BY: NADIA ZAIDI
A “policy” in some kindergarten classes requires parents to invite the entire class to their child’s birthday party.
The entire class.
Full day Kindergarten classes in Ontario have an average of 26 students. Need I say more?
Even though this policy is not mandated anywhere in the Ontario curriculum, it has become widespread. In fact, some parents endorse it.
I agree that inclusive pedagogy is crucial to successful learning and development. But this all-or-none approach to birthday invitations doesn’t necessarily nurture these fundamentals, and can lead to potential issues that aren’t being recognized.
Despite their tiny statures and infantile projections, four and five-year-old children are people with growing opinions – those feelings should matter. Some people believe that kindergarten students are too young to dislike or exclude on their own volition. Well, I was once five and I don’t remember being friends with everyone.
Research by PREVNet, a leading Canadian network of researchers and organizations on bully prevention, shows that children in elementary and middle school are more likely to bully than older children. Various bullying experts also state that bullying begins as early as preschool.
“Solutions” like this push us to dismiss facts and pretend like compulsory rules will solve our children’s issues. Forcing children to invite everyone can welcome the presence of bullies, or kids they simply don’t get along with. It also impinges upon their special day. Rules like this discount individual feelings, and ultimately eliminate a child’s right to choose.
This is simply a Band-Aid approach to inclusivity, which places an enormous onus on parents. The practical and responsible approach by teachers should be to recognize peer dynamics, while fostering respect, courtesy and understanding. It’s highly unfair to obligate parents to invite a classroom of children into their homes, or accommodate them elsewhere.
It also singles out parents who cannot afford the expense of hosting an entire class, or those who can’t pay to send their children to multiple birthdays. This requirement doesn’t seem to scratch the surface of potential issues, and is quite irrational in its execution.
Frankly, we are a society of hypersensitive individuals who cause issues over non-issues. We seek to pacify our children when they don’t get their way, and then whine about a generation of entitled millennials.
Sure, it would be disingenuous to bypass the sting of being excluded. But guess what? It’s part of life and parents must counsel their children through rejection or exclusion. Ultimately kids need to accept that they aren’t always invited, or liked by everyone. Their feelings shouldn’t be safeguarded by an arbitrary policy that disserves them. It will set them up for unrealistic expectations and a constant need for validation.
The Ontario kindergarten curriculum states: “Children arrive in Kindergarten as unique individuals shaped by their particular cultural and social background, socio-economic status, personal capabilities, and day-to-day experiences, and at different stages of development.”
But such a policy doesn’t recognize this.
Kindergarten is an exploratory launch into the schoolyard of education. It forecasts the deeper, complex educational experience that is to come, and we should keep it as authentic as possible. Children will learn that the world doesn’t revolve around their feelings and become better from it.