Thursday, April 13, 2017

School Daze

I have had a long week and thankfully we are off for Good Friday tomorrow and it shall be good. The day when I no longer have to walk into a Nashville Public School will be a permanently good Friday.

This week I had a young woman look me in the eye and say, "Smells like ass crack in here." She repeated it when a Teacher asked me what she said and I responded, "I apparently offend her olfactory senses to the point I remind her of excrement." Nothing happened nothing will. The same smirk and mask of amusement which crosses the faces of children here daily when they degrade and insult anyone whom they feel they can and do so.
Then I heard about the school where the kid targeted me with a laser pen arrested a 15 year old for bringing a gun on campus. Yes I wish I could speak to the administrator now about her denials and allegations about me that  day.

This is why I asked myself if I was becoming a racist as the reality is that it is largely children of color and that color is predominantly black. I found this morning a Mexican pot of flowers of mine thrown into the street, just the Mexican pot and my first thought was this was again a person of color but in reality it could be anyone just targeting the idea of anything Mexican. But when your first thought goes black you never go back.

I meet children and adults daily who test my patience and fortitude for stupidity. Yet on Tuesday my Xray technician was an amazing black woman who blew my mind with her mad skills with a 3D machine I had never seen before. I was so impressed and thrilled at that I did not even care what color she was but I realized it again today after a student who was black threw a penny and it hit my head and traversed into my eye. I knew it was a black person as it came from that side of the room. Yes the white kids all 5 of them sat on one side, the black kids on the other. They were the ones that laughed when I a grabbed my head and eyes and dropped to my knees trying to find what hit me. I found it and it was a shiny new penny. I was not subbing in that class I was covering as they have nowhere near enough subs for the schools here and well wonder why?

The note on the board from the actual Teacher I was subbing for has this: The last Sub on Tuesday wrote some lengthy notes regarding your poor behavior! This is completely unacceptable.. and those people whom were called out 4 being rude or leaving class w/o permission will be given a REFERRAL! This will be the same policy TODAY!! BE KIND AND RESPECTABLE TO OUR VISITOR!!

Well the hilarity of this is that we have no clue who these kids are. We have a roster we have to submit that in 10 minutes and then we are with nothing. NOTHING to know the kids names, identities. NOTHING.

In Seattle we had seating charts with names and photos along with duplicate class rosters so that when the one went for attendance we had another as a back up. This district barely has copy paper and does not allow or like Subs using said machinery. Again last week I was told never to speak to a parent and this is from another acclaimed supposed school. What.ever.

Now there are clear cultural barriers but the biggest is poverty. I have never experienced nor witnessed anything like it. This editorial from the New York Times talks about Robert Kennedy and his visits to poor communities in the South. He learned a great deal and how that agent of change is not just the Government but that working in tandem with the community it serves can provide a safety net that is more like a trampoline that allows people to jump up and out of their circumstances in a much more productive way. Don't tell the GOP that as they are sure everyone on SNAP is living large and gaming the system. I keep wondering where they get that info and then you realize they get it from their own constituents who do just that or repeat fraudulent stories they hear from social media, fake news or just make up themselves. It takes only one true tale to multiply into many variations of the same.

So is that is what is happening to me? Is it my encounters that are literally coloring my own perceptions and that I am allowing myself to become someone I loathe as a means of coping?

I cannot answer that question but I do think the schools have a fatal nature here that only seem to serve the community as shells in which to move the pea under the walnut. And in turn the kids are aware that their station in life is predetermined and that no matter what they do that will never change. It is fatalism at age 13.

The adults here are just bigger versions of the same. They are ignorant and willfully so. To understand willful ignorance is to see anyone who stubbornly clings to misguided concepts, ideas and to people that they are sure are just like them despite being richer, a different race, ethnicity or gender. The idea that all of this can somehow be rectified if we all just had a single brain and shared the same values and beliefs we would be better/greater/smarter/richer/whatever.

When I read the story below I thought that this was Jon Greenberg of Center School all over again. The ideas and concepts are great and the notion of Social Justice needs to be taught but it needs a manner and methodology that comes from a place of shared values. What that means is that like likes like. So to understand the concepts of how to treat and respect and see what it is like to experience and in turn express micro aggressions and larger ones, that Teacher must be one of the same. Then from there open the dialog by inviting the "other" into to openly share their experiences and in turn share a moment where pain is pain regardless.

Should this Teacher be fired? No. Greenburg after fighting the good fight is back at his old job and has been now for two years. There have been no further problems and he I suspect is back to teaching his old curriculum. He is not a man who pretends to care about anything but the issues. Some like him some don't but it is in school where you learn about other peoples ideas and beliefs and you learn how to handle them in a non confrontational violent way. Or so we hope.






A teacher asked kids ‘how comfortable’ they are around black men, Muslims. She was fired.


By Kristine Phillips
The Washington Post
April 11 


A Florida middle school teacher was fired after giving her students an assignment that asked them how comfortable they are being around people from different ethnic groups and backgrounds.

The assignment begins with the title, “How Comfortable Am I?” Then follows a list of 41 scenarios that students at Fox Chapel Middle School in Spring Hill, Fla., are asked to rate based on how comfortable or uncomfortable those situations make them feel. One means “not comfortable at all” and 4 is “completely comfortable.”

A few items on the list focused on specific ethnic and religious groups:
•“Your new roommate is a Palestinian and Muslim.”
•“A group of young Black men are walking toward you on the street.”
•“The young man sitting next to you on the airplane is an Arab.”
•“You new suite mates are Mexican.”
•“You assigned lab partner is a fundamentalist Christian.”

A portion of the assignment that a Florida middle school teacher gave to her students. (Hernando County School District)

The others involved people of different genders and socio-economic backgrounds:
•“Your two next door neighbors in your hall are lesbian/gay.”
•“You discover that the cute young man/woman that you are attracted to is actually a woman/man.”
•“Your brother’s new girlfriend is a single mother on welfare.”
•“Your mother ‘comes out’ to you.”

[‘Negligent’ school let bleach end up in a special-needs student’s feeding tube, lawsuit claims]

A spokesman for the Hernando County School District said the survey was a supplemental assignment that the teacher gave the students. The teacher was fired last week, a few days after she gave the assignment to students. School officials did not release the teacher’s name, but said she was hired in January and was still on her probationary period.

“In no way does this assignment meet the standards of appropriate instructional material,” Patrick Keough, district spokesman, said in a statement.

Tori Drews, a 12-year-old who was one of the students given the assignment, told ABC affiliate WFTS that the teacher told them that the purpose of the survey was to learn about accepting people from different backgrounds. But the sixth grader didn’t think the assignment would achieve that purpose.

“I thought some of them were racist. I thought some of them were sexist. I thought it was completely intolerable,” Tori said.

Her mother also was outraged.

“How comfy are you if you see a group of black men walking to you on the street? That’s completely inappropriate,” Jennifer Block told WFTS. “In no world, whatsoever, is that okay to question a child on.”

Another parent, Rick Hunter, told NBC affiliate WFLA that teachers are better positioned to discuss issues about race with students.

“I think the school could do it a lot better than we could. It’d be a lot more comfortable. It’s weird talking to your kids about this,” Hunter said.

Many of the questions appear to have been lifted from a book titled “Exploring White Privilege” by Robert P. Amico, a philosophy professor at a private and Catholic University in New York. An examination of the previewed pages of the book on Amazon.com revealed that an almost similar survey, with the same rating scale that the teacher gave her students, was included in its Appendix portion.

A few scenarios appear to have been slightly changed.

For example, the survey in the book asks readers how comfortable they are if their assigned lab partner is a 62-year-old woman. In the assignment, students are asked of their comfort level if their math tutor is a 62-year-old woman.

A scenario in the book about a Muslim woman reads: “Your women studies instructor is a covered Muslim woman.” In the student’s assignment, it’s: “Your women’s studies instructor is a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf and a full length robe.”

Amico said that the questions he wrote in his book are clearly meant for adults, “or at least, at best college students.”

“They’re designed to help readers think about where they might have discomfort and where they might have some prejudice that might want to explore,” Amico told The Washington Post.

In defense of the teacher’s method, Amico said there are ways to devise a questionnaire to help children explore what their biases might be. In this instance, however, the questions could have been reworked to better suit the children’s level of understanding, Amico said.

The book, according to a news release last year from St. Bonaventure University, is Amico’s personal account of his own white privilege and “how he fought to transcend it” and hopes to address the difficulty that many Americans face in trying to understand it.

“‘Exploring White Privilege’ gives people the opportunity to learn more about themselves and how they are situated in American culture,” Amico said in the news release. “Beginning to understand privilege can help one to navigate that system differently.”





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