Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the iFLT conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. I was truly inspired by the formal presentations, but I keep thinking about the amazing Lunchtime Talks. It was nice to hear a variety of topics covered in such a short time (5 minutes for each, 18 slides maximum) from many different people. Even when I got home, I found myself continuing to think about them. So, I wondered, if I were to do a Lunchtime Talk, what would I talk about?
Something that is very important to me is giving a voice to diverse perspectives and people in my classroom and presenting viewpoints that might not be considered the norm. I call this, flipping the script. I do this on a micro level in my classroom and in my everyday life. But then I got to thinking, what if we all started flipping the script? Could we collectively reach a macro level?
So, here’s my Lunchtime Talk or, Anytime Talk (well, without the 18 slides) on … Flipping the Script!
We are storytellers! We narrate, direct, co-create and lead the stories told in our class. And, we operate in a society that has a clear set of norms, traditions, codes, biases and we would be remiss to think that these stories aren’t unwittingly affected by that. We can’t help but color the stories we tell based upon our lived experiences.
Do you feel we have an important role in students’ lives? Do you feel we have a responsibility to open their hearts and minds to new things and ways of thinking? I certainly do. So why not use our platform to challenge the status quo instead of reinforcing it? Why not present an alternate view that is as “normal” as the ones we are used to hearing? So, let’s break free, let’s resist, let’s fight back, let’s stick it to the man, let’s FLIP THE SCRIPT!
How DO we flip the script?
Step 1 – We open our eyes. We are critical of the stories we use and create. We evaluate them. We evaluate everything: the characters we present, the families we describe, the moments in history we share, the current events we discuss, and of course our discourse with students. We ask, what and whose stories do they tell? Does the plot reinforce societal norms and standards or does it challenge our students to think and grow? Does the story assume a Eurocentric, white, dominant culture perspective or the perspective of other cultures and peoples, those often left out or underrepresented?
Step 2 – We reimagine the stories we tell and the information we present in class. We create new stories. We present alternate viewpoints. We decide what’s the most inclusive way to package and present these messages to our students.
Here are a few simple examples-
When my friend Cécile Laine tells the story of the three bears, do you think she takes the story as is and relays it to her kindergarteners? Do you think the Momma bear is cooking in the kitchen? No! She flips the script! She puts Dad cooking in the kitchen. What message does that send? That guys, boys, men, and Dads can cook. That men also help with the quotidian tasks of the family. That it’s ok for Moms to do other things.
When I tell The Little Red Riding Hood to my second graders, do you think I take Little Red Riding Hood at face value and draw her with light colored skin and straight hair? No! I flip the script! My Little Red Riding Hood has chocolate skin and kinky curly hair. What message does that send? That brown skinned people are represented, valued and important in my classroom.
When Martina Bex demonstrated Comprehensible Content to teachers at iFLT19, did she ask the “class” to determine if her character was a boy or a girl? No! She flipped the script! She simply said that the character was a person. What message does that send? That there are more than just two options! That non-binary individuals are seen and welcome in her classroom environment.
When I tell the family structure of my fruit family, who do you think María Mango is married to? … Marco Mango? Certainly not. I flip the script! She’s married to Melissa Maracuyá. What message does this send? That my students who have two Moms are respected and worth talking about. The first time I told this story in 1st grade, one of my students exclaimed, “that’s just like my family!” Another said, “we have friends like that.” It brought tears to my eyes. Oh, and what does Maria Mango and Melissa Maracuya’s baby looks like? Yes, I flipped the script! They adopted Manny la Manzana of course. And this sends the message that a family created by adoption, a family like my own, is valued and normal.
When Cécile chooses stories for Le Petit Journal, does she pick the stories being told by the media through the lens of reporters far removed from the subject? No She flips the script! She selects current event stories that tell a different angle, a new perspective. One that is less seen and heard. One that needs to be shared. And what message does that send to her kids? That there are many sides to a story and that all voices no matter how big, small, powerful or meek are important.
When I draw people in class how do I do it? I flip the script! I give guys long hair and the girls short hair. I draw boys in pink clothing and girls without bows in their hair. My kids say, “Señora Hayes, you said that was a boy and it has long hair!” I say, “Yep, and I’m glad you knew that niño meant boy.” and I move on. What message does this send? That it’s ok to look exactly how you look, even if you don’t fit the stereotypical norm and that we can break free of these norms and still be loved.
Are these examples the only ways to do this? -Nope. I’d love for others to share more on how they consider changing the narrative in their own classroom, because I know it’s going on and that I’m not the only one thinking about this. I teach elementary. And maybe some of these things go over my students’ heads. But it’s never too early to start expanding and diversifying the messages we send. And, with that said, it is never too late.
Is this all we should do? -Definitely not! But it’s a good start. I don’t think we should beat ourselves up about it or be too harsh when we slip up. But, let’s start the process, because it’s a journey and once we begin the journey, it gets easier and more automatic. And once we start doing it, others start thinking about it and doing it too. That’s how change happens. And someday soon we could have a nation of conscious, mindful, big-picture thinkers and inclusive educators. And that’s an exciting thought.
So I encourage you to explore flipping the script and/or share with others what you’re already doing. We can all learn so much from one another. We’re in this together. #flipthescript 🙂