Welcoming gender non-conforming children

Happy Real World Wednesday! This week we get to hear from Sarah Meytin!!!Slide1

Sarah is an ordained rabbi with an MSW. She has been in early childhood education since 2009, currently serving as assistant director of a Jewish preschool in Washington, DC. In 2013 she earned a National Director’s Credential from the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership. She has also completed the Jewish Early Childhood Leadership Institute (JECELI) In 2010, Sarah founded Rockville Open House, a safe space for LGBTQ Jewish teens and their friends/allies, which meets monthly at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington.

We asked her: What can early educators to do make preschools welcoming for gender non-conforming children?

Here’s her insightful response:

A person’s gender or gender identity is their understanding that they are a boy, girl, man, woman, etc.. One’s gender identity is something known instinctively and may or may not “match” a person’s external genitalia, chromosomes, or what the doctor wrote down on their birth certificate. Children as young as 18months know their gender identity, and may understand their identity to be different from the gender they were assigned at birth. Gender expression is what we call the outward manifestation of gender, and is culturally determined. Gender expression includes the clothing, hair styles, personal preferences, and other “stereotypes” we associate with a particular gender identity.

The terms gender non-conformity or gender variance indicate that one’s gender expression does not match exactly, or at all, with the expected, or stereotypical, expression expected for one’s gender. In young children, this may include young girls who refuse to wear dresses or cut their hair very short, or boys who dislike sports and are more inclined to draw butterflies and rainbows than dinosaurs and trucks.

Creating Safe Spaces

To get you started creating safer and more welcoming early childhood programs for gender non-conforming young children, here are some tips:

  • Educate yourself about gender identity, gender development, and sexuality.
  • Allow each child to self-identify, including using their preferred pronouns, gender identification, and name preference
  • Help parents to understand that most gender variant young children will outgrow this identity by the time they reach puberty, but some won’t.
  • Expand assumptions of the gender-variant child and others: Remind them that they are “a different kind of boy (or girl)” and that there are “different ways to be a girl (or boy).” Be sure to educate other children, staff, and the parent community as well.
  • Provide social support, including with other staff, parents, and other kids in the class
  • Do this by emphasizing diversity and inclusiveness of all kinds, and with everyone in the community.
  • Have gender neutral bathrooms/changing rooms.
  • Avoid dividing children by gender – instead use birthday month, clothing color, letters of first/last name, etc.
  • Provide resources, including books, that show diversity of families as well as gender expressions

To learn more, we recommending checking out the resources below and consider attending Sarah’s session, You Belong Here: Welcoming gender non-conforming children, at this year’s NAEYC Annual Conference.

Important Reads

Resources for Classrooms

Same-sex parents

  • King & King by Linda de Haan
  • Two Dads: A book about adoption by Carolyn Robertson
  • Daddy, Papa and Me by Lesléa Newman
  • Mommy, Momma, and Me by Lesléa Newman
  • And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
  • The Family Book by Todd Parr

Gender Variance

  • My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
  • The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan
  • Jacobs New Dress by Sarah Hoffman
  • It’s OK to be Different by Todd Parr
  • Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
  • Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr (for elementary school children)

Wow!  This is fantastic!  Thank you Sarah!

From fear, shame, and silence to courage, love, and voice

This week on our Facebook page we shared links to a number of videos and resources to inspire us to shift from fear, shame, and silence to courage, love, and voice.  Enjoy!

Sunday

“Let me tell you what we think about children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, ‘Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh.’ That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, ‘You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.’ That’s our job.”

Monday

“We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t”

Tuesday

“the moment I realized something was different about me was the exact same moment that I began conforming and hiding.”

Wednesday

For the full talk, click here.

Thursday

“The most important thing that you’ve got to do is remember the difference between the ‘what they did’ conversation and the ‘what they are’ conversation.”

Friday

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.”

from The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action (excerpt) by Audre Lorde

Saturday

“Each day, my Black skin feels a bit thicker and even more beautiful. I am growing more confident in using my words as a weapon to fight the fear that used to steal my voice on dark days. I am sharpening my tongue, as Black women have done for generations before me, because I refuse to be rendered voiceless in the face of state apparatuses that seek to destroy Black bodies and lives.”

from For Black Girls Who Are Trying To Find Their Voices by Maya S. Zeigler

Real World Wednesdays: Nominate Yourself!

Every week on our Facebook page, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)’s Diversity & Equity Education for Adults Interest Forum features the1237573_1665296367093424_4950231286415187138_n work of an outstanding member of our community to highlight salient “real world” issues at the intersection of early childhood, diversity and equity.  What we learn from these conversations is then posted to our Blog, allowing us to continually build our body of collective wisdom.  We call these segments Real World Wednesdays.

Our growing community is full of so much collective wisdom and experience! Please consider sharing your perspective in an upcoming Real World Wednesday segment.

You can this form to nominate yourself or someone you know:

So I’ve got all these diverse children’s books, now what?

Improving the diversity in children’s literature has been getting a lot of attention over the course of the last few years–and for good reason!  We’ve got a long way to go.  Big shout out to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and everyone else who’s doing this important work!

diversity_tinakugler

At the same time, there’s a lot more to the conversation about diversity & equity in children’s literature than simply making bookshelves more diverse.  As exemplified by the recent release and then swift recall of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, just because a book features a non-white character doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an anti-bias book.  On this topic, Louise Derman-Sparks has done some fantastic work putting together An Updated Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books, which we’ve turned into the handy tip-sheet below:

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This webinar, Using an Anti-Bias Lens to Examine Early Childhood Childrens Books in Your Program, hosted by Linda Santora and Cheryl Kilodavis is also a great resource.  And so is this post by Dr. Cathy Gutierrez-Gomez on Tips for Choosing Culturally Appropriate Books & Resources About Native Americans.

2013-11-06 14.00 Using an Anti-Bias Lens to Examine Early Childhood Childrens Books in Your Program by Linda Santora and Cheryl from Engagement Strategies, LLC on Vimeo.

And secondly, we’ve gotta think carefully and critically about what happens when we take our high-quality, diverse, anti-bias children’s literature off the shelf and actually use them in our homes and classrooms.  How do we use these books to create meaningful experiences for young children that open up and support ongoing conversations about diversity and equity?  At the end of the day, we have to remember that while books are amazing resources (we LOVE books!), they do not do the work of anti-bias education for us.  That’s still up to us.  We’ve put together some Dos and Dont’s below.  What would you add to the list?

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The blog Raising Race Conscious Children also has some great tips and strategies.

And finally, while you might have created your own personal library full of diverse, anti-bias children’s literature, there is still a larger systemic problem that you can (and should!) play a role in addressing.  Check out this fantastic post: Ten Steps to Promote Diversity in Children‘s Literature by Wade Hudson.

Let’s talk about the preschool-to-prison pipeline…

It’s Real World Wednesday again and did you know that black students are suspended or expelled from school at three times the rate of white students?!  And this startling disparity in school discipline starts early.  As you can see below, while Black children comprise only 18% of all preschoolers, they make up almost half of all out-of-school suspensions.

What’s driving this inequity?  According to many researchers, implicit bias is heavily implicated. As stated in this Issue Brief on the implications of implicit bias in early childhood care and education: “Black boys are often viewed by teachers as unruly and aggressive, which biases, often unconsciously, how they are supported academically or disciplined.”

Researchers have also cited the disparate impact of zero-tolerance policies that “criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in schools lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school” (ACLU, 2015).

Weighing in on this important topic, this Real World Wednesday we’re hearing from Tommy Micah and Trilce Marquez.

Trilce is a 4th grade teacher in New York City. She has been teaching for nine years and has taught grades 1-4 in both district and charter schools. And she loves kid jokes almost more than the kids do. And Tommy is dean of students at Achievement First Endeavor Elementary School where he says his job is to, “make school fun, keep kids safe, and keep parents happy”. In his work, Tommy coaches teachers in taxonomy and school culture while also behaviorally supporting scholars in need. Tommy works closely with parents and teachers to ensure scholars have the best academic experience while also learning what it takes to be the future leaders of our world.

We asked them, in your work, what do you see driving the preschool-to-prison pipeline?

Here are their incredibly insightful responses:

Trilce

I’ve worked in several different educational settings–from a zero tolerance, no excuses school to a classroom without any structured disciple system set up. No matter what classroom or school I’ve been in, one thing has always been true: students are going to have great days and moments, and days or moments when they struggle. So will I. But, something that has been different depending on the setting has been the trauma that individual students have experienced because of the way the discipline systems in place are implemented. When students are penalized for minor infractions like having their eyes off their books during a 20 minute independent reading block, or not being able to repeat an answer that another student has given, students are often only left with the disappointment of being unable to get it (their behavior) right. That hard line is very difficult for students to maintain and the feeling that things don’t feel fair can often cause students to push back. These students, the ones who are often asking us to become better educators by broadening our ideas of what it looks like, sounds like and feels like to pay attention, learn, work and play in school are then often suspended or expelled.

On the other hand, I’ve also seen a lack of any consistent discipline confuse students about what behavior is “allowed” in what contexts. Students and teachers feel surprised when there is an explosion of emotion– from either the student or the teacher–about behaviors that are happening that haven’t been addressed before. Calling out in class often makes me think of how easy it is to not hold students to the same standard, and then feel frustrated when they do exactly what we’ve shown it’s okay to do. When I find myself feeling frustrated and getting ready to give a student consequence for calling out, it’s on me to calm down and think back through the day (or even the mini-lesson) to see how often I’ve actually reminded students of the expectation that they shouldn’t call out. If I haven’t been consistent in making sure students aren’t calling out and all of a sudden the noise level begins to drive me crazy, it isn’t fair to start giving consequences to the next few students calling out. When I’m not having honest conversations with students about the behaviors (and being honest about my role in those behaviors), it can feel hard on both ends to know and follow any set of expectations.

But therein lies the real culprit that I’ve seen driving the preschool-to-prison pipeline. In both kinds of school, teachers aren’t talking about race and racism. Teachers, administrators, staff–there isn’t a dialogue about how we are seeing, talking to and disciplining our students of color in comparison to our white students. We aren’t looking at our assumptions, examining data about white and non-white student discipline, and acknowledging that no matter who we are, we always bring something to our interactions with others. Without these conversations, there can be no change in how we respond to students.

Tommy

We have all seen and know the mounds of statistics as it relates to the school-to-prison pipeline. We know that Black and Brown students are four times more likely to be suspended than their white peers. We know that 70% of “in-school” arrests are of Black and Brown students. We also know that over 68% of the male prison population lacks a high school diploma. Where did our schools and communities fail these students? From my experience, I believe one cause is the one size fits all and zero tolerance discipline systems.

As any teacher can tell you, no two students are alike. We differentiate our teaching to meet the needs of all our students. For some, through IEPs, we are legally required to provide systematic and differentiated support. But when it comes to discipline and behavior, it’s frequently different. If we know this, and do it to teach, why do our behavior systems not reflect this?

So, now what? In focusing on solutions, we must empower teachers to change a key mindset. Students don’t act out to be bad, stop your lesson, or otherwise raise our blood pressure! First our students are not simply a statistic, grade, headache, or number on a roster. They are people. People with names, emotions, interests, joys, and worries. We must see, know, and believe that the misaligned behavior is due to a student’s lagging skills. We must show empathy and work with the student and family to replace the misbehavior with a more appropriate classroom behavior. What will this take? Lots.

First, teachers must collaborate in deciding what the misaligned behavior is and its cause. Teachers must share best practices in working with the individual child. Before that, teachers must listen. Empathize with a student having a difficult time. Be their hero who’s there to support them and believes that they can and will fix it. And, teachers must believe that the best place for the student to fix the behavior is in the classroom. However, the school is not a silo. Most importantly, this is not just the teachers. This is the school community. From principal, to dean, to art teacher, to family. The entire village must know and believe we can change behavior by taking the time to differentiate and explicitly teach to our vision for excellence in class and life.

Yes, it’s a lot. We are people. We don’t change behavior in a day. But, school communities can work to dry the faucet in the school-to-prison pipeline by refocusing on the cause of misbehavior and supportively teaching the agreed upon correct behavior.

It may be easy in the moment to have the student out of our class, out of our school, so our other students can learn. But, as educators and a community, we must always remember. Remember that, not just that child, but our whole society will feel the consequences. As teachers, we come to teach all kids. But, we fail when not all kids can come to school.

In the spirit of the critical reflection that Tommy and Trilce have modeled for us, we invite you to take a few moments to take the Implicit Association Test, reflect on the results, and start a conversation with a colleague or friend about them.  Dismantling the preschool-to-prison pipeline starts with us.  Happy Real World Wednesday and a big thanks to Trilce and Tommy for inviting us into such an important conversation!


Additional resources

 

Resource on “Talking to Muslim Children about Acts of Violent Extremism”

Dr. Aliya Saeed in partnership with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently released this important resource:

Talking to Muslim Children about Acts of Violent Extremism

Additional resources include:

As the report states so eloquently:

Schools exist to educate, empower, and prepare students to navigate the world. However, when students are discriminated against, bullied, and/ or marginalized, they suffer academically and miss out on developing the skills and confidence needed to succeed. As minority students, American Muslim youth are more susceptible to the long term effects of these types of behaviors. As such, a dedicated effort must be made to report and expunge Islamophobia and Islamophobic rhetoric from schools.

We couldn’t agree more!  Thank you CAIR and Dr. Saeed!

2016 NAEYC Annual Conference: Call for Proposals!

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 1.50.00 PMDear Diversity & Equity Education for Adults (DEEA) Interest Forum Members and friends,

Proposals for the 2016 NAEYC Annual Conference & Expo in Los Angeles are due this Friday (1/15) and we’d love to see a robust offering of sessions related to diversity & equity issues in early childhood care and education.  Information about how to submit a proposal can be found here.
Let us know what you’re submitting, and we’ll do our best to promote your work!