Tag Archives: diversity

Choose Not To Be Color Blind

Henri Martin - Vallee du Vert en Aval

This week I went home to visit family. It is a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains and filled with lots of people who look like me and many who even have the same religious beliefs. In my 12 years of school there, I can probably count on one hand the number of people I knew that were “different” from me.

While there, I got into a conversation with someone that led to them saying they were “color blind”. In a way, the statement didn’t surprise me. I didn’t know this person really, but in my years spent in the valley, people were always polite, gracious and respectful to all. AND — looking back, I’d say pretending to be blind to any differences. We weren’t to point out differences. We didn’t discuss them. We were to act as if we were all equals and the same.

Well, I am all for the equal piece. We are all humans with the same basic needs. We all should have the same rights and opportunities…regardless of the color of our skin, language we speak, clothes we wear, or size of our bank accounts. But, we are not all the same, nor do I believe we should pretend we are. I am not saying we need to treat individuals differently because they aren’t like us – but acknowledge, understand and respect the differences.

In ignoring differences (of any sorts), I feel we are expecting everyone to conform to the same beliefs or ways, risking sending a message that different equates to a bad thing or that discussing differences guarantees confrontation. In the case of the community I grew up in, I don’t believe it was intentional (and sure that is the same for others too). But what do we gain from this?

Today, I am raising my children in an environment unlike the one I grew up in. First, teaching them that different is not bad, and sometimes it can be quite awesome (while fully understanding that being “like” someone else is comforting at times). We don’t need to highlight differences all the time, but we also should never be ashamed of them.

Second, I don’t ever want my children to be “color blind” (or blind to anything). I want them to see people for who they are. See life and perspectives like, and unlike, their own; be it foods, beliefs, ways of life, struggles one faces, or things that make one happy. Get to know others and understand why they say and/or do what they do. Respect other’s choices and make a decision to associate with them because of who they are as individuals.

My why? I hope it opens their eyes and allows for them to better connect with the world outside of their bubble, making them much more empathetic human beings. Just a few weeks ago, my littlest guy told his brother who had just complained about a bathroom that, “at least there was a toilet,” because his friend came from a country where the toilet was just a hole in the ground. I don’t want my kids to settle for a less sanitary bathroom because they know that – but I think it helps put things in perspective.

So, I hope fewer people are color blind (or blind to any differences). I hope that we see the colors. Recognize that each individual has different needs. Celebrate and encourage people to share their unique perspectives, talents and strengths for others to learn from them. Just as the collection of many dots of unique color create beautiful mountain scene in the above painting; it is the collection of many unique individuals that make our communities and organizations resource and knowledge rich.

Above painting by Henri Martin


Does Your PTO Portray Your School Community?

When you look around your parent association meeting, who is there? Do you have all parties involved represented? I mean ALL parties, circles, groups, neighborhoods, communities…ALL. As we elect our new board members, I think it is important to remember to include all lenses, not only on our board – but as voices in our meetings and partners in the planning and running of events/activities. As a parent association, it is our responsibility to represent our schools.

When I look at many boards (including the one I belong to), I see a small group represented. I love our team and appreciate their efforts and time, but we represent less than half of our families. We are growing in diversity recently – but until I see every neighborhood, grade, ethnicity, religion, language, learning support/gifted classes,  staff, district admin, school board and community members, I will not be content. How can we accurately make decisions affecting all of our children, if we don’t know what their concerns or wishes are?

We have a large school with diverse cultures and socio-economic conditions…so there are lots of families to represent. There is no way to represent all of those families unless they are present. By present, I don’t mean strictly at our monthly meetings. They could be a class captain (if your captains are used as a resource/liaison), just as long as they are part of the discussions. I know some people feel that it is up to those individuals to jump in. But sometimes we need to extend that hand, put out the welcome mat and offer them a cup of coffee in order to get them to initially participate.  We need to start with the personal, face to face interaction. Give them someone to connect with. Someone they can recognize at the next event or meeting. From there, we can use all the pieces of technology and social media to keep in regular contact….stay fresh in their mind, and build the relationship.  Many of us start off as a small piece of the puzzle (something in their comfort zone, related to their child) and gradually grow to become a larger section of the puzzle (being a voice, leading).

I know the administrators, school board and community members might not have children at our school, and their participation may be a stretch – but they’re making decisions that can affect our children, so it only makes sense that they see firsthand what families are concerned with. A few months ago, our group was lucky to have our assistant superintendent join us. This is the first time I have been at one of our home & school meetings where someone from the district joined in. I must say, it was such a positive addition. Not only does it help to build the relationship between people who see each other so seldom, it gave a voice to the district. There were a few questions/comments that came up that we (school level) didn’t have the answer for, and she was able to provide that – right then and there. I can only imagine a school board member and members of the community could also add that nice balance.

All of these people are key pieces in our puzzle to build a strong, cohesive community. It is important to look to include them all as we go forward.

image credit: sxc.hu


SheilaSpeaking

A space for thinking, reflecting and sharing about education -- and the odd other thing...

Ingvi Hrannar

Icelandic educator, iPad 1:1 classroom, speaker & entrepreneur.

Penn-Finn Learnings 2013

Sharing our inquiries - March 23-30

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