I have to say that hearing my students intelligently discuss literature, leadership and the legacy of American slavery was such a lovely way to end the semester. My juniors discussed Frederick Douglass's Narrative Life of a Slave, Huckleberry Finn, and a self-selected book about racism/racial identity in America. My 10th graders discussed Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, and a dystopia of their own choosing.
I was so proud of the maturity and spirit they brought into the room and the kindness and respect they displayed in talking about some sensitive (for 11th grade in particular) material.
My heart swelled when I heard them talk (with me listening but pretending to ignore them) about the impact of seeing Kunta Kinte suffer in Roots, and of how their perspective on the evils of slavery changed after hearing Frederick Douglass's vivid description of the first whipping he ever witnessed.
My favorite comment was from one of my most influential, popular students, who had read Malcolm X's biography on his own. "Before this unit," he said, "I was the typical suburban white kid who didn't understand why people were angry about racism, or Black Lives Matter and things like that. I didn't understand where they were coming from. But now after hearing about how horrible things were for so long, I get it."
I nearly cried hearing him say that, and the best part is that he wasn't parroting me or telling me what he thought I wanted to hear; he was just sharing about books with his peers.