I also recognize my students do not always have the background knowledge they should. At first, we toured the Martin L. King exhibit. They were looking, but were not paying much attention to the details of the exhibit. Then we moved into the the Civil Rights area. The more they began to read and have their own interaction with injustice, the more real it became for them. I stepped away for a moment to take care of a business matter and when I returned to the tour (please note there were other chaperones), I noticed students were crying. I realized what happened...many of them viewed and read the stories of the various martyrs that fought for the freedoms we have today. They also viewed the videos and actually got to see some of the protests from the 1960s as well as the works of the KKK.
As we continued, the kids eventually made it to the Human Rights exhibit. They all were crying and having to hug each other as well as encourage one another. And all the while, I could do nothing, but smile. One of my guilty pleasure shows is South Park. There was one episode where Cartman becomes a teacher like Mr. Escalante from Stand and Deliver and Coach Belichick from the Patriots (note... don't talk bad about my Patriots). Cartman repeatedly uses the line, "How do I reach these kids?" At the end of the episode he says, "I've finally reached these kids." The was the moment I was having as we got towards the end of the Civil Rights exhibit and moved into the Human Rights exhibit. Students were relying on one another. Students were mad with the injustices of the world. They saw the world as more than this one small road in East Point, Georgia. Many realized their small, petty problems with others are just that, small and pointless.
I cannot speak for every educator; however, one of my goals is to get students to become not just better students; but people. I want them to think more deeper about themselves as a person and how they are going to make the world better. This experience was eye opening. It got me to get them to think even more. Right now students are in the middle of blogging about their experiences. I want them to be able to think about how they can make the word better and follow it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Based on the images from that day, how many words did they get? In the end, all I can say, "I've finally reached these kids!"