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Iroquois Principal's Corner

Two days a week I have the blessing of driving my kids to school. We leave early and typically the twenty-minute drive is fairly quiet. Last week, my five-year-old son asked me if I knew who Rosa Parks was. I answered back with a simple “Yes, I do” and asked him what he knows about Rosa Parks. I was eager to hear his response, but before he could answer, my two daughters eagerly jumped into the conversation sharing the story about Rosa Parks and her refusal to move to the back of the bus.

Our twenty-minute car ride was filled with questions and conversations about civil rights, inequality, racism, and confusion as to why this all happens. As we neared school, our fueled conversation changed to hope as we collectively came to remember that Rosa Parks was incredibly brave, stood up for equality and is a child of God, just like everyone else. Her story isn’t just about injustice, but it’s also about hope and bravery. 

I’ve reflected on this car ride quite a bit. This was not like any car ride I had with my parents. I remember hearing about civil rights, but it was something that happened at a different time in a different place. I am thrilled my kids are learning and wrestling with issues of race and diversity at such a young age. I am happy they are making friends with students from different backgrounds and different cultures. I’m grateful Grand Rapids Christian is working towards educating our students to increase their cultural competence. It’s awesome.

However, as a parent, I have a significant role to play. This became very real to me in the car ride to school. I don’t have to have all the answers (good thing, because I don’t), but I can ask questions, guide conversations, share examples and follow up on conversations about justice, privilege, culture and how there is a lot to wrestle with, but there’s a lot to celebrate as well. As parents, we have to get into the conversation with our kids. 

February is Black History Month. I encourage you to talk to your kids about a past or present black person who invented, sang, spoke or overcame a challenge. There are a lot to get to know! This is something we can all do together. Blessings to you all in your conversations as they can be challenging, but will certainly be fruitful. 

We hope that intentional conversations in the classroom will deepen our students' understanding of the rich contributions and achievements made by African Americans throughout our nation's history.  Our students need to see that those contributions and achievements extend beyond simply escaping slavery and/or fighting for civil rights. Thank you so much for your partnership to bring justice, healing, and awareness. What a difficult, yet Biblical calling. I’m here to learn, listen and grow alongside my staff and students. God bless!

—John Barkel

John Barkel

John Barkel

Grand Rapids Christian
Elementary School
Iroquois Campus


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