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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Crazy liberal teacher.

The other day we were playing a graphing game involving dreidels. (Basically, I had an extreme compulsion to teach about as many holidays as I could during winter time because while I was student teaching my CT forbade me from doing anything multicultural. We ended up getting through about 5 holidays.)

In math we have been working on discovering different ways to record data, and then comparing the data. (Which has most? How do you know? Which has least? How do you know?) For this game, then, the students would roll a dreidel and record which letter it landed on. At the end we talked about which they rolled the most, the least, etc.

On a dreidel, one of the letters is called "gimmel." So, I was demonstrating the game as we would play it with a student as my partner, while everyone else was watching. One of the students shouted out that the dreidel landed on "gimmel."

"Hey! You said gay!" accused one of the boys.
"No, I said gimmel," the other responded.
"No. You said gay and that's a bad word. He said gay!" continued the first boy.

At the time I was trying to cram this game into the last 10 minutes of school before the PTO came in to give out bags full of candy to the children. Because of this, I didn't go into it the way I wish I had. All I said was, "Gay isn't a bad word." (Which is a problematic response because if they are using the word "gay" as an insult then it needs to be stopped and is not something they should say - so in that sense it's kind of a "bad word" in the way that they understand "bad word," though truly it isn't a bad word.)

Now though, I wish I had taken the time to discuss this. If first graders are already under the impression that "gay" is a bad word, it will be harder to teach them later what it truly means and how it should appropriately be used. If this comes up again, I will stop what we're doing and have a conversation.

I will start by asking what they think "gay" means and why they think it is a bad word. Depending on their responses, I will go on from there. I doubt that any of them really have any concept of what the word means - they probably hear it used as an insult from older siblings

The good thing about having my school close at the end of the year is, I don't really care if I somehow get in trouble for discussing issues with the students that some people may not think are appropriate. Chances are, I won't have a job next year anyway...

I think these kids could handle it though. I wouldn't go into it a lot, I would just define "gay" as a man who likes and wants to marry another man or a woman who likes and wants to marry another woman and tell them that there is nothing wrong with that. (And of course, that's not technically a definition, but it is a concept comprehensible to first graders.) I live in a republican state that recently ammended its constitution, so there would be the potential for backlash from even such a simple (but loaded) definition. But, like I said, I don't know that I'll have a job in the district next year anyway, so why bother holding back teaching what I feel is important? It is in my (unwritten) teaching philosophy to try my hardest to stop prejeduce and clarify misconceptions and that is what I would be doing if this comes up again.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Returning student

Last week the secretary called me over the intercom in the middle of class to let me know that I had a new student, who was actually a returning student, and to make sure to check my box before I left school so I could see who it was.

I was actually quite excited to hear this, going through in my mind which of my past students I may be getting back. I and the teacher next door to me both had an embarrassingly low number of students (her especially), and I was actually starting to worry that They (whoever "they" are) may decide soon that we have too few students and do something drastic about it. So after school I went to the office to see who my returning student would be. It turns out that it is a student who was dropped from my class list about 7 weeks ago due to too many days in a row of non-attendance, and no contact from the family. I had tried calling this student a few times, but couldn't find any working phone numbers, so had assumed they had quickly moved, and that was that.

Apparently that is not what happened. A family member (not in the nuclear family, but in the extended family) had been sick, and for some reason this necessitated that the child not attend school, any school at at all, for nearly 2 months.

This child is a pleasure to have in class, and I was sad when s/he stopped attending and had to be dropped from my class list. I am glad s/he is back. I only wish s/he had been somewhere else the past while. This child was already struggling in many ways, and had been dropped back a grade earlier in the school year (to my class from a grade 2 classroom). Hopefully the child is able to remain in my classroom (or any classroom) consistently for the rest of the school year.

There may have been other things going on making it an obstacle for the parent to get the child to school, and obstacles are understandable. However, this was not fair to the child. If I see the parent next week, I hope to let her know that if a similar situation comes up again to let the school know if there some major difficulty in getting the child to school. We are very eager to help in any way we can at our school and will do nearly anything to help the child get to school.