When teacher and author Nadia Jaboneta was confronted with an unexpected and somewhat troubling conversation between two students in her early childhood classroom, she used it as an opportunity to explore social justice issues. Eventually, her explorations turned into a book that she hoped would support other educators on a similar journey. Here’s an excerpt from that book, You Can’t Celebrate That! Navigating the Deep Waters of Social Justice Teaching, where she explains what prompted her thoughtful journey:
“This story of a startling and provocative conversation begins over a meal, as these sorts of conversations often do. I was eating lunch with the four-and-five-year-old children in my preschool class when Harry, a mixed-race child, began to tell us of his plans: ‘I’m so excited for tonight. I’m going to celebrate Shana Tova’ (his name for the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah). ‘I’m going to eat apples and honey and my mom is going to read me my books about the celebration.’ His excitement was contagious. Children asked him questions about the holiday, and Harry had detailed answers. I noticed Kiley, a White child, looking at Harry for a long moment during the energetic conversation before she said firmly, ‘You can’t celebrate that! Only people with white skin can celebrate that! That’s what my Dad said.’”
Nadia’s reaction was very human. “My heart stopped,” she wrote. “I care deeply about addressing bias,” she explained. “I want children to know how valuable their differences are – to know that differences are what make us beautiful and unique humans. I knew I had to say something, do something. But what? What could I offer that would ease the tension, support both Kiley and Harry, and get us out of this deep water?”
What followed that important and brave question was a series of phone calls and meetings, all held in a supportive and loving way, as the experiences that Nadia eventually turned into a book took shape. Her encouragement for fellow educators is to do as she’s decided: “I’ve begun to listen for opportunities to take up the conversation about race and religion with the children as a way to plant the seeds for a more just society.”
Here’s an opportunity to hear Nadia discuss her learnings during a free webinar from Early Childhood Investigations:
Presented by: Nadia Jaboneta
Date: October 21, 2020
Time: 2:00 Eastern Time
Register link: https://www.earlychildhoodwebinars.com/webinars/teaching-social-justice-navigating-the-deep-waters-of-equity-in-early-childhood-programs/
Navigating the Deep Waters of Social Justice Teaching
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Find inspiration in this compelling story of an educator's social justice journey as she partners with families to explore racial identity, religious celebrations, and racism in response to a biased comment by one child to another in her diverse preschool class.
You Can't Celebrate That! is part of the Reimagining Our Work (ROW) collection. Use the ROW collection to discover how early childhood educators in the field are reimagining their work and thinking alongside children.
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