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!

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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

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.

Microaggressions in Early Childhood

This Real World Wednesday, we have the honor of learning from and with Elena Jaime!Elena RWW

Elena has taught in early childhood and early elementary settings for the past thirteen years. She is passionate about her mission to develop “angelic troublemakers” in the school communities in which she works. Elena’s work is grounded in the belief that young children are capable of developing a critical lens and can engage in reflection and action around anti-bias work. Elena has presented at a number of local and national conferences, and has partnered with teachers across New York City as they work to examine the ways in which they can fully integrate equity work into early childhood curriculums. Elena also co-founded the CARLE Institute for White educators, an institute designed to provide white faculty members with the necessary historical framework, interpersonal skills, and curriculum development strategies they need to teach a diverse student body. Elena teaches second grade at the Chapin School in New York City. Elena received her B.A. in psychology from Wesleyan University and her M.S.Ed in early childhood general and special education from Bank Street College of Education.

Elena wrote this powerful piece about how she used storytelling in the face of a microaggression that happened in her classroom: https://tobreatheispolitical.wordpress.com/tag/education/

Given her experience and expertise, we wanted to ask, “What are microaggressions and why do they matter in early childhood care and education?”

Here’s Elena’s thoughtful response:

As an early childhood educator, I have always valued the importance of creating safe spaces for my students, spaces in which children feel invited to bring their full selves each morning. The Responsive Classroom approach to teaching is an approach that is based on the premise that social-emotional growth and academic success are interdependent. Embedded in this understanding of education is the idea that children learn best when they feel a sense of belonging in a community. This sense of belonging, however, is undermined when a community does not think critically about the ways in which each member’s identity is embraced or marginalized.

Children notice difference. They are hardwired to observe patterns in their world, and as they develop, they begin to ascribe meaning to those differences. They do so by tapping into the messages that are communicated about the ways in which our society values or devalues different identities across race, gender, sexual identity, class, ability, etc. These messages, unless interrupted, become part of the lens they use to understand and interpret their world. As a result, the interactions that the students have with each other and with the adults in their schools and learning communities are infused with those messages. A kindergarten child being told that their skin looks dirty because it is black, a first grader telling her classmate that it is impossible for her to have two moms, or a teacher consistently confusing the two Asian students in her class are examples of moments in which a piece of a person’s identity is marginalized. These acts of marginalization based on a person’s identity have come to be known as microaggressions.

Microaggressions are often described as “small paper cuts” that represent all of the times that someone says or does something that further marginalize you because of your identity. As a queer, Christian, able-bodied, traditionally educated, English-speaking cisgender, woman of color in the United States, I will experience privileges that come with being a member of groups which wield power (political, social, economic, etc.), and I will also experience the marginalization that comes from being a member of groups that do not wield power in my American context.

If, as early childhood educators, we believe in the importance of creating safe learning spaces, where children can take risks, and if this necessitates that each child feels that they belong, then we have a responsibility to interrupt microaggressions that we witness and perpetuate in our learning environments. When we name those experiences for young children, we are helping them develop a lens with which they begin to see identify those moments of marginalization, and in turn, interrupt them. An important piece of this work belongs to the adults who must model what it means to bring their full selves into the classroom. When we do this, we are explicitly sending the message to students that each piece of who they are is valuable and belongs, and that the classroom would not be complete without every last piece.

Thank you, Elena, for this eloquent response and for all of the important work you do every day working with young children and their families.  They are so lucky to have you in their lives!  As are we!


Here are some additional reading on microaggressions:

Building Authentic Relationships with Families

This Real World Wednesday we had the pleasure of learning from Tanya Jefferson-Fitts!11705353_1618514891771572_7783077469476539302_n

In her current position, Tanya provides one-to-one therapy to children who may be delayed in one or more developmental domains. Prior to this, she worked as an early childhood teacher for 10 years at a center based program. She has been in the early childhood field for 15 years and has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Teaching Adult Learners.

As many teachers and families are forging new relationships this month, we asked her for some of her tips on building strong partnerships with families. This is what she said:

Some things that early childhood professionals should keep in mind as they work to build authentic relationships with families are:

  1. Building trust
  2. Respect and consider the families, culture, experiences, opinions, and values
  3. Be approachable and available

All of the tips that I provided I live by and believe in whole heartily. First to have any relationship there must be trust, keep conversations private,being a great listener and providing suggestions to help out when needed. Respecting the families ideas and beliefs is vey important; and by this I mean no two families are the same, we must consider a family’s culture, because it affects their beliefs, values and parenting practices. Lastly; being a warm, welcoming person and making time for the families. After all time well spent is how we build any relationship.

Thanks, Tanya, for your fantastic advice!

Building a Diverse, Anti-Bias Library for Young Children

Let’s start with some tips for being intentional as you assess your existing collection and build your library.  Check out:

Next, there are lots of online libraries and booklists to help you find the diverse, anti-bias children’s books you need:

It’s also important to note that despite the existence of all these fantastic resources, there is still a lot of work to be done.  For example:

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The We Need Diverse Books campaign is actively working to improve the diversity in children’s literature (while simultaneously highlighting existing literature on their webpage and on social media).  And there are lots of ways for you to get involved!  Here are three ideas:

  1. Write your own story!
  2. Hop on social media using #weneeddiversebooks
  3. Sign this petition: https://www.change.org/p/book-publishers-and-review-journals-help-increase-diversity-in-books-by-asking-publishers-to-be-transparent-about-staff-diversity

Lastly–but certainly not least–it’s super important to remember that while ensuring that you’ve got a library full of diverse, anti-bias children’s literature is necessary, it is certainly not sufficient.  The really critical piece is what you do with these books.  Research has shown that simply increasing the diversity of books and other media that young children are exposed to is ineffective in reducing bias (Aboud & Levy, 2000).  Rather, parents and teachers must select and use these materials wisely and thoughtfully.  In short, the books don’t do the work for you; they simply provide opportunities to have the conversations you need to have, to model the kinds of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors you want your little ones to learn.


This piece was originally posted by Megan Madison on her personal blog.

Welcoming ALL Families

RWW with BillieThis week we have the pleasure of introducing Billie Deig!  Billie has a decade and a half of experience in the field, working in a variety of roles–from floater teacher to center director–and now works as a Resource Coach, training, mentoring, and coaching teachers in Head Start. Along the way, she has obtained both an AAS in Early Childhood Education and a CDA, and is currently working on her BA in ECEDU with a minor in Teaching Spanish! In her own words, “I love working for the CAP [Community Action Program] and the Head Start program along with course work and personal research has sparked a passion for everything this forum stands for.”

Given her extensive expertise in working with families, we asked Billie for her suggestions for teachers who want to make sure they are welcoming all families into their classrooms and programs this month.  Here’s what she said:

The beginning of a new school year can create feelings of excitement, nervousness, and at times can be a bit overwhelming for teachers. There is a large amount of preparation that goes into setting up a classroom, preparing curriculum, and making sure the I-s are dotted and the T-s are crossed. There is a side of preparation that sometimes we as teachers can overlook and that is the side of our families. Our families may also be feeling excited, nervous, and a bit overwhelmed. With some planning and intentionality we can make sure that all our families feel welcome and confident going in to the new school year.
While there are so many things that can be done to prepare for families I have tried to narrow my long list down to a few suggestions:

  1. RESEARCH! Find out a little bit about your families through basic enrollment information. Does the child have siblings? Are there any special needs to consider? What is the primary spoken language for the family and the child? What does the family system look like? The answers to these questions can give us many ideas about what we will need to create an inclusive and culturally responsive classroom.

  2. Create a welcoming environment! By planning ahead we can make sure each child has a space for personal belongings in the classroom labeled with their name (correctly spelled) and a family photo. A simple survey sent out prior to the start of school can give us ideas about favorites to have on hand for each child. Bi-lingual labeling and paperwork will create feelings of inclusion for families and children that have limited English proficiency. Remember all that research we did using basic enrollment information? The environment is the place to apply it. Imagine walking into a classroom and you see your own photo along with your family’s and everything is labeled in a language you understand.

  3. Programs should have policies in place to include orientation for families prior to the start of school. Families that get to meet their child’s teachers prior to the first day may not have such strong feelings of apprehension or nervousness. It is important for children to see their family interacting with their teachers in a positive loving way. This will help the children transition easier which will in turn help the families with their own transition.

  4. Take time to really connect with each family early on; they must feel welcome and included. Families appreciate knowing that we are genuinely interested in the children and in getting to know them. Please be friendly! If a family thinks we are not fond of their child they could shut down and disengage. This is the last thing we want. Lastly, we must always respect our families. Try to remember that the parent truly is the child’s first teacher.

She also shared the following links to additional articles and helpful resources:

In closing, Billie reminded us that,

In my experiences I have thoroughly enjoyed working with families. I have made mistakes and have learned a great deal from them. A forum like this is exactly what we need to bounce ideas off of one another. Please feel free to comment with more great ideas or questions you may have. Thank you!


All of this fabulousness can be accessed here (Billie Issue Brief) in PDF form.  Enjoy!