Monthly Archives: April 2015

Classism in the Classroom

April 16, 2015

On Wednesday, Kerstin (Lower Elementary Teacher), Rebecca (Children’s House – Willow Room Assistant) and I attended a training at the Vermont Learning Collaborative on “Classism in the Classroom” ( At Hilltop, we work consciously to address diversity and inclusion in many ways. In Southern Vermont, we do not have as much opportunity to experience racial and ethnic diversity but we strive to whenever possible. We do have more diversity of family structures and many members of our community who are gay and lesbian. We also have the opportunity to be sure to be inclusive of the economic diversity that we have. And, as we are thinking about expanding that economic diversity, we want to be aware of all the potential class biases that we might have. This training, in conjunction with the discussions we have been having with students, faculty, and the board, are informing how we move forward with increased awareness and inclusion. It is important to ask:

 “Is this accessible to all students?” “Are we excluding people with this curriculum/book/action?”
Much of the training served to reaffirm the cultural curriculum and peace curriculum that is a part of our programs. And, there is always room to analyze, update, and improve.
Some of the topics that come up in this context include:
– how can fundraising be handled in an inclusive, respectful way
– how directly should we be addressing class differences in the classroom with children at different program levels
– what books and materials could we add at different levels to be sure to be including people of different classes
– how could the “fundamental needs” curriculum of Lower Elementary be augmented to more directly address class differences
– additional fees for extra things (after care, pizza lunch, etc.) can exclude some, despite our attempts to include all the fees in the tuition
– would a sliding scale of fees for some things be a way of being more inclusive
We will be continuing to look at these topics within the current context of our community and looking to the future.

Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 8

And so we say goodbye to this amazing State
and we leave in a new state
full with the textures and cries
of the rain red earth
Spanish moss and stretched waters
full of the complexity
that is us and our colors
that is us and our visions

and so worn and stretched we go
full of the longing to stay forever
to be together – to figure it all out
all the way home

Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 7

Meeting with the BAMA Kids was different. I have never been with that many kids of color in one room, or any space for that matter. While it may not have been a once in a lifetime opportunity, it sure felt like it, because in Vermont, people of color just aren’t there, so I felt like the BAMA Kids experience was truly one of a kind.


After leaving Alabama, I will have a hard time adjusting back to Vermont. I have seen so many amazing people, communities, and pieces of history. At the start of the trip, I had no idea that I would never think of the safety bubble that is Brattleboro the same way again. I just keep asking myself: How will I fit into the real world? What will I do?


I am excited to leave tomorrow, but I’m really sad to leave all of the wonderful friends that I have met. I just wish they could come see us in Vermont. I know it would be different for them!


Now what I have to think about after this whole trip is, What do I do? I am so lucky to have been given an easy life, open opportunities, and a great education, and I need to do something with it. It is hard to think what my place is in our current struggle, but I will keep thinking about it and soon I will do something to make a change, just like the foot soldiers in Birmingham, Selma, Camden, and all over the South. I can now see that children were really the ones who changed the world, and we still can now.


We met all these kids who are the same on the inside, but their color and ancestry is different. Talking with them was just like talking with one of our classmates on the first day at school: not sure where things are going, but you know they are similar to you. I wish that in Brattleboro we had more racial diversity so we could push our selves to talk about racism more in groups of different races.


As we began talking and playing with the BAMA Kids, I had an experience that I haven’t before. I have never really spent time with any people or children of color before in my life, so it was a wonderful experience to have. I hate to admit that I have made judgements or acted different around people of color. After this afternoon/evening I believe that has completely changed. Those children were so kind and loving to us.


Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 6

It was a special feeling to get to walk over the same bridge that all those marchers went over and were chased over, and see the place where the troopers first met them. I just thought about all the history and all the people who go over the bridge without ever thinking about the history.


Today we met Joanne Bland. She was the funniest and nicest person ever. We also met Amelia Boynton Robinson. She was fiery and had an energentic tone. These two people were the best people to be with. I hope that future kids will have the ability to meet these amazing women.


I saw the bridge and stood next to the bridge, but to march across after we heard stories from the foot soldiers was life-changing. Watching films and seeing images brought the story to a reality, but nothing could compare to hearing from live people right before my eyes. As we marched across that bridge, I could envision the history made 50 years ago, and I found it very interesting to hear that of course they did not know they were making history.


[Reflection on Joanne Bland]

This woman is full of fire crackers
From the tippy tops of her toes
To the strands of hair at the top of her head.
This woman is full of fire crackers
As her lips move and words spill out
The room swells larger.
This woman is full of fire crackers
By her presence everybody wants to take action.
This woman is full of fire crackers.


The speech…
Emotions racing,
Legs shaking,
Head spinning just,
But the words flow out of
My mouth with such clarity.
Cars loud
Voice louder
Legs still shaking
My mind clears out, not focusing
on how well I would do.
Great speech.
Great friends.
Legs still shaking
But in the end the feeling
of accomplishment lingers in the



Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 5

We met with Mary Lee Bendolph for whom I have the utmost respect. We really connected and talked for an hour. It was interesting because I know her life story, so I told her mine and then she started telling me hers and I said, oh, I know this, and she was impressed at how much I knew and gave me lessons on how to live life to its fullest.

Watching Reverand Pettway at the podium was great because he just spoke his mind and didn’t just read off something. The way that he spoke seemed so honest. I could definitely tell that people loved to be at that church.

I loved sitting the dock wondering what all the other kids [at Gee’s Bend] have gone through in their lives. I found most kids lived with their grandparents.

I felt sort of uncomfortable because the younger children and adults would call me ma’am or Ms. One of the littles boys came up and asked, “Excuse me ma’am? Is it okay if I eat a sandwich, or maybe a chip or two?” I understand that this could just be because he is young, but when he felt like he had to ask me if it was okay for him to eat… Made me really think back on all those hard times and how racism is still here today. I wonder if he was told to ask and call me ma’am. Every little thing has a big story behind it.

Today we started out with going to church. I used to not like church at all, but now I have a better appreciation for church. Today I loved it when we sang in front of the others in church. I also enjoyed when the four ladies were singing. I believe that being able to go there was a great opportunity. I felt kind of out of place, though.

Adding to the quilt was awesome. Those quilts have so much history and so many conversations and songs sewn into them, and I felt really honored to be able to add on to that and contribute my own stitches, singing and conversation to that quilt.

Today was the first time going to church. It was amazing! I wish I could go back next week. It was so different than I thought it was going to be. The love and hope that was there was incredible. Reverent Pettway was so excited for us being there, and all the other people made me feel loved and accepted. Singing there was so fun, having everyone join in. I smiled the whole time.

I thought that being so involved with the kids was a great opportunity for us. The little ones were so happy to be with us. For me, it was a great time to think about my relationship differences between African American kids and white kids. It’s a difficult thing to think about because I know there shouldn’t feel like there are any differences between us, but somehow I still feel myself acting differently around them. Maybe because I have never really interacted with black children before, and that’s why it felt different.

While I sat down by the dock and cooled off, a young girl came down and began to talk to a few of us. We shared stories about what we did up north and south and our sports and pastimes.

Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 4


Brown’s Chapel

To Montgomery

Civil Rights Memorial

Steps of the Statehouse

On to Pink Lily and Charlie Lucas’s world

Brief stop in Hayneville to see a tribute to Jonathan Daniels


Architecturally, the state house could not have been placed in a better spot. With its huge marble staircase and its view over the city, it was as if it was a castle ruling the city below.


When I walked through the front door of that church [Brown Chapel], I felt history hit me. Just to think that Martin Luther King Jr. stood up on that podium and spoke the words of will and freedom was amazing.


Today at the State House I gave my speech. Up on the steps, it was amazing. When I was speaking, it felt like Rosa Parks was there listening. It was inspiring to feel this and know she was arrested right down the street.


Isn’t this just a goldmine?
He asks delighted.
He’s a young boy with
all the toys he could ever
dream of having.
He has created the inside
of his imagination with
the junkyard’s finest.
Passion pours out of the
T-rex’s trashcan tummy.
Garbage Can Mama was her name.
A story which he gladly
explained, with a grin.
Cars fixed with wire
just as he makes his living.
Wired eyes, wired wise.
Learning is coping.
The balance of eyes, mind, and hands.


I felt Charlie was everything an artist should be. Nothing fake, doing the work he was set on the Earth to do, and wanting only to do it for that. Doing it because he loves it, not because of fame. Doing it because that’s what he feels he’s meant to do. It was about the work, not the fame.


Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 3

Quiet Girl Blues

I say I want to push the boundaries
To go outside my box
I say I’ll share my thoughts
But why did I have the quiet girl blues?
I sat next to dark hands playing a tune
That they know so well
Quiet girl blues
I smile and tap my foot
But my insides are shaking
Quiet girl blues
I got the blues
I got the blues
I got the quiet girl blues
The coward blues
The scardy cat blues
The self conscious blues
I got the blues
I got the blues
I got the quiet girl blues


I find myself falling in love with banana pudding more and more. Each time I love it.


Gip is a man who loves his soul. When he looked into my eyes, I think he saw straight through my skin and into my soul.


“Hands are a magnificent thing”—Mr. Minter. He was talking about how our hands God gave us to create amazing inspirations. Mr. Minter gave me so much to think about, how our future is up to my generation.


[Joe’s] artwork was so complex and confusing in its own way. Even though some of them looked like a pile of junk welded together, to think that every piece meant something was amazing and completely mind boggling. A crinkled up can meant something, bits and pieces of rust pile around it was all part of it.


I noticed the train tracks on the side of the road.
I would have cast the tracks aside before.
Now, I understand what might have happened
On the tracks that seem so meaningless.
Young lives were taken into the convict labor system on these tracks.
Yet I would have cast the tracks aside.
Often forced to walk on these tracks due to poor roads,
blacks would fear for their lives.
Yet I would have cast the tracks aside.
These train tracks were a place where oppressors would search out the oppressed.
Yet I would have cast the tracks aside.
Now I wonder
What else do I fail to see?


Henry Gipson’s farewell blues:

Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 2

I was doing what I set out to do: to break those barriers of race for myself. And I knew after walking through the park with Mrs. Myrna Carter Jackson and hugging her at the end that I had just removed a brick in my barrier…I hope that by the end of this trip I will have made a significant hole in my barrier and will be able to look through to see what lies on the other side.


These two days have felt like years of time. Every day we take a time machine back to these years of great importance. It’s so much more than reading a book; it’s being inside of one.


As I heard the
powerful words of the poems,
the untold stories,
the ones who did not
have an exhibit or statue
the ones that have no name
I thought of the people,
the people who are not
in any textbook or website
but are merely a face or
stories we have heard.


I try and stand far away,
Blocking my own view
On what it would be like…
To be like them,
To struggle through what their ancestors did
And to experience their struggle today.
The shoes that I must make fit
Are difficult to put on.
Their laces are tied
Waiting for me to untie them, knot after knot.
But as I begin to start untying the shoes,
They only get harder and harder to climb into.



The thing that struck me most was our poetry. Its reflectiveness of our privileges, our white privilege, made such an emotional aspect that made the words full of power. It came to mind to me that words can be hurtful. Also, I noticed it forced some of us to get in an uncomfortable position to the point where it becomes personal.


Meeting with LaQuita Singleton was an amazing experience. Her poetry was so full of pain and struggle from the past and present, and it was very personal, too. Showing the embodiment of the marchers, the slaves, the lynched, and the lynched’s child. She breathed so much genuine emotion and pain into the performance that it was more than just reciting words; it was living, breathing truth.



Alabama Odyssey ~ Day 1

As we sang in Bethel Baptist Church, the history and meaning overwhelmed me. When the music started, I closed my eyes for just one second and saw what happened. All the pictures I’ve seen and stories I’ve heard played in my mind, and I saw the hope, fear, happiness, and anger that happened here.


As we arrived at the historic Bethel Baptist Church, my heat began to beat in the power behind the reality Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth lived. That he stood on the same ground as I was on. Though I was very nervous about sharing my speech where Reverend Shuttlesworth inspired many, all worry vanished as I began to speak. My words flowed out with greater ease than I ever believed.


I realize now that to truly understand the struggle of some people, you actually have to live it. To actually see hands on the struggle and oppression  these people went through is mind-blowing.



It seems so far away—segregation in public places

It was so long ago

When we talk about it alone

But to face a person

Who lived through it

I can see how close it is

how tangible

It seemed so far away.