Making Room in the Circle

December 5, 2008 at 3:25 pm 1 comment

posted by Lee Klinger Lesser ’87, trainer for the Parent Services Project

Lee Klinger Lesser '87

Lee Klinger Lesser '87

Bank Street was an exciting, stimulating and inspirational place for me to study. The discussions in our classrooms were dynamic and very involved with social issues. One of the subjects that never did come up during my years there was how do we talk about different family structures and how do we support the emerging sexual orientation and gender identity of all children?

With the recent passage of Prop 8 in California, taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry, the impact of this silence is heightened further. I imagine that perhaps there is more discussion and curriculum about diverse families, sexual orientation and gender identity than when I was a student at Bank Street. I hope that Bank Street can be a proactive leader around these issues and that, as alumni, we look at what is happening in our own programs and reflect on what more we can do.

As a straight married woman, I have been protected without even knowing it by over 1100 legal rights that I receive based on my marriage. Even as someone committed to anti-bias education, it took me a long time to realize that I ignored sexual orientation and gender identity in my diversity and equity work. And I keep rediscovering how many other committed activists do the same.

An early childhood picture book by Robert Skutch

A children's book by Robert Skutch

I helped to write a curriculum called “Making Room in the Circle: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Families in Early Childhood Settings” and have taught this as a course in colleges in California, Massachusetts and North Carolina. Having led trainings all over the country with educators, college faculty and school administrators, I have lots of resources that I am happy to share. There is great fear about addressing these topics. Even in San Francisco among the more than 100 early childhood programs where I have facilitated trainings, only a handful had children’s books that included lesbian or gay parents. Our silence continues to foster homophobia and heterosexism in our classrooms, leading to more violence, bias and even suicide.

I hope that as Bank Street alumni committed to equity and social justice we can be leaders for change. If you want syllabi for college courses, articles for college students, examples of inclusive curriculum and children’s books, please let me know.

You can contact Lee Lesser by sending an email to For over thirty years, Lee has worked in the field of early childhood, as a family childcare provider, preschool teacher, site supervisor, college instructor, trainer and consultant. As co-author of the Parent Services Project’s curriculum, Making Room in the Circle, she has been instrumental in expanding the awareness and commitment to equity for LGBT families in many communities throughout the country.

Entry filed under: curriculum, diversity, families, teaching tolerance.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jim Clay '88  |  December 27, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    In 2006 Margie Brickley and I attempted to offer a New Perspectives session/s based on “Making Room at the Circle” (appropriate permission would have been requested if our proposal had been approved), but were politely told it wasn’t appropriate for continuing ed at BSC. I understood the reasons – so much of continuing ed is geared toward either the new graduate who is barely surviving her first year of teaching or a NYC teacher who needs easily to earn credits. That doesn’t leave much room for a course that might be challenging itself. We felt that this course was sorely needed at BSC since the core curriculum for graduate school doesn’t allow for such electives. What do others think?

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Some of Our Past Bloggers

Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school
Gloria Arenson ’58, psychotherapist
Bill Ayers ‘84, UIC professor, Chicago
Fred Baumgarten ‘84, writer/musician/naturalist/father
Keith Berman '03, founder/president of Options for College and Bank Street’s LinkedIn moderator
David Bowles ’08 (SFC ’93), museum educator at the Rubin Museum of Art
Elena Canaras ‘07, Special Education teacher, Hawaii
Virginia Casper, Bank Street faculty member
Jim Clay ‘88, director of a Washington DC Quaker preschool
Mary DeCamp Cotterall ‘87, Reading Specialist, Michigan
Judy Coven ’77, retired public school teacher and former Antioch University faculty member
Leslie Day '93, adjunct instructor at Bank Street and author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City
Mary Louise (Molly) Day ‘76, Lab School teacher, Chicago
Liezel de La Isla ‘99, Prague International School teacher
Diane Trister Dodge '70, founder and president of Teaching Strategies, Inc.
Meghan Dunn ’08, 3rd grade teacher, Brooklyn
Steven Evangelista ’01, co-director Harlem Link Charter School, NYC
Janine Fetters ‘02, Senior Associate of Parent Engagement at NACCRRA
Dena Florczyk '88, middle school teacher and founder/director of The Nigerian School Project
Hollee Freeman '94, writes about parenting issues for the alumni blog and was featured on BSCAA's April 2012 Career Panel
Ellen Galinsky '70, is President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs
Joanne Ruvolo Gannett ‘84, Columbia College art history professor, Chicago
Joan Goldstein ‘67, sociologist and educator
Margot Hammond, Director of the Center for Early Childhood Professionals
Carol Hillman ‘67, early childhood educator, author, and Long Trip co-leader
Pam Jones ‘05, Bank Street advisor and instructor
Lee Klinger Lesser ‘87, trainer for the Parent Services Project
Preminda Langer ‘97, teacher trainer
Claire Milam ’97, life coach, Austin, Texas
Rabin Nickens ‘03, Speaker, Trainer and Educational Consultant
Beth Norford ‘89, consultant and former School for Children teacher
Susy Ogden ‘97
Marion Palm ‘95, Leadership in the Arts alum, writing tutor, poet and singer
Jessica Poser, assistant professor of art education at UIC, Chicago
Jesse Pugh '76, BSCAA President
Meg Rauen ‘06, former Chicago elementary school teacher, NY
Linda Reing, Bank Street Director of Alumni Relations
Rosalind Rothman '62, retired NYC teacher and guidance counselor
Kyla Ryman '92/'97, educational coach and consultant
Ariel Sacks ‘06, middle school teacher, Brooklyn, NY
Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81, psychotherapist and author
Barbara Silver ‘80, literacy consultant and former NYC first grade teacher
Andrea Penny Spencer, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Bank Street
Debbie Stone ‘84, former teacher/co-director of High Valley School
Rachel Theilheimer ‘74, chair of teacher education at BMCC/CUNY
Theodore Timpson ’05, founder/president of Young Spirit Foundation
Eleanor Traubman '95, is Editor in Chief of Creative Times, a blog which promotes NYC's performing, visual and literary arts
Allison Warren '08, new mom, recent grad, and early childhood teacher
Max Weinberg ‘03, Francis Parker School teacher, Chicago
Ted Wells ‘07, 4th grade teacher at The Park School, Brookline, MA
Tracy Wiessbrod ’03, kindergarten teacher and stay-at-home mom

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