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Shirley Chisholm

February 9, 2022 | Kristen Jordan

Last week we launched Black History Month with a focus on learning about Shirley Chisholm.  If you don’t know about her, she’s a fascinating individual who contributed so much to our history. 

The children have learned, through books, videos and conversation, that Shirley grew up poor, the daughter of immigrants.  She and her sisters spent 7 years of her childhood living with her grandparents in Barbados, while her parents worked in Brooklyn to make ends meet.  After she graduated from Brooklyn College, she worked as a teacher and education consultant. Eventually, she ran for office and became a New York Assembly Member, and then a U.S. Congresswoman, where she served for 7 terms.  In 1972, she ran for the presidential nomination as the very first Black woman to do so. She had very strong convictions as her motto was “Unbought and Unbossed”.  She always tried to do what she thought was right, even if it meant she didn’t get elected or didn’t receive someone’s support.  She said that she wanted to open the door so that others coming after her could know what is possible, and she did pave the way for other women and Black people to run for office.  What an inspiration!  

In the classroom, our focus was on how Shirley used her voice as a powerful way to get her message out there.  As you heard in last week’s blog, we have been talking about how the children’s voices are tools they can use for so many things–expressing what they want and need, offering or asking for help, making friends.  It was a perfect segue to how Shirley Chisholm used her voice in the world in such a powerful way.

Since Shirley Chisholm was elected to office, we discussed the (very big!) topic of elections a bit.  We also talked about voting as a way to express your ideas; as a way to have your voice heard.  The children had the chance to vote on two important issues:

1) What gender they think the spider we have been observing is.

Our votes indicate that it’s a female spider (we would need consultation from an expert to be sure!)

2) They also generated ideas and then chose a name for the spider.

Rainbow is the official winner! Then we released the spider to live a natural life.  We will keep our eyes open for Rainbow around the building and hope that she is taking care of some flies.

Because Shirley Chisholm began and ended her career as a teacher, children spent much of the week “playing school” in the drama area during activity time.  They thought about what they would need: a chalkboard (white board), something to write with, a clipboard, books, and places for children to sit.  Each child took turns being Mrs. Chisholm and teaching the other students.  While “reading” a book about Shirley Chisholm to the other children, one child pointed to the picture and said “This is me.”They taught some numbers and math, letters, drawing circles and shapes, and tried to make sure that the children in the class raised quiet hands when they had a question to answer!  It was a very popular place to go and children practiced using their voices and teaching others.    

Toward the end of the week, we watched Shirley Chisholm give her speech, announcing her bid for the presidential nomination in 1972.  As the children watched, they burst out into applause along with the audience! It was a good way to talk about how powerful words and speaking can be.  

Then, children worked with several tools that changed their voices–microphones of various types, a megaphone voice changer–to try using their voices in different ways. They were saying things like “I have something to say!”  “Listen to me!” It was a fun way to think about the power of our voices!  As Shirley Chisholm said, “Mother always said that even when I was 3, I used to get the 6- and 7-year-old kids on the block… and say, ‘Listen to me.”‘

It was a great experience for the children to learn about this powerful and influential woman in our history!

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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