Wise Third Graders and My Talk with Nahida M.

by Jethro Swain

“Now that we have heard about so many stories from Oregon’s past, what is our responsibility?  What should we do with these stories?” asks Mrs. Moulton.

Erin Moulton is one of the three third grade teachers in the lower school. Recently her class has been engaged in a lot of discussions that appear advanced for most third graders, but her students have been up to the task.

Mrs. Moulton posed the above question to her students one day, and gave them time to think and reflect before sharing out their thoughts. Here are some examples of what they had to say in their discussion:

We should pass the stories on because they are hidden and lots of people don’t know them.

This stuff is important, some people ignore it but, others think its important and want to know.

Some people pass on the wrong information, we want people to know the right information.

You can’t make a good future without looking at the past.

If you don’t tell all the information, or have all that you need to tell the story, then it won’t work. We need to figure out how to tell all the information.

These are certainly wise thoughts for third graders. The deep understanding they have is why it’s important for them to be engaged in the right discussions and be around the right influences at their age, since their minds are developing so quickly. That’s why Mrs. Moulton and the other third grade teachers, Kiah Mounsey and Kathie Kimmy, have taken it upon themselves to lead deep discussions with their students, including ones on heavy, current topics, that us high schoolers are, or should, be having.

After discussions on current issues, that seemed to provoke questions from the third graders, the third grade team decided it would be best for them to construct a letter of their own to the parents of their students. The letter starts with this:

Dear Families,

Discussions happening in your homes, in our classrooms, and across our nation make this an important time to reaffirm our school’s commitment to open and rigorous inquiry and the dignity of all people. OES’s mission and values are very clear

It then follows by stating many of OES’ mission, vision, and identity statements from its website. The letter goes on to say:

We want everyone to know that all members of our community are welcome in our classrooms, regardless of nation of origin or religious background. Again, our school’s Nondiscrimination Policy is very clear about our commitment to diversifying our community and supporting all who are here.

I believe that the third grade staff are definitely helping their students get started on a journey of who they want to become as people correctly. Their letter reminds the families of OES’ core values, those of which OES surely wants to be instilled in the children they help raise from the age of six, and further touches on the aspects of those values that may be in question in the entirety of the country today.

I recently sat down with junior Nahida M., who, as a student from Afghanistan, a country that is close geographically and ideologically to the countries affected by the travel ban, has particularly strong feelings about issues touched on in both the alumni letter and the third grade staff’s letter that stem from her connection back home.

“It was on a weekend that I heard about [President Trump’s] executive order and I was very disappointed being someone from that faith,” said Nahida. “My sister is out of the country right now and she has one more year of college left, but I’m worried for her being able to finish her education.”.

It has been almost two weeks since the large group of OES alumni sent their letter to head of school Mo Copeland. “It was justified,” said Nahida when I asked her what she thought of the letter. However, while Nahida’s glad that the alumni brought up these issues to Mo, she actually wishes that, “a student or group of students had sent the letter. We go to this school and we’re affected by the order and what the school says or not more so than they (the alumni) are, so I think it would have been better coming from us.”

At the same time, Nahida has appreciated what the school has done so far so speak up, “Mo made that announcement during gathering the monday after it happened, but it would’ve been more formal if she wrote a letter and would’ve solidified [OES’] feelings more and definitely would’ve been more powerful. The gathering notes go to the parents but they’re not very direct.”

Nahida just hopes that further down the road, when more developments from the White House are released, that OES can find its voice: “Once a new order from [President] Trump comes out, if it goes out against the values of OES, a statement [from the school] should come out because it goes against our values, and the fact that we have students from those places it should be a responsibility of the school to stand up for them.”