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How to Cope With Being Different in the Classroom

As a small child I fell in love with words. Mrs Johnstone, my first grade teacher told my parents I had a very large vocabulary for my age. Mum and Dad smiled knowingly, interpreting that as meaning I talked a lot in class! Nothing could have been further from the truth. I spoke to nobody but Mrs Johnstone.

I Was Different

The rest of the class happily chatted away, forming easy friendships. Shy, different with long red plaits and freckles and overwhelmed by suddenly being thrust into a room full of other kids, I was petrified. I could not understand how these kids all knew each other.

Eccentric

By high school, my favourite word was “eccentric”. It became my life’s ambition to become eccentric. I embraced being “different”. Just last year a new acquaintance said, “Kathy you are eccentric, aren’t you?” How exciting to have achieved my goal! Okay, it took a while and I may have worn my tiara to dinner at the next caravan at Lake Argyle.

Stranger Danger

Gentle probing from Mrs Johnstone unearthed vigilant parenting to be the root of my reticence. “Stranger Danger” had been instilled in me from an early age. Eventually, I opened up to Mrs Johnstone and told her I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone I hadn’t been introduced to. All the other kids were strangers. Clever and understanding, Mrs Johnstone quickly introduced me to everyone in my class.

Don’t Be Ordinary

I Don't Get Up In the Morning to be Ordinary! Click To Tweet

As I child I desperately wanted to be ordinary, just like the other kids. I guess I had not discovered Theodor Seuss Geisel whose pen name was Dr Seuss and his famous quotation, “Why fit in when you were meant to stand out?” As an adult, my personal motto is, “I don’t get up in the morning to be ordinary!”

Why fit in when you were meant to stand out? – Dr Seuss Click To Tweet

Today, teachers and librarians shaping the minds of lower primary, are almost certain to encounter the challenge of some pupils feeling “different” as they begin their school journey.

Empower Kids with Words

  • Mrs Johnstone addressed my challenge with a straight forward approach.
  • Help kids feel more accepted by empowering them with words and language to express their feelings.
  • Picture books read out loud provide a fast and powerful way of growing word power. Carefully chosen books can subtly direct attention to characters with whom vulnerable kids can identify.

Read Together

Here are some great titles dealing with this subject that could help ease the pain in your classroom.

  • I’m Australian Too by Mem Fox
  • ISBN 9781760276218
  • A quick read introducing Australia’s multicultural heritage.
  • Kingsley the Cross Eyed Kookaburra by Diane Ellis
  • ISBN 9780648697008
  • Poor Kingsley can’t fly in a straight line and he is determined to figure how. But it is his “difference” that turns him into a hero.
  • Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey
  • ISBN 9781743838600
  • Board book for little ones. Thelma dreams of being something she is not. When her dream comes true, she realises she was perfect just how she was.
  • Macca’s Makeover by Matt Cosgrove
  • ISBN 9781760669195
  • Macca feels different. He is not cool like his friends and tries desperately to change. It turns out that the “real” Macca is pretty cool just as he was. A quick, fun read with awesome illustration.
  • Visit https://mattcosgrovebooks.com for associated activities.
  • Coco and the Butterfly by Laura Bunting
  • ISBN 9781743834923
  • Coco is a big city kitty, unimpressed with moving to the country. Her obvious anger masks her real anxiety at facing change. With her favourite fairy wings in tow, she encounters a friendly caterpillar in the garden. The caterpillar too is experiencing change and they morph into joy together.
  • A longer read delving into deep issues and beautifully balanced with gorgeous whimsical illustrations.
  • Visit https://laurabunting.com.au for associated activities.
  • ABC Bunyip Saves the Big Black Boogie Swamp by Kathy Littlemore,
  • ISBN: 9780994245205
  • Of course, my favourite is ABC Bunyip Saves the Big Black Boogie Swamp. I wrote it!
  • ABC Bunyip has no friends and “It’s lonely being a bunyip.” Poor ABC is huge and looks very strange, and he doesn’t fit the mould of your stereotypical bunyip. ABC has really special qualities like courage, lateral thinking and determination. His success in saving the Big Black Boogie Swamp sees Archie the Dotty Dalmatian Dog and Raymond the Little Black Pig, invite ABC Bunyip to be their friend.
  • Perhaps some of your class can relate to ABC Bunyip’s plight.
  • Visit https://kathylittlemore.com for associated activities.

Empower your class

Teach each and every child to love words by sharing stories and relating those stories to your students’ own lives. Ask them in turns if they have ever “felt different”. Did they like feeling different? Did feeling different upset them?

Free Resources

Click on the image below to access free resources that delve deeper into ABC Bunyip Saves the Big Black Boogie Swamp.

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Until next time

Be kind to each other .

Happy reading

Kathy

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