Tag Archives: social justice

Notes from Jennifer Bryan’s presentation about Gender and Sexual Diversity Education. #edchat


Jennifer Bryan, Ph.D. presented about Gender and Sexual Diversity today to faculty in grades 5-8.

Jennifer began her presentation with a quote by Erwin Schrödinger:
Thus, the task is, not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.
These are the four questions Jennifer used to guide her presentation:
What does gender identity development (GID) look like in Pre K-12 kids?
What does sexual idendity development (SID) look like in Pre K-12 kids?
How does gender and sexuality manifest every day at school?
What should your educational response be to gender and sexuality diversity (GSD)?
Gender  – does not equal biological sex but does include gender identity, gender expression, gender roles, gender variability, transgender, transsexual, gender queer, transitioning…
Sexuality – sexual orientation/attraction, sexual identity, sexual behavior, queer
Can The School’s educational philosophy support the following premise:
People of all sexualities and gender identities have equal worth and deserve equal status in safety, voice, affimation, and curricular represenation in our school.
Jennifer suggests we need a new diagram of sex and gender which includes scales (like number lines) with the spectrums below. Essentially these can be verbalized as: What I was born with, how I express myself on the inside, how I express myself on the outside, and who I choose to pair with.  Also, the underlying spectrum needs to recognize <– asexual – sexual –> …
Biological Sex (anatomy, choromosomes, hormones)
<– male — intersex — female –>
Gender Identity (physical sense of self)
<– man — two-spirited/bigendered — woman –>
Gender Expression (communication of gender and gendered traits)
<– masculine — androgynous — feminine –>
Attraction/Sexual Orientation (erotic and/or romantic response)
<– attracted to women — attracted to two or more genders — attracted to men –>

We talked about if you had to put a marker on the scales to represent where we stand, some may be very static with the placement of their marker, while others more latitude (or require a very wide marker). We also talked about how until a girl becomes a sexual object, they have a bigger window to explore their sexual identity, while society is quick to respond (often negatively or with concern) to boys exploring their identity.

Heteronormative/Heteronormativity – the expectation that the majority and the ideal is a specific type of male-female pairing…anything else is considered “other.”

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE): The Sum of Its Parts
Pre K-2: families, friendships, feelings, differences, respect
3-4: individual development, streotypes, diversity
5-6: human anatomy, reproduction, cultures, prejudice
7-8: puberty, emotions, drugs, healthy relationships
9-12: values clarification, birth control, abstinence options, conflict resolution, sexual decision making
We broke up into groups to examine some case scenarios. The first is about an androgynous 6th grade girl, Christy, who is separating herself from her classmates; The rest of the grade is beginning to negotiate the boy/girl social dynamics inside and outside of class, while Christy is socially awkward anyway and not joining in on any conversation about adolescent development. The second is about Liam, a 7th grade boy who is creating a big stir about “coming out” – though in a disruptive way. A parent of another 7th grade boy, Stephen, approaches a teacher and says that she’s upset by the grade being taken over by the Liam’s declaration, especially as Liam is a kind of annoying kid anyway.

My group discussed the second scenario. I personally prefer that my students stay on the asexual side of the spectrum for as long as possible. Yet, clearly kids need a forum to navigate what’s okay and not okay and seek counsel from people they trust. Besides their own internal conflicts, sometimes their questions arise as a result of what they see in the media (movies, ads, TV).

So in this scenario, we have a kid who is out there in a way that his classmates aren’t. What to do? Since we had to role play, I thought it would be funny to write a short script where the parent gets four different reponses based on The Four Sons from the seder: the wise son, the wicked son, the simple son, and the one who cannot ask (though with more gender neutrality):

  1. The Wise One: What exactly do you mean by this Liam’s thing. What are you hearing from your son? We would love to support your son and talk this through.
  2. The Wicked One: What are you doing at home to support your child’s homophobia?
  3. The Simple One: I can’t help you. This is not my area of expertise.
  4. The One Who Cannot Ask: I have no idea what you are talking about. This is the first I’m hearning of it.

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Grateful to @billcamp for introducing me to The Karma Seed on the way back from Educon

After an inspiring weekend at Educon in Philadelphia, Bill Campbell (@billcamp) graciously drove Basil Kolani (@bkolani) and me back to Manhattan. Bill lives on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, but he braved Sunday night traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel and the George Washington Bridge to actually deliver us safely into Manhattan and not just abandon us to swim, hitchhike, or commute via public transportation across the Hudson River. Bless his heart.

After I gushed about what a mitzvah it was for Bill to have gone above and beyond in offering door to door service, he handed me a Karma Seed. It’s like a “Pay it Forward” thing. The Karma Seed movement was started by Christopher Lo, an ex-student of Bill’s from Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood, New Jersey. In describing the Karma Seed on the site, Christopher writes:

The Karma Seed allows anyone — young or old, rich or poor — to increase their potential to have a positive impact on the lives of others. It makes a simple piece of plastic a record of meaningful connections between strangers, connections formed by the things that I believe make us human: kindness, thoughtfulness, and a basic desire to do good. To me, the beauty of the site lies in the stories people share. As long as there’s still goodness in the world and people willing to start and pass seeds, I will continue to provide the platform that I have grown so quickly to love. I hope The Karma Seed will inspire you in the same way that it has inspired me.

I approached my Head of School about getting a Karma Seed for each of our 8th graders. Their theme for the year is The Quest for Social Justice: Reinventing Society, and having a tangible Karma Seed to track good deeds is such an awesome way for them to see that their actions have consequences, and they have the power to change the world.

The Karma Seed also reminds me of Morley’s gorgeous song which was used as the intro video for TEDxYouthDay.


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