There are some things I never truly learned about or understood until I became a teacher myself. Teaching has taught me empathy in a way nothing has before. Not just because I have students who come from such different lives than I myself did. Maybe that is part of it. But mostly it is the literature that has taught me this.
I wasn’t the best student in the world. I strove to get through school. I didn’t understand the value of learning until I was almost done with college. I remember very few English class lessons. Which is ironic, because I knew I wanted to be an English teacher, from about the time I was 10ish. I honestly don’t know if I wasn’t taught well, or if I just didn’t listen.
But just because I never made much of an effort while I was in school does not mean that I do not make an amazing effort now. When it comes to teaching literature, I must learn it inside and out. I must know the author. I must know what the author wished their audience to learn. And in doing so, I have learned so much about history and humanity.
Most recently I am teaching “A Raisin in the Sun.” And to help my students understand the background, we are also teaching them about the Jazz Movement, Harlem Renaissance, and Langston Hughes. In the process of teaching this I have learned, or at least finally understood since I had already learned, so much about the dark parts in our history, even after Slavery ended.
Martin Luther King Jr. was an inspired man. It doesn’t matter if he was imperfect. We all are. But he was inspired. He was filled with love, justice, and compassion.
He was also filled with Truth.
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. I wish the world could understand this truth. Love and understanding is the only way people will ever see eye to eye, will ever convince someone, or ourselves, to change.
Yet instead, we spew vitriol and hatred at those who disagree with us. What argument has ever been won this way?