"If people are hesitant, it is the exact reason you need one." - Michele
Michele is a second grade teacher from New York. We asked her a few questions about how she started a Rainbow Club at her school.
Katy: What inspired you to start one?
Michele: This year, when I learned I had a second grade student who is transgender I began to seek out resources to make sure my classroom was gender inclusive. I always thought that creating an inclusive classroom was something I was good at, but this experience has taught me how much I didn't know and how much more I could be doing. When I saw your post about the Rainbow Club, I knew it was something that I wanted to start.
Katy: What was the first step you took to start the club?
Michele: I read your blog post and a few days later I sent the link to my Assistant Principal asking for his thoughts. We spoke about it the next day and a few days later we met to plan the first meeting. It was very easy.
Katy: How have you decided to structure the meetings? Michele: We decided to just use your model. Our plan is to meet once-a-month for 45 minutes before school. The invitation is open to students and families. Most students came with an adult, some came as a whole family. We spent the first 15 minutes for people to come in, chat and play (we put out art, books and Legos). The next 15 minutes, we sat in a circle and did introductions. The last 15 minutes was spent doing a read aloud (Phoenix) with a discussion. We didn't want to complicate it - your plan seemed simple and easy.
Katy: How did you get the word out?
Michele: The parent coordinator at our school used a school-wide e-blast to share the blurb we created (we just used a version of yours). We also have a school-wide communication app we use and shared it there as well. We created an email address for people to ask questions. We personally reached out to a few families to invite them. We made a few posters to hang up before the second meeting, but didn't do that for the first one.
Katy: Have you gotten any pushback or hesitation?
Michele: None. A few parents have emailed to ask if it was appropriate for them to come - the answer is always yes.
Katy: What advice would you give to those who have?
Michele: Use the experts, there is information out there to show why this is so important at the elementary level. Go in prepared! Seek out parent allies - sometimes administration listens to a strong parent voice. Don't do it alone - find people on staff who will want to join. Our school social worker showed up at the meeting, and other teachers have reached out about coming to our next meeting. If people are hesitant, it is the exact reason you need one.
Katy: What else would you like to tell us about your Rainbow Club?
Michele: Our first meeting was a great mix of kids from K-5 and their families and everyone seemed so genuinely happy to be there. It was just joyful being in the room and watching parents introduce themselves to each other and watching kids play with kids that they wouldn't otherwise know. Later that week a student I didn't know before said hi to me in the hallway - and that small thing just made me feel like this club strengthens our whole school community.
Katy: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Michele: To start a club you don't have to feel confident that you know what you are doing. I feel like I am providing a safe space and resources, but I am learning as I go. I am learning from my students, the parents, fellow teachers. I've relied heavily on people who are already doing the work and have found teachers on Instagram who inspire me. I'm OK with all things I do not know and I am OK with the fact that I might make mistakes along the way. I appreciate that there is a community out there that can guide me. I've purchased your curriculum and am so thankful for it. I would also add that our youngest students who came to the meeting were in Kindergarten (with their grown-ups). It is never too early to start this work.
Thank you for speaking with us Michele! You can follow Michele on Instagram @teacher_odyssey. If you have a Rainbow Club success story you would like to share, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org