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
A few years ago, a picture from The Roanoke Times became the fodder for emails and blog posts. It spread across the Internet in a matter of days, eventually ending up on late-night network talk shows.
It began as part of a simple and obscure local news story about road construction. In the article, a pregnant woman in her 30s wondered what effect the high decibel sounds of jackhammers and earth-moving equipment would have on her unborn child.
What made this conjecture so worthy of scorn and mockery?
When I found out I had been selected to serve on the first-ever Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board, I was overcome by simultaneous feelings of shock, honor, pride, excitement and joy. In a time in which the rhetoric surrounding teachers is becoming increasingly negative and dismissive, I commend Teaching Tolerance for looking to current classroom teachers and education practitioners for input regarding their resources. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to such a respected, invaluable organization.
I came to the first meeting of the Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board giddy with excitement, full of wonder, hope and pure idealism.
Through dinner, we listened intently to each other for hints of interests, objectives, convictions, passions and focus. We saw the realness of each individual emerge. We shared a purpose and vision in our task.
Sitting and standing. It’s amazing how much of our history involves those two simple acts.
A woman refused to relinquish her bus seat. Students sat at segregated lunch counters. People stood on street corners and boycotted public buses. A minister stood in front of hundreds of thousands delivering a dream. History echoes with the audacity of simple acts. My simple act was attending the first Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board meeting in Montgomery, Ala.
A parent of a first-grader tried to wrangle her child from peering into my classroom. “He just can’t wait to be in middle school! He thinks your students are rock stars,” she said. Peter isn’t the only young student who stops by each morning to greet the older kids. And the enthusiasm goes both ways.
Last summer, my students were fascinated with union suits, the one-piece undergarment. We were getting ready to visit the Minnesota History Center, where a display featured a Minnesota-based company that got its start as a producer of union suits. We previewed the museum’s collection online. The students were quite taken with the red wool outfit with the “trapdoor” over the rear end.
I didn’t say a word.
I never saw myself as a person to let a homophobic comment slide. Even from another adult. Even from someone with more power than me in the hierarchy of the school structure. But that day, in that conversation, I just let it go.
I am a good driver. You’d never know it, given the theatrics of the backseat drivers in my vehicle, whose sudden gasps and quick grasps for the dashboard denote a lack of confidence in my skills.
This drama is alternately amusing, annoying and unnecessary. I'm proud to say that, for the most part, my instinctive go-to practice of "when in doubt, step on the gas" has never let me down.