Recently, a colleague shared out an article with the unfortunate headline, “My Daughter Is Not Transgender, She’s a Tomboy.” The author, Lisa Selin Davis, seemed to be saying she wished people would stop questioning her daughter’s gender identity based on her gender expression, including not only people who have fairly limited ideas of how boys and girls look and/or should look but also well-meaning people who wondered - repeatedly - if she was transgender and what pronouns she used. Ms. Davis wrote that she appreciated both the well-meaning question of whether her child might be transgender and the sensitivity to pronouns, objecting rather to those times when people seemed skeptical of the answers and/or kept re-asking the questions. I shared the article on Twitter, adding the comment, “Seems like the underlying message is adults need to listen to kids about how they view who they are w/openness to all genders/expressions.” And several of my colleagues told me they enjoyed the article, thinking in particular of their own daughters who are frequently mistaken for boys.
Early on in our current Humanities 7 unit on science and human behaviour, the students had asked me if I’d be willing to make up a Jeopardy! game for one of our group activities. I agreed, and one of the students asked if she could help write the questions (I said she could, and she contributed four questions to the “Life Science” category). I found a Creative Commons Google Slides template with six categories, and filled in “Physical Science,” “Social Sciences,” “History of Science,” “Process of Science,” and “Scientists” as well as “Life Science.” I set about writing questions, trying to ensure there was a genuine range of challenge and yet each question was theoretically possible for them to know, keeping an awareness that if I wrote the questions well, they would be learning as they went.
In the days following the grand jury decision not to bring charges against Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Sally charged us to have ongoing conversations about racism. These are so necessary as simply reacting to specific events will not bring about the depth of understanding and opportunity for positive change we all desire. To start things off, Sally asked advisors to take time the next day to discuss the events, and later that day we shared resources over email.
“So how do your students look this year?” The question was asked not, as many people might expect, by a colleague or even a parent but by three of my former students who are now juniors as we found a chance to talk at the annual Local Family Picnic. “They look great,” I said. “Of course. You know! Given the emails they’ve been writing me about the books they’ve been reading.” One of them laughed and said, “Your favourite Humanities 7 class of 2014-2015?” I laughed in return, responding “Absolutely!” knowing she was secure in the knowledge they were all part of my favourite Humanities 7 class of… 2010-2011. (For the record, I only teach one section of Humanities 7 each year, so the “favourite Humanities 7 class of...” line is something of a running joke.)
As I prepare for the imminent arrival on campus of my brand new students, as the middle school team prepares to bring together and start building this year’s community, I find myself focused not just on what the kids might be thinking and feeling but also on the parents. My son attended boarding school for three years and is about to start his junior year at college, so I know firsthand what parents are going through. The level of trust we parents place in a school when dropping off our children is powerfully and deeply touching, and part of what motivates me to do my absolute best each and every day is working to meet that trust (not that I need any more motivation than looking out at my students looking back at me!).
Tires screech as a car full of teenage boys swings around to get a closer look, barely decipherable bellowed comments ringing across the parking lot. I clutch my small bag of groceries a little more tightly, willing myself to maintain a blank face and an even pace, wishing for the first time in a number of years that I didn't enjoy parking far away from the store entrance so I could get in a bit of a walk. My stomach clenches with the familiar tension, and I wait for the usual relaxation. It doesn't come. And suddenly I know why.
Filed Under: Middle School, Grades 7-12 and PG, gender, LGBT, hate crimes, LGBT Support, On Education, Boarding and Day, All Girls Education, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Anti-Bullying, Education