They/She/He: New Learning For All Of Us, You’ll See

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while now. Maybe it’s because I don’t know exactly what I want to say or how I want to say it. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid that I’m going to say something wrong. But as the school year comes to an end and our minds start wandering back to school at some point this summer, I wonder if this is a topic that I need to think more about. This blog post is about books, gender, stereotypes, and what needs to be considered in the early years.

When my teaching partner, Paula, and I were online, we had a daily read aloud time. During the month of June, we decided to read a few different books together for Pride Month. Beth Lyons suggested a wonderful one, What Riley Wore. We followed this up with Pink Is For Boys, and then read Worm Loves Worm. All of our read aloud times were small group ones, which gave lots of opportunities for children to chat with us and with each other about the books. The discussions with our four-, five-, and six-year-olds were very eye-opening, as they were rarely what we expected.

  • Many children were vocal about the fact that all colours are for all children. There’s no such thing as a “boy colour” and a “girl colour.” Before we even started reading, Pink Is For Boys, a JK student unmuted and said, “I think it should be called, Pink Is For Boys and Girls.
  • Stereotypes exist, even at a very young age. Clothing seemed to influence many stereotypes. This was very evident when reading, What Riley Wore. As soon as Riley put on a dress, the kids were convinced that Riley was a girl. Superhero costumes could be worn by girls and boys, but dresses could apparently only be worn by girls. One child said that it was “illegal for a boy to wear a dress.” It took some time and conversation to help students realize that the clothing does not define the individual.
  • While many children were comfortable with using different pronouns and even discussed various options (e.g., she, he, they), most use the pronoun that aligns with the biological sex of the individual (e.g., using “she” for a “girl”). Paula and I found ourselves doing this as well, and reading these books had us listening more closely to what we were saying and how we were saying it. We tried to become more aware of our own pronoun use, and correct accordingly when we made mistakes. Our hope was that students would hear what we were saying and think more about their choices.
  • While most children would quickly agree with the key messages in these books, they were often reluctant to discuss their thinking, even in small groups. We needed to give a lot of wait time, ask more questions, and share our own reflections before we had even a few children contributing ideas. Is this because we were teaching online, so didn’t have the same proximity that we do in the classroom? Is this because of a child’s comfort or discomfort with the topic of discussion? Is this because of the presence of parents — additional adults in the room — which might have decreased a child’s willingness to unmute and contribute ideas at times? Is this because of something else altogether?

Before June arrived and Paula and I started reading and talking about these books with the class, we both wondered how we would approach 2SLQBTQIA+ topics and issues with our kids. We’re very aware of the age of our children, and how students often explore gender through play. We want students to be comfortable with this exploration, and we wondered if discussing pronouns and stereotypes would have kids reluctant to play and talk as freely as they do right now. Considering our learning this past month, we’re thinking now that we were wrong. We have to have these conversations with kids because stereotypes are already at play, even at this young age. Is it time for us to disrupt these stereotypes and invite new learning?

Then I think about the books that we read — not just in the month of June, but all year long.

  • Are kids seeing themselves in these books?
  • Are they seeing their siblings, their parents, their educators, and their friends?
  • Are they having regular conversations around gender, and reflecting on what they knew before and what they know now?

Every summer, we buy new books for the classroom. Sometimes we buy new toys and open-ended materials to use. Will our learning this past month impact on what we purchase and how we use these items with kids when we return to the classroom in the fall? Before June, we thought that we were doing the right thing for kids and families. Then we learned that there’s a lot more that we could and should be doing. Learn more. Do better. It’s time for me to live by these words. What about you? As I went to grab something out of my mailbox before publishing this blog post, I found this book in there from a recent school order.

It seems as though change is necessary and is coming.


Is this a school case of the “wrapping” being more enticing than the “present?”: Reflecting On Year-End Celebrations

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking these last couple of days about “celebrations.” What matters the most to us — as educators or as caregiversand what matters the most to kids? Are they always the same? This year, we decided to do a few different things to celebrate with our students: from a Stuffy Dress Rehearsal to a “shared meal” goodbye.

It was interesting to see how students responded to these celebrations. On Wednesday, I sent out this tweet.

Maybe we spent more time planning for the Stuffy Dress Rehearsal …

  • with menus,
  • with lists,
  • with invitations,
  • with schedules,
  • and with decorations.

Maybe celebrating along with favourite toys made this year-end party more enjoyable. Maybe it was something else altogether.

I’ve been wondering a lot though … Then, during our final meeting time on Thursday, a child asked if we could have a LEGO playdate the next day. My teaching partner, Paula, and I suggested that he create an invitation for one that we could share with parents. This is what he made and what we shared.

Then yesterday, during our final celebration time, one of our kids unmuted to remind me to “call [him] into the LEGO playdate” because he “didn’t want to miss it.” This really resonated with me. On the last day of synchronous learning, during the very last meeting time, this child really wanted to be there to play with his friends. I reminded him to have Teams open, and as promised, I called him in when the meeting time began.

For most of the LEGO playdate yesterday, Paula and I just sat there and watched as children played with their siblings and with each other. There was a hum of noise with the microphones on, and before we signed off, this student built cities with his “BFF” (he loves this term). There was actually playing, collaborating, and socializing online, and in some ways, this unstructured playdate, initiated by an SK student, might have been the greatest celebration of them all.

I know that celebrations and graduations are about more than just the child. This year, families were involved in the learning as never before, and taking this time to acknowledge and thank them has tremendous value. Watching and reflecting on this playdate though made me think about what might matter most to kids. Is it always what we think? Do we always attempt to find out? I wonder if there are ways to balance what adults want with what students want, and even ways to balance the bigger celebrations that some children might want with the smaller celebrations that others might want. It’s like yesterday when we reflected on the favourite memories of this past school year. While some children highlighted the special days — like the food art one — others remembered lunchtime the most. πŸ™‚

I can’t help but think about the stories of the child who gets a really expensive present, but is most interested in the box. When it comes to celebrations, is it sometimes the smaller moments that mean the most? No matter what you did or how you celebrated, I hope that all students, caregivers, and families got to enjoy a little something special to commemorate a very unique school year. Here’s to a happy final few days of school and a big thanks for all of the terrific memories!


Thank You Caregivers, Students, And Families!

We did it … or we’re doing it … or within a week, this very different year, with time spent online and in the classroom together, will be over — at least from a synchronous perspective in our Board, as the last couple of days will be asynchronous learning, cleaning up, dropping off and picking up items, and saying “goodbye.” While the amount of pivoting this year should make all of us expert dancers πŸ™‚ , I’m still sad to end this memorable school year. Once again, cleaning up in a silent school seems strange, and celebrating over the computer will still be great, but likely not the same.

For those that are confused about me cleaning up before the 28th and 29th (the assigned Board days), I did take two half-day personal days to get started on the organizing. Part of my own wellness plan

As this school year comes to an end, I think that there are many people to thank. While I appreciate every “thank you” that comes my way, and have extended some of my own thanks to different educators and administrators, this blog post is for other individuals. Today, I would like to say a huge thank you to our amazing caregivers, kids, and families.

I was out for breakfast this morning on a patio, and I ran into parents from a previous school of mine. I didn’t have the opportunity to teach their children, but I knew them well, and it was great to see one of their kids with them today. As we connected for a few minutes, the mom spoke briefly about her remote learning experience for five kids, in one household, in all different grades. She smiled lots and appreciated the opportunity for her kids to learn, even if that learning happened in front of a device. At home, my only distractions are two dogs, who sometimes love to say “hello” to the people and pets walking down the street. This seems small in comparison to what this family is negotiating, while also trying to do their own work at home. It’s for parents like these two, and the numerous ones in our class, who helped inspire this post.

To every one of our caregivers …

  • Thank you for logging in even when there are a million different things going on, and you’re trying to balance your own work with school.
  • Thank you for your upbeat attitude, daily smiles, and friendly hellos, even when all three might be hard to do.
  • Thank you for showing that you’re human — that some days are harder than others, that sometimes stress is more, and that on some days, you just can’t get remote learning to work. We understand.
  • Thank you for your incredible patience, even when MS Teams is “glitchy” (a new word for the year), audio cuts in and out, and pacing is slower or faster than on other days.
  • Thank you for being there for your children always — be it to help login, to help mute, unmute, or raise a hand (although many of our kids are incredibly independent at this now), and to offer a hug, a loving smile, or just a reminder to your kids that they can do it, even when they’re not sure that they can.
  • Thank you for knowing when your child might need a day off, a shorter meeting time, or an early leave. This is uncharted waters here, and given the difference between remote and in-person learning, maybe on some days, a little less screen time is a good thing.
  • Thank you for sharing student learning from home — whether it be through a photograph, a video, or an email. Remote learning is all about working together, and we know that we could not have done what we did over the past three months without you.

To every one of our students …

  • Thank you for coming as much as you do, even though other things might be taking your attention at this time of the year.
  • Thank you for filling our day with laughter, stories, and new learning.
  • Thank you for showing us that socializing can happen online, and how to make this possible.
  • Thank you for continuing to push yourselves, even though a “home” might feel differently than a “school.”
  • Thank you for being your true selves, no matter what the day may bring. From happy smiles to sad tears, we’re always here for you, whether in-person or online.
  • Thank you for helping us tackle tough subjects, even virtually, and for being so respectful of different opinions and new perspectives.
  • Thank you for reminding us that a meeting time never has to be set, and just like our schedule is ish-like in the classroom, it can be ish-like online. Thank you for being excited enough to spend extra time with us and share “one more thing” no matter what the clock time might say.
  • Thank you for reminding us that what was important in the classroom is also important virtually, and that you’re excited for routine, no matter where that routine might be.
  • Thank you for trying and inspiring some new routines with us, and making us think about how we can incorporate these routines in-person.

To every one of our families …

  • Thank you for reminding us that online learning is about more than just the kids in the class.
  • Thank you for increasing our conversations and having us reconsider what learning looks like with all that you contribute.
  • Thank you for bringing us smiles each day with “hellos” from baby siblings and a variety of pets — from cats and kittens to dogs to birds, rabbits, and even ants.
  • Thank you for showing us that even animals can create art, and sharing with us the lovely artwork that a pet dog made the other day.
  • Thank you for bringing us additional smiles each and every day.
  • Thank you for providing that “noise” that we have missed from back at school.
  • Thank you for helping make the online environment feel like a community of learners.

If ever there was a school year that speaks to the value of student, parent, and family engagement, I think that it’s this year. The next week is sure to bring with it more smiles, more stories, more fun, and probably, a few more tears. My teaching partner, Paula, and I are looking forward to making even more memories in the coming days. What about you? Here’s to a wonderful end to this school year, and many thanks to the incredible people that helped make it possible.



It’s almost the middle of June now, and I haven’t shared my #onewordX12 goal for the month. For the month of May, I focused on us. Our time online, made me realize that I was craving the social interaction and noise that was part of our in-person classroom. It took a while to get kids comfortable with talking online and socializing as they would in-person. My teaching partner, Paula, and I started using breakout rooms during our afternoon playdates, as well as turning off our cameras and encouraging children to talk to each other. This is not perfect yet, and we continue to work with kids to see the play potential even online. But as an unexpected but wonderful outcome of last month’s word, we noticed that as students connected more with each other in small groups, they brought back these conversations to larger groups. Now even our youngest learners are paying more attention to each other in our virtual space, and extending discussions on a variety of topics.

As the school year comes to an end, I don’t want to forget about this social goal of ours — especially if we remain online — but news in the past week has given me a new word for June: breathe.

Over my lunchtime on June 8th, I decided to check out the news. This is when I read an article that the trustees in our Board have voted to write a note to the province asking for a return to school for the last 5-7 school days. This post is not about my thoughts on this plan. I actually have very conflicting thoughts: balancing my desire to see kids in-person again before the end of the school year with working my head around what another change would look and feel like at this late date. This past week has taught me that there are some things that are out of my control.

  • I can feel anxious.
  • I can feel a range of emotions — happy, sad, scared, and more … sometimes all at the same time.

I can accept that I have all of these feelings while constantly questioning if I have it in myself for one more change.

  • What will this mean for kids?
  • What will this look like for programming?
  • How might we best support our highest needs’ students with another transition?
  • What impact might this have on our year-end celebration plans?

Paula and I have done a lot of thinking around these questions. We might not have any answers yet, but as we determined the other day, the change is going to happen or it’s not. For now, I need to breathe.

  • I need to calm my flip-flopping stomach.
  • I need to silence my racing thoughts.
  • I need to remember my own “change card.” As someone who loves routine and struggles with last-minute changes, this might be the year that I truly learn how to adapt.

The other night, when Paula and I should have been in bed, we were excitedly texting each other about possible end-of-the-year celebration plans.

We realize that these plans will need to be modified if we do go back in-person, but that will be our challenge for another week. For now, we’re asking everyone to save the proposed date, and starting our Crockett and Dunsiger Party Planning Adventures on Monday. πŸ™‚

Time doesn’t stand still. The coming days, might bring about with them one more pivot (do others think about ballet when they hear this word?!), but for now, we’ll plan, engage, breathe, and try to enjoy the last few weeks of school with our amazing class, no matter where these last few weeks might take place. Here’s to hoping that the extra breathing reduces stress and helps with a calm and wonderful end to a school year for everyone. Deep breath in and out … are others breathing along with me?


What Will Our Message Be?

“Children have an incredible ability to hear everything that you don’t want them to hear and some things that you do.” I remember an associate teacher telling me this in the Faculty of Education, and somehow, I re-learn the truth in these words year after year. In the classroom, my teaching partner, Paula, and I often try to find moments to connect with each other. Sometimes there’s value in standing back and watching the learning together. She sees something that I don’t see and vice versa. These moments of connection often help us with future planning.

While I think that we’ll forever look for these connection opportunities, we’re also very aware of what we see, what we say, and how we say it. Without a doubt, no matter where we’re talking in the classroom or how quietly we’re speaking, a child will hear one word, a short phrase, or a full sentence, and ask us about it. Even as an adult, I might walk out of the room where my parents are talking and come back in catching their last few words. I find myself asking similar questions to what kids ask us. This continues to be a good reminder for me that no matter how old we may be, words uttered by trusted adults hold a high degree of importance for us. This resonates with me now, as I contemplate the various opinions about Ford’s announcement that almost all classes will remain online for the rest of the school year.

For many people, this news comes with disappointment.

And while many might understand the safety reasons for Ford’s decision, this doesn’t mean that the news isn’t accompanied by big feelings. This is why I appreciate this article that I came across the other day. The school year isn’t over yet. While this ending might not be what some of us expected or wanted, it is the ending that we’re going to get. But maybe as we login each day to see each other, chat together, share laughs, and share learning, we can still have a good end to this very different school year. The adult voice is a strong one.

  • Have all the feelings.
  • Share all of them with kids if you want.
  • Empathize when they also voice their concerns.

But if, somewhere in here, we can also communicate that school’s continuing and that there are many things still worth coming for, maybe thinking around this remote learning experience will also change … for kids, for caregivers, and for educators. I know that I’m privileged to have the feelings that I do, and I can understand if yours are not the same. I also know that I’m going to keep showing up, day-after-day, and trying to enjoy these last moments with this wonderful class. That’s the way I want and need this school year to end. What about you?