This semester, we read Rethinking Elementary Education. Overall, we found the book to be very interesting and relevant to classroom situations today. The book had very creative ideas about how to deal with different situations in our classrooms and we found it to be very relatable in terms of teachers telling their own personal stories from their classrooms. We didn’t read the whole book, especially the parts that related to the subjects of Math and Science (everyone in my group has a focus in Language Arts, so we usually don’t enjoy math and science as much). However, the parts we did read left a lasting impact on us and what we expect our classrooms to be like when we start teaching.
After a while, we got a bit tired of the book and just assigning readings from it, so we moved on to watching video clips, particularly Ted Talks. We enjoyed these a bit more because it is more interesting listening to someone talk about their own experiences and seeing their faces as they describe their different situations. The Ted Talks seemed a bit easier to discuss in our groups too because we all seemed to have the same reactions to the messages.
Overall, we decided that Rethinking Elementary Education is a book we would want to hold on to and keep in our personal classroom library as a refresher on how to deal with certain social-justice issues in our classroom. In times of need, we can always flip back to it and reread articles that seem relevant to us.
Meet Jazz Jennings – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7gjICQ3kL4
Jazz Jennings is a transgender teenager from Florida. She has her own documentary TV show on TLC which follows her as she maneuvers life as a transgender youth and how it affects her and her family daily. Along with this, Jazz also has her own YouTube channel where she has been making videos about her life for a while. She is one of the youngest transgender females to speak publicly in history about transgender issues. Jazz identifies as being female, so I will refer to her as “she” throughout this post in order to respect her as an individual.
In our PLC group, we have read and talked about many issues involving acceptance in the classroom and the importance of teaching children that differences are okay and should be celebrated rather than ignored. More explicitly, we read an article titled “It’s OK to Be Neither,” which discusses teaching methods that support gender-variant children. It tells the story of a little girl named Allie who feels more comfortable wearing clothes and doing her hair in a way that generally would be associated with being a male. Because of this, however, people tended to refer to her as a boy, even though she wanted to be referred to as a girl, even though she may have resembled what a boy might look like. The children weren’t quite sure what to make of this situation and began to ask Allie somewhat incriminating questions about why she looked like a boy if she was actually a girl, and the teacher saw this as a great teachable moment for her class to talk about gender stereotypes.
The teacher knew that the first step she should make would be to broaden the students’ ideas about what was acceptable for boys and girls. She also pointed out little things that many teachers do daily and how they relate to gender stereotypes. For example, instead of saying “boys and girls” when referring to the class, she simply uses gender-neutral terms such as “children” or “students” so as not to alienate a particular child. All in all, Ms. Tempel wanted to teach her students that it’s okay to be different, along with bettering both hers and other teachers’ classrooms to become more sympathetic towards gender-variant children and the struggles that they deal with daily.
This article ties in with Jazz’s story because although Jazz identifies as a girl and is not necessarily gender-variant, transgender students go through many of the same challenges that Ms. Tempel illustrates in her article. Children don’t often understand such heavy topics as being transgender, particularly because adults don’t always take the time to explain just what it means to be transgender to such young children because they think the topic is a bit too mature for them. However, Jazz explains that even though she was born a male, she knew that she was a female from before she was even 6 years old. So, if Jazz can know that she is transgender at such a young age, don’t you think it’s important for other children at this age to understand what it’s like to be transgender or gender-variant, so as not to isolate children like Jazz? It’s definitely OK to be different, and it’s important to understand and accept these differences.
Information about Jazz – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_Jennings
Trailer for “I Am Jazz” – see link at top of page
For next week, we are watching the Ted Talk by Rita Pierson titled “Every Kid Needs a Champion”