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All this kindergarten student wanted to do was show off his sparkly new pencil case. It was one of those sequined dealies, you know the ones. You can’t walk by one at a store and not touch one. Well, this boy’s was quite the thing to behold: a mermaid sequin pencil case that was practically hypnotic. But because he’s a boy, it didn’t sit well with one of the other students. So his gym teacher, Joe Klonowski, took it upon himself to set an example and be the teacher every student needs growing up and, happily for us, he shared the incident on Reddit.

So as a new PE teacher, I’ve been working closely with one kindergarten class. A student had this pencil case that he loved with sequins on it. Another student teased him, saying it was for girls, and he never took it out again. Today I decided to show off my ‘pencil case’ (it’s a bathing suit bag). from r/pics

“He would sit there and pet it and change the sequins all the time,” Klonowski told CafeMom. “He would walk around and show it to his other classmates, even to me when I would pop into the room.”

Which is what little kids do when they have something new. Super-adorable, of course. But there’s always going to be someone, young or old, who will have something to say about something like that. When his classmate asked him why he had a purse, little boy — completely unfazed and totally innocent — simply explained that it wasn’t a purse, but rather a pencil case. The other kid wouldn’t leave it alone though, and told him it was “for girls.” Ugh.

After the whole exchange Klonowski soon noticed that the pencil case-loving boy stopped showing it off and kept it tucked away in his backpack. So the gym teacher intervened in an amazing way.

“It was at that point that I knew the class very well, and many of the students, including the bully, were very fond of me,” said Klonowski. “So I decided if I was able to get the pencil case, that I would show it off to the class and hopefully make that student feel comfortable enough to take it back out.”

He revealed that it was a struggle to find a similar pencil case but his co-teacher found something similar: a sparkly bathing suit bag that would do the trick just fine. Klonowski brought it it in, showed it to his students and the pencil-case loving boy’s “reaction was fantastic.”

Klonowski added: “I told him to take it out of his bag and show it to me. He ran over and grabbed the pencil case and brought it back to me. At that point I asked him if we could trade so I could look at his case and he could look at mine.”

That’s when all the other kids — including the bully — wanted to check out both sparkly bags and all that “girly” stuff flew out the window. Klonowski wasn’t done, though. He had a chat with the bully, telling him that picking on the other student “wasn’t right,” adding, “Hopefully I at least opened his eyes a little bit!” Here’s hoping.

Everyone knows what it’s like to be teased, and just because it’s kindergarten doesn’t make it any less painful. But, once again, this story serves as a reminder that we need to do better and teach our kids that it’s OK to like any colour, play with any toy, wear any costume and not only be OK with it but to not judge others about supposed gender norms. Whatever they like is simply what they like, and if that so happens to be a sequined unicorn pencil case, so be it.