Last Wednesday was International Day of Pink. In honour of that day, I included a lesson on diversity, both gender and otherwise, and the importance of feeling comfortable in our own skins.
I try and include SOGI themes and diversity themes throughout the year, so my students are familiar with many of these ideas and the terminology already. Our conversation didn't go particularly indepth, but some of the artwork it created for our display board showed these lessons have really started to percolate into their understanding.
I used Michael Hall's lovely book Red as our discussion starter. For those not familiar with the book, it is about a crayon who is labelled "Red" at the factory, but who is actually blue. It is about how, no matter how hard they try, they can't successfully be red. It is about all the others who try and help them, and it isn't until someone asks them to be blue that they finds out how good they are at being blue, and how happy it makes them.
It's a great story to use on multiple levels; it is a great illustration of a transgender individual, but it can also be used to illustrate other internal and external stress factors as well. The discussion in my very multicultural grade 4/5 class also included how sometimes different cultural and religious expectations can make us feel like we're not the person others would like us to be, either. Our discussion talked about the complexity of who we are on the inside, and how that doesn't always match our outside, and that part of being happy is to see and understand what is on our inside, even if it isn't always visible.
I then provided students with a sheet of paper, on which were drawn three black-line crayons. Their task: to colour them in however they wanted. They could make a crayon that showed them, if they wanted, but that wasn't a criteria, as who you are on the inside is a very private thing that is shared only if you want to. They could do all three crayons with matching insides and outsides if they wanted (I had only one student who did this, from a fundamentalist background).
The results were colourful and creative.
There were a lot of crayons where the insides matched the outsides.
And there were a number of quite creative ones, which showed an understanding of our classroom conversations.
It is a colourful world indeed; and our students are moving into it with a better understanding of how complex people are. Everyone is different, and that is okay.
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