I took advantage of the snow day this week to work on my blog. It was a lovely opportunity to look out at the view from my window and watch the snow falI. It is the perfect setting to ponder a sensitive and impacting subject.
On Tuesday night I had the pleasure of seeing Colby Swettberg again. This time Zach Kerr was with her and together they did great job presenting on Fostering A Safe Learning Environment for Our Students and Community at Blake. I am so impressed with the work the Blake team is doing. Kudos to Nat for his passionate presentation and to his staff for their fine work as well.
I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you how the elementary team is responding to this important work on gender identity also. We are making great strides with initiatives such as these in Medfield as you may have heard the other night.
In the presentation, Colby noted that many individuals who are transgender express having known it since they were toddlers. Some studies support this and Colby shared that she is working with many more young children. We need to become educated on this topic now, even at the elementary level.
While we need to be very careful with young children, we would be remiss as educators if we did not prepare and equip ourselves with the knowledge and tools necessary to successfully handle children who may be exploring gender identity in our schools. We must support all forms of diversity in our schools. We don't have all the answers, but we want you to know that we have begun this work.
Social emotional learning for our students is a huge initiative in our schools. Our District Strategic Plan and Wheelock's School Improvement Plan provide rich opportunities for our students and staff to learn and grow in this area.
Knowing there are elementary children out there who could be exploring their own gender makes it all the more urgent for us to equip ourselves to ensure a safe, nurturing and supportive environment. We need to realize that when a child questions gender identity it may feel very real to that child. It may just be developmentally appropriate exploration or maybe not. Regardless, we need to be prepared to handle both with great sensitivity. This topic speaks to Wheelock's mission and vision. Our motto is Respect, Responsibility and Safety. This is the environment we want for all of our children. A week does not go by, that I meet with students and state that I want everyone who comes to Wheelock to feel happy and safe at school.
In response to this important topic and the work at the higher levels, Kathy Bockhorst, Jenna Johnson, Nancy Schiemer and I discussed our next steps last fall. We reached out Stephanie Worthly, MHS Guidance Content Specialist who shared information with us about Colby Swettberg. Dr. Bilsborough, Mr. Genham and I met with Stephanie and described our vision for this work at the elementary level. We held a conference call with Colby and she provided a lot of information for us to process and continue to discuss. We decided to invite Colby to speak to elementary staff.
On the February half day for our professional development the entire elementary staff Pre-K-5 heard Colby Swettberg present much of the same information shared with you on Tuesday evening. Teachers had many questions. It was a rich discussion. Some teachers stated it was the best professional development they had had in a long time.
We are utilizing our Open Circle meetings to address social emotional issues. Children are curious and often say things whithout knowing what they mean or how their words can hurt. Being different is expressed in many ways and we need to support all diversity - religion, race, nationality and gender. The specific topic of gender identity has not been discussed with our students.
We are working through our social emotional curriculum to we reinforce "treat people the way you want to be treated". We may pose, "How would you feel if someone commented on your hairstyle or your nationality?" Often this reflection leads to deeper understanding. The books acquired through our diversity grant are very helpful to our discussions and complement the Open Circle curriculum beautifully. Thank you, MCPE.
I leave you with something Colby shared, and that is that in general, children who have strong and supportive families and communities have much better quality of life outcomes than those who do not.
In closing, Blake has provided many many resources on the topic of safe and supportive communities. There are definitions of terms and many articles you may find to be interesting. At Wheelock we think diversity is bigger than only one issue. Diversity is a global topic. It encompasses so many things and we are working with our students every day to be kind to each other.
As always, should you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out to your child's teacher or me.
Best of luck to our DI Teams in Stoughton tomorrow!
Happy St. Patrick's Day and have a wonderful weekend!