Sunday, April 12, 2009

What are those rabbits doing to their mommy?

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.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this post. One of my favorite things in the world is getting to talk to students about real life issues. I think it is important that we use every opportunity to share and let them know that learning occurs in many contexts. I'm glad to know that there are other teachers who understand that!