I want to tell you the story of a woman who instantly found herself having to change how she taught her audience in order for them to learn from what she was saying.
Sure, your experience is not hers – but we can learn from what she did.
We all have audiences that we send information out to in order to make them act.
Are you delivering that message in a way that will inspire them to do what you’re asking of them?
In case you didn’t know, besides my work as a media coach and public speaking trainer, I am a national television producer. I’m lucky to interview people and tell their stories.
I never knew Jane Elliott’s story before I started researching her. Jane was a school teacher and is now 84-years old. And… she’s not done teaching.
Here’s a summary if you prefer to read:
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr’s death. The civil rights leader was shot and killed while standing on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. His murder set off days of rioting in cities across America.
Many lives were impacted, including the one of an elementary school teacher hundreds of miles away from Memphis.
Jane Elliott was a teacher in Riceville, Iowa. She used that moment to teach her third-grade students about discrimination by letting them experience it. Her method was dubbed the “brown eyed – blue eyed exercise.” It didn’t come without controversy.
She was going to teach something entirely different that day – but changed her lesson plans when she heard Rev. King was dead.
She knew her all-white class would struggle with understanding why so many people were upset about the death of this one man. In order to demonstrate, she told her students they would walk in the shoes of a person of color in the U.S. for a day.
She picked out a group of people “on the basis of a physical characteristic over which they had absolutely no control and assigned negative traits to them because of that physical characteristic and that physical characteristic alone.”
“Within seven minutes I had created a superior brown-eyed group who were convinced of their own superiority,” Jane said. “I watched blue eyed children who were good learners become unable to compete academically. I couldn’t believe it!”
She switched the room the next day, making the blue-eyed children superior.
Jane’s exercise made national news. She was even on the Johnny Carson show.
Jane didn’t stop teaching. She didn’t give up… even when parents started calling the school demanding her stop teaching the “brown-eyed blue-eyed exercise.
Jane was disowned by her own mother because of the negative attention. Her kids were beaten by the other kids in school and her parents lost their business. Her husband was told to “get his wife in line.”
She went on to become a sought-after national diversity educator and activist.
Kathryn Janicek is a three-time Emmy Award-winning television producer with 20 years of experience working in newsrooms across the country. Kathryn coached talent, producers, and writers before switching her focus on helping entrepreneurs and corporate executives. Now, based in her home city of Chicago, she is a much sought-after media coach and public speaking trainer who will help you produce the best YOU. Click HERE now to book a complimentary 30-minute consultation with Kathryn.
If you’d like to learn more about Jane Elliott, here are links to more stories about her: