Monday, October 31, 2005

why we gotta hate people, ms?

i've got the best and the worst in my third period. this class is filled to the brim, and with the personality and energy of my students it's practically boiling over. the good thing about this is that we have lots of "teachable moments" and there is general enthusing at times. the bad aspect is that I'm trying to tame a class of monkeys, monkeys who are enabled by their parents and think of themselves as gods. they are teenagers at their best and worst.
take today for example. we're discussing immigration in the late 1800s. nativism is introduced and someone says something about the kkk. "but ms," another kid asks, "how come they can wear their hats and their sheets? they can't do that. like, how we can't wear gang colors here." ahh, a teachable moment. rules vs. laws and civil liberties are discussed. it's a good moment. then we move on in our discussion of immigration.
"i think they should build a great wall of america. mexicans just need to stay out," a kid pipes up. these kids are espousing racist rhetoric and, once again, conveying the gap between mexican american vs. mexican mexican (to use my student's language). they don't use words like wetback but the sentiment is the same. a conversation ensues between the students about immigration. "how can you hate mexicans when you are one?" "i'm not mexican, i don't know nobody in mexico" "yeah but you used to be a real mexican at one point" until one kid resorts to outright racist rhetoric and i stop the conversation. it's frustrating because my blood is boiling but i'm trying to be a good teacher and let the kids talk it out, hoping someone will learn something about tolerance. i'm trying to use clever guiding questions but after the conversation i feel depressed and frustrated.
anyway, the class is always teetering on "out of control" because they won't stop fucking shouting things out or asking about shit. most of it is filtered but sometimes, and i'm not proud of this, i stop what we're doing and say with a sigh, "alright third period. we're going to stop for one minute to talk about this. because i know you need to get it out and i'd rather just talk about it once and for all." this is what birthed our conversation about immigration. i can't tell if i'm caving in or going with the flow. is my class a mess or just messy?


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10:19 PM  
Blogger travelingidahogirl said...

It sounds like you're controlling the conversation just enough. It's important for them to voice opinions, even those racist ones. My experience has shown that most of the kids don't believe they have racist thoughts--we're all so enlightened now. To hear stereotypes coming from classmates is a wake up call. It is a hard balance to keep. Whenever we talked about race in my classes, I had a knot in my stomach, felt like I was standing on my tip-toes with every muscle tensed, and ended the day questioning if I was doing the right thing.

1:06 PM  
Blogger graycie said...

You're teaching more than the curriculum-driven subject matter. In addition to the deeper stuff -- and it sounds like you are doing that very well -- you are training them in how to do and to be in a classroom setting. (Yes, I know they should already . . . but they don't.)

You can praise them for their passion, for their eagerness to explore Big Ideas. You can introduce rules for doing this in a mature and civilized way. You can offer ten minutes at the end of a successful class for passionate discussion.

Use this curiosity and passion and eagerness to interact and channel it. It's really HARD work, but it pays off as they realize the value of their discussions, your respect for what they have to say, and the adult conclusions you can guide them to.

Don't give up. You're doing a good job for all of the right reasons.

1:26 PM  

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