Right now the kids and I are reading "Bad Boy" by Walter Dean Meyers...I really like this book. I'm able to see parts of myself in it. I'm hoping the kids are too. I'm hoping they are able to make connections to it...that they see that all authors aren't perfect....that they can tell their story and it not be perfect.
I try to get my students to see that teachers aren't perfect either and that we have our own stories. I tell them things - I want them to understand that when they feel they are angry all the time, feel like they struggle constantly, and don't seem to have a purpose sometimes...that it will get better....that we, as adults have had this struggle too. I try to explain to them that their words mean something....the way they speak will effect others. Using the "n" word in the halls is not ok...in whatever form they use it...that calling something "gay" - isn't ok either. I often find myself on my soapbox hoping that what I say is making sense to them. And also give it to them from my far from perfect life....
So, let me explain this. First of all, I grew up in a small town where I was the minority population...ok, there was one other girl in the town that wasn't white...but we were both adopted. My family is almost completely white...with the exception of one cousin, who was also adopted. I grew up thinking I was white. I know what you're thinking, "What?! How can that be? Didn't you ever look in a mirror?!" Yes, I did...and physically I knew I wasn't white, but in my mind's eye...I looked like everyone in my town and family.
When I turned 18 and went to college - I found out I was Asian! It was a big eye opener for me. I found out what racism was and experienced it on a first hand basis. It was a crazy time. There were some funny instances...my first weekend on campus I had a girl approach me and ask me if I knew where I was going or if I was lost...you know in that very loud, slow voice? She assumed I couldn't speak English. I had some not funny instances - ones that hurt not only my person but my soul. I came back from class one day to find racial epithets on the board outside my door, I was called names by white students on campus and was told to go back to my home country once from an open window as I walked on campus.
These things taught me that no matter how long I will live in this country, I will never be seen anything more than a foreigner in, what I believe to be, my own country. It also taught me to be open-minded to people that are different than me...to truly listen to those who have an opinion...to try to see the different sides of conflicts. I know that's probably not what you were thinking, but I've also learned that people react to what they perceive is the truth until they are convinced otherwise.
Don't get me wrong...I totally fought injustice in my own way in college....and most of it was physical. I believe that my aggressive and sometimes violent way of teaching people that I didn't appreciate their ignorance wasn't the best way of educating them....but sometimes it takes maturity to get there.
I've just been frustrated lately. The students aren't being taught to respect adults. They show no respect when they tell us to "f-off" and are just told not to say those things....they don't show respect when they stand there rolling their eyes and looking bored as we try to educate them how not to run down the hall like a screaming banchee....they don't show respect when they make fun of their peers and adults and don't expect to called out on their imperfections....they don't show respect when they degrade other genders or their own gender by using names to describe that person.... We're starting to become a generation of people that don't know how to interact kindly with others.
I'm hoping that when I talk to students that I teach, that they see things I've had to learn is something they may have to learn as well. I hope that maybe having me tell them again and again will hopefully rub off. I just keep hoping....