This year our district’s professional development focus is social emotional learning (SEL). I’m on my school’s SEL committee which consists of myself, three other teachers, an instructional aide, our assistant principal and our principal. Last year we received training from an outside organization and this year we’re tasked with passing on what we learned to our colleagues.
One day, after the first time we led our first session, I looked up from my computer to see a staff member, who I didn’t know well, walking into my room and shutting my door behind them. The person told me that they wanted to talk to me in confidence about our SEL training. I assured them that I would keep their confidence. They then went on to say that they thought the teachers themselves needed SEL training because they weren’t modeling kind behaviors toward one another and students, and that the students were picking up on this unkind behavior. I brought the person’s concern to my administrative team, and we came up with a plan to address the subject anonymously, in our next SEL meeting.
The honest conversation made me pause. So often, in kidlit, especially in picture books, we don’t see adults making poor decisions. Kids know that’s not how real life works. Kids know adults make poor decisions often, and sometimes those decisions hurt them or their friends. That’s why Bling Blaine: Throw Glitter Not Shade written by Rob Sanders is a must have for elementary classrooms.
Sure, there are other reasons to read this book which my students pointed out to me today. They named ideas such as, “It’s important to be true to who you are no matter what anyone thinks about you,” and, “The book shows how you can be friends with anyone no matter how different they seem or look compared to yourself,” and of course the cliche, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I listened, nodded, and agreed because, yes, those are all important messages in the book. Sanders also explains how to be an ALLY which a super cool acrostic in the book’s backmatter.
I then shared why I chose to read them this book. I chose to read it because Sanders has the adult library volunteer act in a dismissive, derisive way toward the main character, Blaine, who is a boy who likes glitter, glitz, and glamour.
The truth. Sometimes we as adults model the exact behavior we’re telling our students not to model. Let’s face it. Actions speak louder than words. If we act dismissive or derisive toward a student, even if it’s something that might seem innocuous like an eye roll, students will notice. Not only will they notice, they’ll mimic our behavior.
The shaka hand signal started to fly. “Yes,” my students agreed “Authors show adults making the right decisions, but often times we don’t.” More shaka hand signals.
Let’s be brave, be truthful, and share books that showcase adults who have just as much, if not more to learn, than the kids. Let’s give kids what they want, honesty.