence to show this information?” 

Many times I use glyphs in my small group instruction. This of course depends on the level of students I am teaching. Other times I place the glyph in a center as a “Have-To” activity. Students can also complete their glyph as independent work and save them until math time when we begin to graph the results.

Depending on the month, I show students the glyph and explain how to follow the directions on the legend. Some months are “color only”, some are “color and cut out”, others are “color, cut out, assemble”, and then others are “color, cut out, assemble and complete a picture.”

glyphs

After all students have completed their glyph, I choose an attribute for graphing. For example, “Today we are going to graph by the color of your eyes.” Each day I choose a different attribute from the legend. For about the 1st five minutes of math, we discuss the graphing information. Sometimes there is a class graph that we also fill out daily.

Depending on the level of students, I have them write statements with their data. For example, “I am a girl. I like school.”

Preschool and Kindergarten Students LOVE Glyphs Too!

Glyphs can be used with any age group. If you teach Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten, use glyphs in your small group instruction as a “listening and following directions” lesson. Then use title cards with pictures so they can graph their glyphs independently. I use painter’s tape so the paper doesn’t tear when they remove their glyphs.

TIPS FOR TEACHERS

In conclusion, here are some things to keep in mind when using glyphs:

  • Teach students what glyphs are and how to graph results
  • Preview the legend to be sure it is appropriate for the level of students you teach
  • Decide how you want students to complete their glyph – small group, centers, or independently
  • Choose an attribute each day to graph by
  • Discuss graphing results in mathematical terms – greater than, less than, how many more, how many less, half of the class, fewer than, more than, etc.
  • Depending on the level of your students, have them write statements about their data

NOTE: Unless the glyph is used as a center activity, I ALWAYS staple the legend to the back of the glyph. This is so that parents will see the educational value and not think the child is just coloring at school.

If you have never tried glyphs, grab your FREE glyph HERE!

glyphs

If you and your students enjoy this, take a look to see glyphs for each month of the school year plus more! You can find individual months or you can find them all together in a money-saving bundle.

glyphs

For another fun activity, check out my Fairytale Glyphs Activities and Centers here! 

glyphs

For more fun in the classroom, check out my post here on how to make a game spinner!

 

For more fun in the classroom, check out my post here on how to make a game spinner!

How to Make a Game Spinner in 5 Easy Steps and a FREEBIE!

Stop Those Flying Papers!

As a teacher, do you get tired of papers flying across the room when trying to use a pencil and a paper clip for a spinner? Make this spinner and you won’t have that problem anymore!

Make This Game Spinner in 5 EASY Steps!

Step 1

Gather the following materials:

  • Your spinner – To make them last even longer, print on card stock and laminate!
  • 2 large paper clips
  • Masking tape or packaging tape

Step 2

Next, open one end of one of the paper clips. Punch the open end of the paper clip into the center of the spinner.

Step 3

Press the paper clip flat against the back and tape it down with masking tape, painter’s tape, or packaging tape.

Step 4

The paper clip will now stand up on the printed side of the spinner. Take the other paper clip and place it over the taped clip. Students hold the clip that is upright and spin the clip that is flat on the paper. No more flying papers!!

            

This spinner is from my Earth Day resource which can be found HERE.

Other great resources using a spinner can be found HERE. This is the bundle but the individual resources can be purchased also.

If you are looking for more information on Blends and Digraphs (with a freebie), go HERE!

If you made it this far, here is a FREEBIE for you!

If you have any questions or need help with anything, please email me at thefunfactoryontpt@gmail.com

Enjoy!

Susan

St. Patrick’s Day Activities and Ideas for Kids

St. Patrick’s Day FUN

One year I had my “surprise” evaluation on St. Patrick’s Day! I was teaching 2nd grade at the time and that morning when the students came in, a leprechaun had visited and left footprints all over the class.

Leprechaun Footprints

Needless to say, they were a little hyped up. I’m glad the activities I had planned for the day were engaging. Since St. Patrick’s Day is so much fun for students, I like to connect literacy and math skills wherever I can. Whether you’re Irish or not, bringing St. Patrick’s Day into your classroom activities is so much fun! It becomes a “theme” for much of March! Read on for some fun ideas.

St. Patrick’s Day is not only a FUN holiday to celebrate with students, it is one of my favorites and also one that has a deep history for Americans. Irish Americans are Americans who have full or partial ancestry from Ireland. About 32 million Americans or 9.7% of the total population are identified as being Irish (according to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau).

Resources for Online Teaching AND In-person Teaching 

In our classrooms, we can teach the “magical” side of St Patrick’s Day and also the historical perspective. For upper elementary students, you will find this close reading comprehension resource has enough activities to last the entire month (including some math worksheets for place value and reading word problems). There is a digital Google Slides™ version AND a printable version (also a BUNDLE) to meet the diverse needs of teachers during these different times.

This engaging resource answers the following questions in the non-fiction book Click the image for more details.

☘ Who was St. Patrick?

☘ Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

☘ Why do we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day?

☘ What is a leprechaun?

☘ What does the shamrock have to do with St. Patrick’s Day?

☘ Do four-leaf clovers bring good luck?

☘ Why do you get pinched if you don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day?

☘ What do corned beef and cabbage have to do with St. Patrick’s Day traditions?

Literature to Share

There are always great pieces of literature for every holiday. One of my favorite books to share is Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie DePaola. Tomie DePaola is one of my absolute favorites!!

Jamie O’Rourke, who is known as the laziest man in all of Ireland, is sure he’ll starve to death when his wife injures her back and can’t do all the work. A leprechaun intervenes and one wish later, Jamie is the proud owner of a potato as big as a house.

Another fun book is How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace.

You’ve been planning night and day, and finally, you’ve created the perfect trap! Now all you need to do is wait. Is this the year you’ll finally catch the leprechaun?

Preschool through 2nd Grades

If you teach PreK-2, here are some other FUN and interactive resources you might be interested in.

St. Patrick’s Day Positional Words (Available in digital Google Slides™ and printable versions.)                                                                                                                                BOOM CardsSt. Patrick’s Day Positional Words                                              FREE PK-K Homework Calendar with Developmentally Appropriate Activities                                                                                                                                                 St. Patrick’s Day Emergent Reader (K-1) 

Reward!

If you have made it this far, I have something for you!  Click on the link below for a FREE Irish Blessing for kids.

Irish Blessing

Do your students love jokes? These are the top 10 jokes voted on by a class I had. FREE for you! Enjoy!  St.Pat’s Jokes

I hope you have FUN with this holiday! Enjoy and as always, email me at thefunfactoryontpt@gmail.com if you have any questions or suggestions.

May your paths bloom with shamrocks!

Susan, The Fun Factory        

 

 

Back to School for Teachers Social Distancing ~ Teacher Toolkit

 

This school year is going to be an ABSOLUTELY crazy back-to-school season. It will be like no other due to Covid-19.  In my groups, I have heard teachers that still don’t know how/when they will be teaching, teachers that are starting tomorrow, some 100% at home, digital, and others that will be doing both in-person and online! CRAZY!!! Teachers and parents are stressed to the max trying to figure it all out.

I imagine the best thing you can do right now is to try to get a jump start on classroom organization and prep for the beginning of school. We are here to help! Once you are in the classroom, these posters (diversity included) will help young children remember safety rules. EDITABLE name desk plates are included. Just type in the student’s name. Picture reminders are on their nameplate. Then there is this FREEBIE on how to talk to your children about the virus which includes handwashing songs your students can sing to help know how long they should wash their hands.

This All About Me resource for getting to know your students at the beginning of school is in Google Slides format as well as Printable format. To save you money, I also made a bundle with both types of resources for only $1.00 more than each individual resource. That way you can have it for online learning now and the printable version for next year.

Teacher Toolkit

In order to help you with all the new social distance guidelines and distance learning, a group of other teacher-authors and myself came up with an idea to help you as you struggle with all the uncertainty. We are bringing you some teaching tools you can use in this Back-to-School Tools for Teachers! This is exciting because some of these are resources are way too time-consuming for teachers to create.  There are a few freebies in the mix too.

Here are the resources for your Distance Learning Teaching Toolkit:

Another new resource for your distance learning. Telling Time Fairy Tale Math BUNDLE which is the digital AND printable version in one download.

This has just recently been loaded. Onset and Rime | CVC Drag and Drop in Google Slides!

Social Distancing Greetings | Posters | Craft | Mini BooksBack to School Getting to Know You Project for Distance LearningSocial Distancing Coloring Book EDITABLE | Classroom Rules Coloring BookMath and ELA Toolbox Distance LearningPen Pal Packet for Distance LearningBack to School Distance Learning Activity - Reading Interest Inventory Survey

These are just a few. More to be added!

Also, Check Out These Back-to-School Printable and Digital Resources:

Here are even more resources for your toolkit!

Teacher Planning Tool for Digital OrganizationDistance Learning Animal Adaptations for Google ClassroomEmergent Readers | Back to School Staying Safe School Rules BookletVirtual Learning Behavior Expectations Posters| Distance Learning| Google Slides

Enjoy and contact me at thefunfactoryontpt@gmail.com if there is something I can help you with!

Susan,

The Fun Factory

Sun, Sand, and Savings!

Giveaways for Teachers

Every year in July, a group of Teacher-Authors joins together to help our teacher friends begin to prepare for back-to-school. We offer giveaways for gift cards to TpT, Amazon, and Target.

One Dollar Deals

Also, every Monday we offer $1.00 deals for 24 hours.

Starting at midnight tonight, here is what you will find listed for $1.00 in my store!

For even more deals, click HERE.

Two Dollar Deals

Tuesdays we offer $2.00 deals.

Today, these 2 resources are only $2.00. The Glyphs resource is a year-long BUNDLE! The graphing prompt cards can be used with PK through 2nd grade because there are picture prompts for your non-readers.

 

Digital Dollar Deals

This year (because of the craziness in our world), we are offering $1.00 deals for digital products. These digital resources are Google Slides, Boom Cards, Seesaw, and more!

If you go to The Fun Factory and see a resource you would like, I will choose someone to receive it for FREE if it is the resource placed on sale! Just email me at thefunfactoryontpt@gmail.com.

I will update this post each week with my resources that are on sale.

Thanks for reading, have FUN shopping, and good luck on the giveaways!

Susan from The Fun Factory

Racism – I’m Still Learning…My Story

I’m Still Learning…

Everyone has a story. Actually, everyone has many stories. Here are some of mine and maybe you’ll understand how I’m still learning.

   I must start this by saying I am a middle-class white person. I have blonde hair and green eyes. My grandparents lived in Montgomery, Alabama. Every summer we would travel to stay with them for a week or two during summer vacation.

My grandfather was a hard-working, kind, good Christian man. He read his big Bible every day and dropped to his knees every night to pray. We didn’t have books to read at his house so our bedtime stories were always from his Bible. We learned to kneel before God and give Him thanks.

As a very young child, I remember stopping along the way to go visit my grandparents. We needed to use the restroom and I remember almost going into the wrong restroom as I couldn’t read yet. My mom grabbed me and said, “That one is for colored people.” It was the same for water fountains. I didn’t understand. From the eyes of a child, I always wanted to go into those restrooms to see all the beautiful colors. Why didn’t our bathroom have pretty colors? I wondered, “Does their water fountain have pretty colored water?” I was learning.

Fast forward a few years. I was still young, less than 10 years old. My grandfather and I went to run errands and had to stop for gas. This was back when the gas was pumped for you. There was a crowd of Black people who were all yelling and chanting. I did not understand but felt afraid. They seemed so angry! My grandfather paid for the gas and we started to drive off. Suddenly, a bottle was thrown and shattered against the car. I started to cry in fear.

I asked my grandfather what the people were so mad about. “We didn’t do anything wrong. Why do they hate us? They don’t know us and we don’t know them. Why are they so mad at us? Why did they hurt our car? Aren’t you mad they messed up the car? What are we going to do about it?”

My grandfather asked if I noticed anything about the crowd. I said, “Yes, they are mad at us. Why?” He asked if I noticed their color. From the eyes of a child, I did not see their color until he asked me that question. He said, “They are colored people.” “Why does that make a difference?” I asked. My grandfather then replied with an answer I have never forgotten. He said, “The way you feel right now…all the questions you asked me….that’s how they have felt their entire lives. People treat them differently. They feel angry and want things to change. They are just like us except for the color of their skin. I am upset about the car but I am not angry with them. I am not as upset as they are for being treated poorly. Yes, we are going to do something. We are going to pray that God will protect them and change the hearts of those who don’t treat them fairly. We must be kind to everyone, no matter the color of their skin. It is what is in your heart and your actions that matter.” I was learning.

My grandmother had a lady that would help her occasionally with some of her heavy housework. She was a (colored) Black woman named Lucille. We loved Ms. Lucille! When we came into town, she would come over just to see us. She ate at our table. She wanted to know how school was, what kind of grades we made, and what sports we played. She told jokes and gave the BEST hugs! She sang gospels with us. From a child’s eyes, she was a friend and remained so until she passed away. Even though my grandfather’s words never left me, even as I aged, I never had a conversation with Ms. Lucille about her life experiences and what all she suffered. I’m sad about that. I was still learning.

Time went on. I was a young teen when there were to be three protest marches from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama. Even though I was still young, the news grabbed my attention because they were talking about where my grandparents lived.  They were marching to demonstrate the desire for Black people to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression. I could sense how tensions were building leading up to the marches. I felt afraid again.

When the event turned into what is now known as Bloody Sunday, I remember crying and asking what they had done wrong. I remember feeling helpless, thinking there was nothing I could do as a child to help what was going on. From the eyes of a young teen…..I wanted to scream, “THEY ARE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BE ABLE TO DO WHAT EVERYONE ELSE CAN! WHAT DOES THEIR SKIN COLOR HAVE TO DO WITH IT?” My heart was breaking. Why? I didn’t know these people! There were some changes made after those events. The Voting Rights Acts was passed.  I was learning.

Fast forward a few years. I was on my high school gymnastics team. There was a new member of our team who was Black. I noticed she was warming up by herself. No one would spot her. I started warming up with her and spotting her. We would work out together.

I was also a cheerleader and we were at a Friday night basketball game. All of a sudden they rushed the players to the locker room and everyone was told to go home. There was a riot going on outside the school. What were we going to do? I had gone to the game with my boyfriend who was a basketball player. As we were leaving, we were swarmed by a large group of Black students who had made a big circle around us. There were fights going on. Students were fighting with sticks and hitting each other with glass bottles. I was terrified. We continued to walk, not knowing what we were going to do. Then, I came face-to-face with my teammate. Our eyes met and what happened next, changed my life. My teammate did some special hand squeeze and the circle opened up for us to pass. We made it to the car where once again, we were swarmed and students were rocking the car. All of a sudden, unexpectedly, the swarm opened up and we were able to drive out of the parking lot. This is the day I TRULY learned the power of kindness.

I saw my teammate during practice on Monday. While we spoke unspoken words with our eyes, we never had a discussion. I now am sorry about that. Why didn’t I, as part of the “privileged” class, do something to help? What could I do to help bring justice to the Black community? While I understood the power of kindness, I still needed to learn.

Ms. Laura was my 3-year-old son’s babysitter. She was MORE than a babysitter. She was part of our family. We would visit Ms. Laura at her house. We had meals together. She always called my son “her little friend.”

We were getting ready to go out of town for my brother’s wedding and Ms. Laura came over to make sure my son’s shoes were polished and had clean shoelaces! She wanted “her baby” to look spiffy when he walked down the aisle as the ring bearer. While we were away at the wedding, Ms. Laura had a massive heart attack and passed away. Trying to explain what had happened to a three-year-old was difficult. All I remember from the conversation was him saying, “Oh no! Now I won’t have ‘fwiend’!” He had no understanding of skin color. He just felt the love. I never had a discussion with Ms. Laura about her trials or experiences as a Black person. I STILL needed to learn!

As a teacher, I was asked one day whether a certain student in my class was Black or not. I had to stop and think. I didn’t see color. My heart said he is just a precious child of God. I didn’t realize the effects of not seeing and recognizing color. I was still learning.

When I moved from the classroom to train teachers, I worked with some fabulous people of color. My boss was a Black woman who I admired tremendously. She was smart, funny, a great leader, and talented in so many ways. That is what I saw. Never once did I stop and think about all the obstacles she probably had to face to get to her position. I took it for granted. I didn’t think about how much harder it had to be for her than her White counterparts.  I was still learning.

A very dear friend of mine, Bertie Simmons, spent 60 years in education. Yes, you read that correctly…60 years! She is my hero in more ways than one. I just read her recent book  Whispers of Hope . It tells about her life experiences growing up in rural Louisiana during the Jim Crow era. In her story, she used (and continues to use) her life experiences to bring about changes in the fight for equity in our educational system. I am still learning! Her innovations to turn a school around that was a gang-infested drop-out school is nothing less than remarkable. It is because of her courage to stand up and fight for what was best for the students in her community that gives me the courage to write some of my story. It gives me courage to stand up and do my part to fight for equality. I am still learning!

I am including this poem written by Bertie Simmons. It is in her book. This too is my dream. I could never have written anything any better. Thank you, Bertie, for teaching me and giving me HOPE!

I Dream

I dream of a world full of hope
Where sunbeams sparkle with delight,
And raindrops wash away all hatred
While moonbeams wrap us at night
In a blanket of peace.

I dream of a world of unconditional love
Where no one is judged by race, color, or creed.
And the fresh breeze delivers chances
While snowfakes provide the ambiance we need
To view the world with wonderment and awe.

I dream of a world with no hunger
Where each has shelter and care,
And our doors are always open
In case someone is there
Who needs a helping hand.

I dream of a world where hope is not a whisper.
Where it is shouted around the earth,
And free to each individual
With no regard for one’s place of birth
Or the number of one’s zip code.

    ~Bertie Simmons~

In conclusion…

Please don’t hate me for being white. Please don’t hate me for the mistakes I have and will continue to make. I am still learning. I don’t “do” social media. I can’t get out and march with you. Yet, I FEEL some part of what you are feeling. I am still learning. I will never know the extent of your pain. I am still learning. All I know is your pain is more than what I am feeling and I cannot imagine that. I have sobbed every day for a week. I am an anti-racist and I am still learning.

What I CAN do is use my words. I CAN write letters to demand change. I CAN make suggestions about how to make things better. I CAN vote for those who will make change. I CAN have tough conversations to continue to learn. I CAN teach my grandchildren about kindness and how not to judge anyone for the color of their skin. AND believe me, I CAN get down on my knees with you and lift you and our country up in prayer…just as my grandfather taught me so many years ago. I am STILL learning!

Written by Susan
The Fun Factory
Please send comments or questions to thefunfactoryontpt@gmail.com