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.
I believe we as a society are consistently trying to push the ‘norm’ and the ‘norms’ are stereotypical and thus we see this push of ‘norms’ in books, movies, stores, schools and early childhood centres. These ideas of ‘norms’ pushed by media and schools are that girls wear dresses and boys climb trees, which depict stereotypes, girls play with dolls, but boys do not, which is a form of heterosexism. Furthermore, families are only made up of a mommy, a daddy and children, which depicts homophobia and many teachers and schools accept these ‘norms’ and do not challenge them. However, I am constantly asking myself is there a definition of the word ‘normal’, when we live in such a diverse world?
As a result, I do not believe that early childhood teachers and centres have a right to advocate and encourage stereotypes and biased education, as this does not display equality and diversity for all families and children. Therefore, I believe that teachers and early childhood centres should and need to embrace equality and diversity to ensure that no child or family is left behind. If teachers and schools avoid or do not include books that depict diversity amongst race, types of families, such as gay or lesbian which appose the ‘norm’, they are in turn sending visible and invisible messages to children and families that they are not accepted, wanted, valued and acknowledged, which in my view is unacceptable, cruel and inhumane.
As result, if a parent or family member informed me that they did not want a teacher in the school who did not fit the ‘norm’, I would sit down with them and tell them that I value their input, find out why they hold this biased view, challenge their thinking and inform them that this school which there child is attending, believes in and advocates for anti-bias education. Furthermore, I would explain what anti-bias education is and that any biased opinions of any kind with regards, to children, families and teachers who are apart of the school are not welcomed, as we all deserve to be treated equally and fairly regardless of what we represent.
To all my fellow colleagues who are now almost masters in effective communication and collaboration, I wish you the best in your journey to achieving your masters. I do hope to cross paths with many of you in our future courses, however if I do not, never lose hope and passion for early childhood education and the children you care for on a daily basis.
It has been a great eight weeks of learning. We certainly know in more detail what effective communication and collaboration looks like and does not look like. Never forget to be respectful, assertive, compassionate, empathetic, knowledgeable, kind, culturally competent and open-minded when dealing with people and children around you.
Remember we are ALMOST masters in effective communication and collaboration so continue to be mindful that:
There have been many instances growing up where I have been apart of teams and in many respects it has been heart-wrenching to say goodbye especially when a team has reached the adjourning stage, as you have created something out of nothing and from scratch and by creating or achieving this something, you have laughed, argued and shed tears over teething processes and perhaps decisions or ideas that have worked or have not worked or foresee not working. I think the group or team that will be the hardest for me to leave, is the current school team I am apart of, as we were given an opportunity to be apart of creating and opening a school that aspires to be great and a lot of sweat and tears of hard work have gone into it. I do not believe my current school team is at the adjourning stage yet, as I believe it is still going through many teething processes. However, one of the teams I am apart of in the school, is the Language Committee and we will soon reach the adjourning stage and this will not be easy as we have established a process of how to work and bring ideas together. We have created a closely knit team that has achieved a lot in a short space of time for the school curriculum and to be honest does anyone like to leave a team that you have worked so hard for and on? Furthermore, does anyone really like change, especially if change happens quickly and another group or committee is formed with new members for another aspect of the curriculum? If I was to be honest to theses questions, it is a big NO from me as I am a creature of comfort, however change is necessary and needed for something to continue to grow bigger and better. I hope that in the adjourning stage of this team we can be commended for our efforts from leadership and celebrate what we have achieved.
If I were to reflect on adjourning from my current group of colleagues in my master’s program, it will feel strange and sad but hopefully we will keep in contact with each other and perhaps meet each other in future courses.
In closing, adjourning is important as it is a time for team members and leadership to reflect, recognise and commend each other on what they have effectively done and achieved to get the team to where it is.
The recent conflict I had was from my Chinese co-teacher. Our Principal had asked him to do something by a certain day and give it to our class parent, however the day came and I asked him if he had done it and he said no. So I asked him why, as he has had more than enough time in the week to do the task. As a result, I said to him he needs to complete the task today and give it to the class parent. He replied to me and said “I will just call in sick this afternoon then and will not be able to do it” Therefore, I replied and said “That is perfectly fine, I will just go down to the principal and tell her the reason why you are sick all of a sudden.” He replied “I do not care” and sang this for five minutes. I then decided to let it go, keep quiet and no longer confront him. Later in the day he came over to me and apologised for his behaviour and in his words “I apologise for my disobedience.”
On hein sight neither of us behaved correctly, as although I am the head teacher in the class, I did threaten to report him to the Principal if he called in sick and he became defensive immediately. As a result, I had to cool the situation down quickly, as although I did not show disrespect to him from the beginning of the conversation, I did realise my threat was disrespectful and this was reciprocal in the way he responded to my threat by singing “I do not care.” Therefore, in this situation I realised I had to keep quiet, calm down, breathe and smile and so although it took him three hours to apologise, we made amends eventually. I am interested to know how my fellow colleagues believe I should of handled this situation? As it is difficult to reason and be non-defensive in a conflict. Furthermore, any other conflict resolution skills that my fellow colleagues can advise in order for me to become a more effective communicator in my working relationship with my co-teacher?
I think the biggest aspect of my assessment as a communicator, was that fact that I was harder on myself than what my father and my friend were when they assessed me. Which made me realise that I was once again hard on myself, when I should not be, as the saying goes “We are our own worst enemy.”
With regards to insights I gained this week, the first would be how anxiety can affect our communication, as at times after giving a speech to groups of people or crowds of people, I often over analyze what I have said and talk to friends or family and recount parts of my speech that I could have communicated better and focused more on. Which personally and professionally I have now learnt to rather focus more on the positive aspects of my speech and how positively the audience reacted to my speech.
I further learnt how calm I actually am when someone offends or hurts me instead of being aggressive and reacting to them and most importantly how aggression or negative reactions to others affects effective communication. As a result, both personally and professionally I believe it is a skill to learn to be calm and not react negatively, which I thank my parents for teaching me this, as well as how my early years teachers consistently encouraged effective communication by role playing scenarios in the classroom which taught us how one can react but how we should rather react.
Last but not least I learnt that the most effective form of communication is when:
Having reflected on my communication with others from variety of cultures and backgrounds, I certainly do communicate differently. Just as I communicate differently to the people in my work place and in my personal life. In China I find myself communicating a lot through body language, facial expressions or short, simple, verbal sentences to those who have a low level understanding and communication skills in English. Or at times, I speak some Chinese words I know in order to show respect to the Chinese people I interact with. However in my work place, there is a more professional communication tone and jargon used by myself and my fellow colleagues , which many of the Chinese co-teachers or classroom assistants have learnt and understand now. With my family, communication is with love, respect and care, whereas communication with friends is more relaxed, jovial and some slang can be used in conversations.
Upon reading and learning more about effective communication, there are three communication strategies that I was reminded of:
The first is to be mindful of the communication that is taking place around you, how you communicate with others and how they communicate with you. Secondly, to try your best to communicate in a balanced and respectful manner, not only requiring effective communication from others, but making sure you communicate effectively and respectfully to others by understanding and getting to know them, instead of assuming you know who they are, what they want, need or deserve. Lastly, I learnt that one needs to be culturally sensitive, where your personal or cultural perspectives are neither true or right for all situations and people, as others hold different personal or cultural perspectives, which are neither true or correct either for you or others.