Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

November 14, 2016

Rethinking Schools Letter: Dangers of New Era by the election of Donald Trump

Filed under: Rethinking Schools — millerlf @ 7:59 am

Dear Rethinking Schools friends,

And so it begins. At a high school in rural Oregon, south of Portland, 30 to 40 white students celebrated Trump this week in front of a Confederate flag and taunted Latina/o students: “Pack your bags, you’re leaving tomorrow,” and “Tell your family goodbye.” Graffiti found in a Minnesota high school bathroom read, “#Gobacktoafrica Make America GReat again.” The Southern Poverty Law Center reports over 200 incidents of racist, sexist, and homophobic harassment and intimidation.

These are harbingers of the dangerous new era launched by the election of Donald Trump. And they underscore the importance of the work we have ahead.

But racist and xenophobic celebrations were not the only response to Trump’s election. In San Francisco, more than a thousand students walked out of class to join protest marches. As one student said, “We’re trying to inform people about white supremacy, racism, homophobia, everything.” And in the New York City high school where Rethinking Schools editor Adam Sanchez teaches, the art club hosted a “No Allegiance to White Supremacy” T-shirt-making gathering, while the Feminism and Black Lives Matter clubs held a joint emergency meeting to discuss the election. These responses are also harbingers: anticipating our schools and classrooms as sites of resistance to everything that Trump stands for. As in San Francisco, students in New York later took to the streets—marching more than 40 blocks from Union Square to Trump Tower. As did students at that Minnesota high school and throughout the country, from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Boulder to Des Moines.

Trump’s election is the single worst political event in our lives. And it’s right to mourn. But a Trump administration is also a call to action. For now, we need to listen to our students and create a space where they can talk, ask questions, and analyze what has happened. We can tell students that we will do whatever we can to make our schools—and our world—safe for them and their families. Part of that involves what we say and do in our classrooms and our schools, including how we work with students doing the taunting and writing the racist graffiti. And part involves the work we do within our unions and community groups, and the alliances we build with other justice-oriented organizations.

We will redouble our efforts to provide the teaching resources that help our students make sense of what is happening in our society, and how we got here. We have resources at Rethinking Schools and the Zinn Education Project that look at other times when racial progress was rolled back by white supremacy. But social movements have made important progress during times that seemed hopeless, and we also have teaching materials that explore these.

There will be lots more to say—and lots more to do. For now, we simply want to thank you for the work you do that is more essential than ever and to assure you that we are in this together.

With love and hope,
Rethinking Schools editors and staff

(Photo by Lorie Shaull: https://www.flickr.com/photos/number7cloud/30816248001)

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April 22, 2014

Please Help Publish New Rethinking Schools Book

Filed under: Rethinking Schools — millerlf @ 1:58 pm

Help us publish this awesome book!

 

Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality was born a few summers ago when Jody Sokolower, Rethinking Schools’ managing editor, and RS editor Melissa Bollow Tempel sat down in Jody’s kitchen to discuss an article Melissa was writing. “It’s OK to Be Neither” is the story of Melissa’s growth as a teacher when Allie, a student who is gender nonconforming, joined her class. Until then, Melissa had not realized how customs like lining up by girls and boys could create problems for students who do not fit neatly into the female/male binary.

“It’s OK to Be Neither” really struck a chord. As Melissa tells it, “We never dreamed it would be shared more than 45,000 times on one blog alone.” Allie is not unique. Gender nonconforming kids are in schools everywhere, and teachers want to know how to support them.

Gender identity is just one of many issues addressed in Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality. The book includes sections on:

  • creating safe and nurturing classrooms
  • coming out at school as a teacher or student
  • integrating feminist and LGBTQ content into curriculum
  • moving beyond the classroom to school and community
  • teacher education

Want to check out a sample article or two?

To  help publish Rethinking Sexism, Gender and Sexuality go to:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/book-rethinking-sexism-gender-and-sexuality#home

 

July 28, 2013

Indiana’s Anti-Howard Zinn Witch-hunt

Filed under: Rethinking Schools,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:08 pm

Published on Friday, July 19, 2013 by Zinn Education Project

by Bill Bigelow

Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, one of the country’s most widely read history books, died on January 27, 2010. Shortly after, then-Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels got on his computer and fired off an email to the state’s top education officials: “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away.”

But Gov. Daniels, now president of Purdue University, was not content merely to celebrate Howard Zinn’s passing. He demanded that Zinn’s work be hunted down in Indiana schools and suppressed: “The obits and commentaries mentioned his book ‘A People’s History of the United States’ is the ‘textbook of choice in high schools and colleges around the country.’ It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Can someone assure me that is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?”

We know about Gov. Daniels’ email tantrum thanks to the Associated Press, which obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Scott Jenkins, Daniels’ education advisor, wrote back quickly to tell the governor that A People’s History of the United States was used in a class for prospective teachers on social movements at Indiana University.

Daniels fired back: “This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state. No student will be better taught because someone sat through this session. Which board has jurisdiction over what counts and what doesn’t?”

After more back and forth, Daniels approved a statewide “cleanup” of what earns credit for professional development: “Go for it. Disqualify propaganda and highlight (if there is any) the more useful offerings.”

Daniels recently defended his attack on Zinn’s work, telling the Associated Press, “We must not falsely teach American history in our schools.” In a letter posted on his Purdue University webpage, Daniels claimed that, “the question I asked on one day in 2010 had nothing to do with higher education at all.” Daniels should go back and read his own emails.

There are so many disturbing aspects to this story, it’s hard to know where to begin.

The first, of course, is Daniels’ gleeful, mean-spirited reporting of Zinn’s death. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Howard Zinn’s career knows that his great passions were racial equality and peace. Finding cause for joy in the death of someone whose life was animated by confidence in people’s fundamental decency is shameful.

As someone who spent almost 30 years as a high school history teacher, I’m amused by the impoverished pedagogical vision embedded in Daniels’ emails and subsequent defense. Daniels wants Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States banned from the curriculum, so that the book is not “force-fed” to students. Governor Daniels evidently assumes that the only way one can teach history is to cram it down students’ throats. To see some alternative ways to engage students, Daniels might have a look at our lessons at the Zinn Education Project, which use Zinn’s People’s History of the United States in role plays, in critical reading activities, to generate imaginative writing, and to search for the “silences” in students’ own textbooks.

Take for example the last textbook I was assigned as a teacher at a public high school in Portland, Oregon, American Odyssey, published by Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. In the book’s one thousand pages, it includes exactly two paragraphs on the U.S. war with Mexico—the war that led to Mexico “ceding,” in the polite language of school curricula, about half its country to the United States. American Odyssey does not quote a single Mexican, a single soldier, a single abolitionist, a single opponent of the war. Well, in fact, the textbook doesn’t quote anyone. As one of my students pointed out when we read the book’s dull passages in class, “It doesn’t even view it as a war. It’s a situation.”

As the Zinn Education Project reveals regularly in its If We Knew Our History column, the version of U.S. history taught in the textbooks produced by giant corporations is anything but “true.” This scant treatment of such an important event in U.S. and Mexican history is one reason why teachers search out alternatives like A People’s History of the United States, which includes a full chapter on the conflict, focusing especially on President Polk’s hollow justifications for war, the anti-war resistance, and the human impact of the war. Unlike the gray prose of textbooks like American Odyssey, Zinn’s chapter on the U.S. war with Mexico—“We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God”—is filled with quotes from soldiers and poets, surgeons and abolitionists, generals and journalists, clergymen and presidents. Every passage reminds young people that war is much more than a “situation.”

“We must not falsely teach American history in our schools,” said Daniels to the Associated Press, implying that the true history is to be found in the officially adopted textbooks. As the Zinn Education Project reveals regularly in its If We Knew Our History column, the version of U.S. history taught in the textbooks produced by giant corporations is anything but “true.” The corporate textbooks hide the breadth of U.S. military and economic interventions throughout the world; they ignore the roots of today’s environmental crises; they refuse to explore the origins of the vast wealth inequality in the United States; and the textbooks neglect the role of social movements throughout U.S. history, instead focusing on famous individuals; thus, they fail to nurture an activist sensibility—a recognition that if we want the world to be better, then it’s up to us to make it better.

This is a point Howard Zinn emphasized when he spoke to teachers at the 2008 National Council for the Social Studies conference in Houston—some of them from Indiana!—not much more than a year before he died. Zinn said: “We’ve never had our injustices rectified from the top, from the president or Congress, or the Supreme Court, no matter what we learned in junior high school about how we have three branches of government, and we have checks and balances, and what a lovely system. No. The changes, important changes that we’ve had in history, have not come from those three branches of government. They have reacted to social movements.”

Governor Daniels’ advisers evidently found no evidence that Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States was in use in K-12 schools in Indiana. I guess they didn’t look hard enough. There are more than 300 Indiana teachers registered at the Zinn Education Project to access people’s history curriculum materials to “teach outside the textbook.” And these are only the teachers who have formally registered at the site; many more share people’s history-inspired lessons.

And at the Zinn Education Project we’ve heard all week long from Indiana teachers, professors, and parents who have committed themselves to work against censorship in K-12 schools. Their defiance is reminiscent of Indiana’s Green Feather Movement that challenged the McCarthy-era attempt to ban Robin Hood from the elementary school curriculum in 1954. What began as the anonymous posting of green feathers on bulletin boards by a few students at Indiana University spread to campuses across the country. As Howard Zinn wrote at the end of his autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, “If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”

© 2013 The Zinn Education Project

Bill Bigelow taught high school social studies in Portland, Ore. for almost 30 years. He is the curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools and the co-director of the Zinn Education Project. This project offers free materials to teach people’s history and an “If We Knew Our History” article series. Bigelow is author or co-editor of numerous books, including A People’s History for the Classroom and The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration.

more Bill Bigelow

January 15, 2012

Books Banned in Tucson: Including Rethinking School’s “Rethinking Columbus”

Filed under: Racism,Rethinking Schools — millerlf @ 8:33 am

Who’s afraid of “The Tempest”?

Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies proscribes Mexican-American history, local authors, even Shakespeare

By Jeff Biggers Friday, Jan 13, 2012 Salon

http://www.salon.com/2012/01/13/whos_afraid_of_the_tempest/singleton/

As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today. According to district spokeperson Cara Rene, the books “will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.”

Facing a multimillion-dollar penalty in state funds, the governing board of Tucson’s largest school district officially ended the 13-year-old program on Tuesday in an attempt to come into compliance with the controversial state ban on the teaching of ethnic studies.

The list of removed books includes the 20-year-old textbook “Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years,” which features an essay by Tucson author Leslie Silko. Recipient of a Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, Silko has been an outspoken supporter of the ethnic studies program.

“By ordering teachers to remove ‘Rethinking Columbus,’ the Tucson school district has shown tremendous disrespect for teachers and students,” said the book’s editor Bill Bigelow. “This is a book that has sold over 300,000 copies and is used in school districts from Anchorage to Atlanta, and from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. It offers teaching strategies and readings that teachers can use to help students think about the perspectives that are too often silenced in the traditional curriculum.”

Another notable text removed from Tucson’s classrooms is Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.” In a meeting this week, administrators informed Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any units where “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes,” including the teaching of Shakespeare’s classic in Mexican-American literature courses.

Other banned books include “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by famed Brazilian educator Paolo Freire and “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos” by Rodolfo Acuña, two books often singled out by Arizona state superintendent of public instruction John Huppenthal, who campaigned in 2010 on the promise to “stop la raza.” Huppenthal, who once lectured state educators that he based his own school principles for children on corporate management schemes of the Fortune 500, compared Mexican-American studies to Hitler Jugend indoctrination last fall.

An independent audit of Tucson’s ethnic studies program commissioned by Huppenthal last summer actually praised “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos,” a 40-year-old textbook now in its seventh edition. According to the audit: “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos is an unbiased, factual textbook designed to accommodate the growing number of Mexican-American or Chicano History Courses. The auditing team refuted a number of allegations about the book, saying, ‘quotes have been taken out of context.’”

Freire’s work on pedagogy has been translated into numerous languages, and is taught at universities around the United States.

In a school district founded by a Mexican-American in which more than 60 percent of the students come from Mexican-American backgrounds, the administration also removed every textbook dealing with Mexican-American history, including “Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement” by Arturo Rosales, which features a biography of longtime Tucson educator Salomon Baldenegro. Other books removed from the school include “500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures,” by Elizabeth Martinez and the textbook “Critical Race Theory” by scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic.

“The only other time a book of mine was banned was in 1986, when the apartheid government in South Africa banned ‘Strangers in Their Own Country,’ a curriculum I’d written that included a speech by then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela,” said Bigelow, who serves as curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, and co-directs the online Zinn Education Project. ”We know what the South African regime was afraid of. What is the Tucson school district afraid of?”

Jeff Biggers, the author most recently of “Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland,” is currently at work on a new book on Arizona politics and history. More Jeff Biggers

December 23, 2011

Rethinking Schools Article Goes Viral: Students Asked to Critically Consider Gender Stereotypes

Filed under: Rethinking Schools — millerlf @ 2:25 pm

The following Rethinking Schools article, written by Melissa BollowTempel a Milwaukee Public School teacher, was posted this past week on Huffington Post. It has gone viral state-wide in Wisconsin, nationally and internationally.

It’s Ok to Be Neither

Teaching that supports gender-variant children 

By Melissa Bollow Tempel Fall 2011, Rethinking Schools at:

http://www.rethinkingschools.org/index.shtml

Alie arrived at our 1st-grade classroom wearing a sweatshirt with a hood. I asked her to take off her hood, and she refused. I thought she was just being difficult and ignored it. After breakfast we got in line for art, and I noticed that she still had not removed her hood. When we arrived at the art room, I said: “Allie, I’m not playing. It’s time for art. The rule is no hoods or hats in school.”

She looked up with tears in her eyes and I realized there was something wrong. Her classmates went into the art room and we moved to the art storage area so her classmates wouldn’t hear our conversation. I softened my tone and asked her if she’d like to tell me what was wrong.

“My ponytail,” she cried.

“Can I see?” I asked.

She nodded and pulled down her hood. Allie’s braids had come undone overnight and there hadn’t been time to redo them in the morning, so they had to be put back in a ponytail. It was high up on the back of her head like those of many girls in our class, but I could see that to Allie it just felt wrong. With Allie’s permission, I took the elastic out and re-braided her hair so it could hang down.

“How’s that?” I asked.

She smiled. “Good,” she said and skipped off to join her friends in art.

‘Why Do You Look Like a Boy?’

Allison was biologically a girl but felt more comfortable wearing Tony Hawk long-sleeved T-shirts, baggy jeans, and black tennis shoes. Her parents were accepting and supportive. Her mother braided her hair in cornrows because Allie thought it made her look like Will Smith’s son, Trey, in the remake of The Karate Kid. She preferred to be called Allie. The first day of school, children who hadn’t been in Allie’s class in kindergarten referred to her as “he.”

I didn’t want to assume I knew how Allie wanted me to respond to the continual gender mistakes, so I made a phone call home and Allie’s mom put me on speakerphone.

“Allie,” she said, “Ms. Melissa is on the phone. She would like to know if you want her to correct your classmates when they say you are a boy, or if you would rather that she just doesn’t say anything.”

Allie was shy on the phone. “Um . . .

tell them that I am a girl,” she whispered.

The next day when I corrected classmates and told them that Allie was a girl, they asked her a lot of questions that she wasn’t prepared for: “Why do you look like a boy?” “If you’re a girl, why do you always wear boys’ clothes?” Some even told her that she wasn’t supposed to wear boys’ clothes if she was a girl. It became evident that I would have to address gender directly in order to make the classroom environment more comfortable for Allie and to squash the gender stereotypes that my 1st graders had absorbed in their short lives.

Gender Training Starts Early 

Gender is not a subject that I would have broached in primary grades a few years ago. In fact, I remember scoffing with colleagues when we heard about a young kindergarten teacher who taught gender-related curriculum. We thought her lessons were a waste of instructional time and laughed at her “girl and boy” lessons.

My own thoughts about gender curriculum shifted when I became a mother. As I shopped for infant clothes for my first daughter, I was disgusted that almost everything was pink and there was no mistaking the boys’ section of the store from the girls’. I refused to make my baby daughter fit in the box that society had created for her. “What if she doesn’t like pink?” I thought. “What if she likes tigers and dinosaurs?”

As my two daughters grew, I talked with them about gender stereotypes. I let them choose “boys’” clothes if they wanted to (and often encouraged them because they are more practical). The first week of kindergarten, my younger daughter’s teacher told me that she had a heated argument with a boy while they played dress up. “She insisted that boys can wear dresses if they want to,” the teacher told me. I beamed with pride.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I had a child dealing with gender variance (defined as “behavior or gender expression that does not conform to dominant gender norms of male and female”) in my classroom that I realized how important it is to teach about gender and break down gender stereotypes. Why did I wait so long? I should have taken a hint from that kindergarten teacher years ago. As I thought about how to approach the topic, I realized that the lessons I was developing weren’t just for Allie. She had sparked my thinking, but all the children in my class needed to learn to think critically about gender stereotypes and gender nonconformity.

We started off with a lesson about toys because it’s a simple topic I knew my students thought they had clear ideas about. The class gathered on the carpet and I read William’s Doll, which is about a boy who, against the wishes of his father, wants a doll more than anything.

After we read the story, I taped up two large pieces of paper and wrote “Boys” on one and “Girls” on the other. “Students,” I said, “what are some toys that are for boys?” Eagerly, the students began to shout out their answers: “Legos!” “Hot Wheels!” “Skateboards!” “Bikes!” The list grew quite long. “OK,” I said, “now tell me some toys that are for girls.” “Baby dolls!” “Nail polish!” “Barbies!” “Makeup!”

When we had two extensive lists, I read both lists out loud to the class and then studied them carefully.

“Hmm,” I said. “Here it says that Legos are for boys. Can girls play with Legos?”

“Yes!” most of them replied without hesitation.

“I wonder if any of the girls in our class like to play with Hot Wheels?”

“I do! I do!” blurted out some of the girls. We continued with the rest of the items on our “Boys” list, making a check mark next to each one as it was declared acceptable for girls.

Then we went on to the “Girls” list. We started with baby dolls. Because we had just read and discussed William’s Doll, the children were OK with boys playing with dolls. “It’s great practice for boys who want to be daddies when they grow up,” I mentioned.

But when we got to nail polish and makeup the children were unsure. “There are some very famous rock ’n’ roll bands,” I said, “and the men in those bands wear a lot of makeup.” Some of the children gasped.

Then Isabela raised her hand: “Sometimes my uncle wears black nail polish.” The students took a moment to think about this.

“My cousin wears nail polish, too!” said another student. Soon many students were eager to share examples of how people pushed the limits on gender. Our school engineer, Ms. Joan, drove a motorcycle. Jeremy liked to dance. I could see the gears turning in their brains as the gender lines started to blur.

Supporting Gender Variance Every Day

I knew that broadening my students’ ideas of what was acceptable for boys and girls was an important first step, but to make Allie feel comfortable and proud of herself, I was going to have to go further.

For example, as teachers, we often use gender to divide students into groups or teams. It seems easy and obvious. Many of us do this when we line students up to go to the bathroom. In one conversation that I had with Allie’s mother, she told me that Allie did not like using public bathrooms because many times Allie would be accused of being in the wrong bathroom. As soon as she told me I felt bad. By dividing the children into two lines by assigned gender, I had unintentionally made the children whose labels aren’t so clear feel uncomfortable in more ways than one.

When we lined up to go to the bathroom, I kept my students in one line until we reached the bathroom, and then let them separate to enter their bathrooms. Allie usually said she didn’t need to use the bathroom. The few times that she did, I offered the bathroom around the corner, a single-stall bathroom that was usually unoccupied. When the kids came out of the bathroom, they wanted to line up as most classrooms do, in boys’ and girls’ lines. Instead, I thought up a new way for them to line up each day. For example: “If you like popsicles, line up here. If you like ice cream, line up here.” They loved this and it kept them entertained while they waited for their classmates. Here are a few more examples:

Which would you choose?

  • Skateboard/Bike
  • Milk/Juice
  • Dogs/Cats
  • Hot day/Snow day
  • Fiction/Nonfiction
  • Soccer/Basketball
  • Beach/Pool

I also became very aware of using the phrase “boys and girls” to address my students. Instead, I used gender-neutral terms like “students” or “children.” At first, the more I thought about it, the more often I’d say “boys and girls.” I tried not to be too hard on myself when I slipped, and eventually I got out of the habit and used “students” regularly.

Around the same time, another child’s mother told me that her son had been taunted for wearing a Hello Kitty Band-Aid. She mentioned that his sister was also teased at school for having a lunch bag with skulls on it. I planned more lessons to combat gender stereotypes in our classroom.

‘It’s OK to Be Different’ In order to deepen our discussion of gender, I selected another read-aloud. Before we read, I asked my students: “I would like to know—how many of you like to dance?” Most raised their hands.“How many of you have been told you can’t do something because it was ‘only for boys’ or ‘only for girls’?” Many hands went up.Then I read Oliver Button Is a Sissy. In the book, Oliver is bullied because he prefers dancing to sports. The students quickly realized that this was not fair and empathized with Oliver Button.

The following day we read It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr. Parr’s books are quite popular in the primary grades because they include an element of humor and simple, colorful illustrations. We read:

It’s OK to wear glasses.

It’s OK to come from a different place.

It’s OK to be a different color.

As we read, I asked questions to empower the students: “Who used to live in a different place?” Students proudly held up their hands. “Awesome!” I replied. “My mom comes from a different place, too. She used to live in Hong Kong.”

Then I guided the direction of the conversation toward gender. As a class, we brainstormed a list of things that students thought were “OK” even though they might challenge society’s gender norms. Monica told us very matter-of-factly, “It’s OK for a girl to marry a girl,” and Jordan said, “My dad carries a purse and that’s OK!” At that point I explained that my father and my friend Wayne both call their man purse a “murse.” The children were fascinated.
Illustration: Katherine Streeter

Toward the end of the discussion I explained: “People make all kinds of different decisions about gender. Sometimes, as we grow, we might not want to pick one or the other, and that’s OK; we don’t have to.” I wanted them to begin to see that our lessons were not only about expanding the gender boxes that we’ve been put into, but also questioning or eliminating them altogether.

Afterward, I had the students do a simple write-and-respond exercise. I asked them to pick one activity that they associated with girls and one associated with boys to write about and illustrate. Monica drew two brides in beautiful wedding gowns. Miguel drew a man with a purse slung over his shoulder. I showed off the pictures on the hallway bulletin board around the words “It’s OK to Be Different.”

Although things were getting better for Allie, she still faced many challenges. At the end of the school year, Allie’s mother told me a heartbreaking story. She said that for Allie’s recent birthday party, her grandmother had bought her colorful, formfitting clothes and then demanded them back when Allie did not like them. “Does she know she is a girl?” she yelled, and announced she would never buy her clothes again.

It was so sad to hear this. I visualized Allie on her special day, excitedly ripping open gifts in front of her family and friends only to find, again and again, the gifts were things that she would never be comfortable with. As a mother, the feeling of extreme disappointment was unbearable for me to imagine.

I have just begun to empathize with the challenges that gender-variant children deal with. For some it may seem inappropriate to address these issues in the classroom. My job is not to answer the questions “Why?” or “How?” Allie is the way she is (although asking those questions and doing some research in order to better understand was definitely part of my process). My job is not to judge, but to teach, and I can’t teach if the students in my class are distracted or uncomfortable. My job is also about preparing students to be a part of our society, ready to work and play with all kinds of people. I found that teaching about gender stereotypes is another social justice issue that needs to be addressed, like racism or immigrant rights, or protecting the environment.

Later in the year, I opened my inbox one morning and read: “Andrew says he wants a Baby Alive doll and he doesn’t care if it’s for girls. Thank you, Ms. Melissa!”


Resources

dePaola, Tomie. Oliver Button Is a Sissy. Orlando, Fla.: Sandpiper Books, 1979.

Parr, Todd. It’s Okay to Be Different. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2007.

Zolotow, Charlotte. William’s Doll. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1985.

For more information: http://www.acceptingdad.com/supportive-book-media-for-gender-variant-non-conforming-kids.


Melissa Bollow Tempel (meljoytempel@gmail.com) works as a teacher for the students of the Milwaukee Public Schools and  is an editor of Rethinking Schools.

To view the article on the Huffington Post go to:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melissa-bollow-tempel/teaching-gender-variant-children_b_1163459.html?ref=gay-voices

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