How do we support the children?

#postcards4families

If you’re anything like me, this week has left you nauseated and feeling paralysed. The ongoing detention camps, Justice Kennedy’s resignation, the blow to unions, the court’s upholding the Muslim ban, it’s all overwhelming. And still, we can’t let it paralyse us. Self care is essential; please do what you need to do to recharge and keep fighting. Part of being an educator means standing up for kids. It means creating and demanding safety. Here’s a simple activity we can do with little ones to demand justice for children and families:
Write a post card to Trump demanding justice for children and their families, take a photo of it, and post it with the hashtag #postcards4families —> the organizers will donate $5 per post card to RAICES, a non-profit providing free and low-cost legal services to under-served immigrant children, families and refugees. If you’re a kid, write your age, and they will credit it as a postcard they match. (Ones by adults are great too! but they are focusing on donating for kids’ cards at the moment.) Info and addresses at the link below. The organisers have created a page to post the images to. Or/and if you have the resources, run a fundraiser yourself! Please share!

https://www.facebook.com/postcards4families/

#postcards4families

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Violet Vegan Comics

So pleased to find this blog of vegan-message-themed comics and poems for all audiences! Here’s a page devoted to comics especially written For Little Ones.

One of my favourites is“Where Are You Going, Deirdre?” It is based on the true story of a brave mother who risked her life to hide her calf in order to keep him from the farmer. Through colourful illustrations and kid-friendly dialogue, we see a young human learn the sad truth of what happens to the infants dairy cows are forced to birth. The story ends happily, with the girl helping the farmer understand that the baby belongs with his mum, and deciding to turn his farm into a sanctuary. Children wonder:

  • Is it sometimes okay to take something that doesn’t belong to you if you think you need it? Why or why not? [If children say yes, explore the difference between taking something without hurting anyone very badly – e.g. a mother who steals bread to feed her children – vs. physically harming someone, killing, or separating families.]
  • What is the difference between want and need? [Younger children could make contrast posters or pages in their Philosophy Journals with pictures or words showing Want on one side and Need on the other.]
  • Is it possible to love animals and hurt them at the same time? What does it mean to love?
  • Many people do things they know are wrong because everyone they know does it too, and this makes it even harder to stop. Why is it so difficult to break habits? If lots of people do something harmful together, does it make it less bad? Why or why not?
  • Do we have a responsibility to help others/our friends make compassionate decisions? Why or why not?

The poem“Nature Returns” envisions Earth after humanity. Through beautiful personification and vivid imagery of the Earth “stretching” to recover from what people have done to her, the poem opens important questions about our impact on and responsibility to the Earth:

  • Does the Earth belong to people? Explain your answer.
  • What does it mean to take care of the Earth?
  • Have you ever wondered if plants have an awareness of what is happening to them?
  • If a forest doesn’t know what is happening to it, does it make it okay to destroy it? Why or why not?
  • Does nature have inherent value [for itself, not for someone else]? Why or why not/explain.

When you finish reading a comic or poem, check out Violet’s section on Things to Make And Do to get creative or get out of the house.

Let me know what your favourite poem or story is and how you discussed it in the comments below!

“The Surprise,” by Arnold Lobel

This month I’ve been reading Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad All Year with my advanced EFL* students in Israel. You can access a PDF of the text (with a few typos) for free here, though without images. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of the original with Lobel’s sweet illustrations. PSA: The whole Storybook Treasury is available at time of this writing for under $3. I adore the Frog and Toad books for a number of reasons:

  • They deal with universal philosophical themes that are relavent and critical across cultures and age groups, such as friendship, altruism, fairness, time, reality, will-powerlonelinessbravery, and more.
  • They are collections of short stories that can generally be read within one lesson block.
  • They are told in relatively simple language with some repetition, making them accessible to many early readers and ELLs,** but they do not fall into the trap of being simplistic in order to be comprehensible.

In the story we read today, Continue reading

Should white supremacists be protected?

In response to the photos circulating of Charlottesville neo-Nazis, a number of my friends have asked whether it is ok for them to be fired from their jobs for attending the rally. I am curious what you think. Comments are open; please post your ideas below. Hate speech will of course not be tolerated.

Here's why I think employers have a perfect right to know who was there and to take action at their discretion. First of all, if an adult shows up in a public space and takes violent (physical or non-physical, and yes, violence can be non-physical) action against Black lives, should they not expect to be held accountable for those actions? "But what if the union can prove that it does not affect their ability to do their job?" I cannot think of a line of work, even tech jobs in which one is mostly in front of a computer all day, that involves no human interaction. Interacting with other humans in an effective way involves the ability to communicate non-violently and to interact respectfully with POC and Jews.

If an employer can fire someone only because of something the person did while on the job, that seems to put the onus on the employer’s customer to report the employee's racism and to advocate for themselves, when really it should be the employer's responsibility to hire people who will be respectful and who at least meet a moral baseline of "tolerance" in the first place (a problematic term itself, I know). Posting photos of the people at the Charlottesville rally does not mean the neo-Nazis didn't have the legal right to free speech (though the question of whether hate speech should be legally protected is another issue to debate), but means simply that employers and people in their social sphere have the right to know with whom they're dealing.

A friend wondered how would I feel in the reverse, if, for example, I was fired from my job for attending a rally in support of Mike Brown? When I attend public demonstrations, I expect people who see me there (or see photographs taken of me there) to think something about me because of it. My presence makes a public statement that I stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. I realize there may be people who will decide to not employ me or associate with me because of the social justice work I have done. I am privileged enough to be comfortable taking that risk, and can comfortably say I have no interest in being friends with or working for racists. I should think those who show up at a white supremacy rally can also expect to be judged for the public stand they've taken and face the consequences, some of which may be the termination of jobs and friendships.

Though there are debates about whether an employee can ethically be terminated for off-the-job activity, this particular action feels different. If I were convicted of vehicular manslaughter after a bad car accident, it would not necessarily impact my ability to teach kindergarten. It might indicate that I should not be trusted with school vehicles, but if that weren't part of my job description in the first place, it's irrelevant. It would not say anything about me as a human being. It would not indicate how I am likely to behave and the choices I am likely to make in the future, the way attending a white supremacy rally does. As far as I know (and correct me if I'm wrong), though public displays of hate are legal in the USA, it is just as legal to fire someone because of those displays. In employment law, white supremacists are not a protected class.

Thoughts?

WHITE SUPREMACY IS BAD.

WHITE SUPREMACY IS BAD. Full-stop. See, Trump? That wasn't hard or complicated. The disgusting statements made by the man currently occupying the White House have revealed him, once again, to be a person upholding systemic racism and unfit to lead.

Black lives matter. I'm stating the obvious again, but white supremacy must be condemned loudly and in no uncertain terms. Systemic racism is real, and if White folk are not using our privilege to speak up to dismantle it, we are part of the problem. If we want to be allies, we must call out overt racism when we see it. We need to be having difficult conversations with each other and not put the onus on POC to educate us. We need to be educating ourselves, listening and reading more, and lifting up the voices of POC. Stuck or feeling paralysed? Here are two helpful starting points: White Feelings: 0-60 for Charlottesville and Safety Pin Box.

Silence = complacency = complicity. I regret taking a hiatus from blogging in recent months. Though I was pretty sure no one reads this anymore, this blog/space existing means I should have used my privilege straight away to denounce the Charlottesville riot in one more place besides my social media posts. Hiatus over. Too often, we remain silent in fear of screwing up, but I have learned remaining silent is screwing up. Comments are always open on my posts, and I invite and am thankful for anyone to call me up on my inevitable mistakes. I am 100% still learning how to do this, but one thing is clear: White people, we have got to show up.

A couple of days ago, I posted 2 photos to Instagram with mostly the same tags. One was BLACK LIVES MATTER. The second was a cute tomato we'd just harvested from the garden that had grown in the shape of a heart. I was going to title this post "My first post that isn't a question," but here's one: Why did the tomato get more likes?

What Do We Tell The Children?

“Say that silence is dangerous, and teach them how to speak up when something is wrong.”

It goes without saying that I’ve been reeling with grief and shock this week. Here are some concrete words I was able to pull strength from in my conversations with students this week, from The Huffington Post. The article bears reading in full:

What Do We Tell The Children?

“Tell them bigotry is not a democratic value, and that it will not be tolerated at your school.”

“We need to teach students how to disagree—with love and respect. These skills will be priceless in the coming months and years as we work to build a democratic society that protects the rights of all people ― regardless of the cooperation or resistance those efforts face from the executive branch.” 

Now we regroup, and we tell the people we love that they are loved and they matter over and over and over again. My question to myself this week: How can I most effectively leverage my skills and the privileges I have left to stand up for and support the young people who are going to spend a key portion of their formative years under the reign of a bigot who promotes sexual assault?

If you are devoted to this same goal as a fellow educator and/or advocate and/or restless globetrotter, I’d love to hear your ideas below. More to come soon.