“We Don’t Say Those Words in Class”


On this past week, we have been learning about physical abilities and physical characteristics, and race and ethnicity. People who show ableism has prejudice and discriminates against those who have emotional, developmental, physical and mental disabilities (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). Racism and ethnocentrism is discrimination towards a person because of their skin color or ethnic background (Laureate Education Inc., 2011).

I remember a time when I got a phone call from my son’s teacher about a month or so ago. I thought to myself, what has he done now? Well the teacher began to let me know that they were working on inclusion in the classroom with children with physical abilities and physical characteristics. On this particular day a little boy was in his class, and the young boy had some developmental delays and he would drool from the mouth. Well my son evidently thought it was funny to pick on this little boy and said “ill he nasty because he keeps spitting from his mouth” and he was making fun of the little boy who could not help 4af87f8be3021878c3867aa30d633b72himself. The teacher told me that she told him that it was not nice and that, we do not talk about our friends like that. I was asked to speak with him on the phone and I did. I asked him why would he pick on someone who was different from him. I let him know that what he did was wrong and although this was something that he was not use to, it is normal and that it may be other times he may see something similar. I told him next time instead of picking just let the teacher know and she can take care of the little boy. Because of his behavior he had to move his clip down from green to yellow. His teacher let me know that this type of behavior was not acceptable. This encounter put me in the waking up part of Harro (2008) Cycle of Liberation due to the fact that my son knew better to do what he did but yet he did. Children should be exposed to different pictures of children and older people that has a disability so that when they see one in person they will not be so alarmed. As educators it is our job to ensure that every child is depicted in the class in some kind of way be it through pictures, books, and/or toys. Derman-Sparks and Edwards (2010) states “all children need teachers who make sure that people with disabilities are visible in their learning environment: in pictures and posters on the wall, in toys and books, in program staff, and in their community” (p. 125).

I also have a girlfriend who said she had to get on her niece and nephew once or twice because they were staring and pointing at a homeless man who was standing on the corner1645653814_1192e51414_m with one leg. She said they were not picking but were curious and inquisitive as to why the man was like that and why was he standing and holding a sign. “Children’s behaviors such as staring or pointing at a person with a disability are not uncommon and usually indicate curiosity” (Derman-Sparks, & Edwards, 2010, p. 129). She said she told them that she did not know why he only had one leg or why he was on the corner. However, she did tell them that sometimes in life we fall short and situations come up to where we are unable to keep things that we once owned. She let them know that he was homeless because of the sign that he was holding that said “homeless, please help. God Bless.”

The messages that might have been communicated to either of the children are that it is not okay to talk about or pick on others because it is not nice. It might have even been communicated through a hidden message which is the golden rule; do unto to others as you would have them do unto you. “An anti-bias classroom encourages children to be open about their questions, ideas, and feelings about themselves and others” (Derman-Sparks, & Edwards, 2010, p. 129).

An anti-bias teacher would have used that moment with the child as a teachable moment and let the child know that we are all different and some more so than others. The teacher would let the child know that what he said hurt the other child’s feelings and that he did not like it. Derman-Sparks and Edwards (2010) states “to foster an open and safe environment, do not criticize children for noticing and asking questions about differences” (p.129).



Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Harro, B. (2010). The cycle of liberation. In M. Adams, W. Blumenfeld, C. Castaneda, H. W. Hackman, M. L. Peters, & X. Zuniga (Eds.), Readings for diversity and social justice(Figure 7.1 on p. 53, 2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011.). Start seeing diversity: Physical ability and characteristics [Video file]. Retrieved https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_15511834_1&content_id=_34836210_1

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011.). Start seeing diversity: Race/ethnicity [Video file]. Retrieved https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_15511834_1&content_id=_34836210_1

9 thoughts on ““We Don’t Say Those Words in Class”

  1. Great post once again Dionna. I think we have to try to foster more questions from our early learner than stifling their curiosity. They have questions and sometimes we have answers and sometimes we don’t. We just have to find a way to make their questions be about the situation and not the person they may be asking about. No one wants to be alienated nor placed in a spotlight so we have to find a happy medium to give and informative answer and also foster compassion and communication as one unit. We have the luxury of the internet to use and show pictures, tell stories or informational text to help us and the children we have become more inform and become tolerant of others differences a positive manner.


  2. Hi Dionna,
    I enjoyed reading your post and am resonated with your point. I used to work with a girl who is intellectual delayed and she was put into a 3-year-old class while she was 5. Both me and my co-worker often praised this girl and other students how wonderful they are and we love everyone. Sometimes students came to me and whisper, “I don’t like her because she is rude.” Then I will bring them together and discuss how to be nice to each other. Often I reminded the students that the girl is special so we show her how to be a good child and make good choice. “Behind every child’s inappropriate behavior is a feeling, question, or desire that deserves attention (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, p.34).” Children form their biases when they receive the wrongly verbal or none-verbal messages from their important adults. When we call for pictures and posters include people with varying abilities, we also should be ready and unbiased to teach the students how to see this group of people as part of human diversity. Thanks for the sharing!

    Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC


  3. I enjoyed reading your post.. I had a neice who was disabled and her disability prompt me to want to work with children. When people came to visit her, the smaller children didn’t understand why she couldn’t talk or walk.. When she made noises they laugh and I can remember telling my little cousin who was 4 years old that laughing at her was not nice.. We shouldn’t make fun of people that are helpless.. I ask him, how would you feel if that was you and she laughed at him. He said I would cry because that would hurt my feelings.. So he quickly encourage other children not to laugh at her but help her. The author states how we should “spark children’s empathy about the hurt that stereotypes can cause” (Pelo, 2008, p.47)
    Pelo, A. (Ed.) 2008. Rethinking Early Childhood Education. Milwaukee, WI.


  4. Dionna,
    We have to continue to encourage and correct our children. Children don’t understand, that why as adults it is important to correct and explain to children what is acceptable and what not acceptable. I think you handle the situation with your son very well. I enjoyed reading your post this week.


  5. Dionna,
    Your post was awesome and I truly enjoyed reading it. Children are usually genuine in their approach and not being malicious in their thought process. The inappropriateness of their behavior can only be fixed with immediate feedback It also must be a process that requires both the parents and teachers buy in to make it work and be fixed.

    Behind every child’s inappropriate behavior is a feeling, question, or desire that deserves attention (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, p.34).” The pointing and staring is something I’ve seen my nephews and niece do and had to tell them that it is rude and disrespectful. Children usually do it as a natural reaction but it is our job to correct the negative behavior with positive reinforcement. Thank you!


    Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC


  6. Dear Dionna,
    I always enjoy reading your blog it’s very intriguing and informative. As educators it’s important for us to teach children to never tease a person that looks different from you always show respect and follow the “Golden Rule ” to treat people how you want to be treated . However, I know some children ask question for curiosity and concerns but that’s the only way children will learn and have a better understanding when they are taught properly. Also we live in a diverse nation made up of many different cultures, languages, races, and backgrounds. That kind of variety can make all our lives a lot more fun and interesting, but only if we get along with each other. And to do that we have to respect each other(“Respect – Respecting Others – Lesson Plans – Character Education,” n.d.) .
    Respect – Respecting Others – Lesson Plans – Character Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.goodcharacter.com/BCBC/RespectingOthers.html


  7. Dionna,
    Thanks for sharing this story with us.I have had this similiar incident to happen to me but it was my nephew who was staring at this little girl who has no arms and can not talk. As we passed the little girl in the store, he asked me loudly auntie what’s wrong with her, I was telling him to be quite when the little girls mom came up and told me not to tell him to be quite she said he only wanted to know what was wrong. The mother begin to explain to my nephew the condition of her daughter. My nephew told the mother he was sorry for her daughter could he buy her an ice cream. I felt totally ashamed of my behavior, because as an educator and a parent I should have known that I was suspose to explain to him then about difference in people.
    So when children or someone who looks different then they do we should explain people are different but we all are human and deserve respect.


  8. Dionna,

    Your examples are a great opportunity for teachers to teach children about differences. I remember my kids snickering about a homeless man but I quickly told them you don’t know why that man is homeless, it may be something out of their control. So I gave both of them money and told them to give it to the man.


  9. Dionna,
    I loved reading your post. I know that children understand right from wrong. Sometimes if a situation is unfamiliar to them they will act differently. This may mean a child is being disrespectful. I also agree with you about children being exposed to different things. Things like pictures being displayed throughout the classroom of different kinds of disabilities, religious/cultural backgrounds, race, and sexism. As educators and parents it is our responsibility to instill these things in our children.


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