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February 12, 2021

A “heart” warming Black History Month story


February 12, 2021

“But in my box of crayons, black is a rainbow, too.”

Rainbow Heart

Matthew is five and a half years old and is profoundly deaf. He uses bilateral cochlear implants to access sound and started attending the Preschool Program at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech in Canton, MA at age three to learn to listen and talk.

Clare Gill, Matthew’s teacher, has enjoyed watching her young student’s progress. “He loves participating in school, works very hard and takes pride in his work,” she notes. “His receptive and expressive language skills continue to grow.”

Today, anti-racism, diversity and inclusion are increasingly critical subjects for educators to cover in helping students of all ages understand and process current events. Mindfulness of these subjects has been a focus of Clare’s work since she started as a volunteer with Clarke in 2008 while she earned her master’s degree in Intercultural Relations from Lesley University.

Black History Month offered Clare an additional opportunity to explore the topic of race with her preschool students. Following a unit about Ruby Bridges, lessons about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Civil Rights leadership and a conversation about Thurgood Marshall’s work, the class prepared to read “Black is a Rainbow Color,” by Angela Joy.

“My goal was to find different ways to guide the students in exploring Black history and culture. This included learning about historic and inspirational figures, listening to different types of music and making reading selections that showcase authors and characters of color,” explains Clare, a full-time teacher of the deaf with a decade of education experience at Clarke.

Prior to reading "Black is a Rainbow Color,” Matthew and his classmates talked about the typical colors in a rainbow. Clare encouraged the students to try blending all the colors in a rainbow to see what color they would get: black! By the end of the story, the class was talking about inclusion.

Matthew’s teacher reports that when the students came back to the virtual classroom after a break, Matthew had made a rainbow heart, including the color black!

“Matthew is enthusiastic about learning, loves writing and drawing, and has a great imagination,” notes Clare. “His unprompted rainbow heart artwork was a wonderful surprise and gave me instant feedback on how our lesson resonated with one student.”