Overthinking a Single Word

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The word is “some.”

So I put together the morning announcements for our school. I have the students read out different bits of information that I cobble together with some graphics and upload to Youtube. Some of the things, like the lunch menu, are pretty easy — just reading off a calendar. Other things are based on some limited student input; for example, one student reads a whole list of “on this day in history” type events, and selects the one she thinks is most relevant or interesting to include in the announcements. Yet other things will be, I hope, more controlled by students, but at this stage in the school year it is still largely my doing. The kids are only in third grade, and it is still only September.

One thing we have started including is current events. I don’t get to do a lot of social studies activities in the technology lab, so including current events in the morning announcements scratches an itch for me. I think it’s just also good literacy practice for a third grader to read an article and summarize it for first and second graders to hear. We go to sites like Dogo News, Time for Kids, and Scholastic News, find a recent article, and pick out what we think are the most important details.

So on Tuesday morning we acknowledged the presidential debate, because even if people are uncomfortable talking about the candidates themselves at school, I figured we should acknowledge that it happened. I mean, it was the most-watched presidential debate in history, or so my recent Google search has informed me. So I was congratulating myself for getting it out there, so that teachers and students who watched the morning announcements would have an opening to start a conversation about it.

Then came Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday morning I saw this Newela article about the NBA response to protests relating to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It did not say “Black Lives Matter” anywhere in the article, but it’s not hard to figure out they’re referring to it.

MIAMI, Fla. — For more than a year, there have been protests across the United States. People are angry because police officers have shot and killed African-American men. The protestors think the men should not have been shot. They think they were shot because of their skin color. They are protesting for fair treatment by the police.

I thought this was important to include in the news, but I hesitated. Firstly, it’s a heavy topic for kids. Many second graders are still reacting to their September 11th lessons in unexpected ways, like searching for photos of “the Twin Towers burning” when making an “About Me” slide in computer lab. Secondly, it’s a sensitive topic. I’m friends with colleagues and school parents on social media, and I can tell you that their opinions run the gamut from totally on-board to totally opposed, and many things in between. Many make no remark, and I cannot assume their reasons for that, either. On the other hand, the article takes a positive angle in pulling in the perspective of an NBA coach, using sports as a more comfortable lens through which to view the topic.

But I wanted to include it. But, to play it somewhat safe, I wanted to stick with facts.

So where the text originally stated, “People are angry because police officers have shot and killed African-American men,” I altered it slightly. Just an adjective. A simple four-letter word to the beginning of the sentence.

Some.

I have been thinking about it all day.

I regret adding it.

My thought, when adding it, was this. “People are angry” sounds like everybody is angry. But not everybody is angry. Therefore, only some people are angry. I didn’t want students to become confused over hearing something like “everybody is angry” when adults they know might not be angry. They might be indifferent. Or, adults they know might not be angry about police brutality, but rather angry or uncomfortable that the topic is part of a national conversation.

But “some” is a word that makes things smaller. “Some people” sounds a lot smaller than just “people.” And I realize now that “people” might sound like everybody, but it is not a synonym.

I realize now that I should not have changed it. That if students experienced and expressed confusion, those would be teachable moments. I didn’t want to defend myself against dissent. I feel now I was not brave enough.

I was only some brave.

And I need to do better.

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