Please Stop Using “Girl Power” and “Boys will be Boys”

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The irony of me posting this on international women’s day is not lost on me but don’t fret there is an international men’s day also so this post isn’t about either :).

Lately there has been a lot of talk about movements that are giving women more power. It is on every award show and every social media platform. The “me too” movement is quite empowering for women who are suffering in silence about horrible things that have happened to them but, much like anything else, this has become somewhat of a bandwagon movement. I hope that the girls in my class grow up in a world of “hell no” rather than “me too”.   This post is certainly not meant to offend anyone so if you’re reading this and the hair on the back of your neck is starting to stand up lets stop here and agree to disagree.

Girl power insinuates that we are lesser immediately.  I have never, not once in my life. heard anyone say ‘boy power” and that right there makes me want to do away with the phrase.  In my opinion it sends messages that make us less than and make us question every interaction and wonder if people are treating us one way or another because of our gender and I won’t have it, not in my classroom at least.

I am the first one to say that I want girls to know they are smart and intelligent over beautiful and sweet but more importantly I want to help girls understand that standing up for yourself is not “bitchy” or “rude” or any other derogatory term that has been thrown my way when I refuse to stand for someone’s bullshit.  Girls need to be raised and taught in a world of mutual respect.  This means not only respecting others but RESPECTING THEMSELVES.   Now I know that some men (and women) are awful and some men do terrible things to vulnerable women and those men should be locked in a cold dark place for the rest of eternity BUT and it is a big BUT  you can’t possible think that all the men being accused in these movements are actually in the wrong.  You can not possible think that some women don’t manipulate situations, sexual or not, for their benefit by using the fact that they are women.  Lets all try to think of this big picture and from both sides.

If someone, male or female, crosses a line there 100% should be consequences in life and in the classroom but there also should be skills, both social and emotional, that are taught in families and in classrooms to help all children, and lets face it, adults, to navigate the world without making themselves vulnerable to the evils that this world has to offer. If I contribute anything, it is suggestions that are proactive rather than reactive, although that sounds somewhat hypocritical given that this whole post is a reaction to current issues :/ .

So what happens next? We create a world of choice.  We create a world for our children where they, from the day they can, are making decisions for themselves.  This may seem a bit extreme but this starts at the beginning.  This starts at those family gatherings when you force a little girl to hug a family member she would rather not hug.  When you tell her that she is being rude for not showing affection.  When you decide for her, regardless of how young she is, you take away her power.  We need to ask children if they want to be tickled, you stop when they say stop.  AND CAN WE PLEASE STOP ASKING GIRLS TO SMILE OR TELLING THEM TO BE HAPPY.  It seems strange to think about but the reality of development is that a lot of your habits start when you are very young and continue throughout your life.  My habits, for example, were fostered by a mother who listened and a father who thought girls were the greatest.  I ask a million questions and question everyone because of the two of them, I also think girls can do anything boys can do, thanks mom and dad.   So if, from the very beginning, we empowered our girls to be themselves, to not tolerate things that make them uncomfortable, and if we teach them that they don’t have to be delicate or soft spoken or tolerant we can create a real movement.  I am trying to stay away from gender stereotypes but the two issues are intertwined.

This proactive strategy goes both ways.  Can we please eliminate the use of the words “boys will be boys” when boys are disrespectful? Can we please hold boys, even in elementary school, accountable for their inappropriate behavior towards girls?  Can we please create a world where there are immediate consequences for making someone else feel lesser or uncomfortable?

Pop culture is also the problem.  You may not see it , and the media is certainly making an effort to change it, but girls need saving in too many of the things our kids are watching.  There are not enough women superheros, there are not enough women in power, there are not enough women who don’t look like they just stepped out of a fashion magazine while they are fighting crime. There are not enough women who are truly successful and truly independent but not bitter about it.  On the flip side, there are not enough men showing emotion, there are not enough stay home dads whose wives are the bread winner and their masculinity isn’t tarnished (have you seen the intern, don’t it basically tells you that successful women’s husbands cheat). There are not enough men who are not being constantly manly.   When we send these messages so loud and clear from the first day that a child sits down to watch T.V.  we create the same cycle.  Men are powerful and women need saving and it is a truckload of bullshit.

It is totally impossible to think that from one small classroom in one small town I can change this but if I can empower 6 little girls a year then I will have done my part.  I know that this kind of change takes decades and I know that these issues may not be the biggest issues that we are facing in 2018 but damn it we have to start somewhere.  So I leave you with this, If we start them young, believing in themselves and give them the words and the skills to advocate for themselves maybe we can create a more equal place for our kids regardless of gender.

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Teaching to Tech Toting Tots

The number one thing I debate with my peers who are parents or potential parents is technology. We live in a world driven and derailed by technology. I’ll be the first one to admit my phone is never more than arms reach away, that I’m in constant contact with friends and that I have some strange addiction to social media, whatever we are all flawed. But I’m an adult and have developed social and coping skills prior to the introduction of a smartphone. For me, 8th grade brought a phone that had texting but required clicking each number multiple times to get different letters and the internet button wasn’t an option-remember those?

But kids these days are handed a screen practically out of the womb. I’m not exaggerating have you seen these new baby monitors? Forget the infants let’s jump to my little preschoolers. We have all seen the 2-6 year old glued to the tablet as mom and dad have dinner or the kid in the stroller watching some obnoxiously loud cartoon. Let me stop here to clarify something. The issues I have with technology are purely based on my experiences with young children and families. I have done tons and tons of reasearch but won’t be using any specific info here. If you’re curious about more data driven info just google it :). Ok so back to the kids buried in screens. Pause and use these two very limited scenarios and think of what these kids are missing. Dinners in my house were a time to catch up, check in, understand one another… they’re missing that. When I was 0-2 we lived in the city. I used to hold on to the sides of my stroller and watch everything go by while asking my parents a ZILLION questions (no exaggeration I caught myself still doing it to my dad yesterday at practically 30 🙂 ) … they’re missing that.

My issues with tech and tots is not to say there isn’t a place for technology in this new fast paced world, my issue is it’s place is not EVERYWHERE. Kids are missing incredibly important opportunities for socializing, emotional development, language development, problem solving, etc etc.  I’ve heard all kinds of excuses for why this is just new and not bad but I just have to believe that people don’t understand what this is doing to our kids.  Kindergarteners are showing up with a great sense of how to unlock an IPAD, use YOUTUBE and usually an over developed knowledge of something that would otherwise be forgein to a young child for example the planets or natural disasters or cooking (no I’m not kidding). This knowledge fools people outside education into thinking “OMG this young child is brilliant”. Ok great but he can’t open his juice box, use scissors or solve even the most minut problem on his own. I had a 4 year old try to swipe with his finger on a desktop- nothing like a moment like that to make you pack up the technology in your classroom and whip out some play dough. This is because little or no time is being spent playing outside, playing with the basics, coloring, drawing or navigating social situations that are challenging. I won’t get into how my generation is also solving all their kids problems for them here but that and this are not mutually exclusive.

Anyway my whole point is we are creating a generation that is not building a foundation of social skills like generations before them. We are not engaging our kids in the way our parents engaged us. We don’t know long term what this will do but what I have seen is kids with underdeveloped fine motor skills, lower tone, higher activity levels, lower attention spans and less impulse control. So please peers of mine, sing to your kids all those goofy songs your moms sang to you, play outside with your kids and get them messy, talk to them and answer every single question and please please please let them wonder. When they ask you about something you can’t answer please don’t respond with “google it” ask them what they think. Let them guess! Ok I’ll stop my rant here but seriously this is an issue… google it 🙂

This is About the Kids in the Classrooms

This week brought another school shooting… I can’t even believe “another school shooting” is something that exists but it is.  The story is often the same.  A troubled teen with a challenging life opens fire on a school A FUCKING SCHOOL.  Excuse the language but seriously did you read that?  When I was in elementary school that just wasn’t something that existed, and life was simpler.  Parents dropped their kids off and the thought of guns and lock downs did not cross their mind. I am well aware that in history there have been many other threats to schools but this post isn’t about that.

This is about being a teacher in this country today. It is 2018, I have been teaching preschool for 5+ years.  I am blessed with a safe school where protocols are clear, the building is equipped with great security and police officers are familiar faces in the halls but when I walked into school the morning after Valentine’s day I could feel the unrest.  I remember after Sandy Hook feeling so uncomfortable walking into a different school I was working in. I remember the eerie feeling and  I fought it with all my might on Thursday morning.  But  it is an inevitable conversation among adults.  I myself in a selfish way had shielded my mind from the seriousness of the shooting the day before.  I had turned off the news and the radio and tried to avoid thinking about how close to home every single school shooting is for every teacher.

We practice lock down drills. We practiced one that was out of character on TUESDAY! I had taken my little guys to our safe place, put a silent show on for them and asked them to “pretend we are at the movies and to be really quiet”.  It was so hard for them although we have practiced many times before.  I tell them the policemen are checking to make sure the doors are working when we hear them jiggle the handles or hear their voices in the hallway.  But the reality of Wednesday hits so close to home.  What would I do with these tiny humans if this happened in our little community, it is too awful to even think about but we have to.  The ladies that work in my room had a lot of questions for me regarding how we would handle a real situation following Wednesday.  I went home on Thursday and tried to find solutions for some of the common problems we would have with 3 year olds.

Let’s face it, it is bad that teenagers pull out their phones and put these things on snap chat but at least they understand.  At least when you say be quiet they can maintain that quiet.  At least they can go hours without having to use a bathroom or have a snack.  At least they can text their parents and give them some comfort.  My students do not and can not understand the severity of the situations this country has been through.  They don’t know of the true evil in this world.  They don’t and shouldn’t understand why this is so totally overwhelming for every teacher in this country.  I mean I have students who are so routine driven that if we don’t follow a schedule they melt down.  They don’t know how to be quiet or sit still.  They don’t understand why we have to stay in our safe space.  AND THAT IS OK.

It is my job to stay calm no matter what.  To give them directions and reasoning that they can understand. It is my job, above all else , to keep them safe. So today as I stepped foot into my classroom, alone for a minute or two in the quiet before their laughter and learning filled the room, I teared up thinking about the teachers who came to work on Valentine’s day thinking only of making sure that love and learning filled their classroom and were faced with a horror no one should ever face.   I made a few changes to how we do things and added a few safe guards to our procedures in my room before I left for a week off.  I am so blessed to be in this profession but sometimes the responsibility feels suffocating.  I hope that this country finds a solution for these issues but I have absolutely no idea what that could be.

Honestly I don’t care to hear political opinions related to this post, especially from those who don’t live in a classroom 180+ days a year with a bunch of tiny people you love and care about.  But I do hope that in my teaching career this will stop, not decrease, not become less frequent but STOP. Until then I know I will continue to protect, along with teach, my favorite tiny people as will all the teachers in this country.

Support isn’t a Strong Enough Word

I have been blessed during my time in special education to work along side some amazing paraprofessionals. When I say amazing I mean Amazing with a capital A. Sure there have been some people who later discovered, what I already knew, my classroom wasn’t the place for them but this post is more about the ones who have stayed. These women are my team. They are in the room, in the fun, in the learning, and in the struggles with me day after day. They tolerate my strange classroom management techniques, listen to all my ridiculous voices and songs and basically read my mind without judgement. They really are the hero’s of my room. They’ve seen me nail lessons and also seen me fail. They have kept my room running in my absence or on my tough days without missing a beat. They help me be better and do better. I honestly don’t know what I would do without them.

As the holidays roll around gift giving is inevitably. I struggle each year with the inner conflict of wanting to show my appreciation for all their hard work and dedication (without any recognition) and not being able to buy them each a car  :).  I just don’t know if people have any idea how crucial support staff really is. It’s amazing that these women are so emotionally invested in my little learners, my classroom and our team as a whole. Sometimes in life you have to stop and be thankful and I ,as a special education teacher, person, and friend, feel so THANKFUL to work in a room supported by such incredible people.

No one would believe the things I say at work (Volume 1)

As a pre-k teacher I spend a lot of my day speaking in phrases that make me sound like I’m losing my mind and totally disconnected from reality. Today I actually said out loud with a straight face “_____ , we wipe our butts before we pull up our pants”, “No _______ your throat doesn’t have ants in it (that apparently is what her mom told her when she had a raspy voice)” and “ok everyone let’s stop being zombies before we go inside”.  The list goes on and on and some days I truly think my classroom could be a reality show for both good and strange reasons.  But recently what I have gotten most hung up on are the things I say to my students that wouldn’t even remotely work in real life. I guess the biggest one is “you get what you get and you don’t get upset”.  Excuse my language but that is bullshit.  Ok, I know why I say it.  If I gave the kids the color they wanted every time we did anything my whole day would be consumed with “what color do you want”.  In the interest of time the cute phrase makes sense and gives the kids a little saying that often helps them once they get the hang of it.  But in real life “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” makes passive people.  Sure sometimes life hands us tough situations and in that sense we get what we get but I’ll be damned if we don’t get upset.  You have to stand up for yourself in life.  You have to ask for what you want and you have to feel your feels as they say (they being other pre-k teachers).  So that is something I think about every time it comes out of my mouth.  I sincerely hope that someone explains to them that “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” only applies to things that don’t really matter. I have thought deeply about doing a social skills lesson about big choices and little choices to tie this all together but it is still a thought not an action.

The next thing I recently cringe over is having 3 year old kids say they are sorry.  I remember having a student apologize my first year and my teammate telling me she didn’t really force that because it means nothing to the kids.  At the time I am sure I looked at her like she had 3 heads but now I kind of get it. Saying sorry is just words and doesn’t fix anything, especially at this age.  The only people who get anything out of it are the adults.  But can we be real with ourselves for a minute, most adults say sorry without actually feeling it. I could go on and on about the adults part but I’ll stop here and know you’ve met some of these people in your life’s adventures. When an adult is really sorry the apology never stops at just a sorry.  They seek solution and show remorse (hopefully). So I recently started having my students ask the other if they are ok and reviewing the rule or social norm that was broken (if there is one).  I’m holding them accountable and attempting to teach empathy. I don’t know if that is any better but I know my kids are only repeating sorry not feeling it. 99.9% of the kids I work with are not”bad” kids.  They never intend to bring harm to others, rather to gain something they want, I try to remember that when redirecting and reinforcing but man it is hard to know what to do minute to minute with these types of things.

Tomorrow I will go to work and say all my crazy things “catch a bubble” when I ask them to be quiet, “criss cross applesauce” (formally known as Indian style), “sit square in your chair” when I ask them to sit down properly but I am not doing any of these things hoping they will continue to use or need these phrases any further than elementary school.  The things I say are strange but in a world of being politically correct and not being too harsh with kids they work and help me manage my little crew day to day.

Lets all hope that we won’t have adults saying “quiet hands” to one another instead of STOP TOUCHING ME in the future because of our concerns about offending people early on in life.

Pay It Forward and Pass on the Positivity

I have heard tons of teachers say that we simply can’t do our best teaching without the support of other teachers and I’ve lived that truth. But it takes time to build the  kind of relationships necessary to ask for help and truly collaborate in a trusting and “give and take” kind of way.   Some of the teachers I now collaborate with regularly  and consider my friends, once thought I wasn’t a friendly person, to put it lightly.  As I think back it is hard for me to decide if it was my stress, loneliness or concern for looking like I could handle anything that kept me from bonding earlier, better late than never I guess.

Every year without fail there are new teachers in the building that I work in.  The staff is a mix of ages and people are retiring but also growing their families and going on leaves.  This creates a pretty constant stream of new faces in our faculty meetings.  These teachers are amazing. They are all overqualified and enthusiastic.  They have degrees and specialties that make them professionals on so many levels but there is one constant that can not be changed, they are new to our little town and school.   Some people will say ” well teaching is teaching not matter the school”.  Those people are liars or completely mislead on what fantastic teaching looks like!!! When you are new to a district, regardless of how many years prior you have under your belt, you are a fish out of water.  You don’t know the ins and outs of this building and to further the problem if you’re a seasoned teacher you are not assigned a mentor to hold your hand and answer endless questions.

Fantastic teaching is done by teachers who collaborate with others, who have resources to reach all the students and families that they have in the classroom and done by teachers who are comfortable enough to make minute to minute decisions knowing that they’ll be supported even if they fall flat on their face. I want to be that support for my new coworkers. I want to be able to offer an encouraging email, share a resources that gives another teacher an “AH HA” moment and to share my stories of failures and triumphs in my room to encourage these new to me teachers to keep on teaching.  I am still not quite sure how I will make this a new reality or if I will be able to offer the hands on help I want to give but I just want to pay it forward and pass on all the positivity I have to offer.

But what do we tell the kids?

This week brought a horrible massacre to Las Vegas. A man opened fire on a concert of a country artist I’ve seen live more than once, it was a total shock.  His motive is not yet clear but what is clear is how horrible it was and continues to be. As you can imagine the news is filled with horrible stories and images.  You can’t turn on the TV or radio without the mention of the number of people who lost their lives to this awful event or how many people are still fighting to survive after injury.  The news is also sharing the stories of heroism that happened.  The reality of the event is it seems to have brought the absolute worst humanity has to offer immediately followed by some of the best. If you’re looking for the positive in this event you have to dig and dig but you will  hear about the people who ran towards the gun fire to save strangers, the people who gave up care so that someone more critically injured could be taken care of, the people who carried or helped people they will never see again.  Although the first responders are absolutely amazing, not all the people mentioned were in any kind of uniform other than human.

As a teacher my mind immediately goes to what to tell the kids.  How do we teach the kids we have in our rooms now skills to help them cope and prevent events such as these? I know I am not sitting down a bunch of 3 year old kids  to tell them about this.  I am praying that they are each shielded from any exposure to this kind of horror. I know their little minds can not even begin to understand a situation such as this but if questions arise I hope their parents are able to give them some answer rather than brushing it off. It is inevitable that some day these kids will hear about this tragedy. But there are things I can do for these kids right now in the wake of this.  I can work on empathy.  I can help them help others.  I can show them that someone cares about them.  I can help them channel anger or frustration into conversations or appropriate releases.  I can be there for them without judgement.  So in the wake of such an awful tragedy I choose to make the world better.  I won’t comment on gun laws, mental health, gambling or any other hot button issue here on this blog but I will choose to find ways to better the world.  I hope everyone in this country can find a way (no matter how small) to take this disaster and find a way to make tomorrow better than yesterday.