The other day I had a conversation with a child about Genies and whether I personally believe in them.
To put you more clearly in the picture, two children brought in a Genie bottle. In our morning meeting they spoke about the power of the Genie that lived in the bottle, the mum explained how it’s been in their family for a couple of generations. The girls were very explicit, the bottle wasn’t allowed to be open or the Genie would escape and their mum would be sad.
As a group we explored children’s understanding about Genie’s, children identified a couple of defining points … they grant wishes, usually 3, they wear exotic clothes and jewellery, and they live in a container. One of the other teacher’s ask
Later in the day the Genie bottle being a wonderfully decorated and interesting shaped item was put out for the children to use as a subject for observational drawing. One of the children approached me and told me she didn’t want to draw the Genie Bottle, I asked why. She asked me “do you believe there is really a Genie in there.” Most of the other children were off busy doing their own thing, I answered “some people believe lots of different things, I don’t really believe there is a Genie in there, but the other children like the thought that there is.” She seemed okay with the response and headed off.ed if they had rubbed the lamp to get the Genie to come out, and the children and Mum all said no as they don’t want the Genie to escape.
When her mum picked her up, the mum approached and commented that the child who has had witch fears lately, had commented she is no longer worried about witches she is now worried about Genies. The mum started to head towards the bottle which was on display, commenting she was going to open it to show the child there is nothing in there. I couldn’t help but stop her explaining that, the children brought it in with explicit instructions from mum that they are never allowed to open the bottle or the Genie will escape, with so many children and parents watching, I was concerned and breaking their wishes and belief.
However there was a gap in the decorations where you can look into the bottle, so we did this and nothing could be seen and all was calm. Until another parent approached and looked at it with their child, and commented that they were sure they had seen the Genie and started to discuss it with their child.
I discussed this issue with the parent, explaining my answer to the child, “what some people believe …” I got this phrase from a book Questions Children Ask and how to Answer them by Dr Miriam Stoppard. When one of my own children asked “is God real” as parents we had decided to help our children to find their own answer to this question. We had bought books about the different religions, my husband discusses his views coming from an Atheist point of view, I have a more Agnostic point of view. So when the question was asked … I really wanted to answer it as truthful as possible. I looked it up in the book, I read everything and not all of it sat well except the phrase “some people believe there are lots of Gods, …”.
I have used this phrase “Some people believe…”as a starting point in so many discussions with my own children, and with the children I work with. Is Santa real? Does a tooth fairy really come? Were people really around with dinosaurs?
The Australian Early Years Learning Framework in the outcome under Community states:
|Children respond to diversity with respect|
|This is evident, for example, when children:
• begin to show concern for others
• explore the diversity of culture, heritage, background and tradition and that diversity presents opportunities for choices and new understandings
• become aware of connections, similarities and differences between people
• listen to others’ ideas and respect different ways of being and doing
• practise inclusive ways of achieving coexistence
• notice and react in positive ways to similarities and differences among people
Developing tolerance, understanding and acceptance about peers belief systems is just as important as helping children understand about other aspects of diversity as physical characteristics, culture, region, interests and abilities. Belief systems and family traditions are much more treacherous water to cross, a child comes and shares his experience with the tooth fairy, showing the five dollars he got … other children respond they only get a gold coin, or a silver coin, a book, how as teachers should we respond to this. I brought to mind how all children are different, in looks, interests, etc and said maybe it’s the same with Tooth Fairies they too are different and therefore offer different payments for a tooth. Yet you are left wondering if you could have answered it better.