Sahar Avital writes about being a gay kindergarten teacher, and the extra values that the kids receive from him, like acceptance, respect, and letting people be who they are.
“Are you a kindergarten teacher? It’s a bit strange, isn’t it?! Aren’t parents afraid of it? Do they know you’re gay?” – these are just a few examples of the comments that I get on a daily basis, and I always say – first of all I am a man. Today, when I tell people I’m also gay, the first thing that the listener hears is: “I’m a man who dances on a truck with pink panties in mid-summer.” And when I say I am a kindergarten teacher, some people are confident that the first thing I do in the morning is put nail polish on all the boys while the girls are outside playing soccer.
Of course none of this is true. I am a man, an educator , 24/7. I’m sensitive to children and understand their world. In my kindergarten they learn that everyone is allowed to be who and what they want to be, and that I’m always there for them. Boys are allowed to play with dolls, and girls can be fans of Spiderman, and when people ask me why I allow it, I explain that the initial intuition of a person is always right for them. No matter the age.
When a child grows up into a world where he is allowed to love anyone regardless of sex, disposition and gender, he grows to be a man who’s not interested in his friend’s shirt-size, or whether he wears glasses or not, and that it seems natural that two women walk hand in hand on the street in Israel. Only in this way do children learn to be non-judgmental and always – everything is allowed. From past experience, and high sensitivity to judgments we’ve been able to develop over the years, educators in generals and LGBT educators in particular, are doing very important work by changing the perception and consciousness in the world of children and youth.
Being a kindergarten teacher is the best! Before I started studying teaching, I debated between teaching preschoolers and entering the world of theater. I’ve always known that my place is in education, but I didn’t know which specialization to choose. Finally, after many thoughts, it was clear what was the right place for me.
In a world where many people are waking up on Monday to a “beginning of the week depression,” I actually can’t wait for the morning to arrive, so I can meet these kids who give me strength for the first day of the week and during the week itself fill me with positive energies. Seeing children every day, and teaching them equality, sensitivity and friendship between one another, is the greatest right given to me.
After many years in informal education and in movements and youth centers, I realized that no matter how hard I try to change the stigma and prove the reality- that it is what it is and nothing else – as long as the word “homo” is still being used as a curse, and as long as the Ministry of Education doesn’t make a significant step toward education for gender equality – our work is only the tip of the iceberg.
I believe I have the right to have a positive impact on children and direct them in their first steps in life, to teach them the traditions and friendships, the fairness and the importance of respecting all human beings. I believe that being a kindergarten teacher is a mission for the whole society and the gay community alike. I meet parents and children who otherwise would never have met a gay person, and the frontal encounter immediately reduces the stigma and the barriers.