01/15/10 — Dillard uses creativity to honor legacy of Dr. King

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Dillard uses creativity to honor legacy of Dr. King

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 15, 2010 1:46 PM

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Classy Croom, a student at Dillard Middle School, sings "Man in the Mirror" during a Thursday afternoon assembly in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The event also featured student poems and skits during the hour-long program.

A celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was turned into a schoolwide talent program at Dillard Middle School Thursday.

For an hour, students danced, sang spirituals, shared poems and creative thoughts and heard a rap written and performed by one of their teachers.

All to "Share the Dream" of King, Rosa Parks and others who paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement.

Carver Heights Elementary choral students also participated in the program, and in conjunction with the upcoming King holiday, eighth-graders were prompted to write their own feelings on the theme, "I Have a Dream, Too."

Isaac Taylor wrote that his dream is to be successful, with an eye toward becoming a teacher.

"Another dream of mine is that by 2016 races of different worlds (still on earth) can sit down as friends not foes," he wrote.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. All women and men become leaders for their children to lead them down the right path so we could be a successful country for years and years to come," Riccardo Woodard wrote.

Others had dreams of the profession they would one day enter, with visions of going to college.

Like Ashley Lewis, who wrote about becoming a professional singer and a pediatrician so she could "help kids that don't have the same special needs as me."

"I can do all things if I believe," she wrote. "I can do both dreams if I know nothing can stop me or hold me back."

The assembly program was created and directed by Jacquie Jeffers, eighth-grade language arts teacher. She purposely incorporated the writing assignment with other elements, she said.

"Recitations, public speaking, these are some of our requirements in the standard course of study," she explained. "I think culture and learning about the different holidays is a universal learning tool. It also ties into character education, setting goals, achieving goals and how to work with others."

Students also learned an excerpt from Dr. King's famous speech, "I Have a Dream," which they recited on stage, in unison. Another group portrayed what it might have been like in the King family home, acting out what might have happened when his own children asked questions that gave him the opportunity to demonstrate character.

It's important, Ms. Jeffers pointed out, not only to teach children academics, but meaningful lessons.

"We feel that they're learning when we're teaching. We're really concerned about children internalizing what they're learning," she said.

In the recent unit on civil rights, for example, she said it was interesting to see the students' reaction to certain aspects, such as how blacks used to be treated.

"They didn't know anything about that," she said. "It was unreal to them and (that people then) did not retaliate with violence -- Dr. King instilled in everyone that we do not want to promote violence."

Ms. Jeffers brings a unique perspective to the lesson plan, having been chosen this past year by Gov. Bev Perdue to serve on the state's Martin Luther King Commission. She also has a personal interest in the subject of the man behind the legend.

"I'm real excited because I have met both of his daughters, one of his nephews, I have taken kids to the King Center in Atlanta and I have been to the house that (King) grew up in and the church that he preached in when his mother was killed," she said.

She also wrote a poem, "If Dr. King Were Here Today," which she sent to King's widow before Mrs. King died.

And Thursday's school program was closed out with an original song she wrote, "Share the Dream."

It's a rap song, said Lady J -- a moniker given her by a student "because of the ways that I teach, I needed a different name. ... I rap my lessons sometimes."

She will perform it again Monday in Raleigh during the Martin Luther King bell-ringing ceremony, accompanied by Victoria Ruffin, the school's chorus director.

And Ms. Jeffers has her own dream, she says -- that her song might one day be made into a music video and be used nationally for the King holiday.

In the meantime, she praised the efforts of students and staff who pulled together the local production at Dillard.

"The collective collaboration of the teachers who motivate the students to participate and who have been working with the project is astounding," she said. "The students are very proud of what they're doing and they're excited and want to do other programs."

Jamie Smith, sixth-grade language arts/social studies teacher and co-director of the program, also praised student efforts.