Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gearing up

**Update Jan 28, 2013: While this post was written nearly 2 years ago, for another topic, tonight's #kinderchat about guns in schools is potentially even more sensitive and controversial. We ask you to read the following, and enter into tonight's chat with the same mindset of respect.**

Hello Kinderchatters!
So, I am kind of going freelance on this, since Heidi is on a mini-vacation, but I trust that if she disagrees, she will speak up, and we will modify accordingly. Tomorrow's kinderchat topic is: Social Justice and Cultural Sensitivity in the Kindergarten Classroom.  I'm excited about it, as I think these are SUCH important things for us to be constantly considering, contemplating, discussing. They are also, however, topics that are potentially sensitive, and therefore potentially controversial. On top of that, the freeways of Social Justice! Cultural Sensitivity! Anti-Bias! can be surprisingly efficient routes to the twisty alleyways of Religion! Immigration! Race relations! Gender Roles! Gay rights! Mainstreaming of special needs populations! And, while all of those things can make fascinating and thought--provoking discussions (I do love a good soapbox!), they can also get VERY personal, VERY quickly. As I mentioned last week, kindergarten teachers are certainly a passionate bunch, and I think we need to be conscious of harnessing our passions in a professional direction.

With that being said, I propose the following: 

As we begin this Monday's conversation, let us all assume that:

  1. Everyone participating in the chat supports the importance of teaching and modelling social justice and cultural sensitivity; that it is not a question of "whether" to teach these things, but a question of "how to best do so."
  2. Everyone participating is committed to creating a classroom and program that allow all children and families to feel welcome, safe, included, and special; that this is also a "how" question, not a "whether" question.
  3. Everyone participating is capable of placing the needs of children and families above their own personal beliefs and opinions.
  4. Opinions, understandings, and policies regarding social justice and cultural sensitivity vary widely by generation and geography (among a long list of other factors that influence our practices and our policies).
  5. No teacher, school, board, district, city, or country, is handling these issues perfectly.
  6. Everyone participating has a genuine desire to improve their own practice and policy.
  7. Everyone participating is willing to answer questions regarding their classroom practices and policies.
  8. Everyone participating is doing their very best to ask questions in an open and respectful manner.
  9. In spite of the limitations of 140-character text communication, the default "tone of voice" in the chat is warm, curious, genuine, and respectful.
How do those sound? Can we agree on those for this week? Could they maybe be the foundation of something we agree to for every week? Have I forgotten anything really important? Kinderchat is, above all else, a community, so please use the comments to help fill in anything I missed.

If you have the time, I ask you to please read (or at least skim) the introduction to NAEYC's guide to Anti-Bias Curriculum, as it will provide a framework for our discussion.  For more reading, you can also check out:

And a final thought for this week -- In light of the events surrounding Natalie Monroe's suspension from work due to the content of her blog, please, PLEASE be cognizant of what you say online. Our kinderchats are archived. The archives are read by colleagues all over the world. When you use the hashtag, you represent our community.

Okay, enough preaching from me for now. Go forth and enjoy your Sunday afternoon! I look forward to seeing all of you tomorrow, 9 pm, EST.


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