We are parents and educators committed to a just and equitable society. This blog is a forum to share ideas and resources to help us teach our children and ourselves about social equity issues.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Reconsidering Thanksgiving

Dear Parents and Teachers

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  Like many of you perhaps, I love the combination of cooking, eating, Fall and family time.

But it’s also a great jumping off point, with our children, to challenge what we think about this holiday, and its history, from a new perspective.  Thanksgiving is of course a bittersweet day, at best, for many of the indigenous people of North America for whom the day is a reminder of betrayal and loss.

I put together some resources; movies, books and other notes that may be interesting to consider over the holiday.  I particularly enjoyed the PBS American Experience documentary series, entitled “We Shall Remain.”  The first episode of the five part series is After the Mayflower.  It tells what we now believe unfolded between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. Through interviews with historians and re-enactments, this episode examines the Wampanoag's assistance to and alliance with the Pilgrims and the tragic events over the next 50 years.  It’s quite a story.  It is appropriate for general viewing but does contain some powerful descriptions and images which may be too much for very young viewers, for instance, a facsimile of a severed head. This occurs in the film after 1:09 minutes if you want to preview before deciding if appropriate for your whole family.

Here are some other resources I found thought provoking too:

Should I correct Thanksgiving stereotypes my kids see on TV?

Oyate: Recommended children's books about Thanksgiving

Teaching about Native American Issues

Have a very happy Thanksgiving.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Parent/Guardian Diversity Education Series- Part One

Hello Parents, Guardians and Teachers,

We had a great session with Nathan Shara this week. Nathan, a facilitator with Seattle Safe Schools, led us through an exercise to examine how we develop protective shields to negotiate the world, which protect us against social identity vulnerability, but can interfere with our ability to see and communicate with others. 

He started by drawing a heart which contained qualities of a newborn child. Participants offered qualities, such as "curious, trusting, capable of a range of emotions, unself-aware" etc. Around the heart we listed things which might be said to that child as he or she grows up, and considered how those messages varied if the child were light or dark skinned, able bodied or not, girl or boy etc. Messages proffered included, "you're sweet, exhausting, stupid, too sensitive, weak, a problem, ugly," etc. Nathan talked about how these messages are heart attacks, or attacks on the heart, and how in response, we develop shields to protect ourselves. Examples of shields were,"I won't care much about school work because everyone says I can't be intelligent," or " I'm going to numb out because I'm  not allowed to be emotional." He then had us perform this exercise for ourselves, listing our heart qualities, the messages we have taken in and the shields we developed as a result. It was a moving exercise.

You may wonder what this type of introspective work has to do with social equity or learning how to help our children with gender identity development, the stated objective of the workshop. I think one of the aspects which makes social equity work so compelling, if challenging, is that it involves both political and personal transformation. Neither is enough, and indeed both journeys, the internal and the external, fuel each other. When I started this work, I wanted a ready made answer, a book or a role play guide, to teach me the skills of parenting my children through a social equity lens. But the books and the expert guidance are not enough, unless the transformation is also occurring within. The example we embody to our children and peers, as parents grappling with uncertainty and making ourselves vulnerable to learning and tenderness in our own hearts, is the basis for any political change we will be able to accomplish in our families, our school or the world. 

Because of time constraints, we watched just a few minutes of It's Elementary. I am happy to announce a screening of the full length version of the film, with discussion after, on Thursday, December 15th, in the Community Room, from 8:45 until 10:45 am. Here is a link to the trailer for the film


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cultivating healthy gender identities in our children

Hello Parents, Guardians and Teachers!

I want to make sure that you are aware of the parent/ guardian diversity education event at our school this coming Monday, November 14th, in the Community Room from 8:45 am - 10 am. Nathan Shara from Seattle Safe Schools is coming to facilitate a discussion on gender identity in our children and how we can foster healthy gender development.

This week I thought of how applicable and necessary this conversation is for families as I read this article from the New York Times, about a just released study which reports that almost 50% of 7-12 graders experience sexual harassment at school. Given what we know about how gender identity is restricted and defended, with femininity characterized as pretty and passive and masculinity idealized as active and virile, it is not surprising that the harassment girls report involves being perceived as overly (hetero)sexual, with taunts of "slut" and "whore." For boys, the bullying revolves around being perceived as not traditionally heterosexual enough, with being called "gay" the most commonly described harassment.

The scope of this problem for our children and in our schools suggests that this is a concern for all families. We can learn how to help our children both defend themselves and resist the impulse to harm others by understanding how to cultivate healthy gender identity in our children. I hope you can come and participate in this important discussion.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Parenting along the gender spectrum- video

This is a wonderful short video about families with children who are gender questioning. Use the password to access.

The Family Journey

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Where Children Sleep

Dear Parents, Guardians and Teachers,

I want to share with you a link to a very compelling book, Where Children Sleep, by photographer James Mollison. In his words, "The book is written and presented for an audience of 9-13 year olds' intended to interest and engage children in the details of the lives of other children around the world, and the social issues affecting them, while also being a serious photographic essay for an adult audience." 

Take a look at this link. http://www.jamesmollison.com/wherechildrensleep.php 27 sample photographs from the book are accessible by clicking on the numbers at the top. This is a book one could use to engage children in empathic understanding of others, and begin to explore critically ideas surrounding equity, affluence, and privilege.