My First Post
While many administrators in West Vancouver Schools have been blogging for years, this is my first foray into the blog world. My blog title reflects both my philosophy of education and of life: While we must strive to honour and celebrate our uniqueness, to live authentically, and to express ourselves freely; we also live, learn, and work together in a pluralistic society. This means that sometimes we disagree, that our ideas will clash, and that we will struggle with finding our way. However, we are on this journey together and, frankly, it’s a good thing. Our differences challenge us to try harder to understand each other and help us stay wide-awake to our own beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions.
For instance, there are a few but loud voices against the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) work in schools around the province. Much of the rhetoric is based in fear and untruths, in some cases frighteningly outlandish. But as upsetting as some of the statements and tactics have been, there is one very valid point being made: People should find out what is being taught in their schools. This is true of all subjects, but for now let’s just look at SOGI.
SOGI education is not a specific curriculum – you won’t find a textbook or a standardized test on it. SOGI education is about understanding, accepting, and celebrating our diversity. It’s about using language that reflects all sexual orientations and gender identities and having safe spaces for everyone. What we are trying to do is open hearts and minds to the idea that everyone is valued and loved – no matter who you are, what you wear, or who you love.
It is so much more than universal washrooms, although this is not something to be taken lightly. Our opening day speaker, Ivan Coyote, was incredibly inspiring and has a Ted Talk explaining why we need gender neutral washrooms that is particularly poignant. But we need to do more. For instance, when we teach about family, kids need to see books that represent different types of families, not just one. All kids need to see themselves and their families represented. We need to be sensitive to using language that assumes everyone is straight (heteronormativity) or that everyone identifies with the sex characteristics they were born with (cisnormativity). This is not meant to shame anyone and I mess up all the time – it’s difficult to retrain our social programming – but we need to try.
The Pride Parade
We also need to be in the Pride Parade. On the parade route, we repeatedly heard, “West Vancouver sure has changed!” We were thanked over and over just for being there. This year, like last year, there was a lot of cheering, there was an abundance of joy, and I admit, for me there were tears. At a time when it seems that a small number of people have been given a platform to express fear and hate, there are so many more who are voicing support and celebrating diversity. That there is so much expressed joy and love in our school district and community for our LGBTQ+ students, staff, and families – it makes me cry every time.
So, in some ways, I am grateful for some opposition to our SOGI work. It forces us to closely examine what we believe and to explicitly articulate what and why we are teaching. It has also spurred more people into action. We had more than double our numbers in the West Vancouver Schools entry this year. The District of West Vancouver graciously donated the use of their trailer (Thank you!). Our facilities department took great care and pride in building our float (thank you all, especially to Neil who thought of everything!). Parent Sarah Farhangi helped us design the float, the t-shirts, and painstakingly sewed the float fabric (thank you, Sarah!). Several staff helped paint the float and several more came with their spouses, children, and pets to celebrate diversity in the parade (you are all amazing!). We showed up as a community to let the world know that in West Vancouver Schools, love wins. I have never been so proud to be an educator.