We took a group of kids to join our awesome educators on the picket line this past Friday. We took inspiration for this fun collection of signs from another Facebook post – if anyone knows who originally made these signs, please let me know, I would love to give them credit! The educators loved our show of support. The kids had a great time. We all felt it was uplifting and heartwarming.

But, I did receive some negative feedback, which I wanted to address here. The initial comment was around the idea that kids should be in school learning, not out playing in the snow. To that I responded:

“I think they did learn a lot today. They can tell you why the teachers are striking – for smaller class sizes and for more support for students. They know that inclusion without support doesn’t work – they live it every day. Today they learned how to get involved in a peaceful protest and stand up for what they believe in. They learned that they have a voice – now, not just in the future, but right now. They learned that they have the power to take action and that they deserve a seat at any table they choose to sit at. They learned about coming together as a community to support people who are raising their voice, even if they are scared or nervous. They learned a bunch of lessons that will help them become confident, engaged citizens and leaders who will make the world a better place.”

A comment was then made that the kids are way too young to learn all this from joining in on a strike. To which I responded:

“I disagree. Maybe the youngest ones did not know exactly why they were there, but they still got benefits from being there. This is how you start when the kids are young. You bring them out and you let them be part of things. This will help them build the confidence to believe that they have the power to make the world a better place.

If the only messages they hear are that they are too young to understand and that their ideas and thoughts don’t have any value, they will start to believe that. If you treat them like they are not smart enough to be involved in community events, if you think that they are not capable of having a conversation with adults, if you don’t respect them enough to believe that they are wise and good, that is what they will start to believe. And then they will disengage. And by high school, you will have lost them. But if you start when they are young, all these experiences will help them form the belief that they can help. I have seen it work.

I have taken groups of kids everywhere I go as I build World-Changing Kids and they continue to impress me with what they are capable of. I have taken them to the launch of Kindness Week each year and because it is normal, and something they are used to, and they know that they are welcome and supported there, they confidently sit up at the front row. They confidently greet the Mayor and various City Councillors and other leaders.

I have taken them to Kindness Assemblies with me and they confidently get up in front of 120 students in another school – students they have never met – and speak into a microphone. I would never have done this at their age! They led a workshop for 35 U of O teacher candidates the other day. They are fearless. And, when our school was at risk of losing our grade 6 camping trip last year, the grade 6s started a petition all on their own. And when we had a town hall meeting about it, they took turns getting up and speaking into the mic, respectfully discussing the issue with the Principal, Vice-Principal, School Board Trustee, and Superintendent. They weren’t afraid to stand up for what they believed in.

My kids know the names of our City Councillor, our MP and our MPP. They say hello and shake their hands at each event they see them at. The other day, my son stopped our MPP at our Family Day Party at the outdoor rink to show him a video of an epic fail that my son did at parkour. And our MPP shared a story of a huge fail he had skiing once. My kids know that these leaders are approachable. That is important to me.

And it is not just my kids – so I am not saying that my kids are special – I take so many kids from my community to so many different events and they are all awesome.

I am going to keep bringing kids everywhere I go, keep providing them with experiences that will inspire them and help them build their confidence and leadership skills, and keep having real conversations with them because I believe it is that easy. I believe that this is how we will raise a generation of empowered, confident, passionate, engaged citizens and leaders who believe that they can make the world a better place. Instead of what we are seeing a lot of lately, which is youth and young adults who are anxious, depressed, apathetic and disengaged because the world seems overwhelmingly bad and they don’t know where they can fit into the solution.”

This was followed by the idea that we were using kids as pawns in an adult issue and that the kids would regret us bringing them into this when they older. To which I responded:

“Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I did think about what you said – the idea the my kids would regret me taking them to the march when they are older – and I talked to the kids about it, asked their opinions. And I did think about it in the context of what if I were taking them to an anti-LGBTQ march as children who didn’t have a say in whether they supported my view (which I would not do, but I used it as a comparison). And I thought about what reaction I would have if I saw kids being taken to an anti-LGBTQ march. And I would probably hope that those kids would grow up to be inclusive, loving people and would be mad at their parents for taking them to a march that is now against what they believe. So it was a good thought exercise to go through.

And it reinforced that I am OK with bringing my kids to a march that is about equal education for all. I am OK with showing them that we support the teachers, who are the experts in their learning. I am OK with showing them that we stand up and raise our voices to help those who might not have the opportunity to do so. We are fighting so that each child can have access to quality education. My kids are not the ones that really need that fight to happen, that really need people to stand up for them. If the public education system got so bad that we wanted to pull our kids out of it, I could home school them or we could afford private school if we decided that was our priority.

I am totally OK with teaching my kids the lessons that we are allowed to protest against our government and that we value caring about everyone in our society and fighting to make sure every single child gets the best education possible. Even the little boy who sometimes spends some of the day in his outdoor gear, refusing to come in the class, and waiting to be helped by an amazing EA because there are not enough EAs to help all the children who need them. That little boy deserves the help that he needs to get a full day of education. And if we had more EAs, he could get that.”

Click here for a super cute video of the kids!