0020: Time to Talk Race, Class, Gender, and Sexual Orientation in Middle School
Time has to be made for relevant discussion in classrooms. We’re all fast away making sure curriculum is being learned in a timely manner, and it’s easy to forget to involve the students. Sometimes it’s frowned upon. Students have issues that need to be heard, and they’re not all pretty. But, they need help dealing with emotions, fears, and so forth. They need help putting words to what they’re experiencing, and that help comes from someone listening.
I had the chance to engage a class in good conversation this morning. I’ve heard quite a few of my students (and many others) outside of class calling each other “gay” or “fag” along with a slew of other terms. This has been an issue in every school I’ve taught. It was when I was in school and quite possibly will continue to be until people stop to talk about it. The discussion got to go beyond “don’t say that” and turned into a discussion lead mostly by the students about homophobia and the cultural acceptability of people who identify as gay in their community. I’ve always been impressed by students’ willingness to engage in these conversations an voice their opinions. Furthermore, their ability to examine themselves honestly during these discussions in amazing. I find myself drawn in and pensive during these, as they always move me into self-examination. The conversation continued into matters of race and class when a student expressed a desire to be white. A few students got mildly hostile at first, but when prompted to listen to her understood better what she meant . We discussed the importance of finding peace with who you are regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation.
This discussion will be ongoing, and many things weren’t remedied, but we entered into the dialogue. We walked away from the discussion today a with a little more self-awareness and a better understanding of each other. I relish these moments as a teacher as the most important part of the job.