Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/Editorial
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This week as British Columbians took part in Pink Day, I noticed a stream of Pink Day photos in my social media accounts. People sported pink shirts, black shirts with pink writing or talked about their experiences on that day. There was even a Pink Day related flash performance involving 30 schools, 3,000 participants and the Vancouver Giants hockey team. Despite all of these efforts, there was discontent about how the day went down.
Some people weren’t happy with the new trend of wearing black shirts with pink lettering as they feel it goes against the spirit of pink day. On a recent Modern Family show, Manny worried about being picked on by his classmates for having squeaky shoes during a field trip. Some of his other friends expressed frustration that they had been given labels by their cohorts for one-off events. In the end Manny wasn’t mocked for his shoes but rather for wearing a pink shirt. I’m not sure how popular pink day is in parts of the States, including California, but I assume the timing of this story line wasn’t a coincidence.
This week Melissa from TheThirtiesGrind.com asked a question about schools not covering Pink Day in their daily schedule and later shared a post about this topic. Here in my region the school district confirmed that schools can celebrate Pink Day as they wish or not celebrate it at all. (This includes supporting the use of black t-shirts with pink lettering.) This got me thinking about my own experiences working with children in a preschool and kindergarten Montessori class environment.
I am a strong believer that the adult in the classroom models behaviour for the children. I only use a loud and stern voice if there is an emergency such as an earthquake. (I’ve experienced quite a few of those in a classroom.) At that time I throw my voice across the classroom and can sound quite terse. Similarly I would do the same if a child were about to munch on a golden bead or use a pair of scissors in a dangerous way. Nothing stops a group of 25 children like a loud voice. Otherwise I prefer a peaceful approach and I feel that children respond to the culture and climate of their classroom.
At this teaching level we talk about kindness and empathy skills in the classroom and on the playground every day. As problematic situations arise we address them on an individual and group basis. It’s important to focus on the smallest indiscretion and talk about it. An exchange of a mean word is enough to bring about a conversation. I might even bring a group of children together to talk about a topic such as saying “I don’t like you” or “I don’t want to be your friend”. How would the children feel if I turned to another teacher and said “I don’t like you?”. This type of question makes a deep impact on a young child. I don’t see these daily learning opportunities as a burden but rather an important conversation that helps to prepare children for the world at large and their future life.
As a parent, if I had to choose, my priority is that that continuous conversations and monitoring is happening every day. I like the idea of Pink Shirt day – using pink shirts not other colours. I don’t mind if it doesn’t happen because I have seen how the incremental – day to day- approach makes such a big difference. Conversely, if Pink Day is planned in a school and classroom that’s a good outcome too. Bullying is an issue that affects everyone – either as a victim, bystander or someone who might have caused a problem with bullying behaviour. We should talk about “children who bully” not “children who are bullies”. Labels don’t help effect positive change for all. Pink Day is a good opportunity to review what bullying is about; how to spot it; how to avoid doing it; and, how to address the situation in an appropriate way.
I support the idea of Pink Day and see its value. How about you?
What are your thoughts about Pink Shirt Day and how the topic of bullying is or could be addressed in schools?