Welcome to the Teaching Tolerance blog, a place where educators who care about diversity, equity and justice can find news, suggestions, conversation and support.
Early in the school year, members of a youth gang came to our Oakland, Calif. campus. Their target was a young woman from the ninth-grade class. As the rival youth approached her, several of our boys stepped up, formed a protective wall around the young woman and even took punches to the face. They had no intention of fighting. The young men later defended their actions saying, “I am not indifferent.”
We each have a part to play, a role uniquely ours each day. I’d raised my hand often enough and spoke about equity and LGBT rights during my years in Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District to convince myself I was accomplishing the role I’d chosen when I decided to teach.
Karl paused at the classroom doorway, his thin face pinched with apprehension as he stared down the hallway.
“Is everything all right?” I asked.
Startled, he looked at me almost guiltily. “Uh—I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” Karl risked being late by the time he darted out.
This just in: Men make up a small fraction of early childhood and elementary school teachers. And for children younger than 6, having a male teacher is a rarity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 2.3 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers are men.
“Jamilla may have to quit,” my friend Bob said. “She’s not the only one. This new ‘pay-to-play’ policy could wipe out two-thirds of my team.”
Bob was the girls’ soccer coach at our urban high school. For several years he had been growing his program. Finally, his girls were becoming competitive in their league.
Sarah had a strange way about her. She would focus so completely on whatever she was reading that she seemed oblivious to the world around her. However, when the volume in the room reached a certain level, she would burst out with a screaming plea at her classmates to be quiet. “I can’t take anymore of this noise,” she’d yell. At other times, she made loud exclamations to no one in particular. “My mom makes great cinnamon rolls,” she announced one day while unpacking her materials.
Most art projects are personal expressions by individual artists. But as an art teacher, it’s hard to beat a well-structured group project for helping students overcome differences and discover the power of creative teamwork.
It happened again today. I was standing in the cafeteria when I heard the dreaded sound of yelling, chairs scraping the floor and students scurrying for cover coming from the other side of the room. Food fight. Ugh.
I rushed over to find french fries, ketchup and peaches everywhere and students complaining about another destroyed lunch.