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 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


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