Monday, November 4, 2013

#SOL 2013 That Old Pink Bird

"I can't be the pink bird," he protested, even though the pink bird was the first to talk!
"I'll be the pink bird," the sole girl in the small group eagerly volunteered.
"She has to be the pink bird," the last of the trio volunteered quickly.

For a moment, I "blamed" that old Houghton-Mifflin basal story, one that I have long used as a first readers' theater.  I wondered if I should have just stayed with the leveled readers, the ones where everyone reads every part to themselves.  Was I right in using this carefully chosen story with repeated sight words (will, you, we, I, go) from an aged preprimer? 

Then, for just a second, my mind wandered back to a little boy who took his clothing-challenged and many-times-repaired doll to "nursery" school.  She went into the bottom of the Yankees backpack, underneath the emergency clothes, under the lunch.  She was nearby, but she did not "come out" in school. 

Then, as they continued "discussing" who should be which bird, my mind drifted to the long journey littered with "shattered glass ceilings" and "diapering dads."  It's been a long time since parents began embracing female-children playing with cars and male-children carrying dolls.  It's been a long time since Babe was tucked into bed each night with that little boy.  It's been a long time since pink was the color of little girls and blue was for boys; yet, stereotypes of color and gender endure as Stacy, my TWT writing guru, also experienced this week.

I recovered quickly from my mental "bird" walk and created an explanation that seemed logical, and might even be true.  "Long ago," I said reflectively, "when these books were new, back when your parents were in first grade, the birds with red, blue and yellow.  Over time, the birds have faded and so now the red one looks pink."   

"Oh," the first boy said,  "I want to be the red bird, then." 

Our quick readers' theater ensued; however, I was left with the lingering feeling that I should have used that moment to teach a "lesson" on color and gender rather deliver glib lines and maintain a focus on sight words!  In my defense, I got home and drafted a story about color, gender, dolls, and trucks; however, it is more likely that this color-gender-bias scene will be replayed than that my story will be published!  

So, I hope that the next time this scene is replayed, I take the time to remind my students:
Colors do not define us,
They just describe us.


Michelle Haseltine said...

I can't tell you how many times I've felt exactly like this, "I was left with the lingering feeling that I should have used that moment to teach a 'lesson' on..." So many times I've taken the same route as you and continued without looking at the bigger issue. I like that you are reflecting on that and learning from it. It's exactly what we ask of our students. It's brave to share it here and I so appreciate it! Thank you! You learned from this moment, I've learned from my moments and now I feel less alone with this post. I know I'm not the only one. Thank you!

LInda Baie said...

It's a dilemma in more than one area, Anita. My daughter (with two girls) fights the pink & the tutus often-people just seem to think that her daughters need more pink in their lives. Their favorite toys are old F-P adventure people, passed down from their mom and uncle (we saved them) then to a boy cousin, now to them. Living the philosophy of everything for everyone helps, but the culture doesn't. Thanks for bringing up such a dilemma for you the teachers.

Julieanne said...

Tough issue, and to approach it on the fly, tougher. I know what you're saying about avoiding the teachable moment in favor of the lesson you know students also need. The thing is, you've reflected on this and the seed is planted. This will change your course. You've also planted the seed in my mind. That will grow in my thinking and my teaching.
Thank you!

Dana Murphy said...

I think that the fact that you reflected on this "scene" later is a step in the right direction. Plenty of other people would not have taken the journey of thought that you so wonderfully conveyed in this Slice.

I love all the images that this brought to mind for you. And I do hope you will share your story!

Stacey said...

Worth the wait to read this post! I've been waiting ever since you commented on mine this weekend.

BTW: Have you seen the Pigtails Pals blog?

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Such moments do present themselves..and sometimes the teaching moment is immediate, and sometimes one circles back. You will circle back.

JenniferM said...

I love how you crafted this with your memories sprinkled in, just as you were really thinking in that moment. I'm also impressed that you were vulnerable to share your reflection and the fact that you wish you would have handled the situation differently than you did!

Carol said...

This is quite a story. Can't even tell you how many conversations I have had with my boys about sexism, often after coaches, (usually great, caring men who work hard for my guys) have said things like, "You run like a girl" or "you are playing with a girl." And I totally agree with Michelle. Thanks for being brave enough to share this moment…

Nanc said...

This is an amazing reflection. Yeah, and the time thing with our small groups means we press on when sometimes there are many lessons that we let float away into the walls of our classroom. I know the issue of pink came up with a smelly marker in my group today. xo