Breaking Down the Code

Hey Fam – I hope everyone has had a wonderful beginning to the school year! IT can be a hectic time (for teachers as much as students), but that’s not all we’ve got on our plates these days, especially as we head into a hefty political season. So, it’s time to start breaking down some of the language that comes with election season (and lots of other seasons, too!)

To that end, our Lead Educator Cameron has begun a new series on his YouTube Channel that seeks to do just that, starting with the word “diversity.” Take a look!

Collage Colorado on the Denver Teacher Strike

Collage Colorado supports the DCTA/Denver Teachers’ Strike! As readers may know, negotiations between Denver teachers and the district regarding fair and adequate wages have reached an impasse. On Friday, January 25th, after 93% of DCTA members voted to authorize a strike, DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova petitioned the State of Colorado to block a strike for up to six months! This move would render a strike meaningless. Denver teachers responded by officially requesting that the State not step in, but we’re awaiting the decision.

We are… dedicated to an unshakeable belief that… financial burden should never be a barrier to quality education.

Although Collage is a private entity, and despite the fact that our classes are presently hosted at a DPS school, we stand with teachers. From our mission, “We are… dedicated to an unshakeable belief that… financial burden should never be a barrier to quality education.” That conviction goes in both directions; money should not be a factor for students or teachers! Teaching is a science and an art, and in the world today more (perhaps) than ever before, a quality education is a basic necessity for life. With it, anyone’s odds of livable pay, adequate health care, and a quality end of life go up tremendously. All that said, we may have to modify some plans depending on if the strike happens, as Collage will not cross picket lines.

We are encouraging all of our supporters to email DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova and tell her that you support Denver teachers, and believe they deserve a fair and living wage for their work.

Spirit Day & #WhenIBegan


Spirit Day is an annual celebration organized by GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (though in reality, they are so much more), as a day of solidarity against bullying and bigotry, and particularly for LGBTQ+ folks.

From GLAAD’s #SpiritDay launch page:

“Spirit Day is a means of speaking out against LGBTQ bullying and standing with LGBTQ youth, who disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities. Pledging to “go purple” on Spirit Day is a way for everyone — forward-thinking companies, global leaders, respected celebrities, neighbors, parents, classmates, and friends — to visibly show solidarity with LGBTQ youth and to take part in the largest, most visible anti-bullying campaign in the world.”


From Cameron, Founder of Collage Colorado, LLC
Originally Published on Facebook October, 2014

I tell this story today in honor of #spiritday, a campaign against bullying. I’ve told this story in confidence to a small number of people in my life, but today for the first time I am going to share it publicly. I won’t name names. I don’t want pity. I made my peace with this event years ago.

TRIGGER WARNING: LGBT bullying, sexism, misogyny, physical assault, and some language. I want to warn you now that what I am about to describe is not pretty, and I will not censor it; that may be triggering for some, and if it is, I fully understand if you don’t keep reading.

All of my life I’ve been a small guy. Heck, I’m 5’5” NOW (and I ain’t growin’ any taller, let me assure you). In high school, I wasn’t just short, I was also pretty meek. I read a lot, raised my hand in class all the time, and spent as much time talking to teachers as I did talking to peers. I was a nerd.

I don’t know when he first targeted me. He was an upperclassman, a year or so ahead of me. At some point he decided I was gonna be his proverbial punching bag. I don’t know why. I don’t care. All I know is that we had Spanish together for a year, and sometime during that year he decided that I was the kid who was going to take his assaults.

At first, it was all verbal. Every day, he would find some reason to call me “gay” or “fag” or “queer”. I didn’t know how to respond. Once or twice maybe I told him to “f*** off”, but guaranteed that didn’t change a thing. The teacher apparently didn’t know how to respond either. If she overheard him calling me something, she’d meekly reprimand him, but that’s about it. It hurt me a lot (and yes, I am gay, I am queer, but that’s beside the point). I don’t know if I cried. I do know that at the time, it made me hate myself, and it made me hate going to class. But I had no choice. I wanted to go to college. I lived in a tiny little town, part of a regional district that took three whole towns to make one high school. My parents couldn’t afford private school. I had no options, I had to stay.

If it had stayed verbal, I probably could have dealt with the assaults. It didn’t. One day I came to class; like any other day I hiked the stairs of the old school, and got to class a little early (I never used my locker… I don’t even remember where it was, but it would have been a joke trying to get to it and then to class without being chewed out for being late). That day, the teacher wasn’t there yet, but he was, as well as most of the class. I think he was waiting for me. I got to the door and he was standing there in the frame. He wouldn’t let me in. I tried to push past him, but he was a good deal bigger than me. I got frustrated, and was about to walk away when he pulled the pointer out.

It was one of those old, three-and-a-half foot long wooden pointers with a bullet-shaped rubber tip, and a short nail in the back end to hang it on the wall, near the chalkboard. He scratched my arm with it. I was horrified. I didn’t know what to do. He scratched again, on my other arm. And again. I started to walk away… I don’t know where I thought I was going, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to stand there. When I turned around to leave, he scratched me, HARD, on the back of my neck. I was trying to walk away down the hall when the teacher walked up. She didn’t notice the scratches. I tried to tell her what happened, but she was flustered, and told me to go in and sit down. I did.

After Spanish class, I had lunch. There, my friends noticed the scratches, which were bleeding and swollen. I explained what happened. They told me to go to the nurse… I resisted a bit, but finally agreed and asked some teacher for permission to leave. The nurse was shocked. She put Neosporin on the cuts. She told me she had to tell the principal. I begged her not to; I was so scared. I went back to lunch, and then to my next class. Sometime during that class, I was called to the vice-rincipal’s office. I explained what happened. The vice-principal asked if I wanted to do anything about it. I said yes. His response? If I wanted him to do anything about it, I would have to sit and tell my “side” with the other kid there, next to me. I refused… I was so scared. He said if that was the case, there was nothing he could do. I left. I cried in my next class. Quietly.

When I got home, my parents noticed the cuts. They were really obvious. I told them what happened; my dad was furious. I’ve maybe never seen him so angry. He went into the other room and called the school. I remember him shouting really loudly. He told me when he came back that they’d promised to suspend the other kid. I didn’t feel much better. A little bit, maybe.

The next day, I went to school. The guy who’d cut me was there, too. In Spanish. Walking the halls. The next day, too. And the next. I don’t know who told me, but I asked someone (a teacher, maybe) what was going on. They told me his mom was on the school board, and that she had insisted there was “no way he could have done such a thing!” He was never suspended. He was never punished. I had physical scars for a year. I hated that guy for longer… more years than I’m proud to admit. I wanted some sort of retribution. At some point I let it go, but it tainted – it scarred – a part of my soul for a long time.

Please never take bullying lightly. I recovered. My scars healed, but so often, and for so many, they never do. So many beautiful lives are lost each year to the trauma of bullying. Please, no more. Never again.


#WhenIBegan

If you read all the way through our first-ever Revolutionary Read of the Month post a few days ago, or you’ve been looking around the site recently, you probably saw this mentioned. #WhenIBegan is a hashtag campaign that we’re starting at Collage Colorado… and it needs your help! If you haven’t already, check out the #WhenIBegan hashtag campaign page!

Watch the intro video below!

We’re Going Purple for Spirit Day!

Thursday, October 18th is Spirit Day this year, GLAAD’s day of solidarity against LGBTQ+ bullying, and to show our support we’re making our logo purple across the interwebs for the week, and we’d love to see you do the same! Join us in standing up for LGBTQ youth, and make your social media profiles purple, too.

Also, keep an eye out for a special Spirit Day article later this week!

The Shop is Officially Open!

Find it on Facebook!

Although our shop is not Collage’s primary focus, it is an important part of the work that we do; sales from our shop fund the classes and enrichment programs that we run in Denver Public Schools. Thank you so much for your interest in our work!

National Coming Out Day 2018

Happy National Coming Out Day Collage Fam!

Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day this year. National Coming Out Day is a change for LGBTQ+ folks around the country to stand together in solidarity against bullying, bigotry, and oppression, by raising our voices loudly and declaring our queerness! It’s a big deal each year, particularly for people who are otherwise deeply marginalized (make no mistake, LGBTQ+ folks here and around the world face intense oppression every day, and it is only compounded by folks’ intersecting identities).

We take this holiday especially seriously here because LGBTQ folks make up much of the Collage Fam… in fact, both our founder and his partner Maníge outspokenly identify as queer!

Whether you’re out or not, this day is for you. If you feel or know that you cannot come out, this day is still for you. If you’re struggling to build the courage to come out, this day is definitely for you. No matter what though, stay safe. Owning your identity is liberating, but it should never be at the expense of your safety!

Even if you don’t identify on the LGBTQ spectrum, though, you can always be an ally. There are lots of ways to do this; you might:

  • Come out as straight! It might feel weird, but that feeling is nothing compared to what queer folks face coming out every day.
  • Wear a pride shirt, button, or other item to show solidarity.
  • Speak with your LGBTQ friends (if they’re comfortable, of course,) about their coming out experiences. Or just make space for them to share, if they choose.

Whatever you do, remember that this is a day for LGBTQ+ visibility; help make that a reality!

Cheers.


#WhenIBegan

As you may have seen elsewhere on the site or on social media, Collage Colorado, LLC is working to start a hashtag campaign for the hashtag #WhenIBegan. Watch the intro video above, and check out the #WhenIBegan launch page!

Consent is for Everyone

Let’s Talk About Consent…

So, I suppose we were always going to get to this post eventually, because consent is a major part of being part of a home, classroom, or community. It’s something really basic to being a person who interacts with other people.

This post is happening today, though, because the topic has become so utterly and painfully immediate that it clearly needs to be addressed; from the #MeToo movement, to accusations against numerous respected figures, to the Kavanaugh hearings… our own President has even mocked assaults against women. Our children and students hear these things on the radio and online, see them on TV, and know we’re talking about the issue. If we are, so are they, and that makes this an incredibly important time to have this conversation with them.

[RESOURCES FOR DISCUSSING CONSENT ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE!]

So, What Can I Do?

This is obviously a really serious and delicate issue, and we understand that it can be nerve wracking to think about bringing this stuff up, but evidence shows that beginning discussions about consent at a young age keeps kids safer, and eases the more mature conversations later on. Besides, there are lots of great tools that can help – the conversation is important, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating!

Before I start, let me explain that we at Collage Colorado are not therapists, and that these suggestions come from our combined years of experience teaching and parenting. You are welcome to disagree about anything we say here, and we welcome discussion! That only helps everybody keep everyone safer, and more respected.

REMEMBER! If you feel you or someone you know is being bullied or their consent is not being respected, tell a trusted adult.

First off, remember to talk to your kids at their level. This might seem obvious, but it’s worth remembering, because many educators’ and parents’ first fear in talking about consent is the belief that they’ll have to talk about “mature subjects”. You don’t! Not unless your students are ready, and if they are they’ll let you know (by asking questions, and because you likely already have a gauge on their maturity level to begin with). Start small… You can always add more detail later, as they need it.

Next, let your kids lead the conversation. Kids get consent at a basic level already. We all do; we all know when something doesn’t make us feel right, or makes us feel like our trust, our space, or our bodies, haven’t been respected. Once you’ve given kids a few prompts (ex. “How does it feel when somebody touches your hair when you don’t want it?”, “How do you feel when you don’t want a hug, and someone gives you one anyway?”), they will likely take off with it, which leads us to…

Now, on to making some agreements! Whether at school or at home, one very good way to reinforce the ideas that you and your kids or students have discussed is to write them down. Get a piece of paper or a board, and record 3-5 agreements about bodies, boundaries, and consent. Make sure your kids or students guide this step, too. Then have everyone (including you) sign the agreement.

After that, let kids ask questions. Really, this is true always, but for tough conversations like this, it’s especially important to check in one last time before the conversation is over. This makes sure there aren’t any hanging problems, misunderstandings, or uncertainties (at least as much as we can manage).

Finally, check in again later. Explicitly talking about consent should be a regular practice… when appropriate. It’s important to check in periodically to make sure that our kids still get it. It can take many times repeating a concept for kids to fully integrate it, and that goes for this concept, too. Making consent a regular check in also makes the conversation infinitely easier than having to have it as a reaction to something later. How often you check in is up to you, but whether parent, educator -whoever – make this conversation a habit.

Talking About The News

Talking about consent is a fantastic time to talk about what’s going on in the news, too, and vice versa, and all the same “rules” apply here, too. Talk about the Supreme Court hearings or #MeToo at your children’s level. And don’t worry about the details; ultimately, they matter far less that the overall concept, that all people have a right to determine what happens with their own bodies, and furthermore a right to stop others from violating or impeding that in any way.

Final Thoughts

Of course there’s so much more to consent than all of this, and the discussions each of us has will look different every time, depending on our kids, depending on what’s going on in the world, and so on. It’s important to know that for children of color, immigrants, and refugees here in the US, consent is an even more tenuous and potentially triggering topic; people’s race and religion can further change the impact of both the consequences and conversations around consent, and it’s our responsibility to be aware of this.

At the end of the day the most important thing is to keep talking. Destigmatizing conversations about consent make the world a safer and happier place for everybody.


Resources:

Although no resource is perfect, there are a few good tools that can help you to discuss consent with your kids or students (or colleagues!), including some fantastic videos.

  • “Consent for Kids” – This video talks about consent at the most basic level, and we believe it is appropriate for children starting around 6 years old.
  • “Consent: It’s as Simple as Tea” – This is consent for adults (and possibly teens). This video contains “bad” language, however it remains one of the best – and most concise – explanations of the importance of consent that you’re going to find. Our own Maníge Giles uses this video and the video above for her OWL classes; both are fantastic introductions to the idea.
  • “The Day You Begin”, by Jacqueline Woodson – This book is not actually about consent, but it is about racism and feeling othered, which is a major issue in addition to consent.

There are lots more resources out there, and you can be sure that as we find them, we’ll share them here on the blog, but in the meantime, if there are other good resources that you’ve found helpful, let us know in the comments!