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
Throughout the year there are opportunities for school dances. It could be homecoming, Sadie Hawkins or even a Halloween costume party. Students spend hours discussing them. While many students view dances as a tremendous opportunity for fun, socializing and a great experience, others view them as potentially dangerous and anxiety-filled events. I am not thinking about the general stress induced by dating or the politics of popularity that often emerge here.
Rather, what concerns me is the anxiety for LGBT students.
Katie is the student I imagined all my students would be like when I first started teaching. In my fantasy, all my students were motivated, conscientious and ready to independently tackle any challenge I proposed. In this same fantasy, I was not the wild-haired, one-legged juggler I’ve become, but rather a calm force of wisdom and benevolence.
On a recent rainy afternoon, our 20 kindergarteners were kept indoors for playtime. I stood near a group of four children stringing beads for bracelets and necklaces.
Levi explained he was making a bracelet for his daddy.
The child next to him, Catherine, blurted out angrily, “I hate daddies!”
Levi searched for words, looked at Catherine and asked, “Why do you hate daddies?” He repeated it a few times.
“I don’t have a daddy,” Catherine replied. “I hate daddies.”
The class was silent as we waited for Samuel to collect himself. It was a respectful silence that happens when everyone knows something powerful is taking place. Samuel’s elbows were on his knees, his head was down. A few tears had fallen.
Our chairs were placed in a circle. A sign posted on our classroom wall read, “Every person in this community is as important as every other person.” We were in the middle of our weekly class meeting, a time when we acknowledge conflicts and work to resolve them as a group. The current topic: name-calling and disrespectful speech.
Every now and again, a student will say something that leaves me speechless and desperate for the correct response. I can feel in my bones that the moment is about to become pivotal. One of these moments came while we were reading Katherine Paterson’s novel The Great Gilly Hopkins, in which the main character deals with her racism. We were in the process of analyzing her character, her motivations and her racist attitudes, and I could tell that my sixth-graders didn’t really understand the theme of racism, so I needed to step away from the novel for a moment and put the history in context for them.
I like to switch things up every once in a while, so I assigned my high school students a project I’d never done before—a gift book. In addition to the academic value, I hoped to strengthen at least one teen-adult connection at a time when it’s sometimes hard to just grunt, “Good morning,” without an argument. (I know this because I have two teens in my own house.) I also wanted students to be able to create a keepsake to give a loved one during the holiday season. Many students could not afford to buy anything. In our rural school, many students come from low-income homes.
Several stacks of fake dollar bills enclosed in a Plexiglas case sit at the center of an exhibit entitled “RACE: Are We So Different?” at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. One stack towers over the others. This teetering pile of bills represents the average net worth of “white” people’s assets in relation to those of other racialized groups based upon data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau from 1997 to 2000. While the “Asian” stack is almost as high, the “black” stack can hardly be called a stack at all; the “Latino” stack is almost as low.
This year is the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl's classic children's book James and the Giant Peach. In the story, 7-year-old orphan James Henry Trotter escapes his two rotten, abusive aunts by crawling into a giant peach, which rolls, floats and flies him to a new life of wonder and love.