What Is Our Responsibility?

On Thursday, my teaching partner, Paula, and I decided to show the students a clip from Box City to get students thinking about different items to build and signs to create as they play with blocks. We had no intention of making a cardboard city. We just noticed some of the block building during the week, and thought that we could try to extend it.

When Paula showed part of the clip on Thursday morning, one of our kids got really excited. She remembered our Box City project from last year, and wanted to create one again. What might be possible? Paula heard her out and began to think aloud with the rest of the class, as well as with me, about possibilities. We might not be able to play with a collaborative Box City due to COVID protocols, but if students made their buildings at their individual spaces, we could set one up as a class. This child was so excited, and started to use paint and cardboard to begin the Box City process. She even wrote me a note asking for shoeboxes.

Her excitement got others creating in different ways, and had Paula and I thinking about what else we could do.

In between interviews and training yesterday, we started to make a safe space in the classroom for Box City. Getting the area organized also had us considering provocations for this upcoming week.

As we were planning, we wondered if Box City could be one way that we explore inclusion and equity with our kids. After school on Thursday, we had our November Staff Meeting. Near the end of the staff meeting, our principal spoke to us about inclusion and equity, and had us start to think about how students might see themselves in the classroom. In a Twitter conversation last night, I had an opportunity to further reflect on some of the points that Gerry mentioned during our Staff Meeting.

Paula and I wondered if as we build this city, we can also look more closely at the housing complexes in our community and in surrounding ones.

  1. What might you see in downtown Hamilton? In Toronto?
  2. Could this then extend to people within our cities? How are we alike? How are we different?
  3. How can we become more knowledgeable and accepting of differences?

Just as I blogged about back in June, we want to take the cues from our students. We want to be aware of their age and their developmental level. But I still stand behind my goals from Doug Peterson‘s challenge back in June.

All of these goals could be addressed as we create Box City together, and even create many different people for Box City. I’m not sure where this project will go this year, but I remember how our city was transformed last year.

Christmas seemed to become the key discussion point. Is this because it’s what almost all of our children celebrate? Is this because it’s what they see most often? Maybe this year, we could look more closely at multiple celebrations. How are they viewed and celebrated in our community? How might kids share their learning through this city space? What new learning and additional ideas might parents and families share, even from afar?

Not every conversation is easy, and it’s the unknown component here that makes this a little bit scarier. (How do we prepare for questions that might be asked and ideas that might be shared?) But I continue to return to things that our children have talked to us about this year:

  1. Gender,
  2. Racism,
  3. Bullying,
  4. #BlackLivesMatter.

Each of these discussion points have rarely been full class discussions, but they are ones that kids have opened up to us about. We’ve listened. We’ve wondered. And we’ve realized that our children are looking to talk and seeking to understand. Even if their world might be well-represented within school walls, is it our responsibility to expose them to a world beyond this? I think it is. What about you?


14 thoughts on “What Is Our Responsibility?

  1. Aviva,
    Thank you. I am amazed, regularly, by the way you and Paula make room for the kids to learn, explore and ask questions. Your questions about what the kids would build, and how their buildings could lead to discussions around the different spaces we live in, really have me thinking. Thank you, also, for helping me remember that I am not the only person asking questions. I really, really needed that. When we teach in spaces where people look overwhelmingly the same, and share many of the same experiences, it is so important to lead our students to ask questions.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I love that Paula and I can reflect together, but I also love how Twitter allows for this sharing of ideas, wonders, uncertainties, and questions. We don’t need to be thinking and reflecting alone. I love how kids can also be involved in these conversations, even when they’re young kids. Having the diversity of voices — including educators, administrators, families, and children — is so important. I have to wonder what others might add to this discussion, and how exposing students to new ideas might also produce some more questions/wonders of their own. Thanks for getting me to think more about what Paula and I discussed yesterday. I saw this Twitter conversation at just the right time.


  2. It was a gift to “talk” with people last night about this. It is really challenging to ask people you care a great deal about to examine their lens, and to think about what they are choosing to privilege, or centre…. Being able to hear other people working through this kind of process helps a LOT.

    • Thanks Lisa! I absolutely agree. There’s something to be said for working this through with others, and while I have the ability to do this with Paula, to further extend the conversation with all of you was most certainly a gift. Grateful that I saw this discussion when I did.


  3. Aviva and Lisa,
    It is good to have conversations with people! Sometimes I say things and get weird looks so I start to think I need to stop talking. πŸ™‚ You all remind me not to.

    I wonder how often the staff composition of a school reflects the diversity of students in the school. I think we have to expose our students to the world beyond the classroom, the school, even the city we live in! This fits with the grade 2 curriculum and every year I feel like I could have done a little bit better job of teaching it. I wish I had a Paula to talk about it with! Someone who is in the room seeing what I’m seeing and knowing the kids I know.

    I think I’d like to start a box city in my class. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for the comment, Lisa! I have to say, I initially started chuckling because I wondered why you were addressing yourself, and then I realized that you were writing to Lisa Noble. πŸ™‚ I certainly think that there’s value in continuing to talk. A fellow educator once told me that it’s through the “uncomfortable” where people learn most. Those looks might later lead to increased understanding, interest, and dialogue.

      Such an interesting comment about the staff diversity. I never really thought about that before, but now you have me wondering more. I definitely think that we need to expose our students to the world beyond the classroom, and I realize now that I’ve really missed doing this many times in the past. I keep coming back to this tweet that I read back in June: https://twitter.com/fdk_donnaindra/status/1268600348220043270?s=20. Our Program Document supports these kinds of conversations, and I know that we should have them more.

      Having someone like Paula to talk and plan with in person is fantastic (I would not change it for the world). I also continue to be reminded about the power of blogging and the value in conversing with others online. As I write you this comment back, I received a text from a teacher at our school. She works with our students, and just finished reading this blog post. She was reminded about the UN Sustainable Goals, and while these goals are usually explored with older students, knowing our kids and some of the conversations that we’ve already had in class, she saw a way to extend our Box City Project in another way: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/. She’s putting together a slideshow that we can look at together. How amazing is this?! I love how blogging can open up the conversation with people outside of our school as well as with people inside of it.

      I hope that you do start a Box City with your class. Maybe we can even have our classes connect in some way if you do. πŸ™‚ Definitely a project with possibilities beyond kindergarten.


      • Consider it done! πŸ™‚

        In my grad school course we are talking about Indigenous literacies and one person just commented that after 17 in the Toronto school system she never learned about Indigenous literacies until she came north to go to university. That right there tells us why we need to be talking about all the cultural diversity our country has to offer.

  4. The thread on Twitter, this blog post and the thread of comments here gives me hope for the future. I think it’s so important that we hold ourselves accountable to continue to have these conversations, to continue questioning the lens on which we view the world and to question others as well. I love how Aviva and Paula constantly model and share their reflective process and thinking to support the learners in their class but also those of us who learn alongside them in our own spaces. I am wondering how I might encourage the learners in face to face learning in my school to contribute to a Box City as part of our continued maker culture initiatives and if it’s possible to create a virtual one using pictures sent in by the online students? Lots of consider.

  5. Aviva, Thanks to you and Paula for once again considering the broader community.
    Last year, I was doing a workshop for Early Years educators and we were in a kindergarten class. My colleague and I asked the participants to begin by walking around the room to see where and how the families were represented. It was a lovely large room with many work stations, books and activities. One station asked the children to draw a picture of a home. As an example, a photo of a modern, two story house was available. The problem? This school was in a low SES community, where everyone lived in apartment buildings. Houses of any type were beyond their realities.
    When one of the workshop participants brought this activity to the attention of the group, it hit me like a slap on the face. Because I recognized that I would have used a photo of a dwelling that was based on my experiences, too. The aim of the activity would have been in the forefront, not the implications. And I teach inclusive family engagement!
    We need to disrupt – really disrupt – our practices. It’s not enough to have books on the shelf that represent different cultures. I believe it begins with relationship building and meaningful two way dialogue with our families, our peers, our communities. As I quoted my friend Suma in that thread, we need to ask our families what they think NOT what we assume they think.

    • Thanks Nancy for sharing this story, as well as the discussion with Suma on Twitter. Both have really caused me to think. I’m also wondering what happens when we involve families, and they share about Christmas experiences and home set-ups that might align with some of our own. Do we then focus the discussion on these areas, or still look beyond to the broader community and expose students to some new experiences? Also with the support of families that could have these discussions with their children at home as well as us having them in the classroom. I’m tempted to lean towards the latter — of exposing, even if the norm for our kids/families is not as diverse — but would be curious if this is what you and others think. Thanks for always getting Paula and I to think more!


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