Welcoming Everyone to the Table

I am currently attending the NAEYC Professional Development Conference being held in Phoenix. I attended a wonderful workshop today about welcoming all children to the table in the classroom.
Sometimes ‘null’ curriculum (curriculum that we don’t intentionally teach, but the children still learn) is reinforced as much as the ‘explicit’ curriculum (core standards). What do children understand about life in the classroom by the way we respond to daily occurrences?
We watched a video of an interview with an elementary child, Mary. Mary stated that when another child asked the teacher why Mary had two dads instead of a mom, the teacher responded, “We are not going to talk about that in this class.” Mary felt unsupported and the result was that some children began to taunt Mary at recess. She began to dislike coming to school because she thought she must be a bad person.

While there are many more issues that can occur in the classroom, this episode is an example of when teachers choose not to address something they personally find uncomfortable. That refusal can speak volumes to the children.
Since our job is to support ALL children, we need to be prepared to address null curriculum issues when they happen during the school day. Much like taking a test, if we are prepared, we can address the issue and support the child. I try to ask my pre-service teachers, “What will you do or say if this happens? Or this?” I believe prior thought and understanding can prepare these future teachers to respond appropriately.
As educators, we need to always remember that a child seldom is in the position to choose his religion, culture, lifestyle or family makeup. Even though our values may be different, it is critical to support that child in his educational journey. Not doing anything or refusing to have the discussion is not an option. If the teacher in the video was uncomfortable addressing the issue, she only needed to say, “That is the makeup of Mary’s family. Isn’t it wonderful that all of our families are different and we can be happy.” I like the part of NAEYC’s Code of Ethical Conduct which says, “…do no harm.”
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7 responses

  1. I like what you said that prior thought and understanding can prepare future teachers to respond appropriately to "null" curriculum. It is the job of the teacher to find out and understand the backround of each of her/his students at the beginning of the school year. This will help the teacher respond to questions, topics, or situation that call for appropriate answers that will not offend the student.

  2. I personally live for those "null" curriculum moments. I like to call them "teachable moments" in our classroom. Those times when children take interest in an off the topic subject and want to run with it. I find going with the children on their ideas or questions can create moments in their lives that are very beneficial and memorable for them. And if as a teacher you find yourself unprepared to answer a question, simply tell the students that you are unsure, but you will have an answer for them tomorrow… and please, be sure you DO have an answer for them the next day because the children will not forget!

  3. I believe that the job of the teacher is to help create experiences for the child that they can remember. A child does not have control over their life, their parent does. Even if the teacher feels uncomfortable with how the parent might live, they need to address the questions asked by the class and move on. Not addressing a question only makes it a gorilla in the room.

  4. I like the "do no harm" comment as well. When I began in preschool, I worked at center that had three basic classroom rules. They were treat the property, yourself, and others nicely. I think the same basic rules also apply to us, as teachers!

  5. I enjoyed reading this message because I just recently experience this same thing and I was uncomfortable addressing the issue. I told my class the same thing not all families are the same. But I was not sure if that was enough. I know that some parent don’t want their children to know about things like that but it is part of the things parents but deal with when children are in school because it is a possible situation. I am glad to know I answer the question correctly.

  6. I like the do no harm comment. It is important that has educators we think about what our responses will be.

  7. I believe that the job of the teacher is to help create experiences for the child that they can remember.

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