Is It Time For All Of Us To Stand Up?

I’m scared. Writing this post is a scary one for me. It’s not because I don’t have strong opinions because I really do, but because I know just how public these opinions are when they’re shared in this platform. This afternoon, I saw a tweet from Andrew Campbell, which really made me stop and think, and serves as the basis for this blog post. 

Andrew’s tweet inspired a lot of conversation, including a few tweets of my own.

Read from the bottom, up.

Ever since reading the news that Ontario will be going back to the 1998 Sex-Ed Curriculum (which is actually the Growth and Development component of the Health Curriculum), I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. I teach Kindergarten. Technically, this news will not change how I deliver any of my program come September, but as educators, we’re part of a team, and for many educators on this team, this news is going to make a big difference for them.

I can’t help but think about some of our youngest learners. A couple of years ago, I captured this conversation around the beading table one day. While I realize that there’s a lot of background noise and it’s hard to hear everything, what you can hear are a few children discussing their brothers. Their brothers who like pink. These two girls talk with others about how it’s okay for boys and girls to like pink. Way past my recording time, the children continued to discuss other colours, and how people can like any colour that they want. 

They moved beyond colours though to topics including,

  • dressing up,
  • being princesses,
  • playing with dolls, 
  • and wearing make-up.

These four- and five-year-olds are confident that these are practices that we can support for boys and girls, and “it doesn’t matter as long as this is what they like.” (Thank goodness for some documentation, which allowed me to look back at this conversation even two years later.

I then start to think about other conversations that I’ve heard or been a part of in my last three years in Full-Day Kindergarten.

  • There’s the discussion around “asking for a hug” before giving one.
  • There are the times that children spoke about the body parts on the doll before giving the doll a bath. 
  • There are the numerous conversations around peeing, pooping, and everything in betweenNothing intrigues young children more than bodily functions.
  • There are the kissing discussions, which happened frequently this year thanks to these kissing heads. We did have a further discussion on if both parties were happy with being kissed.
  • There are also the pregnancy conversations … especially those around worms this past school year. 

I share all of these stories because even our youngest learners are coming to school with some different experiences and background knowledge than the students that came before them. From my stories, you can see the start of conversations around gender, identity, consent, and body parts. What’s going to happen when we remove a Health Curriculum, which addresses where these children are already going and need to go next?

I can’t help but think back now to a conversation that I had recently with another educator. I made the comment, “I think that this is what’s best for kids, but …”. When I said, but, this other person replied, “As soon as we know that it’s what’s best for kids, there is no but. We are in the business of supporting kids. Every. Single. Time.” He’s right … and it’s for this very reason that I’m choosing to be scared, but also to press publish. I need to do what’s best for kids, and that means supporting a curriculum document, which aligns with what students are experiencing in their lives today. Creative educators will come up with different ways to professionally address these needs, and ensure that all children are heard and supported. But we need more than just creative educators. Are we all willing to speak up on behalf of kids? I think that change starts with our collective voices being heard.

Aviva

12 thoughts on “Is It Time For All Of Us To Stand Up?

  1. Bravo, Aviva! Well said, as always. And yes, caring, competent educators are rich in potential and it is that potential that drives them to speak out and to find creative ways to solve the problem. Thank you for being one of that elite group!

    • Thanks Jill! I really appreciate the support here. I’ve read a lot of wonderful posts in the past few days on this very topic, and after reading Andrew’s tweet, I knew that I needed to say something. I hope that others do the same.

      Aviva

  2. I always love your perspective Aviva thank you for sharing. I wondered how it would affect your K learners as I gear up to plan for my Grade 8 programme. It really saddens me there are people in power that will now be making some very scary decisions that will affect us all. I’m scared too…

  3. Thank you for writing this! You demonstrated exactly why having open communication with kids is so important because even young kids come to school with potential bias (girl and boy colours) and talking about it helps move the conversation. Thank you for your bravery!

    • Thanks Carol! It’s interesting how our youngest learners are so very open to sharing their opinions with each other, but also with educators. Having these conversations helps to address some bigger issues, but also help develop empathy and understanding. The Health Document supports so many of these important discussions.

      Aviva

  4. Well said, Aviva! I feel like my teaching isn’t going to change all that much. Someone else teaches health to my class, and I incorporate internet safety into media literacy, and a whole lot of stuff into read aloud. I am worried about what this says about the people in charge of our province. I’m more worried about a math textbook arriving at our school one day with a mandate that we all use it and nothing else. I’m worried that 2 or 3 years from now there will be other broad sweeping declarations that change our classrooms…no more ELK, for starters. I’m worried about how this all looks in August 2020 when all of the teacher contracts have expired and we have to bargain with this new government. Thank goodness our unions had the foresight to add some class caps to the current contract!

    Thanks for being brave and hitting publish on this post!

    • Thanks Lisa! I think that different people may worry for many different reasons right now and into the future. We need to discuss these worries — in an open, professional way — to I think be respectful of different viewpoints while also supporting possibilities for change. Speaking up isn’t always easy, but maybe at times, we need to embrace the scary. Thank you for adding to this important discussion!

      Aviva

  5. Beautifully said, Aviva! About 26ish years ago, a friend of mine named Karen Bailey was working on her PhD and wrote a book on kindergartners’ concepts of gender. The book is entitled, The Girls Are the Ones With the Pointy Nails. That title
    was a quote from a JK boy in her class when asked how he could tell the difference. Your post is a prompt for me to reread her book. How far have we come in helping them develop their psych-social confidence in their own identities? In my 27 years of teaching, I think I’ve seen the most growth in, maybe, the past 5 years. Finally, we’re getting somewhere… a place where even our youngest voices can be heard and can have an impact on a larger society than the classroom community! Thank you for being brave enough to share your thoughts and the voices of your students.

    • Thanks Sandra, and thank you for sharing this book. I need to check it out. These discussions on gender definitely seem to be happening more now, and I think that we are making some growth. How will this recent change impact that?

      We often tell our kids to be brave and take risks. I’m glad that with a little push, I was able to do the same.

      Aviva

  6. It’s true that putting opinion out there via social media can be intimidating. A matter of fact, the first time I tweeted about Ford’s changes to education, it was somewhat of a justification of future tweets: “To everyone in Ontario: please understand that when educators complain about recent cuts to #OntEd, we are not complaining about our jobs—we are standing up for our students—YOUR CHILDREN!!”. I felt I had to explain why I was going to share my strong opinions. That tweet resonated with other #onteducators , judging by the number of likes and retweets. I did receive one negative comment that I just ignored. It’s hard to develop a thick skin when we are dealing with an issue that is so important, and one that has very clear directions as far as we’re concerned, and one where the best interests of our students are not being considered. It’s a sensitive topic which means that emotions can get out of hand. This makes us nervous, and for good reason. But we should never stop defending the best interests of our students. We should always be standing up for what’s right in education, because those that are most affected might not be able to stand up for themselves. I’m glad you chose to press publish, and I’m glad you’re doing what you can to advocate for the students of Ontario.

    • Thanks Adele! You’re right about the need for thick skin, but I think that when we frame our position with kids first, that helps. I loved your tweet too, and think there’s a really important message here. Glad to see and hear so many Ontario educator voices on this issue. More seem to come each day. And thanks for being part of the conversation that inspired this post!

      Aviva

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