Last week, C.J. wrote a letter to the three PE teachers who rotate working at the elementary schools in his school district. In the letter, he explained that he doesn’t think they should segregate students by sex/gender during PE class. He sent a copy of the letter to his principal and teacher.
His letter did not go unnoticed.
One of his PE teachers replied saying that they group kids by gender so that “the girls will get a chance to play.” She said that “if you put 5 boys and 5 girls on a field together the boys will never throw the ball to the girls.” I cringed while reading her email. She did end it by saying that C.J. could join whatever group he wanted to when the class was divided by sex/gender during PE. He’d not previously been given that option; no kid had, as far as he could remember.
C.J.’s amazing teacher sent him an email that he has read over and over.
“I am so proud of you! You are one of the bravest kids I know, and I am so happy that you are in my class. No matter what happens, you spoke up and communicated your feelings, and that is a HUGE deal! I hope they make changes so all kids will feel comfortable,” she wrote.
We need more teachers like C.J.’s teacher.
C.J.’s principal replied letting him know that his letter was outstanding and conveyed a great message. She told C.J. that she forwarded it to her boss (our district’s director of Elementary Education) in hopes that it would spark a conversation for all schools – not just C.J.’s.
“Thanks for being brave and for taking the time to write such a poignant letter. I think that there are many adults who need to hear your message about equality and including everyone. I am proud of you!,” his principal wrote.
The next day, the principal sent an email letting C.J. know that the district’s director of Elementary Education said that C.J. is “absolutely correct, and that she is going to be working on getting all PE teachers to understand.”
How many kids have taken a stand, written a letter, had the encouragement of their teacher and principal AND had the principal’s boss tell them that they are right?
“I am so proud of myself and happy! From now on, I’m going to stick up for myself and other kids even more. I think it was more important for my teachers to hear stuff from me instead of you,” C.J. told me.
Like I said in my last post, I’m so used to handling things like this for C.J. I’m used to advocating for and protecting him. I’m used to traveling a few steps ahead and trying to make things as right as possible for him. But, he’s older now. He’s stronger now. I need to get out of his way. I can’t clear his trail, he needs to blaze his own. Because his voice is more powerful than mine.
A few days ago, I let C.J. read all of the social media and blog comments in response to his letter. He was beyond happy to hear that some people were going to read the letter to their gender creative kids and share it with their schools to spark consideration, conversation and, hopefully, some action.
Here are some of his other favorite comments:
“This letter is amazing. I wish I had written it 30 years ago. Maybe that would have gotten me out of gymnastics and into wrestling like I’d wanted to do.” — K. on Facebook
“Hey CJ- I’m 35 now but fifth grade me wants to say THANK YOU. I was the girl who wanted this same thing but lacked the confidence you have to write this letter. Thank you, thank you for helping make the world better for the next generation. You are one of my heroes.” — B. on Facebook
“Great job, CJ! I raised a child who felt the same way, all through middle school, and I’m certain that he wasn’t alone. Thank you for speaking up, for yourself, and for everyone else. You ARE making our world better!” — C. on my blog
“Every time in school I was in an all-boys group for anything I was always scared and anxious because it meant possible humiliation or getting hit. When girls are mixed in with boys there is a civilizing vibe. I was never as anxious when the group was mixed and I could focus on the work at hand.” — S. on my blog
And, finally, some teachers let us now how they split up students without relying on sex/gender. Here are our favorite tips:
“What a great letter. Tell CJ that a great way of splitting people evenly is to have them clasp their hands together naturally. Split by who has their left thumb on top and who has their right. It’s about a 50/50 split of people.” — A. on Facebook
I can’t find our other favorite tip that was posted, but it basically said that if your school/class uses the Class Dojo app (which ours does), the teachers can use it to split up classes in all sorts of ways. That sounds like a great, easy feature.
This week, during PE the classes were not segregated by sex/gender. The physical activity of the day was dance. All the kids danced together and laughed together. As it should be.