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.
Amazing that, despite this week's attacks on public ed, there are #onted educators with large social media followings who don't speak out. Guess they're worried it'll damage their "brand". Where's the leadership when it counts? How bad does it have to get before they engage? pic.twitter.com/kopB8DJg2R
— Andrew Campbell 🏴 (@acampbell99) July 13, 2018
Andrew’s tweet inspired a lot of conversation, including a few tweets of my own.
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 between! Nothing 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.
Cohen found a big stick in the forest. During play today, he realized that he could turn the stick into a person. It could have the woman’s head on it to go with the man’s. They could be “kissing.” I said they’d need a plan first, so they drew it out and labelled it. Tommy noted some missing sounds as he read the words back to me. I then had to go for duty, so the wonderful @paulacrockett worked with them for the taping expedition. The heads are attached now and they can kiss. Amazing!! Now what to do next? ❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #ctinquiry #art
- There are also the pregnancy conversations … especially those around worms this past school year.
I was right! Today’s weather was perfect for finding worms. One was actually lying on the ground waiting for us when we got to the forest. Kids thought it was a “pregnant mommy worm.” Students then went from making a worm house to making a worm hospital for the pregnant mommy. Some great teamwork and interesting theories shared in the dig pit today, also known as Worm City. Thank goodness Mya remembered her “worm wallet” today. ❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry
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.