As part of their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion curriculum in Junior Kindergarten, students have been introduced to Persona Dolls in each JK classroom. They are large, almost life size dolls, which serve as a tool for helping children strengthen their developing skills for getting along with each other, working out conflicts and making friends. They also help them learn to be comfortable with all kinds of differences. Each doll has a different story, background and skin tone. Since the dolls don’t talk, the teachers speak on behalf of them. JK 103 welcomed DeShawn, JK 104 welcomed Rahma, and JK 105 welcomed Antonio.
Our doll is named DeShawn, and he is four years old. When we first introduced him to the class, we talked about his family, some of the things he likes to do, and some of the things he is working on. Several of the children shared as well, and made connections. We continue to have chats with our class about some of the challenges DeShawn is facing, and they have given him some great advice. The dolls come with a curriculum guide which we use to follow his story, but we also use some real challenges that we see some children in the class are facing. If these conflicts arise in class, we reference DeShawn and all of the wonderful advice we have given him!
An example of this in the classroom was when DeShawn shared with us that he was feeling sad because some of his friends were excluding him, and telling him that he couldn’t play with them because he wasn’t their best friend. Some of the children shared that this has also happened to them, and they shared how it made them feel. They also came up with some great advice for DeShawn. They advised him to share his feelings with his friends, and they even helped give him a script in case this or something similar happens again. They told him that he could say,
”I feel _______________, when you _____________________, I would like you to________________.” These words are great to use at home as well!
All children are born with the seed of empathy. They cried when you were tense or upset and smiled back when you smiled at them. But in order to make good use of that empathy, all of our children need to learn more. They need to learn to name what they are feeling, recognize those feelings in others and know what to do with those feelings. They also need to learn important skills like how to share and how to solve the conflicts that are a part of living with other human beings. DeShawn and his friends help the JK classes to continue to grow in understanding and acceptance of others.