There are very few ‘isms I have experienced in my life, but perhaps the one -ism that has certainly shown its face during my teaching career abroad is sexism. My first experience of this was in China, where a father would not look at me, or speak to me directly when speaking about his child in a meeting, but rather chose to speak to the male co-teacher I had at the time. I was quite taken aback and felt demeaned and frustrated and had chatted to my co-teacher about it the next day and he said many Chinese men take what women say with a pinch of salt. As a result, this did not create a positive attitude about this father and I took offense to it, to the point that I would look the other way if I saw the father at school, instead of taking the higher ground. I think I also made a few comments to the other teachers about this parent and often arrived to the assumption that his child behaved in a pompous manner because it is a behavior he has learned from his father, and became frustrated with the child when he did show this behavior. Eventually, I realized my attitude was not making a difference, but rather aggravated the situation and began to sit down with his child to discuss and share thoughts about being kind, polite, respectful and sincere.
Another situation of sexism I have experienced is here in Qatar, where many Muslim men (not all) see woman as inferior to themselves, especially western women. I do become frustrated with this, quite a few fathers fetch their children from school, but barely greet or acknowledge that you are there. As a result, instead of becoming overly offended, I remember that culture I am living in, but try to bring conversations in the classroom in subtle ways about how important it is to treat boys and girls in a respectful and kind manner, as we all have feelings that can be built upon or broken down. Hopefully this can make a difference and at least one child in my class will remember this.
I think we as educators need to remember that:
The other day I was watching a child and his teacher. She had noticed that on the playground he was not playing with other children. He would stand relatively close to her and she had observed this but waited patiently for him to tell her what was on his mind. Five minutes later he sat down on the ground and looked up to his teacher and said “Miss, do you know why I do not like to play outside?” The teacher replied “No, why?” he replied, “I do not have any friends to play with.” She looked at him, gave her, her hand and pulled up off the ground and said to him, whilst hugging him, “Would you like me to help you make friends?” His reply was “Yes, please.” The teacher took him by the hand and asked him what does he like to play and does he like to play with boys or girls? His reply was “I would like to play anything and boys or girls, it does not matter.” The teacher and the little boy worked together to find him a friend. He found a little girl to play hide and seek with. The teacher stood by to watch and observe how they played together and later the little boy ran past the teacher and he shouted: “I am so happy, I have a friend.” The teacher replied and said, “I am so glad, remember I am always here to help.”
The effectiveness of the communication:
When I watched and listened to the above situation, I was taken aback by the teacher’s kindness, empathy, and patience towards the little boy in her class. She knew the little boy wanted to tell her something, but waited until he was ready to speak up. To me, this displayed effective communication because the teacher knew how this little boy communicated through his body language and verbally, in his own unique way. She did not force him to speak, she gave him time to speak, chose to listen and reply in short phrases that required specific feedback from him. Later she responded to the child’s needs by offering her help and asked specific questions as to what he likes to play and with whom he would like to play with. The teacher did not own the conversation and neither did she overpower it, the child was the center of the conversation. The teacher worked alongside the little boy to find a friend and modeled how to make friends, by asking children if they can play with him. The teacher was the facilitator and guided the whole process and allowed the child to take charge of this important life skill he was learning. I do not think I would have communicated any other way with this little boy. The teacher handled the situation with sensitivity and kindness and affirmed the child’s feelings throughout the whole process, by understanding and listening.
Communication and child’s sense of worth:
I believe the teacher was positively affirming the child throughout the whole process by:
- allowing him to speak about his feelings,
- she noted that she was proud of him for asking for help, which displayed that he was a risk-taker as he allowed himself to feel vulnerable and explain how he was feeling,
- she was calm, gentle, kind and caring, especially when she gave her hand to him, pulled him off the ground gave him a hug, almost as if to say ‘It is okay, I am here, I will help, I care.’
- the little boy always had a smile of relief on his face,
- he felt confident as the teacher modeled how to ask friends to play with him and did so later on when he found another friend to play with him.
Insights into the adult-child communication and what I have learned:
I learned a lot by observing the above scenario. I learned to be calmer, have more patience and have more respect for a child’s way of communication and the only way one can do this is to truly and deeply know how each child in your class communicates both verbally and non-verbally. I learned that we can all improve in the area of communicating with children at their level. The teacher spoke in a child-friendly way that helped the child systematically solve his problem and the teacher went the extra mile to help the child. I believe we all need to keep in mind that children need support to learn valuable life skills and we should go the extra mile to teach them this.
When reading more about creating environments that affirm the children and families in your classroom I came across a text in Derman-Sparks and Edwards book Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, that inspired me and put everything into perspective about the creation of an anti-bias environment “An anti-bias environment is also culturally consistent for children and families it currently serves, in another words anyone who enters your classroom can tell immediately tell who is in your program at that time. The look and sounds of the room reflect the family’s cultures and daily lives of those children.”
If I were to remember the video segment I watched in this weeks resources, where Adriana Castillo gave a guided tour of her warm and caring family child care home, I loved the idea that:
- When parents drop their child off at school, to let the school know in a little book near the door, how their child was after school the day before and how their child slept the night before.
- I especially, enjoyed that she had a calming room where children could vent how they felt being separated from their parents or a mishap during the day.
- I liked the fact that Adriana does not stop the children from crying, she gives them time to get through their tears.
- I especially enjoyed the shelf in the school that a family decorates once a month about their family culture.
- I liked the way that all activities that were out, reflected the topic the children were learning about for that time, for example emotions.
- The children had a variety of colored dolls to play with, she had bean bags that depicted the skin colors we have in society and children can compare their skin color to the color they see on the bean bag.
If I were to create my own home care setting that affirms the children in my care, I would most certainly use the above ideas I saw, but would also have books in my classroom that show images of home and school, books about the different people in this world and I would place photos of children and their families around my classroom. I would use a lot of storytelling and persona dolls that relate to the children’s lives and make them aware of aspects of diversity. I would also use a curricular planning approach called webbing, that helps the school and staff to brainstorm the ways identity, diversity and equity issues can be incorporated into the daily curriculum of a school.
Furthermore, I would ensure that the children’s learning environment is calm, by using natural colors and items from the outside environment for children to use and learn from and the only color that is in the classroom, comes from the children and families themselves.
Look at the pictures below for my ideal school setting to encourage a calm, respectful and anti-bias environment:
One hope that I have when I think about working with children and families from diverse backgrounds is to:
This difference can be big or small and in order for me to make a difference in the lives of the children and families I come across, I hope to become more tolerant, accepting, mindful, empathetic and sensitive to their needs and differences.
One goal I would like to set for myself in the early childhood field with regards to issues of diversity, equity and social justice is to be more of an:
As I am already speaking more to colleagues, friends and family members about these issues, however I would like to become more apart of organisations that advocate for children and family rights.
Having learned so much in this course, I am extremely excited that I have chosen this subject as my specialisation. I am thankful that I have come across online study buddies who are just as passionate as me, who love children and the early childhood field and want to make a difference. I only wish all of you the best in your future courses, continue to challenge and change your thinking in order to be a better person, both personally and professionally.
The above poster I created speaks about what I have learned the past few weeks on the topics of diversity in education and in the world we live in.
Can any of my online colleagues think about why I placed the word ‘fear’ on my poster?
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.