From the desk of Myle Truong, Toddler Teacher in cooperation with co-teacher Raya Berenback and Early Care Advocate, Emily Hammond
In light of all that is happening in the world, there have been many questions that have surfaced to us as classroom teachers. Such as, “How soon do you start teaching children about diversity?” and, “How can we expand on our curriculum?”
We believe that teaching starts young – the earlier the better! It can start by simply creating an environment where children feel safe, comfortable, and encouraged to ask questions. Whether it’s pointing out differences and similarities of our hair, eyes, and skin color to studying about influential people that helped create history; these are all ways to educate the young and therefore hopefully create a better world.
In the Toddler Room, we have read many books (thanks to our Bookshelf Love Campaign!) that have positive messages about inclusion and diversity. Some of the books that the children love to read are, Princess Hair by Sharee Miller, Julian is a Mermaid by Jessice Love, and Shades of People by Shelley Rotner. These books expose children to the concepts of diversity and inclusion in a fun and engaging way, as well as provide teachers with valuable teachable moments.
One day as we were on our way back from our morning walk, a child noticed that there were letters painted on the road on Main Street. Instead of just acknowledging the comment and moving on, the teachers took this opportunity to engage in a conversation with the child about what the words said.
Teacher: “The letters form words that say, “Black Lives Matter,” which means that we all need to be kind and love one another no matter the color of your skin.”
Another teacher: “It’s just like in our book! Our skin is like wrapping paper. We don’t know what someone’s like just by their skin color.”
Child: “Yeah, my skin’s dark. My skin is just my covering.”
Teacher: “Yes, exactly!
It’s moments like this that reminds us the power that we have as educators to start teaching children how to be kind, loving, and empathetic towards themselves and others.
The children in the class have been reading many books that send positive messages about inclusion and diversity. One book in particular sparked a lot of interest and that book was, Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love.
The book is about a young boy and his grandmother. This boy, Julian, loves mermaids. He imagines himself becoming a mermaid through his imagination and he finds creative ways to express himself in real life. He creates a beautiful headpiece, wears lipstick, and creates a beautiful mermaid tail. However, when he is discovered by his grandmother, he seems to feel guilt and shame -like he did something wrong.
But, instead of scolding him, the grandmother brings him a necklace to wear and takes him to a magical mermaid and sea parade! It is heartwarming to see the grandmother supporting and accepting her grandson by allowing him to express himself. The book contradicts the stereotype that only girls can like mermaids and that if a boy wants to dress up and be a mermaid, that is okay.
After reading this book several times,one of our students had a wonderful and creative idea.
Child: “I love mermaids, I want to make a mermaid tail!”
Teacher: “What can we make the tail out of?”
Child: “We can use paper to make the tail.”
Teacher: “That’s a great idea! Let’s do it.”