Our last blog post featured Angie Paquin as our guest blogger, describing her work with her son, Liam, on the letter boards. In today’s post, we present some of Liam’s work with his mom! I have often looked at this picture of Ruby Bridges and thought of the courage it took for her and her family to fight for equality and inclusion and how it is analogous to the recurring plea I hear from my autistic RPM students to be included in general education. Clearly, Angie and Liam were thinking along the same lines so Angie created a a lesson Ruby Bridges and her story for Liam.
Here is Liam’s essay on Ruby Bridges and school desegregation in the South.
INJUSTICE WAS ROBBING AFRICAN AMERICANS OF EQUAL EDUCATION. AFRICAN AMERICANS WERE SEGREGATED IN SCHOOL. MIGHTY EFFORT HELPED TO BRING ABOUT CHANGE. ONE PRINCIPAL TURNING POINT WAS FRIGHTENING, HARD TO BELIEVE, BUT TRUE. RUBY BRIDGES WAS A LITTLE GIRL WHO STOOD UP FOR DESEGREGATION IN SCHOOLS. SHE ATTENDED WILLIAM FRANTZ ELEMENTARY, A FORMERLY WHITE SCHOOL, AS THE ONLY AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDENT. ALL OF THE WHITE STUDENTS WERE REMOVED FROM THE SCHOOL BY THEIR PARENTS IN PROTEST. ONLY ONE TEACHER WAS WILLING TO TEACH HER AND RUBY LEARNED FROM THIS TEACHER ALL THROUGH HER INTERESTING FIRST YEAR IN THE SCHOOL.
RUBY UNDERSTOOD INJUSTICE. MASTERING SUCH A DIFFICULT REALITY MUST NOT HAVE BEEN EASY. ONLY SOMEONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED DIFFERENCE HAS AN UNDERSTANDING OF REALLY HARD LIFE. HAVING TO PROVE THAT YOU DESERVE EQUAL EDUCATION ILLICITS FEELINGS OF LINGERING SORROW NO ONE CAN TRULY UNDERSTAND. MY INTEREST IN HAVING EQUAL EDUCATION IS SIMILAR TO RUBY. I HAVE TO SHOW MY COMPETENCE IN ORDER TO BE INCLUDED IN REAL EDUCATION. THIS IS INJUSTICE. I SOMETIMES FEEL UNDERESTIMATED. I LIVE WITH A REALLY HARD SITUATION. I HAVE NO OPPORTUNITY. MY NORMAL PEERS HAVE OPPORTUNITY HANDED TO THEM. I FEEL THIS IS DISCRIMINATION. HUNDREDS OF AUTISTIC PEOPLE ARE BEING DISCRIMINATED AGAINST. I WANT RACISM TO END. I WANT DISCRIMINATION TO END. LIFE NEEDS TO BE VALUED REGARDLESS OF THE HUNDREDS OF EXAMPLES OF INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCE. I NOT ONLY AM MARGINALIZED, I IMAGINE I AM LIVING IN A PRISON. GIVE LIFE TO COUNTLESS OTHERS LIKE ME. I LIVE WITH INJUSTICE LIKE RUBY DID. I MATTER TOO. MALIGN INJUSTICE FOR ME PLEASE.
To cap off her unit on Ruby Bridges and school desegregation, Angie presented Liam with a lesson on ekphrasis as illustrated by this painting by Normal Rockwell titled “The Trouble We All Live With.” Do you know what ekphrasis means? Well, you are about to find out!
To start her lesson, Angie asked Liam if he knew what ekphrasis meant. To her surprise, he said “yes”! She asked him to define it and he spelled IT IS GIVING VISION TO REALLY GREAT ART. Surprised by this fantastic answer, Angie asked Liam how he knew what ekphrasis meant. He responded, I READ IT ON YOUR PHONE RECENTLY WHEN YOU WERE MAKING BREAKFAST. Wow! (Note to readers and self! Watch what is on your phone!) It turns out, Angie did have an article on ekphrasis on her phone which she used to create his lesson! For those of us who may need further definition of ekphrasis, it is one art form expressing the meaning or spirit of another art form. For example, a sculpture depicting some element of a film or vise versa. (One of the best part of creating RPM lessons is how much you will learn in the process! Thanks Angie and Liam, I did not know about ekphrasis but will be creating my own lesson on it soon!) After further teaching about ekphrasis, Angie challenged Liam to create an ekphrastic poem.
Here is Liam’s ekphrastic poem.
INJUSTICE HAS IMMEASURABLE HATE
WHEN LIFE MAKES MAN HATE
HIS INTIMIDATION MAKES LIFE IMMEASURABLY SUFFER IN UNTHINKABLE WAYS.
IMMEASURABLE SUFFERING FILLS MAN WITH HATE SO STRONG THAT NO ONE IS SAFE.
NOT EVEN A LITTLE CHILD.
REMEMBER MAN HAS LIMITS IRRESPECTIVE OF HIS CIRCUMSTANCES.
CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE LIFE LIMITS.
NORMAL HARDSHIPS GIVE MAN CIRCUMSTANCES IRRESPECTIVE OF HIS ABILITY.
LIFE CAN MAKE PEOPLE HATE.
INJUSTICE IS MANS TROUBLE.
REMEMBER, NO ONE IS SAFE WHEN INJUSTICE IS SERVED.
HATE MAKES IMMEASURABLE SUFFERING NO ONE SHOULD ENDURE.
GIVE LIFE TO MAN SO THAT MAN IS MOSTLY MIRRORED IN HIS LIFE STRONG.
GIVE MAN LIFE OF EQUALITY.
UNDERSTAND LIFE HAS IMMEASURABLE INJUSTICE,
MAN HAS IMMEASURABLE STRENGTH.
Cognitive lessons are essential in RPM.Parents sometimes tell me that they don’t understand why it is so important to use lessons. They tell me they just want to know what their child is thinking and feeling. These two lessons are a perfect example of why they are so critical to RPM. Not only are they a means of education, which our kids intensely crave, they provide the framework for communication. Through this history lesson on Ruby Bridges, Liam learned about discrimination, segregation, the value of education and the courage that individuals have displayed to fight for their right to receive an education. This lesson gave Liam information about these issues and an opportunity to freely express his opinions about these issues; opinions that we would not necessarily have ever known had the topic not been presented! Angie took it a step further in a second lesson, introducing ekphrasis: presenting Ruby Bridges’ struggle through the lens of art, teaching Liam about Rockwell, ekphrasis, and giving Liam a means to further express himself through an ekphrastic poem. I don’t know about you, but I certainly learned a lot about how Liam thinks and feels!
Once again, we are so grateful to Liam and Angie for sharing their experience, their words, and inspiring all of us to continue learning and communicating through RPM!
~Elizabeth, Liam and Angie