The OISE library is constantly acquiring new items that help to enrich and inspire all types of learning environments. While this includes materials that are targeted towards expanding a student’s academic progress, it also extends to those materials that help to create a safe and inclusive learning environment. The items featured within this blog post help to do just that by acknowledging and discussing the different needs of students with diverse lived experiences. By addressing issues of bullying, gender identities, and mental health, this series highlights the various needs of students, and the ways that education administers can formulate their classrooms to address those needs.
The first item to be featured, Feather, is a children’s book written by Rémi Courgeon. With its colourful and whimsical illustrations, this picture book depicts the journey of a young, small girl who has a passion for playing the piano amongst a family who she describes as “rough and clumsy.” Although it is evident that Paulina wishes to spend her time playing the piano, she instead takes up an activity that is more in tune with the interests of her family, boxing, after she comes home from school one day with a black eye. This emotionally provocative story tells the story of a girl who struggles with her identity as being different, yet finds a place in her family by being true to herself. Feather is a great novel to inspire children to have pride in who they are, and to always follow their passions.
The next item to be featured is the book Confronting Oppressive Assessments: How
Parents, Educators, and Policymakers are Rethinking Current Educational Reforms. Edited by Walter Polka and John McKenna, this book is comprised of a collection of articles and essays that speak to the emotional hardships that students may experience at the hands of current educational policies governing the nation’s classrooms. This work speaks to the varying ways that students experience anxiety and emotional distress at the hands of policies that fail to encourage the emotional and intellectual growth of their students in a healthy way. By analyzing the static and regimented ways that students have expected to learn in the classroom, this book pushes administrators and teachers alike to rethink their classrooms and create anew a learning environment that is more inducive to the reality of a child’s unique learning processes.
Supporting Transgender and Gender Creative Youth, edited by Elizabeth Meyer and Annie Sansfaçon, is an excellent book that works to include and engage children who are transgender, gender queer, or gender questioning. Compiled of many articles and essays that discuss the experience of transgender youth in the classroom, this work helps administrators to better understand the lived experience of these students so as to ensure they can grow, prosper and learn in a safe and welcoming environment that is cognizant of their unique needs. By discussing the creation of such an environment through the perspective of teachers and parents alike, Supporting Transgender and Gender Creative Youth acts as an excellent aid to help everyone involved in the educational process to understand and learn from one another in a healthy and productive manner.
In addition to the exploration of gender identity, Sexual Cultures in Aotearoa New
Zealand Education also explores the experience of sexual identities in children and teens. This book works to highlight the features of queer culture and how that culture is experienced by queer students in the classroom. Through its various articles and essays, this item works to identify and actualize methods that would help queer students feel comfortable expressing their queer identity both in and outside the classroom. It also expresses the need to educate queer youth concerning topical areas such as sexual education and mental health. By helping educational administrators to understand the queer student experience, they are given the tools they need in order to build an inclusive and safe learning environment.
The importance of eliciting conversations about mental health not only concerns queer youth, but also concerns all students who make up a classroom. School Mental Health Services for Adolescents is an edited work that helps to formulate a foundational comprehension of mental health and the ways that it can affect youth and adolescents. By first juxtaposing mental health as it was experienced in the past to how it should be experienced in the future, this collection helps education professionals to imagine changes that can be implemented in the classroom in order to work towards creating spaces that are welcoming and inclusive. Broaching topics such as disruptive behavior, the regulation of emotions, and drug abuse and health concerns amongst teens, this item helps to induce in teachers and their students a progressive lens through which to view mental health, thus allowing them to effectively combat its symptoms.