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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson

Just as you are...

I was sent this image yesterday and it started a whole series of thoughts...

I mean I get it... why people want to associate Greta Thunberg with Pippi Longstocking. Being Swedish, being a child, being female and daring to make a stand for what she believes in shows her strength. Pippi is the strongest girl in the world.

But is this really a good thing?

I mean Pippi did what she wanted, she did not want to learn to read and write - and she had to have her letters from her father read to her by her friends Tommy and Annika... she was often rude to people without thinking about the consequences her actions had on others, including her friends...

While I think that Pippi is great as a role-model for play - for challenging stereotypes and being comfortable in your own skin... Pippi is a child, with a child-like approach that lacks adult responsibilities despite the fact she lives on her own, which is as it should be... at age 9 she should be just that. Pippi should not have to have those adult responsibilities...

But the thing is Greta is not a 9 year old that has never been to school and that buys all the sweets from the store, and has no parents at home.

Greta is 16 years old, is gifted in communicating in both Swedish and English (written too), she has parents, goes to school (except for Fridays... but that is to make a point and not because she does not want to). Greta also has lots of like-minded friends around her... not Tommy and Annikas - the good boy and girl that do as they are told. Greta is surrounded by others that are brave, that are making a stand... not just in Sweden but around the world.

Also I think Greta deserves to be Greta. Herself, not compared to story characters... not to be put on a pedestal. As I wrote in a previous post - children and young people need a platform so they can communicate their opinions and contribute to this society of ours... one they are a part of. They should not be put on a pedestal to be admired - as that can be isolating.

Greta dared to break the rule. to not go to school. In Sweden school is a legal requirement... so it is quite a big a deal here... not just for the child but for the parents of the children who do not go to school... Yet there are others that have been inspired to be brave. To make a stand every Friday - not just in Sweden but in many other parts of the world... just check out the hashtag #FridaysForFuture

My approach as an educator is to empower children... as individuals, but also as part of a whole. My posts that I have been writing over the last six years have been about the collaborative nature of learning, about a community of learners... about "mwe" That we are individuals and a group... me and we rolled into one... and that we are stronger as a group... because we listen to each other.

I am proud that my children are involved... lsabelle is incredibly active not only on the Fridays but every day of the week, managing the various media pages, interacting with journalists and organising future events... including the worldwide protest on March 15th. There are adults that support them... but this is a group of teenagers dedicated to trying to wake up the adults to take action.

I am proud because my children dare to use their voices for what they believe in...

I am proud because a year ago my daughter was dragged down by her aspergers into a dark and gloomy place... and now has a purpose and is out there meeting people, interacting and doing things she could never have imagined herself doing a year ago.

I look on with a sense of envy.

As a teenager I would never have dared to have done this... but when I was a teenager there was no social media... to protest like this required meeting people in a place that I had never been to before... this was beyond my capability to manage, to dare. Today social media means you can get to know a person online first, so a meeting is not as daunting... you can also check online what a place looks like, how to get there by checking online maps where you can even walk your way there virtually so it is not as scary... this is something I STILL need to do when visiting new places, so that it is not totally overwhelming when I get there.

I have met and chatted with many that are there every Friday with Greta, and we giggle at the number of diagnoses that are there...

Aspergers is a super power in the sense that you feel passionate about something and allows you to get really nerdy about it... but the limits are there too, but sometimes we can be so empowered that we can overcome them.

As an educator I want to empower all the children I meet to dare to communicate their opinions... to be that child who dared to say the emperor had no clothes... to say it as it is, and not as all the adults say we should say...

Adults need to reflect on their behaviour more... is it OK to demean children because they express their opinion? is it OK to come to the strike and start shouting at them and telling them they are wrong? Are these adults being role-models of how children should behave?

The children and youths are asking for the adults in charge of decision-making to listen to the researchers... they are not presenting themselves as experts (despite the fact that they are amassing an amazing bank of knowledge between them).

This is what I aim for as an educator and parent. For the children to value their own voice. To read, watch, listen and make informed decisions. To talk with each other and share experiences. To be active participants in our society. To be responsible, respectful and to have empathy.

To be just as they are... not the stereotype of child, girl, boy...

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