Don’t let anyone tell you to change who you are

A Place for Every Kid to Hang a Hat-FrameAMarty Keltz and Jena Ball started a campaign for #NotPerfectHatClub. It celebrates that all kids are perfectly not perfect. Many educators became part of this campaign to celebrate students’ and our own imperfections. I loved the idea and wanted to be a fan as well. I wanted to share a picture of my #NotPerfectHat. Then I felt a little left out, because I do not wear hats. I wear a hijab: a scarf.

I reflected back to my childhood growing up with while wearing a hijab in Toronto Canada. I came to Canada at the age of 11, and did not speak any English. I had to learn English for the first few years at school. At school, I felt that wearing the scarf was my #NotPerfectHat, it was my imperfection, though I didn’t embrace it. I felt it made me stand out from the other kids. The other kids also showed very little kindness, partly because I am a new student, and partly because I did not speak English. To them this was a gateway to pick on me.

My teachers did their best to try and help me integrate in the new school. I had several loyal friends. Nonetheless, I had a really hard time seeing that what made me stand out was my perfect imperfection. I always felt that the solution has to come from my being able to embrace everything that makes me unique and different. I believed in why I wear the scarf and it was my choice to wear it, yet I wasn’t empowered to stand up against the kids who picked on me for it. My #NotPerfectHat was my lack of self-esteem/confidence to be myself.

It was not until I got into university that I started being more outspoken. I started to be more confident in myself to stand up for my beliefs and my right to be who I am.

So as teachers, how can we empower students to embrace their imperfections?

By creating and fostering a culture of understanding, kindness and empathy towards each other.

  • Teachers need to have discussions about understanding and empathizing with everyone’s background and where they come from.
  • It’s important to celebrate each other’s individuality and uniqueness in class through discussions, activities, art.
  • Expose kids to diverse texts in the classroom, be it that they’re texts written by people of colour or literature that discusses issues of culture and diversity.
  • There are many ideas for games and activities that teachers can practice and use in the classroom to create a culture of understanding for all students.
  • Take action: it’s important that teachers become vigilant when it comes to kids & their treatment of each other. Teachers need to take action when it becomes an unsafe or even uncomfortable learning environment for one student.

There are some really great resources here: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/preparing-cultural-diversity-resources-teachers

So I tell my students this all the time:

Don’t let anyone tell you to change who you are. Always be real. Always be you.

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2 thoughts on “Don’t let anyone tell you to change who you are

  1. A favorite book to share is The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, by Dr. Seuss- through story- and this one in particular- a strong reminder of how we may all “wear different hats” in different positions, applicable to all ages. Younger students may make their own paper thinking caps; for older students a look at objects like a “dunce cap” may provoke discussion about a multitude of topics from the schools of old, to the ways today we continue to expect conformity while idealizing individuality.

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