Reflecting upon long-standing traditions can be difficult but it's always time well spent. As we approach Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in the coming months, it’s worthwhile considering how our personal experiences match up with the realities of our students.
Limiting the emphasis on moms and dads in favour a more inclusive approach can validate all students, no matter the configuration of their family. Spending time to explore what all families have in common and discussing concepts such as love, caring, respect, and safety are more inclusive.
The ETFO-WR Equity and Social Justice Committee have compiled several book kits that can help educators teach about the diverse ways that families exist. This approach is not only important in ensuring that each of our students feels represented in our teaching, but helps students appreciate the differences that exist in our classrooms, schools, and our society.
If you are interested in booking a kit, please contact Ryan Wettlaufer (email@example.com). Many of our book titles are also available in school libraries.
For additional ideas and perspectives, consider reading the following messages contributed by Wendy Bauman (ETFO-WR member), Deepa Ahluwalia (WRDSB Equity and Inclusion Officer), and Kimiko Shibata (ETFO-WR member).
Hello Fellow Teachers,
I have been thinking a lot about Mother's Day and Father's Day, as May 14th and June 18 are just around the corner. And I've been thinking about how these days going to be tough for some of my current students, and for kids I've had in previous years.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are days of joyful celebration for many. They are also days of sadness, discomfort, and confusion for others.
Every year, I have a handful of students who:
- have lost a mom/ dad/ step-parent/ step-partner within the school year, so this is their first Mother’s/ Father’s Day with this special person gone
- have lost a mom/ dad/ step-parent/ step-partner in years prior, and continue to quietly find Mother’s/ Father’s Day very difficult
- are estranged from a parent and it’s complicated
- don’t live with either parent and it’s complicated
- have same-sex parents
- have same-sex parents - and contact with the donor/ surrogate/ bio-parent, but the term “mother/father” is complicated
- have a parent who is transgender
- live in single-parent households, with or without the other parent nearby, and it’s complicated
I have become increasingly uncomfortable with these ‘mandated’ celebrations as a teacher, as I try to accommodate students for whom these days are a source of angst. Usually, I have encouraged these children to consider giving their gifts/cards to other special women/men in their lives. I no longer think that this is an appropriate solution for many, as this can actually exacerbate their feelings of sadness/ discomfort/ confusion, though they usually don’t verbalize this to me. They just agree, put their heads down, and carry on.
If I have two moms, or a mom and no dad, I may not want to create a “Father’s Day” craft and give it to someone else, because this feels fake, it feels like a compromise, and it makes me feel (again) like I am ‘without’. If my mom has died, I may not want to create a card for someone else because I’m in a space where no one can else replace my mom, and I definitely don’t want to be in a classroom that is spending time discussing and celebrating everyone else’s living moms, which just makes me miss my mom more. Etc etc.
So, this is what I’ve decided to do. My class will celebrate May 15th’s International Day of the Family, following the lead of a growing number of classrooms and entire schools. This week, we will discuss the variety of families, and each student will personally identify who contributes to their sense of family. Kids will then create crafts/cards for whomever they want in their families - moms, dads, siblings, grandparents, special aunts/uncles/cousins, special family friends, etc.. The kids can then individually decide if they want to give all of their gifts to their loved ones on May 15th, or give Mom her’s on May 14th and hold onto Dad’s until June 18th. This enables each student to celebrate the family that they have, in whatever form it may be. Will there still be potential and room for sadness? Yes. But I think that when the spotlight is lifted from one particular person/role, then the focus for the celebration/ craft activity shifts to what IS, rather than what is not.
In my opinion, there are no longer “traditional” or “non-traditional” families... just “families”. May every child in my classroom feel a sense of happiness and full inclusion as they create gifts for their loved ones during this coming week.
Mother's day and Father's day are special days on which we take the time to thank and appreciate our parents for the benevolent acts and sacrifices they have made for us.To show our gratitude, we sometimes encourage students to produce a creative piece of art, or the like, for their mothers on Mother's day and their fathers on Father's day.
Though the intention may be to reflect on and appreciate all that our mothers and fathers do for us, the process may be exclusive to some individuals.When these days are celebrated without acknowledging the many different kinds of families that exist, we may unintentionally isolate and exclude students who may live with same sex parents, in single parent homes, in foster homes, or are being raised by other family members and so on.
As we strive to foster safe and inclusive working and learning environments, we need to understand and accommodate the growing differences of familial structures.When engaging in activities that require students to share and talk about their families, or create a special card to commemorate a special day, students should be encouraged and supported in reflecting their family experience as they are. Reducing the emphasis on "mother" and "father" and focussing on a "parent", or "caregiver", or "special person" to celebrate through activities will create a more safe and inclusive space for everyone.
Please find here a link to a blog that was written by one of our awesome educators, Kimiko Shibata. She shares very honestly and personally about an experience that she had which I have received permission to share, as I know that it will help to raise our collective equity consciousness about these situations.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, apply it in the work that you do, and share it with others.