A place for educators to find thought-provoking news, conversation and support for those who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools
Paulina walked slowly down the hall, her gait marked by the waddle of many pregnant mothers. As she came closer, you could see her belly, slightly swollen. You felt her discomfort as she squeezed into her desk. Five months in, she hadn't seen a doctor or taken any vitamins. The baby's father wasn't in the picture. There were rumors of rape. Her parents had all but disowned her.
What role should the school play in the life of a teenage mom? How can we help?
Camilla was drawing a doll she was planning to get with her parents over the weekend. She was talking to herself in sing-song tones as she drew the doll, some of her clothes and her own house.
Across the table sat Tommy; he heard Camilla talking about the doll she was about to get. He exclaimed, almost as joyfully, “Hey! I’m going to get a doll too!” The two began to chat about the types of dolls they were going to get.
Across the room, another boy, busily building with blocks, said in a voice that reached across the room, “You are getting a doll?” A look of confusion spread across his face.
I decided not to leave a phone message. As my mind began racing through what I wanted to say in an email instead, I thought about my dual roles in school. As a teacher for more than 20 years, I have confidence that schools and teachers are there to help, support and build a relationship with parents. But as a parent, faced with having to speak to my child’s teacher, I froze.
Last spring, our high school performed The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem witch trials (also an allegory of the witch hunts of McCarthyism). It’s one of my favorite plays. Watching the performance, I was struck by the character of Reverend Hale.
If you are the kind of educator who builds a safe and open classroom culture and teaches with a compassionate heart, students will come to you. They will share their secrets.
The culture you create in the classroom can often serve as an invitation for students to seek solace and advice outside of class. We have all faced the blessings (and burdens) of our students’ trust. A new study out of Northwestern University (where I teach) reminds us that we must be prepared for our students’ stories to come tumbling out.
The empty space left by the death of a young person seems somehow larger—perhaps because we sense not only the absence of who he was, but also of who he could have become. This emptiness can engulf an entire community, even a nation, when the death is unjust.
Recently, I was in a public place with a friend when I saw a woman wearing a very creative, flamboyant outfit. Knowing that my friend would be interested, I discreetly whispered to her to look at the woman in the colorful outfit. She looked but didn’t see her. I offered different descriptors. “The woman with short hair,” I said. Then, “the woman in heels.” And finally, “the woman with the large earrings.” Finally she noticed. This would have been easily forgettable except that I realized a pattern in what I had avoided saying. Throughout my description, I had avoided pointing out the woman’s race.