LGBTQ+ Families Speak Out

Today’s bloggers are Pamela Baer, Tara Goldstein, and Jenny Salisbury from the University of Toronto. Together, they authored “Pairing Verbatim Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed to Provoke Startling Empathy,” published in The Educational Forum.

Since 2014, our research team at the University of Toronto, led by Professor Tara Goldstein, has been conducting interviews with LGBTQ+ families in four different regions of Ontario about the issues they experience at school and how they work with teachers and principals to create safer and more supportive learning environments for their children.

Our findings indicate that, despite recent safe schools legislation, much work remains in helping LGBTQ+ families feel welcome at school. We have used the transcripts from these interviews to write a verbatim play called Out at School.

It is our hope that these short scenes will provide insight into the ways that participants are living with gender and sexual diversity, while also offering educators, parents, and students strategies for engaging in activism and allyship as they work to create more inclusive schooling spaces for all students. Here are a few excerpts from the play:

Excerpt From Scene 5

You have to start the work at the beginning

KARLEEN PENDLETON JIMÉNEZ

You have to start the work at the beginning. I say, even the earliest, the earliest thing that happened with [my son], was when he was in, maybe preschool or daycare or whatever they call it. You know, he was 4 and they did [this chart]. You’ll see this in the kindergarten curriculum, you know, my, you know, about family, and he had to write my mom’s name is blank, my dad’s name is blank, my siblings name are blank. And up until that time, he didn’t ever think anything was weird about our family. And then, when he had to fill that out, he just started crying, and he fell apart. He was a wreck, probably for a month over that, because the little chart didn’t match. So, [we went] to the teacher, not angry with her, but just, like, “Hey, you know this isn’t just a gay issue, like there are many different kinds of families.” And she started crying. She was really upset that she had hurt his feelings. But [she] just didn’t know, you know?

Excerpt From Scene 7

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

MICHAEL MANCINI 

Mother’s Day and Fathers’ Day were really interesting because early on, the teachers would feel they were supporting us by having our children make Mother’s Day presents for us. But our daughters have birth mothers and they have a relationship with them.

ERNST HUPEL

We are in touch with their birth mothers. So, early on, Milena would go and say, “My teacher said I don’t have a mom, but I do, her name is Heather.” So, you know, the teachers were doing it to actually support us but after our daughters said, “No I actually have a mother” . . . they began to make Mothers’ Day cards for their birth mothers and we send the cards to them and yeah so . . . We get double Father’s Day cards.

MICHAEL MANCINI

It’s a big day.

ERNST HUPEL

It is! It’s like Christmas here.

Excerpt from Scene 7

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

JESS SWANCE-SMITH

[Teachers shouldn’t] assume what a child’s family may look like . . . take their word for it. I mean, if they say they have multiple people in their family, let them make those, you know, 10 Mother’s Day cards that they need to make (Evan and Jess laugh). Or whatever, five Father’s Day cards because maybe there’s, you know, . . . maybe an aunt or an uncle who’s like a father or a mother to them. 

EVAN SMITH

I think one thing I really appreciate is that, for instance, at Mother’s Day, the school wasn’t sure who identified, you know, as a mother, for sure, and so they just sent out like you know a blanket message through our, you know, we have, like, an app we use to communicate with teachers and they sent out a message saying, you know, “We need to know who in your family identifies as a mother and should be getting a Mother’s Day card.”

In addition to the play, which we discuss in more depth in our article “Pairing Verbatim Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed to Provoke Startling Empathy,” we have also published over 300 video clips from these interviews on our website: www.lgbtqfamiliesspeakout.ca. In curating the videos, we had a vision of creating a collection of community stories that can act as a resource for both parents and educators. For examples of two of our video clips, you can listen to parents . . .

…Max & Ryan talk about their hopes for teachers of trans families:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ba7DXaXzmA

…Catherine & Nazbah talk about what they think school should be:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpBSp457L24

 

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through December 31, 2019.


​Pamela Baer is a PhD candidate in Pedagogy and Curriculum at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her current research explores the use of applied theatre with young people from LGBTQ+ families to explore their experiences of school through a process of collaborative performance. Pamela is the Research Manager on the LGBTQ+ Families Speak Out project and an Instructor of Applied Theatre at Brock University.

Tara Goldstein is a professor, ethnographer, and playwright in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto, where she teaches an undergraduate course called Equity, Activism and Education for the Equity Studies program at New College, as well as a graduate course called Gender, Sexuality and Schooling for the Curriculum and Pedagogy program in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Tara also is the Founding and Artistic Director of Gailey Road Productions, a theatre company that produces research-informed theatre on social and political issues that affect us all.

​Jenny Salisbury is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. Her teaching and research interests include contemporary Canadian play creation and devising processes, with a focus on audience, community-engaged theatre, and the role of the artist as researcher. She is a co-founder and Associate Director of The Centre for Spectatorship and Audience Research.

Truth Talk: Conversations About Race

Khasnabis

Dr. Debi Khasnabis

Today’s bloggers are Debi Khasnabis and Simona Goldin, who co-authored with Ebony Perouse-Harvey and Margaret O. Hanna to write “Race and the Mona Lisa: Reflecting on Antiracist Teaching Practice,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

Race permeates every thread of the fabric of society in the United States, regardless of whether we recognize and speak to it.

Simona Goldin

Dr. Simona Goldin

This truth is stitched throughout all aspects of public schooling, from the gaps in academic learning opportunities that children of color experience relative to their White peers, to the racial marginalization of children at recess. This truth weakens the fabric of the institution of schooling.

As teacher–educators, we support beginning teachers in seeing and responding to the ways that race pervades children’s experiences in classrooms.

In doing so we help them leverage the knowledge that children of color and their families bring to their work in schools as well as repair the rips in the social compact.

Our current research, highlighted in “Race and the Mona Lisa: Reflecting on Antiracist Teaching Practice” in this issue of The Educational Forum, is inspired by our awareness that children’s full sets of knowledge are often unseen in schools. Children of color, especially, are unlikely to be seen for their knowledge. This invisibility occurs in instructional moments when that knowledge is related to students’ racial or ethnic identity.

What does it look like when children’s knowledge is made invisible? 

A common refrain heard in schools is “That’s racist!”

Digging into this, we were initially surprised to learn what young children identify as “racist.”

When children are raised to be “colorblind,” they can think that referring to people by their racial identifiers is racist.

What are the effects of this? From Black colleagues, we learned that their race-conscious children who had been raised to recognize, discuss, and analyze race and its associated qualities were silenced by their peers and teachers in discussions of race.

One colleague’s son, after referring to a Black person as “Black,” was hushed by a peer and told “That’s racist!” This also occurs in instructional interactions when children of color speak about race and racism. When they are silenced, what becomes invisible is their racial literacy and fluency, their advanced and sophisticated knowledge.

More than just students blister at direct discussions of race in classrooms. Teachers also frequently steer clear of discussions having to do with race.

A teacher candidate once consulted with Debi after two Black students in her science class critiqued a Bill Nye video as racist.

The students’ critique rested on their judgment that the film featured fewer people of color than White people. The teacher candidate expressed trepidation about how to handle this accusation, especially as she saw nothing “blatantly racist” in the film. She wondered how she could convey to the students that their critique was inappropriate.

These everyday occurrences affect the health and vibrancy of classrooms.

In addition to silencing students, they fail to leverage and mine the racial fluency and expertise that some students, especially students of color, can bring. Further, students whose racial fluency is undeveloped lose out on critical opportunities to speak directly about race and racism, to practice having substantive discussions about inequality, and to construct, together, a pluralistic society.

We argue teachers should model interest and engagement in the child’s thinking. When students use racial identifiers, teachers should perk up, as this is a sign that their students are bringing reservoirs of knowledge about race to this discussion. This knowledge is a rare and precious resource.

When students launch racialized critiques, this shows their teachers that they have reservoirs of knowledge about oppression.

Recognizing students’ reservoirs of racial knowledge for what they are—assets to be built upon for learning—is in the interest of the child and the learning community.

When we silence these discussions, we uphold normative ways of being that support White supremacy.

Simona Goldin teaches courses pertaining to the sociology, history, and policy of schooling in the U.S. She conducts research on ways to transform the preparation of beginning teachers to help them teach in more equitable ways and has elaborated the teaching practices that bridge children’s work in schools on academic content with their home and community-based experiences. 

Debi Khasnabis is a clinical associate professor of education and the chair of elementary teacher education at the University of Michigan School of Education. She teaches courses focusing on multicultural and multilingual education and conducts research on pedagogies of teacher education that support the development of culturally responsive teaching and understandings of inequality in schools.

We Are Fully Aware That We Are Facing a “Global Learning Crisis”

But What Are We, As Americans, Truly Doing To Solve Our Own Education Crisis?

Shortly before the 2019 International Youth Day, the United Nations General Secretary, Mr. Guterres, stated that the world is currently facing a “learning crisis.” The UN Chief also mentioned how pivotal it is for students to not only learn, “but to learn how to learn.”

One of the goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure that all students have access to an inclusive and equitable education.

As a first-year teacher and sociology of education graduate student, I believe that before we can solve our “global learning crisis,” we must acknowledge that in our very own backyard, here in the United States, our public education system is failing our students.

In fact, in his book, City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education, Dr. Pedro Noguera expresses how as a nation, we are aware that our public education system is failing our children and youth. Yet, very little is being done to ensure that our students receive an inclusive, equitable, and high-quality education.

For that reason, as a first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, I agree with Dr. Noguera, “we can’t wait for permission to do what’s right.”  We simply cannot wait for our elected officials to establish equitable policies, nor can we wait for the “political climate to be right.” Real change happens from below.

With that being said, come September, in my third-grade classroom, my top priority will be to ensure that I provide my students with a high-quality education. An education that will enable them to challenge and enhance not only their thinking, but the thinking of their fellow classmates and teachers as well.

When we provide students with the necessary skills, they are given the opportunity to make a difference in their world.

To end, I urge all teachers, specifically all first-year teachers “to not wait for permission,” as per real change can certainly occur in their very own classrooms.

Kevin Cataldo

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Climate Change: An Opportunity for STEM Education

Dr. Mubina Schroeder is an Associate Professor at Molloy College and is a Kappa Delta Pi United Nations Professional Representative.

In preparation for the upcoming Climate Change Summit at the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated:

“We need rapid and deep change in how we do business, generate power, build cities and feed the world.” 

Climate change and its far-reaching effects on the lives of everyone in the global community represent a unique challenge for society—and a unique opportunity for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. STEM educators often contend with ways to promote scientific literacy.

How can we create the next generation of critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, and solution engineers?

One pathway is to promote awareness of socioscientific issues (SSI). Zeidler and Nicols (2009) describe SSI:

“Socioscientific issues involve the deliberate use of scientific topics that require students to engage in dialogue, discussion and debate. They are usually controversial in nature but have the added element of requiring a degree of moral reasoning or the evaluation of ethical concerns in the process of arriving at decisions regarding possible resolution of those issues. The intent is that such issues are personally meaningful and engaging to students, require the use of evidence-based reasoning, and provide a context for understanding scientific information.”

Climate change is an issue that affects every corner of the world, and students in every classroom may be witness to some of its effects. 

Several regions in the world have experienced unprecedented heat waves, water shortages, and extreme weather events–all because of climate change. The beauty of teaching using an SSI approach is that socioscientific issues often are complicated and multifaceted–allowing STEM pedagogues to be creative in teaching about them.

Some great resources on teaching about climate change can be found here:

References

Zeidler, D. L., & Nichols, B. H. (2009). Socioscientific issues: Theory and practice. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 21(2), 49.

How to Incorporate Environmental Science in Your Classroom

Rodriguez-Kaitlyn_blogHi there – it’s Kaitlyn Rodriguez again.

Sustainability and conservation are both key in helping the Earth.

Lately, more than ever, it seems that companies and organizations are moving toward more “green” practices.

Solar panels and alternative energy sources are becoming more prevalent. Recycling initiatives are seen everywhere.

Schools must now start incorporating these practices into the classroom and teaching students how to protect and help the Earth—but how?

With new curriculum standards and practices being mandated, many teachers feel overwhelmed and without enough time for “extra” activities.

What some people don’t know, however, is how simple it can be to incorporate green practices into their daily curriculum and schools. Below are suggestions of what teachers can do to learn more about being eco-friendly, teaching their students about the environment, and helping their school and community.

  1. Host environmental cleanup days. Whether scheduled weekly or monthly, having cleanups at the park, beach, or even school can be simple, fun, and family-friendly activities for all to participate.
  2. Increase the emphasis of environmental concerns in the curriculum. Environmental issues can be incorporated into any grade level and subject. Besides the obvious science lessons, English lessons can involve students writing research reports on endangered species or writing persuasive letters to local officials, urging them to increase their environmental awareness. Social Studies lessons can involve looking at the timelines and history of conservation efforts and sustainable practices, while examining local and national politics regarding the environment.
    • Some organizations offer teacher resources to teach environmental awareness in the classroom. In New York State, for example, the Department of Environmental Conservation hosts a series of educator workshops that provide all attendees with a book of resources, lessons, and curriculum suggestions (dec.ny.gov/education/2035.html).
  3. Go on a field trip! Kids love getting out of the classroom. By going to nature centers or places that deal with the conservation of a particular species, you are helping to make the world more sustainable. Show your students that some people work on these initiatives all their lives, which could be something they may want to do when they get older. If traveling to the site would pose an issue, work with your building administrators on bringing the organizations to your school. A simple Google search provides myriad results for field trip ideas in each state (e.g., Kansas: www.ifamilykc.com/blog/education-learning/field-trip-ideas).
  4. Take the classroom outside. Teach a lesson outdoors to give your students the chance to get some fresh air. Let them put what they’re learning to use in their local community. Go for a nature walk and teach your class about observations and predictions. Test a science experiment outside. Bring your class to an open field and let the nature around them provide inspiration for poetry or any form of writing.
  5. Make a STEAM project assignment that involves recycled or upcycled materials. Assign your class a project over a break that involves using recycled/recyclable materials to create something new, such as a robot. Keeping a project open-ended allows students to display their creativity and interests. Here are some suggestions of activities: https://leftbraincraftbrain.com/stem-goes-green-17-upcycled-and-earth-friendly-projects-for-kids
  6. Provide students, faculty, and staff with environmental, conservation, and sustainability resources from local organizations. Providing literature on what one can do and how one can help—and what can result from one person’s efforts—can offer the motivation to get involved and become interested in these topics. Increasing the availability of such resources in each classroom also is important. Scholastic has nonfiction articles for the younger grades, and National Geographic also makes magazines and articles that students can read. Look for ways to add more nonfiction pieces to your classroom library. Here are some books you may be interested in buying for your classroom: www.amightygirl.com/mighty-girl-picks/top-children-s-books-on-the-environment
  7. Start a Go Green initiative in your classroom and school. Set up recycling bins around the school. Have your students use both sides of their paper. If copies are made incorrectly, or you have extra paper, keep a scrap paper bin for students to use for projects, drafting ideas, and more. If you can afford it, or fundraise for it, buy your students metal water bottles to bring to class instead of plastic bottles. Model for the students what it means to Go Green and they will follow in your footsteps!

These are only seven ways to make your classroom and school a greener one.

If every classroom were to do at least one of these suggestions, just imagine the impact all those students could make on the world.

Tell us how you plan on incorporating sustainable practices in your classroom this year on the Educator Learning Network!

Sources

Black & Brown Face: How Representation Combats Eurocentrism in the Classroom

James Baldwin (1960), an American novelist, playwright, and activist, once said that children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

It’s easy to see how this can relate to blatant racism, but how are we as educators contributing to our students of color feeling locked out of the environment we have created?

Our students are absorbing more from what they see and feel than what they are being taught; thus, the materials we choose to use and the scholars of the discourse we share can have a profound impact on our students.

I recall reading all these amazing stories for our required reading textbooks about young White men who go on adventures in the woods, often with their dogs, or I would learn about these brilliant mathematicians and scientists who changed the world with their theories and inventions.

None of them looked like me.

The people that students of color would learn about came from recycled lectures about ancient Chinese dynasties during Lunar New Year, Latinx warriors during colonialism, or oppressed Black Americans during Jim Crow.

Consuming that type of media can be traumatizing for students of color because we see ourselves in those limited stereotypical references.

To Baldwin’s point about imitation, how could children of color imitate their elders if they did not see themselves doing miraculous things in science, music, math, and art?

Before 2008, children of color, especially Black children, were told that they could become anyone they wanted to, even the president of the United States. It was just something parents of color said but never really believed until Barack Obama was elected.

The importance of representation is buttressed in view of the record number of people of color and women candidates running for the 2020 presidency. As educators, we can offer our students a diverse set of heroes by selecting materials that are more inclusive and less Eurocentric.

Having an Inclusive Environment

The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” is incomplete in my view and should be adjusted to, “It takes a diverse village to raise a child.” As part of this diverse village, keep in mind that every figure you choose to share with your students will become part of their village as well; therefore, choosing solely Eurocentric figures will suggest a White supremacist approach to your teaching that would taint the safe environment you worked so hard to establish. Once you get to know your students and establish an environment that is safe and productive, you can maintain this environment by making MUSIC in classroom.

Make them the experts. As you make room for discourse in your classroom, give your students the room to speak about the topic as it relates to their background or cultural upbringing.

Use your resources. We teach groups with anywhere from 18 to 30+ people, and each one of them have unique experiences, so it might be wise to pull from who you have in your class. Scholars come from every part of this world; bringing that culture into your classroom will make that student feel seen and heard.

Support your students’ unique perspectives. Every student is an important addition to the cohort, and their feelings should be validated. Your students may be speaking from cultural perspectives that might be foreign to you, and it is important not to mischaracterize their zeal.

Involve yourself as the learner. In a student-centered classroom, discovery should be at the forefront of your lessons. Allow space for posing questions to which you do not know the answers and collaborate ideas for solutions with your students.

Combat the overuse of Eurocentrism. Your students are listening and watching very closely to the things you say and choose to share. Even when teaching a predominantly White group of students, we have the capacity as educators to use resources that are not part of the Western canon. Reflect upon the hidden curriculum you might be imposing upon your students.

As we continue to create environments that are inclusive of other cultures, we will simultaneously deconstruct the limitations of the colonial mindset and rewrite more complete narratives.

Resource

Video: “Changing the Stories We Have Inherited From Colonialism,” with Priyamvada Gopal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOnBiHHPLm4&t=13s

Collin Edouard is currently a Gates Cambridge Scholar working on a Master’s of Music in Choral Studies. He earned a BFA in Vocal Performance at The City College of New York, and an MA in Music Education at Teachers College of Columbia University.

Reference

Baldwin, J. A. (1960, July). Fifth Avenue, uptown: A letter from Harlem. Esquire.

Thinking Critically About Our Current Education System

Hi, my name is Kevin Cataldo, and I’m a recent graduate of Felician University in New Jersey. I was the chapter president of the Alpha Zeta Rho Chapter of KDP on campus. I’m also a representative of KDP to the United Nations, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and I am at currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

On July 15, 2019, Teachers College welcomed K–12 educators and all other stakeholders from across the country and around the world to its 4th Annual Reimagining Education Summer Institute (RESI).

During the Institute, participants got the opportunity to critically think about our current education system.

In fact, during Day 1, the participants were asked to keep the following questions in mind: Why must we “reimagine” education here in the United States? The remaining 3 days focused heavily on the following: (a) racial and cultural literacy, (b) equity pedagogy, and (c) culturally sustaining leadership.

Here I am with Dr. Ladson Billings!

This year’s keynote address was delivered in an eloquent, powerful, and thought-provoking manner by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, a KDP Laureate.

She is considered a pioneer of culturally relevant teaching, a pivotal area of study in education that I hope to learn more about as I continue my graduate studies at Teachers College.

The Institute was extra special for me this year, as this was my first time participating in it. I also was a dialogue session co-facilitator.

During the 4 days, my co-facilitators and I provided K–12 educators and other stakeholders with a brave space to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and knowledge about our education system. As a soon-to-be first-year third-grade language arts and social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, the Institute provided me with hope that I have the power to “reimagine” our education system and truly make a difference in the lives of my students.

At the conclusion of the Institute, both educators and stakeholders were asked to return to their respective school communities with a crucial question in mind: “What Now?”

In other words, what will I do to bring equity pedagogy into my school community?

Today more than ever before, the United States and the world must join forces and “reimagine” education, especially since one’s society depends heavily on an educated citizenry.

Furthermore, as a member of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, and as one of its UN Youth Representatives for the upcoming 2019–2020 academic school year, my goal is to raise awareness about this unique Institute at the world stage—at the United Nations Headquarters.

To end, raising such awareness can be beneficial not only to educators, but to other stakeholders within the United Nations as well.

Why? Think about it: The goal of the Institute is to help educators realize how vital it is for schools and stakeholders to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (SDG 4: Quality Education).