Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sorry It's Our School Policy!!!

When I wrote my book, Pink is Just a Color and so is Blue, it was with my younger son in mind. He is now starting to like Ninjago, Beyblades, Pokemon and other "boy" things but still has an affinity for the pink and purpley things too. 
After the publication of the book, I was really excited about going into his school and reading the book to his class.  It was these kids that I really wanted to reach with the message of the book. After all, they were my son’s classmates and friends who interacted with him on a daily basis.  A few of them have had play dates with my son and I recall one child saying, “He has girl’s toys.”  This would be grassroots effort to teach
about  gender stereotypes, not being judgmental and keeping an open mind.

I asked my son’s teacher if I could come and read the book to the class. I had developed a whole lesson around the book and was eager to go and speak to the kids. She was also excited but needed approval from the principal. To my disappointment, I was told by the principal that the school does not promote any authors and so I could not come read to the kids. Mind you, I had not asked for a letter to go home announcing my visit or asking parents to buy my book for the occasion.   

At first I was upset but decided to approach it differently.  The point was to have the message reach the children. I decided to send the teacher a copy of Pink is Just a Color and so is Blue and she could  read it  to the class at her own convenience.  Instead of just putting the book into my son’s folder, I gave a copy to the office to be delivered to the teacher.   After inquiring about it, I received a call back from the principal.  This time she  had the school counselor on the line with her,  as a witness apparently.  I was told that as a  school policy not even the teacher would be allowed to  read my book to the class!!
I taught preschool and kindergarten for many years before I became a mom.  Many preschools and kindergartens invite parents to come read to the kids, or talk about different things.   The community sometimes is full of free teaching resources.  Yes, sometimes they get a little advertising for their businesses too such as a dentist coming in to discuss oral heath.  But these outside, real life resources are a great, valuable learning tool for kids at a young age.   Visits by community resources outweigh  the value of any worksheet  or lecture.  These are tangible experiences that the kids will remember for a long time to come.  For me, going to read at my son’s school was not about selling books.  It was about spreading a message about gender stereotypes, not making judgments and learning to appreciate individual differences. 
Interestingly, last year I was told by the same  principal that it is school policy that they do not discuss or talk about different cultures in school!  What better way for diverse group of people to gain cultural understanding of ideas, thoughts and ways than by learning from their peers who represent different cultures.  To me, culturally diverse is not the same as culturally aware.  Though we may live in a culturally diverse surrounding, understanding and appreciation comes from knowing.   In fact  there should be  a week set aside every year when parents and students of all backgrounds can talk about  the various cultures represented in a school.   I realize schools have international days but this would be more informative than entertaining. What a wonderful way to learn about the new, global world we live in!
Whether about books or about cultures, closed minded policies create an atmosphere of intolerance and segregation. My first introduction into our school was a child yelling out from the bus window, “Hey you brown lady!” Now I understand. There are kids being bullied or teased for  wearing turbans, having “funny” accents, eating a “weird” food or just appearing to be different . Then there kids being harassed for being too “tomboyish”... or not boyish enough.
I can only hope that my children will fare well and not be hurt by the ignorance and intolerance of others. I hope that my son’s friends will somehow come to learn and understand that the colors you like and what toys you play with do not mean much. After all…. pink is just a color and so is blue….what truly matters is what’s deep inside of you! I hope they  will come to appreciate that we can all be different but our differences are our uniqueness and they make us special. 
As for our principal and her narrow minded policies, some things are just better left unsaid.....


Bicultural Mama said...

Wow, I'm surprised the school wouldn't want to encourage cultural diversity and read a book from a student's mom. I'm also on LI and trying to write a children's book that deals with culture differences - it's a hard sell with publishers who don't want the diversity to be so obvious if you know what I mean. BTW, I'm also the Editor of the Long Island Mamas, that's how I found out about your blog - from the comment you left on its Facebook Page. :)

niketa bhatia said...

Yes i was very surprised myself since the area is diverse...