This is how Thursday started. The students were looking at a book about rabbits and the last illustration showed a mother rabbit nursing the babies. I explained that the mother rabbit was feeding her babies milk. This was the beginning of a conversation that included a lot of questions about the mammal experience. I thought their questions were intriguing and provided some insight into their thinking and understanding. I love talking to my students and trying to help them make sense of the world.
A few seconds later a group of students asked me about Jesus and if I had met him.
As I shared this story with friends over the weekend, many were surprised that I even answered their questions and all of them wanted to know if I had specific training in college or elsewhere on how to deal with "sensitive issues. " My friends wanted to know what I would do if my students' parents were offended by my responses.
I thought about this carefully. I didn't explain the whole mammalian reproductive process. I simple stated that female mammals produce milk so they can feed their children. I explained that people have the option of going to the store to buy milk but that animals cannot go to the store. I answered them with factual information, explained to them at their developmental level. Sure, I guess it is possible that some parents may not want their child to know these things. With the topic of Jesus, I just redirected the question back to them and they were having a discussion about their various religious experiences.
In college and graduate school, and even in professional development through the district, the message is always the same: be sensitive to other people and cultures that may different from your own. Is lactation a sensitive subject? What about Jesus? There was no specific training that I went to that taught you how to respond when a child stands in front of you in a public school setting and asks about Jesus or heaven. I know about separation of church and state, but at the same time, I couldn't ignore my students. I encouraged them to talk to each other. I think that's part of what public school is about, learning with and from people who may be very different from yourself.
If my students' parents are offended, I suppose I would invite them in for an individual conference so I could better explain the situation to them. But I don't think I said or did anything inappropriate or wrong, so an apology may not be my first approach.
Looking forward to more challenging and thought provoking questions from my students tomorrow.