I got news last week that I passed my couse on Equality and Diversity with high distinction. I was happy but I thought I would share with you all what had happened during the course of our last workshops. Maybe some of you will comment and let me know what they think.
At some stage during this last workshop, the use of a "family wall" was mentioned, as a tool to promote self-esteem. What is it? The children bring a picture of their family to school and we put them all together on a wall in our classroom and refer to it regularly. I have used a family wall in my setting since the very first year I opened up (I should have had a post written about it but for some reason, I never took the time to do so) . I was quite pleased to see that it was highly recommended by the Anti-bias Approach as a tool to promote inclusion, identity and a sense of belonging for all the children (and their family). I have since learnt in more details to realise that when children feel that their relationships with their family, friends and community are valued and recognised, they feel more secure, more included and respected. So high 5 for me! I have been working in the right direction! The course has shown us how important it is to try to get to know each child individually. It was obvious to me from the beginning but the training voiced my beliefs loud and clear and reassured me that I was indeed being respectful in a very powerful way. Children love talking about their parents and what they do at home or what they do with their siblings. And real pictures are much more empowering than anything else. I love photography and have taken a few course in photography that concurred this statement. This is why I try to work with photos or any other “real” pictures as much as possible. The Family wall is a fantastic means to open up discussions among the children and to make them explore their own identity. It helps children to identify the various types of families in our society and our community: single-parent family, families living with the grandparents, divorced/separated parents etc… I also found that it is a great way for Rachel and I to get to know the parents better and to connect with them as they come in and have a look at our family wall.
During the discussion with other practitioners, I was asked if I could think of any other benefits of the family wall. I explained that we use it straight away in September to make the connection between home and the preschool. It is used as a bridge to reassure newcomers. If they are missing their mams or dads, we show them the wall and let them talk about their family. However, when I mentioned that we don’t keep the family wall on our wall in the classroom all year long, our tutor objected strongly, vehemently insisting that I HAD to keep it up all the time. I disagreed explaining that it was my own experience (and Rachel’s) that children get “bored” of the Family wall after a while and don’t actually look at it anymore, which usually prompt us to move on to another inclusive way or activity to promote identity and belonging. For example, this next September, we are going to use a teddy as a little mascot and we will ask each child to bring it home with him/her and take pictures of something that he/she did with the teddy during their daily routine. We will get the parents on board and provide them with a little camera. We will ask parents to write a quick summary describing the picture they took together. Once each child has had a turn with the teddy and the camera, I will have the pictures printed and I will bind them in a little book with all the corresponding notes. I really hope that this will be popular among the children and the parents. And you can be sure to find a post about this next September or October. Anyway, this was one of the example I gave our group.
Yet, our tutor that day blatantly criticised my decision not to have the wall up all year long. She didn’t give me much chance to express myself and the other practitioners were basically asked to side with her or with me! I found it very peculiar as we have been talking all along about accepting other people’s opinions and ways. After all, isn’t it what the course is about? It was shocking to be honest. Being trained in equality and Diversity has taught me to be more open and to be reflective. We have worked very hard to critically assess ourselves and to ditch our blinkers. This course is only a beginning for all us but little steps matter as Louise Derman-Sparks mentioned in her article “Education without prejudice”. Yet, I truly and honestly believe that I am doing the right thing by diversifying my approaches in the classroom to ensure the children feel included, valued and respected. I am not a one-trick pony and there are many other ways to reach these goals. I felt chastised for not using the family Wall all year long. So this knocked me a little bit off course and confused me. I expected the journey on this course to have its ups and downs but this “incident” rattled my confidence and got me thinking “am I doing it right? Am I completely off the rails?”. Since that day, I have been thinking and I stick to my guns. The Family Wall is a wonderful tool but it wouldn’t work in our setting if I was to leave it up all the time. We need diversity too in the way we approach the topic!
see my post "Inclusive practice is good practice" right here.