Παρασκευή, 29 Απριλίου 2016

OMEP European Conference 2016: Rainbow Families Greece - Ensuring LGBT Inclusive Education In the Greek Kindergarten

Το Ευρωπαϊκό Συνέδριο  της ΟΜΕΡ (Παγκόσμια Οργάνωση για την Προσχολική Εκπαίδευση) θα πραγματοποιηθεί στο Canterbury του Ηνωμένου Βασιλείου από 5 έως 7 Μαΐου 2016 και θα έχει θέμα «Η θέση του παιδιού στην κοινωνία του 21ου αιώνα».
Σε αυτό το συνέδριο θα συμμετέχει η Στέλλα Μπελιά και θα παρουσιάσει από την σκοπιά της νηπιαγωγού και ταυτόχρονα της μητέρας τις προσπάθειες που κάνουμε ως οργάνωση lgbtqi γονέων να δημιουργήσουμε τις προϋποθέσεις ώστε να αλλάξει κάτι και μια πιο συμπεριληπτική εκπαιδευτική διαδικασία που να περιλαμβάνει την πολυμορφία των οικογενειών να ενταχθεί στα προγράμματα σπουδών για το ελληνικό νηπιαγωγείο.
Η ανακοίνωση στα Αγγλικά 

"Ensuring LGBT Inclusive Education In the Greek Kindergarten   
Stella Belia MSc in Education 
A common misperception about families who are not actively involved with school is that they simply “‘don’t care’ about their children’s education” (Mapp, 2003: 42). Educators who see the same small group of families helping out in the classroom, attending school events, and participating in school governance, for example, may conclude that the others in the district are not interested or do not place high value on education.

Apart from families of low economic or cultural background who actually do not speak the school language and the school has no interest whatsoever to approach them, there is a category of families that avoid any contact with the school and avoid  to  actively participate, due to the fact that the school itself, as an institution, does not even recognize them under the term “families”. These families are typically the same-sex parent families (Crowl, Ahn & Baker, 2008: 386).

It is clear that the so-called nuclear heteronormative family is the most common form of family organization. However, the school mechanism tries to impose that, in addition to being the most common, it is also the most “appropriate” for bringing up children (Rosato, 2006: 74)
This fact alone leads families that do not conform with the heteronormative shape of nuclear family, to keep away from school and its activities, to feeling unwilling to discuss the structure of their family with their children’s teachers and also to avoid engaging in collective actions with other parents and teachers (Rimalower & Caty, 2009: 18).

To date, unfortunately, the institution of school does not allow children of same sex parent families to bring their families with them to school. It requires by all means and at all costs, to leave their lives at home outside the school gate, and to re-engage with their family reality only after they exit the same school gate.
This is primarily because the Greek school, based on up-to-now educational programs and textbooks, excludes all possibilities for references to other family models and different structures besides the heteronormative model of nuclear family (Papadaki, 2015: 66). Children of families that differ from the dominant heteronormative model of nuclear family, such as those from single parent families and mixed-marriage families, rarely have the opportunity in their school and everyday school routine to find an image that reflects the reality they experience at home. The minimal presence of these family structures, becomes an outright exclusion when it comes to the children of same-sex parent families.
No school book shows, not even a single image, that resembles their own family. There is not a single reference in any lesson regarding diversity of families. The heteronormative nuclear family, is considered both in education and by the majority of teachers as “the best there is”.

In addition, the Greek educational system has no sexual education programs included in its curriculum  (Gerouki, 2007: 83). There is only what a handful of inspired health education consultants have occasionally prepared and provided of their own initiative, but nothing on a steady, organized, or official basis. 
It is this same Greek educational system that does not include neither the words “homophobia” or “transphobia” in any updates of teachers’ information about bullying, though these are the dominant reasons students suffer bullying in the first place. Neither does the Greek educational system recognizes sexism, whether it comes from teachers or students or some other source. (Gerouki, 2010: 337).
Ιt is in our schools that young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer people face discrimination the most. Young people in all their diversity, should be able to fully participate in all aspects of life, enjoy respect and positive recognition and reach their full potential. This will never be possible without an open, LGBTQ inclusive (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer inclusive), human rights-friendly, less heteronormative-focused education at every level.

But how could this be achieved, when apart from being excluded from school textbooks and educational programs, lgbtq characters are also being excluded from Greek children’s literature (original or translated), since there seems to be absolutely no interest from local publishers in anything that might include such a character as a hero? 
Publishers’ attitudes show that not only such publishing activity is not a priority, but rather it should also be actively prevented. Since literature is the symbolic representation of reality, an “eviction” of lgbtq characters from it, is in accordance with the eviction of lgbtq people from reality as well. Eventually, since there are no books in children’s literature to reflect the family life of many children, there is also no possibility to “expose” and familiarize children with material regarding family diversity.
As long as the Ministry of Education is connected with that of Religion (besides other nomenclature that also included Sports, Culture, Lifelong Learning etc.) there will be no substantial changes. And by religions here we mean the one and only Greek Orthodox Church.
It is of course natural that publishers in Greece publish countless versions of the Bible for children as the market for it is guaranteed.


As a mother, when I started telling stories and fairytales to my little ones, while I was putting them to bed at night, I never felt that there was a problem with the books I read to them. A myriad of books in English were speaking about families like ours. Growing up, after first grade, when they began to read themselves, they discovered that none of their favorite books were written in their language. This was a problem.

That’s how I wrote “The two small eggs” (illustrated by Smaragda Magkou, Athens 2014). So they would be able to read a book, written in their native language, in which they would be able to see the image of their own family. I wrote Two Small Eggs to create something that had not been accessible in their textbooks nor in the literature they could find in the library of their school.

And since “one swallow does not make a summer”, nor a book radical changes, we continued with Rainbow Families to publish books that talk about family diversity.
The second book for children, “Alice looks in the mirror” (illustrated by Ioannis Alexiadis, Athens 2016) is a tender book about a family of two dads. Since in Greek reality, women are considered as “complete” - against all feminist claims - only when we become mothers, “two mommies” could, in a misuse of their role, raise children together, but how about “two fathers”? Not funny! 

This story talks about a little girl, Alice, with a physical disability that holds her trapped in an institution as “unclaimed”. Usually, children with a disability are not “the first choice” of heteronormative families who have access to foster care and adoption processes. Talking to various people about this text I became aware that one of the readings could be “let’s give gay people the disabled children no one wants”. Every text allows multiple interpretations. I’d prefer to stick to the idea that all children deserve a family who loves them without conditions of normalcy. “Normalcy” has such a restrictive definition, that should we give it some serious thought, we will realize that nobody really fits such a narrowly defined image.

The third book aims at teenagers and adults. The title is: “Small Family Stories” (Athens 2016) and consists of three short stories. “We-Five” by Auguste Corteau, “Moving out” and “Peter and the Wolf” by Stella Bellia. All of them are stories that explore the range of possible family structures in which a child may be raised.

Could this be enough? FRA (European Union Agency for Fundamental rights) reports under the title “Professionally speaking: challenges to achieving equality for LGBT people” that the situation in the field of education is rather disappointing in the majority of EU countries. 
As far as Greece is concerned, we know firsthand how frustrating the situation is from our own personal experience both as parents and as teachers.
However, we have come to the conclusion that teachers are increasingly interested in including in their practices processes concerning families of all children enrolled in their classrooms. This change may also be attributed to the recent legislative amendment in Greece, which includes same-sex couples under the law on civil partnerships. Although the above law did not create the conditions for both same-sex partners to acquire legal rights to their children, yet it created the conditions so as for more couples to request a more inclusive education process, in their communication with their children's school. This same law amendment made teachers feel that they have to change the way they approach issues concerning other family structures, since same-sex relationships  legally constitute now a “family”.

Within "Rainbow Families" we created a scientific team consisting of teachers whose purpose was to create a useful handbook for kindergarten. A primer aiming to cultivate the phonological awareness of infants whose text, apart from the phonemes, also includes a wide range of family structures. The text provides many possibilities such as theater drama activities, dramatizations etc. (designed by a subgroup of teachers specializing in theater in education), and art activities (designed by a subgroup of teachers specializing in visual arts etc). As our educational programs are interdisciplinary, a team of illustrators and graphic designers worked on the illustrations to accompany the text, emphasizing not only on the diversity of families, but also on good nutritional practices for children. Also a group of software developers is designing interactive activities that introduce infants to new technologies and computers.
Another group of teachers specializing in music, is creating a series of acoustic exercises through text references on various musical instruments and the sounds they produce. Along with these groups a team of psychologists, sociolinguistics and social workers, is preparing the supporting material for both training  kindergarten teachers, who shall run a pilot program in their classrooms, and to provide information for the parents’ meetings  in the schools that shall run the programs.
Two facts and one question we cannot ignore.
#1.  A focus of the kindergartens and elementary curriculum is the family unit.
#2.  There are students in our classrooms who have gay and lesbian (same-sex) parents.
How do we include the children of gay and lesbian families in the curriculum since they too have educational rights and needs? 
Consider the following points.  Then ask what should be done.
Every students’ needs are the #1 priority of the school.
Every student is entitled to a supportive and protective school environment.
The kindergartens and elementary schools are about inclusion of all students.
The kindergartens’ and elementary curriculum centers on family.
The curriculum includes the family structure of students.
Our educational system allows each teacher to develop his or her own programs (on health education, cultural and environmental education) and there is no legal obstacle for someone to introduce such a program in their class, as long as they have acquired their Ministry-appointed consultant’s consent. However, we have started to make contacts with the Education Policy Institute so as to acquire an adequate license for the pilot program to run in case of consultants with a negative perspective on the pilot. We have not yet come to specific results but it is hopeful that at least there is an ongoing dialogue, which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. 
We know that homophobia is based on well-established stereotypes both in our society and in education in our country. For us it is so familiar, as water to fish.I heard this metaphor the first time by the Italian activist Ilaria Trivelato If we ask a fish what he sees around him, he would probably say: “I see the corals, a reef, seaweed”. None of them would say “I see water” because water is everywhere, it takes up the entire space around him. So is homophobia. It is everywhere but, unfortunately, we are unable to see it as we come into contact with it from the very first moments of our lives. It is as if they water us with it from our first breaths at birth. Thus, greater efforts have to be made to highlight the existing homophobia in our educational system and to also challenge our own internalized homophobia in order to move forward to creating a safer school environment for all children and their families.
References
Berger, E. H., & Riojas-Cortez, M. (2000). Parents as partners in education: Families and schools working together. Upper Saddle River, MD: Merrill.
Crowl, A., Ahn, S., & Baker, J. (2008). A meta-analysis of developmental outcomes for children of same-sex and heterosexual parents. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 4(3), 385-407.
Gerouki, M. (2007). Sexuality and relationships education in the Greek primary schools—see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Sex Education, 7(1), 81-100.
Gerouki, M. (2010). The boy who was drawing princesses: primary teachers' accounts of children's non-conforming behaviours. Sex Education, 10(4), 335-348.
Mapp, K. L. (2003). Having their say: Parents describe why and how they are engaged in their children's learning. School Community Journal, 13(1), 35-64.
Papadaki, V. (2015). Invisible students: experiences of lesbian and gay students in social work education in Greece. Social Work Education, 65-77.
Rimalower, L., & Caty, C. (2009). The mamas and the papas: the invisible diversity of families with same-sex parents in the United States. Sex Education, 9(1), 17-32.
Rosato, J. L. (2006). Children of same-sex parents deserve the security blanket of the parentage presumption. Family Court Review, 44(1), 74-86.

Δεν υπάρχουν σχόλια :

Δημοσίευση σχολίου

Εδώ σχολιάζεις εσύ - Comment Here

Σημείωση: Μόνο ένα μέλος αυτού του ιστολογίου μπορεί να αναρτήσει σχόλιο.

Contact Us

Name *
Email *
Subject *
Message *
Powered byEMF Web Forms Builder
Report Abuse