Michelle Gunderson teaches first grade in Chicago Public Schools. She thought about her own childhood on a farm. She thought about what to give the children she teaches. 

 

I have been struggling with what safety and caring look like inside a society that seems to care very little for children. Education budgets have been cut to the bone, teachers are overrun with needless mandates for paperwork and policy that take us away from the heart of teaching, both adults and children are judged and labeled by meaningless tests. And the list goes on.

 

And then we have the forthcoming presidency of Donald Trump and his incoming Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. If we believe their words, schools will become contested spaces where market driven practices will govern policy. And the world will become a contested space where dominant race and religion rule. I feel these times are as tumultuous as the times adults faced in 1968 when my world was safe. How do I take the lessons from my childhood and apply them now?

 

I gave the six year old children in my classroom small, beautiful tangerines for a celebration. They were perfect, fragrant, and yummy. We ate them mindfully – looking at them, smelling them, peeling slowly apeacend savoring – as if they were a gift from the world.

 

I teach in Chicago – it is difficult, and I do not have a fairy tale view of childhood. But I do believe that it is our role to bring simple beauty and peace into children’s lives.

 

In response to this world around us, I ask you, educators and parents alike, to share a “store bought” orange with children, to think of simple acts of caring, that will help our children gain the strength and courage to lead us out of this mess.