Teacher Attitudes Toward Immigrant Students and Families

Hooray!!! It’s Real World Wednesday again! This week we have the pleasure of learning from and with Molly McManus.Slide1

Molly is a doctoral student studying educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on early school experiences of young children from immigrant and/or marginalized families and immigrant and/or marginalized parents’ experiences supporting the development, education, and well-being of their young children. Molly also holds a BS and teaching credential from California Polytechnic State University and an MA in Human Development, Culture, and Learning Sciences from UT Austin.

Before her graduate studies, Molly worked as a Spanish-English bilingual second grade teacher in Oakland, California. One of her favorite parts of teaching was working with the families of her students and learning about their hopes and dreams for their children. It was in Oakland that she witnessed and began to understand the challenges that immigrant and other marginalized families face early on in the US education system.

In the current political climate, Molly is particularly concerned about potential negative effects of anti-immigrant and deficit attitudes towards immigrants on young children and their families. We asked her, “How do school and teacher attitudes towards immigrant students and their families affect the well-being and academic performance of young children?”

Here’s her answer:

Experiences in early education programs are foundational for all children, and young children of immigrants are no exception. In these programs, children begin to develop beliefs about themselves as learners and as members of their new community. When their formative early years are influenced by experiences of discrimination and/or negative, unwelcoming attitudes from teachers and schools, children’s academic, emotional, and developmental well-being can be compromised.

The degree to which young children of immigrants are welcomed, or not welcomed, into their new schools and programs is also known as their context of reception. Negative contexts of reception have been shown to result in lower motivation and lower academic achievement among immigrant students. Unwelcoming environments can also keep immigrant parents of young children from engaging with teachers and schools and hinders their ability to make the educational decisions that they believe are best for their children.

Alternatively, when young immigrant children enter positive environments they benefit from positive outcomes across multiple domains. These positive contexts of reception include valuing children’s contributions, offering them intellectual, creative, and culturally responsive learning opportunities, and authentically caring about their and their family’s well-being. In these welcoming environments, children are more likely to create positive connections to their surroundings, are more engaged with curriculum, and are more likely to achieve academic success later in their educational careers.

In our current political climate, there seems to be more concern about the damage immigrants can inflict on our schools rather than the ways that schools are capable of harming immigrant students. But the truth is, research shows that immigrant students and young children of immigrants do not have negative affects on our schools systems.

Unfortunately, the opposite is not true. Teachers and schools have the power to create negative, restrictive environments that limit children’s learning and future opportunities. But they also have the power to welcome young children of immigrants into creative and caring environments that value them for the beautiful diversity they bring to our classrooms, schools, and communities.

Thank you so much, Molly!  Such important information!

Ijumaa, why is play an equity issue?

Happy Real World Wednesday! This week we have the pleasure of introducing Ijumaa Jordan! Slide1

Ijumaa is an early education consultant, who focuses on reflective practice, culturally relevant teaching, and developing anti-bias curriculum for young children and adults. Being a part of Harvest Resources Associates, means much of her work with teachers and administrators happens by facilitating professional development in a “community of practice” model that promotes reflective teaching practices and leadership.

Ijumaa has more than twenty years of teaching in early education and directing and also serves as an Adjunct Instructor. She received her Basic Core Certificate in Early Childhood Education from UCLA Extension followed by a BA in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College with a concentration in Early Childhood Education, Emergent Curriculum, and Anti-bias Education. She also received her MA in Human Development from Pacific Oaks with a concentration in Leadership in Education and Human Services with sub-specializations in College Teaching/Teaching Adults.

At the 2016 NAEYC Annual Conference, Ijumaa is hoping to lead a session titled, Ollie, Ollie, Oxen Free: Ensuring children from all socio-economic and racial groups have access to free and complex play. Given her interests and expertise, we decided to ask her: “Ijumaa, why is play an equity issue?”

Here’s her incredibly thoughtful response:

Play is a right for all children and they deserve an early education experience that supports this right. As more research and opinion pieces are written about how play is disappearing in early education, the “elephant in the room” is that this worrisome trend is not impacting all young children equally. The reality is that early education is segregated by race and class in the same way K-12 is. We can no longer live in a fantasy that we can advocate for play-centered early care and education without dismantling the oppressive educational system that denies access play based on race and class.

As a consultant I get invited to visit programs across the country. What I began to notice is that access to play differed depending the racial and socio-economic status of children being served with a few exceptions. I observed different environments, the quality of play materials, and teachers’ interactions with children. I recently visited a program in an affluent community where four out of eighty children are Korean American, two children are Chinese American, one child is African American, one child is bi-racial (African American and Latina from Puerto Rico). The rest of the children are white. Children have lush outdoor environments to explore where they can roll down a hill, climb up the tree house and slide down, there is paint on easels that cover a wall. There is a wire construction that you can add more wire and beads to. There are two water tables one with plastic sea animals and the other with different kinds of cups. Inside the classrooms there are areas for dressing up to save the world from monsters, building a farm and a rocket ship with unit blocks, there are drums and a basket of scarves for interpretive dance. I hear children laughing, talking, whispering, and crying while being held because they fell down. I see a teacher with a small group of children discussing their plan to build a rolling river in the sand pit outside and drawing their plans. The teacher who is giving me the tour shows me the children’s developmental portfolios that are filled with work samples of drawing and writing, pictures with captions, anecdotal notes, comments from parents, and in the back a developmental checklist.

In contrast, I also recently visited a publicly-funded preschool program located in a working class neighborhood. The racial make up is 50 percent Latino/Latina from Mexico and El Salvador and 50 percent African American. 40 percent of the children speak Spanish as their first language. Spanish and English are spoken in the classroom but most of the written material is in English. Four classrooms encircle a large yard with most of the space taken up by a huge play structure. I find out later that the families helped fundraise for it. I was told that because they share the yard with other classrooms, outside playtime is twenty minutes. Most children run around the play structure and the children tell me that sometimes their teacher brings out balls. When they laugh loud or yell they are asked to lower their voices. Once inside they sit on the carpet on top of their own carpet piece. The teacher waits about five minutes for everyone to sit with their legs crossed and hands in their laps. She reads a book from the reading curriculum on the letter M then has children repeat preselected M words that she shows with cards. After group time the children go to their assigned seats at their group desk with their either the teacher or assistant teacher and trace the letter M. Then (finally) it’s indoor play time. The choices are puzzles, a set of Legos, a craft project of pasting a pre-cut monkey (for the letter M) on a paper bag to make a puppet, and the dramatic play that is set up as a kitchen with babies on a bed. The director showed me the assessment books, which had the child’s picture on the front and a print out of the assessment tool marked.

Reading these descriptions of two different programs you might think well it’s just because the teachers in the second program are less educated and don’t know the value and importance of play. In both programs the teachers have at least BA degrees and the assistant teachers are either in college or have associate degrees. The teachers in both programs know that play is valuable and learned about that in their formal and informal education opportunities. The problem is more systematic.

In an early education environment where more assessments and regulations are administered the unintentional consequence has been the lack of play and more teacher directed activities to “teach” children the skills that will make them “school ready” and “close the achievement gap”. Teachers are pressured to raise assessment scores so they “teach to the assessment”. These educational reforms applied to low-income children, children of color, and native children are restricting their access to self-initiated, complex play.

It’s time we discuss and analyze how systematic classism and racism privileges play for some children, while devaluing it for others. With the goal of moving play back to the center of childhood experiences for all.

I would love to have more conversations about this topic you can find me on Facebook on my professional page Ijumaa Jordan – ECE Consultant or on twitter @ijumaaj.

Thank you, Ijumaa!

#DearScholastic

Childrens Books Infographic 2015

It’s Real World Wednesday and this week we are absolutely overjoyed to feature the 3rd graders in class 301 at the Hamilton Heights School in New York City!

In the fall these students learned about the diversity gap in children’s literature. So, when the December Scholastic Book Club catalog arrived, they decided to count the number of books featuring characters of color. Out of more than 100 books, they counted about 7 that had people of color.

12321232_1673602469596147_1558964926701491010_nThey decided to write letters to Scholastic to tell them how they felt about this, which can be found in the comments below and also on their classroom Blog: http://www.wereaddiversebooks.com/

You can support them by reading, commenting on, and sharing their letters using social media with the hashtag ‪#‎DearScholastic‬

 

Here are a few of their powerful letters:

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that it is terrible that there is fewer than ten books with people of color. My opinion is correct because how come there are more books about white people and less books about people of color? For example, like what is a person of color wants to read a book that is a mirror book but there is no book about them?

Another reason I feel my opinion is correct is because what if a white person wants to read a diverse book and there is not even a single diverse book. For example like you can’t just read about white people. Also that diverse books can become a mirror book and a window book.

Now I am restating my opinion with enthusiasm! As a mixed kid I would like to read more Asian story books and people of color and white people. And I am saying in my words that pretty pretty please make more books about people of color.

Sincerely,
Maguette

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My name is Julian. I think that the low people of color books are a problem with your company. By what I mean by that is your company may not like people of color books or something. But I was quite shocked because when I looked in the catalog for a book fair there were less than ten people of color books.

Here is one reason dedicated to people of color books. What if I am in a library only with your books and I want to read a book with Dominican characters but you made NONE. SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! Because white people including me read people of color books to learn about people of color and so on and so forth. But please make diverse books with color.

Sincerely,
Julian

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that DIVERSE books are important . I feel that my opinion is correct because DIVERSE books are awesome. If we have DIVERSE books we can learn different things. I feel that my opinion is correct because its good to read DIVERSE books. Its good to read DIVERSE books because they have different adventures.

Diverse books are important to me, because one book that I read that really has significance to me is Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Springs into Action. Freddie Ramos Springs into Action is important to me because Freddie Ramos teaches me to be good and it also teaches me to help my mom and help anyone in need. Freddie Ramos is a Latino character and that matters to me because I’m Latino too! And there’s not really a lot of Latino catalog books which makes me a little bit sad.

Every time I go to the library, in my mind I’m like “Is there going to be some new Latino books?” But I don’t see any. So I just buy Star Wars books. And there’s one Latino book about Lego Star Wars. And I want to learn more about my country than Star Wars. As you can see DIVERSE books are important.

Sincerely yours,

Kelvin

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

We need diverse books because if we don’t other people won’t be featured. We need diverse books because people would feel bad. People want to buy books with people of color. I want more diverse books because I feel bad for the people and that is why we want more diverse books.

Sincerely,
Jeremy

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

I think that we should have more diverse character books! When I looked at the Scholastic Book Fair catalog I only saw about 7 books with diverse characters, and that is a problem we have to fix! One reason why I want more diverse character books is because I am a very caring person and I don’t want the black people to be sad and disrespected! One way we can fix it is to ask Lee and Low books to write and publish more diverse character books, and this is for a good cause!

One reason is that let’s say you are black you would want a mirror book like when you are reading a book and someone has almost the same life as you! Another reason is because you can make people feel like their life matters in this world. It can also be a good thing and it can be a very good solution because kids and adults too want to feel like they are appreciated! And that’s why you need to step up and be a change maker and give us more diverse books!!!

Sincerely,
Jada

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

In my opinion I believe that we need to change the problem and the problem is that there is more books about white people than diverse characters and it is so not good. We can fix it by stop making books about white people and make more books about different color people and we will catch up so it will be fair for other.

Diverse characters matter because if you were black and you just saw books with white people it is going to be boring! You will want mirror books and also window books at the same time. Mirror books are the same and window books are not the same.

Look there are more than 100 books in your catalog and there is only 10% of the books that have diverse characters. Do you think this is fair? Well for me it’s not fair because there are many kinds of people who are diverse and there is not so many people who are diverse in the books. As you can see I think diverse characters matter!

Sincerely,
Heidi

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

Diverse books are important because people are from different cultures and they want to read of diverse people. It does not matter if they are from diverse cultures, because diverse books matter. What about if people like diverse books just like I do? I like diverse books because they are fun and funny and because I get to know more of diverse books.

Sincerely,
Franchesca

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

We want to have more diverse books because I read Allie’s Basketball Dream and Allie is a Black person and I am a different color. Also we need more diverse books because there is only a lot of [books for] white people and not that many [books for] Black people and we want a lot of [books for] Black people like the white people. That’s why we want to have more diverse books.

Sincerely,
Erik

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that we need more than 10 books about people of color. Diverse books matter to me because they’re special to me and it’s like a gift to the people. They are a gift because you learn about diverse characters. For example, I read a book that has diverse people. The book is called Big Bushy Mustache. For example, this kid likes mustaches because he wants to look like his dad. The kid looks brown. I felt happy when I read a book about somebody that had brown skin. Another thing that I like about Big Bushy Mustache is it has the same culture as mine, because the characters speak Spanish like my parents and me.  My opinion is that we want more diverse books, so please bring more diverse  books.

Sincerely,

Edwin

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

I personally think that you should make more people people of color books. You should put more people of color like me. I’m Latino and I do see like less than 10 books of people of color and for me that’s not fair because you’re showing that you only support white people and Black people and Asians, Latino people need attention. For example, if there’s any Black, Asian, Latino people in your workplace I bet they’re waiting for that moment to make a book with their nationality character book so please make that change NOW! please.

Sincerely,
Antonys

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

I think that in Scholastic Books there are only a little bit of diverse books. This is a problem because black people want to see mirror books and mirror books are like if your life is like the book. So please fix this.

Sincerely,
Amethyst

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that diverse books matter. I feel that my opinion is correct because in some countries people want to read diverse books but the countries don’t have diverse books. For example some people of color want to read a mirror book. I feel my opinion is correct because if me as a Black person wants to read a diverse book and they don’t have diverse books I’ll feel bad. At first I didn’t think diverse books were important, but now I think diverse books are important. I think characters of color matter!

Sincerely,
Amber

If you’ve been inspired by this week’s Real World Wednesday to become a change maker around diversity in children’s literature yourself, here are some tips from 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

 

What is Christian hegemony?

It’s Real World Wednesday and this week we get to learn from both Talia Cooper & Hadar Harris!!

Talia has been working as a Jewish youth educator and organizer for the past nine years, first as the executive director of Jewish Youth for Community Action, and now as the program director for Ma’yan and a youth trainer for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. 1929869_1659933880963006_4840128724977366613_nShe is currently reading Paul Kivel’s book “Living in the Shadow of the Cross” and is excited to share some of her learnings about Christian hegemony and how it connects to our work with youth.

Hadar currently works as the Executive Director of the Northern California Innocence Project where she works to to create a fair, effective and compassionate criminal justice system and to protect the rights of the innocent. From 2002 – 2015, she was the Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law. She is also the mom of two young boys.

This week, we asked them: What is Christian hegemony? How does it show up in schools? How does it impact kids? And what can teachers do about it?

Here are their incredibly thoughtful and thought-provoking responses:

Hello awesome people. My name is Talia Cooper.

So what is Christian hegemony? It’s a fancy sounding term that basically means Christianity is considered the norm while all other religions and peoples are, well, other. Christian hegemony is also the larger term that encompasses anti-Semitism, islamaphobia, and the oppression of other religious minorities. Note that a person doesn’t have to be a practicing Christian to still benefit from the bigger system.

Christian hegemony says things like, “Christmas is a normal, American holiday.” (Christian hegemony is also intertwined with white supremacy, which would say, “normal Americans are white.” Paul Kivel goes into more detail about the connections between Christianity and whiteness). I brought up Christmas because it’s often easiest for people to notice Christian hegemony during this time of year. But the reality is that Christian hegemony runs much deeper, affecting each and every one of us year-round, both institutionally and interpersonally, all the way down to our core psyches.

So how is Christian hegemony showing up in schools & affecting kids? Some examples include: requiring kids to make Christmas ornaments and sing Christmas songs, having no school on Christian holidays, giving tests and quizzes on other peoples’ religious holidays, and having SATs on Saturdays.

But it’s even more complex than that. Here’s one way Christian hegemonic thinking shows up in schools:

It is a Christian ethic that hard work is good and will be rewarded (and conversely that laziness is bad and will be punished). This ethic in Christianity often refers to the afterlife, but in a secular Christian culture the concept shows up as reward and punishment in this life (we see this in political rhetoric all the time, like with the notion of “welfare queens” being lazy good-for-nothings). In my Jewish culture, for example, we believe that there is inherent goodness in all people and no one needs to work hard to prove this. I should say that I know plenty of Christians who also believe this, but what I’m talking about now is the dominant Christian narrative that has invaded all of our institutions and thoughts—not individual Christians. (I’m really not trying to get down on Christians here, and neither is Paul Kivel).

Paul Kivel always used to say to me, “Hard work is just hard work. It’s not inherently good.” Dictators work hard. Donald Trump works hard (sometimes). Oil companies work hard. So are they doing good things for the world? No.

And yet we continue to teach kids the virtue of hard work.

Does that mean that we should instead teach them to do hard work that is actually good for people and the planet?

I suppose that would be an okay next step.

But for me, I believe that people inherently want to work hard and contribute to their communities. This is because doing nothing is boring. Being connected to people, deepening those connections, and finding our strengths and passions—now that’s a fun life!

I don’t think we have to drill it into our kids that they have to work hard, because most people are capable of figuring out on their own how to lead an engaged life. My friend, Megan Madison, reminds me that she has never seen a lazy baby; young ones are constantly squirming around, making eye contact and engaging with their environment.

But we don’t foster this. Instead we latch on to the dominant Christian ideology that hard work is good and should be rewarded. Then we administer rewards and punishments as needed. Kids who don’t fit the education system are told it is their fault and are punished. Kids who do succeed work themselves tirelessly. This is a disservice to everyone.

Here’s an example of how “hard work” plays out in our education system: a kid who does lots of community service and volunteering is rewarded in the college admission process. A kid who really focuses on taking care of their health and on building amazing friendships will not be rewarded in this process (and likely punished for not having extra-curriculars).

So what can we do about it? Well, big picture, I think we need to reshape the entire education system, from pre-K through graduate school so that we’re not simply producing hard workers, but instead fostering connected, curious, loving, liberation-minded beings. Let’s work together towards that!

whiteness7

And in the meantime, here are two other things we can try:

  1. Take out the morality and talk about logical consequences. There are different outcomes for different choices we make. For example, if we don’t brush our teeth in the morning, this does not make us a bad person worthy of punishment. Instead, not brushing teeth has the possible short-term outcome of stinky breath, and dental health issues in the long-term. The outcome of being mean to a kid in a classroom is that that person will feel hurt and it might take away from your own learning too. The outcome of having unprotected sex is that you could get very sick and/or pregnant (again, these are not punishments for being a sinner, they are just outcomes). Does that make sense? Take out the moralistic thinking. Just assume that people are inherently good and awesome, and that they might need help thinking through possible outcomes.
  2. Encourage rest and play. In addition to the regular subjects, be sure to include games and creativity as well! Teach kids to notice when their bodies need rest. Teach that playing games, making friends, creating art, and taking care of our bodies are things we get to do the rest of our lives. Teach these as highly important topics.

Start or keep doing these two things and you’ll be on the team of liberation and ending Christian hegemony.

Wow!  Thank you, Talia!  Here’s Hadar’s take:

It’s Not a War on Christmas – It’s a Campaign for Diversity!

My children were born in Washington, DC and they grew up in a “very Jewish” community for their first 7 and 8 years, respectively. Jewish day school.  Kosher markets.  Shabbat dinner with friends and family every Friday night. Even “Sunday Little League” so as not to interfere with Saturday synagogue time.   That said, they had non-Jewish friends and lived in the larger world, but life was definitely on a Jewish schedule.

This past August, we moved to the Bay Area.  I moved back to the Bay Area (I grew up here) but the boys moved here.  And while Leo started second grade at a Jewish day school, Adam started third grade in a small school for bright kids with learning differences.

It is a great school that has been transformative for his learning, but it has also been transformative in other, unexpected ways.  Mostly, his awakening recognition that he is a Jew, living as a minority in broader American culture.

Adam easily found good friends in his class of twelve boys and the transition was remarkably easy for him, but as winter break approached, we had a tearful bedtime discussion (when most important conversations seem to take place).  He was agitated about the school “Holiday Extravaganza” concert and oddly, asked me if he could stay out of school “for a week or so after break.” I asked him what he meant since Christmas would be over by then, and he launched into an apparently long pent-up monologue.  I posted on Facebook that night as my heart broke for him.

Here we go: Nine year old boy experiencing his minority religious status for the first time. Painful, heartfelt weeping about feeling excluded and judged because he does not celebrate Christmas (he is the only Jew in the class). Significant fear of being ridiculed because he will not receive Christmas presents (and everyone is already comparing notes about what they will receive – apparently some nasty comments have already been made). Frustration and annoyance of feeling invisible at a time where everything is focused on a set of traditions he does not observe (I offered to go into the class to talk about Hanukkah but the teacher never scheduled it). That said, no request to actually celebrate Christmas (good, since we don’t). No begging for a Christmas tree (unlike some family members who shall remain nameless…) There were real tears in this conversation. Another hard moment when childhood confronts reality and the world becomes a little bit harsher and more complicated…

That night I also emailed his teacher and the top school administrators, describing Adam’s reaction and concerns.  The response was swift but somewhat unsatisfying, particularly in light of the fact that I had already asked the teacher if I could come in and share our Hanukah traditions with the class (to which I had had no response). His teacher (who is wonderful in so many ways), assured me of her efforts “to remain “holiday neutral” in the classroom.”  She told me that the “Holiday Extravaganza” concert “will not be simply a celebration of Christmas. The class numbers are all about the “winter season” (lots of snow stuff)…”

And yet when I walked into the school the next day, I saw the overwhelming evidence of Adam’s feeling of “otherness.” The teacher had put “The 12 Days of Room 3” on their classroom door.  Against a red backdrop, she had made twelve windows, like an Advent Calendar, representing each of the 12 boys in the class.  Each day, they opened another window as they counted down to winter break with a short poem about each boy (they were all boys) and a picture of the kid with his favorite Star Wars or Minecraft or other figure.  At the bottom of the door it said “Happy Holidays” and there was a picture of a Christmas tree – and a menorah. It was cute – but it was clearly Christmas.  In addition, the school’s main office was decorated with snowmen dressed in red and green, poinsettas, and a banner saying “Merry Holiday.”  All week before the break, teachers were dressed up with reindeer headbands and ugly Christmas sweaters. It may have been cloaked in snowflakes and the non-denominational classic “Jiggle Bells” but it was 100% Christmas.  Let’s be honest: we don’t have snowmen or reindeer in Palo Alto – even in the era of climate change…

Further explaining her curricular efforts at “holiday neutrality”, Adam’s teacher wrote: “All of our morning journal entries have been on topics like “tell us about a holiday tradition you enjoy with your family”, “what are you looking forward to doing over the break”, and “if you could give your parent(s) any gift what would it be”.”  I realized then, that while she felt that she had truly tried to be sensitive, the pull of “Christmas hegemony” (if not Christian hegemony), and the lack of understanding of other traditions was too strong.  She didn’t “get it” that her “neutral” questions were loaded and still marginalized or excluded some of the kids in the class – maybe most especially, mine.

That said, the same week as the Holiday Extravaganza, Adam and his classmates presented their reports on the California Missions (a rite of passage for California students). The hegemony of Christmas may have been in full force, but at least the presentations and posters acknowledged the egregious abuses against the Native Peoples by the missionaries.  That certainly wasn’t part of the reporting and research when I was growing up in California.  It gave me some hope.  I guess as much as some things stay the same (Christmas), there is hope for the recognition of diverse experiences and maybe even diverse traditions someday.

Three Quick Tips for Educators/Parents:

  1. Fried latkes do not smell the same as pine needles.  Hanukah is not the Jewish Christmas.  Neither are Diwali or Eid.  None of “us” have Christmas-substitutes.  They are different holidays with different traditions and different stories underlying their creation
  2. “Holiday Neutral” Doesn’t Mean Adding Menorah Clip Art. To truly be “holiday neutral,” the central holidays of all students’ religious (or non-religious) traditions should be equally observed, discussed and respected.  These may not all occur in December (indeed, they don’t).  For the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah (usually at the start of the school year) or Passover (in the spring) are much more important holidays than Chanukah. Purim (with hamentaschen and costumes) is much more fun! Other religions have holidays like Diwali and Eid which are wonderful, tradition-rich holidays enabling true sharing of values, beliefs and traditions (not to mention (more) great food!) Valuing the key holidays of all religions enables more neutrality than simply creating Christmas add-ons to make the non-Christian kids feel a little better. Also, by highlighting other traditions before Christmas, that may sensitize the Christian children to a broader diversity of traditions (and might inspire them to be more tolerant) before the overwhelming Christmas-Is-Everywhere month of December begins.
  3. Schedule the “Winter Concert” for Actual Winter.  There is no reason that the Winter Concert needs to take place before winter break.  Indeed, winter doesn’t technically start until after the December 21 solstice – and by that time schools are usually on holiday (they were this year!)  By scheduling the concert before Christmas, there is pressure (perceived or real) to perform “holiday” (i.e. Christmas) music which will inevitably exclude – or essentialize – someone.  It’s still winter in January. Schedule the damn concert after break!

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU, Talia and Hadar!

Join our virtual book club!

The now classic book, Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, by Louise Derman-Sparks & Julie Olsen Edwards invites early childhood caregivers and educators to grapple with the question: What can we do to raise the next generation of young people who know and are proud of who they are, are able to be in equitable relationship with others, can recognize and name unfairness in the world around them, and are ready to take action to address it?

NAEYC’s Diversity & Equity Education for Adults (DEEA) Interest Forum would like to invite you to our virtual book club as we embark on an informal, 13-week exploration of this question together. Together, we will discuss critical issues in the field–including racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism–and build community. Join us!

Structure and Guidelines

Open discussion on our Facebook page will begin each week on Monday with a new chapter of the book and will continue throughout the scheduled week. Over the course of each week, the club’s facilitators will moderate the discussion, posting summaries of the chapter and posing open-ended questions to stimulate discussion. Participants are welcome to post their reactions, thoughts, questions or other topics of discussion. In short:

  • All levels of engagement are welcome!
  • Productive, respectful dissent is appropriate
  • Ask questions, post responses, share quotes to participate in discussion
  • Facilitators will post 1-2 questions each session, but other forum members are welcome to post as well.

In addition, we will be hosting a Google Hangout each week so that participants can discuss the book face-to-face.

Schedule

Monday, Dec. 7th, 8am to Friday, Feb. 19th 2016 at 8pm

Week 1 (December 7-11): Introductions
Week 2 (December 14-18): What is anti-bias education?
Week 3 (December 21-25): Children’s identity development
Week 4 (December 28 – January 1): Becoming an anti-bias teacher
Week 5 (January 4-8): Creating an anti-bias learning community
Week 6 (January 11-15): Learning about culture, language and fairness
Week 7 (January 18-22): Learning about racial identity and fairness
Week 8 (January 25-29): Learning about gender identity and fairness
Week 9 (February 1-5): Learning about economic class and fairness
Week 10 (February 8-12): Learning about family structures and fairness
Week 11 (February 15-19): Learning about different abilities and fairness
Week 12 (February 22-26): Learning about holidays and fairness
Week 13 (February 29 – March 4): Closing

Registration

To register, click here.


 

To view and/or share the event flyer, click here.

Children’s Book Resources from Embrace Race

Hi all,

If you haven’t checked out Embrace Race yet, do!  They’ve got all kinds of resources and support for folks grappling with how to raise kids within the context of structural racism.  This week on their Facebook page, they shared some fantastic book lists.  Check them out:

Thanks, Embrace Race, for providing us with these great resources!