#tipTuesday - Be The Voice
My heart has been heavy this morning; I will use my #tipTuesday as a platform for it.
I was a teacher before I had kids, then as a stay-at-home mom I was heavily involved as a volunteer in my kids’ schools, and I went back to full-time teaching as a mom. So, I feel like I’ve seen all sides of this…as an educator and as a mom. We live in a world now where parent societies are screaming inclusion, anti-bullying, acceptance. Yet, parent groups, schools, and administrations are approving things like Twin Day and Friend Day. And that’s why my heart is heavy today.
Before I move forward, this is not isolated to my child’s school. I have seen it on social media ALL fall with homecomings, spirit weeks, and now red ribbon weeks -- Twin Day or Friend Day. You know the day where you and one (or more) friend(s) dress alike. Sounds cute. Pictures for social media are darling. Here’s the problem. It excludes kids. I’ve always thought this but never voiced it. Shame on me for not voicing it as I’ve been in education long enough to see kids in school be excluded. I’ve been a mom long enough to know how kids get excluded. Today, my insightful, 11-year-old boy voiced it. He confirmed for me what I had been feeling about Twin Day.
The names below have been changed to protect all parties. ;)
You see my 11-year-old had a plan with a friend to “twin.” We will call his friend, John. While he was getting dressed this morning, he came out and said, “I’m going to wear my gym uniform instead. Will you text John’s mom and tell her so he can change too?” When I asked why, he said, “We have a new kid at school this year named, Ben. No one is really nice to him. I have asked him to sit with us at lunch a few times. I should have asked him to twin with me, but I didn’t. Now I feel bad. If I wear my gym uniform, then when I get to school, I can find Ben and tell him to go to his gym locker and change. Then we can twin.”
Of course, my mom heart exploded, and I continued making
lunches with my head facing down to the counter so my son couldn’t see my tears. He chose kindness. He admitted that it was probably a little too late, but he did. I can’t help but wonder how long Ben has been on his heart. I can’t wait to hear more about it when he gets home from school. He is going to have such a peace about his day. He made the right choice on his own, even if Ben doesn't want to participate with him when he asks him today.
While I’m happy about his decision, honestly, my heart has been heavy ever since this conversation. I can’t help but think of how Ben has felt ever since he heard of Twin Day. Is my son right? Has no one asked him to twin with him? Was he not included? What about all the other children in a school who felt left out today? When you are supposed to be twinning, it’s pretty apparent when you aren’t included. How many students are feeling isolated and alone? So many of the feeder high schools have Twin Day also. Do these kids know this? Are they already dreading it?
Again, I love my school. (Goodness gracious, we moved 2,000 miles so our kids could go to this school…we adore it!) This is in no way directed at them. This is happening all over our country. So all schools, listen up! My heart is heavy that it took my 11-year-old to have a voice before me. I should have said something earlier, even if nothing changed. My heart is heavy that while some students are excited today, others are very sad. My heart is heavy that something like Red Ribbon Week (which should focus on staying drug free, see http://redribbon.org/), something like homecoming (which should focus on building school spirit), something like spirit week (which also should focus on building school spirit) has lost its focus with a dress day that can make students feel excluded. I was going to add some research to this post about social exclusion. But when I Google “social exclusion for kids,” tears just flowed down my cheeks. I can’t read any more. I’ll let you Google it if you like. But what I can say is that there is enough social exclusions happening already, we don’t need Twin Day or Friend Day to magnify it any more.
Kudos to one teacher at a school I saw on IG who already saw the writing on the wall this fall. She had a voice for her students and tried to cut off any exclusions before they could happen. Her class has a matching shirt for their field trips. She told her class they are one big family and so for Twin Day at her school, she asked them to all wear their field trip shirt to match one another to show they are a part of the same “class family.” (This is much easier to do at the elementary level than middle or high school.)
Ah, deep breath, we learn from our experiences, so let’s make this a learning experience. May my son’s words resonate with me so that I can follow his example. So the #tipTuesday is that when you know you need to have a voice, DO IT. Otherwise, your heart could be heavy like mine and you could have regrets. And on a lighter note, since our entire country is “celebrating” Red Ribbon Week, enjoy this video from 2016. Melissa had me in stitches the first time I watched this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MxqJhEfXCo