“We Don’t Say Those Words in Class!”

A friend and I were just chatting the other day, how children literally say the ‘most darnedest, brutal and honest things’. They certainly see differences and I remember as a child I would point out differences amongst people and my mother would hush me and say ‘that’s rude Justine’. Funny enough, I have found myself doing the same in my classroom.

Just the other day a child in my class came to school with glasses, his mother had said to me that he is very sensitive about wearing glasses and if I could just keep an eye on him. I kept an eye on him and low and behold a child who I knew would say something said “Anthony you have glasses” and he laughed. I immediately hushed the little boy and honed in on accepting differences and that if someone looks or seems different to not laugh. As a result I called a few students to the front of my classroom and asked the children who were the audience, if all the children look the same? They said to me, ‘they look not the same’. I asked them to look at any differences. They pointed out the obvious such as these children are boys, these children are girls, he has short hair, but she does not. I then took it a step further and chatted to my children about the size of children, their colour skin and so forth. One of my children had shouted out “Teacher Justine, we are all different!” I said yes and should we laugh, sniggle and giggle at our differences and they politely said ‘no’. I asked them what should we do then? They said ‘be kind, be gentle Teacher Justine” (which is our essential agreement in the class). I said well done, we should be kind and gentle to one another, as well as accept and embrace all our differences because if were we all looked the same, life would be very boring.

As a result, I believe and think the message I sent to the little boy and my class is that we are all different and instead of pointing out our differences, we should rather accept, as it is unkind to laugh at differences. I am interested to know if anyone else thinks the little boy I reprimanded thought differently, if I responded in an anti-bias way or what I could have done differently?

With regards to how an anti-bias educator would of responded in general or about the scenario above, I think books are a great way to broach the topic of accepting differences amongst ourselves. I believe an anti-bias educator should at all times have anti-bias children’s literature displayed around the classroom and other secretly ‘stashed’ away books for times when bias arises in their classroom. Children’s literature can help children in an indirect manner to think about their own thoughts, feelings and actions and give alternative reasons or solutions as to how to think, feel and act differently. Secondly, I  believe role-play or even puppetry can help children think about, understand and deal with anti-bias issues.

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3 thoughts on ““We Don’t Say Those Words in Class!”

  1. I am not sure if this is a correct way to do things, but I had a student awhile back get glasses, he was our first friend to have them and I made a big deal out of them. When he came in that day wearing them I said “oh wow, look at your cool glasses, I really like those, did you pick them out on your own?”. Of course the other kids heard me and wanted to see their friends glasses and they all agreed that he looked good in them. They then wanted glasses too so we made some out of pipe cleaners (you can find the directions here: http://greatglassesplayday.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Craft-Corner-page-pipe-cleaner-glasses.pdf). I then thought about our dramatic play center and started adding glasses to the costume bin as I came across interesting pairs (we have some shaped like stars, some shaped like hearts, we have them in a variety of rim colors, and some with thick rims, some with thin wire rims). I wanted to embrace this child’s difference right away before the kids had an opportunity to say anything negative. For my class it worked, we have pretty kind children, but I know had this been an older age classroom (I work mostly with 3-5 year olds) it might not have gone as well.

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  2. Hello Justine
    I agree that children say what they think, I do not think that they have much of a filter. I have also used “that’s rude” with my own children as well as children that I have worked with. I think that I often hear my mother when I say such things. I feel that many times I could not say things or ask questions because I was expected to not be heard, well and seen at times.

    I have had a couple experiences with children and glasses in my class. I wear glasses as well so we always talk about why some people need glasses and what they do for us. I love the idea that Tracy shared about making glasses for all the children.

    I am finding out that the more I learn I am finding ways to change my own voice. I am taking steps to become more anti-bias, and what I am learning is challenging me and my thinking.
    Great post this week!
    Cindy

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  3. Man oh man did you hit the nail on the head. So many adults feel that when a child says something rather than correcting them they laugh it off giving the child the impression these types of statements and assumptions of others is okay and accepted. I feel as adults we should compose ourselves for the sake of the learning experience of the child.

    Thanks for sharing!

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