[note: this entry, written July 14-15, is the second of two postings on the George Zimmerman trial.]
It was Monday, April 15, 2013. Tax Day. Patriot's Day. And a normal school day at Stoneleigh-Burnham. During Morning Announcements in my Humanities 7 class, the notion came up that Patriots' Day was a day off for most residents of Massachusetts and Maine and, after some good-natured grumbling, the students got down to work. Out of a class of 10, seven students wanted to read from their independent writing, and the entire class listened carefully and patiently to over an hour's worth of readings, bringing insight and empathy to their comments and suggestions. The rest of the period continued in the same vein, and later on my French 2 students would be similarly willing to work to understand at a deep level how you distinguish when to use the imparfait and when to use the passé composé instead.
Following this class, I went to Reception to meet the students who were travelling with me to volunteer at the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society. As we loaded up the car, one of the girls mentioned there had been some sort of an explosion in Boston and, thinking of the Boston Marathon and my cousins who were running in it and my brother who often is involved with it, I lent them my phone when one of theirs died so they could look up what happened. They stuck to the facts, which were still sketchy at the time - two explosions, some injuries - and we moved on to talk about other things.
Recently, one of my Facebook friends posted that she was riding in a taxi when the driver told her, "You know, you're very lovely, very classy for a black lady." Flabbergasted (her word), she responded, "Well, I'm sure you THOUGHT that was a compliment, so thank you." During the Facebook conversation that followed this retelling, one of her friends commented, "Educating people out of their disillusion, fear, and stereotyping is a difficult thing, no?"
Filed Under: gender, On Education, Bill Ivey, Sexism, Beautifully different, diversity, All Girls Education, Phillips Academy, Feminism, In the Classroom, Women in media, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, racism, Education
My shoulder grew progressively numb as my friend, convinced that everyone who claimed to be a pacifist had a breaking point, kept hitting it over and over. His face began to contort, and through gritted teeth he hissed, "I'm going to make you hit me." But I didn't hit back, and eventually he walked away in disgust. I've always wondered what he took away from the incident. Me, I took pride in having successfully maintained my principles of non-violence, though as it turned out I couldn't have moved my arm if I had wanted, and it hung uselessly at my side for at least five minutes as I walked to my next class and took my seat.
"A good friend of mine who used to be Head of School here," I began, "used to say, 'The right thing is easy to do.'" I segued to a description of a 7th grader, the day's recipient of the "Shining Star" award, who found the courage to go up to an adult who was smoking outside our gym, someone she didn't know, and tell that person we were a non-smoking campus. A friend of hers who was proud of her had originally told me of the moment, something which this girl readily acknowledged she had done but which she also felt was no big deal. From my perspective, of course, finding the courage at the age of 12 to go up to an unfamiliar adult and let them know they are breaking school rules is a big deal. The right thing to do, absolutely. But easy?
Filed Under: Middle School, gender, All-Girls, The Girls School Advantage, On Education, Bill Ivey, Gay-Straight Alliance, community, Acceptance, diversity, Feminism, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Malala Yousafzai, girls' school, racism, Education
My apologies in advance for including original quotes "as is"; sometimes, softening ugly words obscures the true ugliness of the message they were meant to convey.
For those unfamiliar with it, The Hunger Games is a book by Suzanne Collins that describes a dystopian future wherein children representing their geographical district, known as Tributes, fight to the death for the (sarcasm on) entertainment (sarcasm off) value. There are three books to the series, and of course the eagerly anticipated movie "The Hunger Games" was just released. As a middle school teacher who follows members of the #nerdybookclub on Twitter, I couldn't have missed the release date if I tried as many of my friends were braving the masses at midnight showings as crowded as they were festive.
Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, Bill Ivey, Boarding and Day, diversity, All Girls Education, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, racism, Education
The 2012 National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference has begun, with Sally in attendance representing our school. On Thursday on Twitter, someone named Bo Adams commented on remarks by Pat Bassett, the President of NAIS: “Pat Bassett shows exemplars of innovative school practice. What is common denom? Stus working on REAL WORLD ISSUES! #naisac12”
My mind immediately flew to an email I received this afternoon from Humanities 8 teacher Karen Suchenski. One of her students, in researching a project on slavery, had come across an abhorrent, racist website that was essentially built around “creative” and constant use of the n-word. The class was properly outraged and wanted to do something about it. She was wondering what I thought.
Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, NAIS, Pat Bassett, On Education, national association of independent schools, Bo Adams, naisac12, Boarding and Day, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, racism, NAIS Conference, real world issues, Education
Every so often, we middle school teachers will note something happening around us and quietly comment to each other how it’s crazy and sad that more people don’t get how wonderful this age group is. Today was the kind of day where I could have said that so often that even the most understanding of my colleagues would have ended up screaming, “I know, I know!” The seventh grade homeroom was bursting with off-the-cuff, humorous remarks and announcements. The Humanities class gave a collective gasp during morning reading. One of the play-writing groups exulted in reaching the stage where they could print out scripts to read to the class for input. Another group had clearly moved past yesterday’s setback and was working steadily to revise their own script. My advisees begged convincingly for Dunkin’ Munchkins (a surprise) and homemade ice cream (not a surprise) for our last advisory of the term. The Wednesday guitar class focused in on “Sweet Home Alabama” and showed how far they had come from the fall when they were still asking me several times a class how to finger chords, and they played so much and so hard that I had to end class a few minutes early to give their fingers a rest. Life Skills students who were ready for their presentations enjoyed a study hall while the others worked on their own and I consulted with the kids to set up a schedule for the presentations to happen. One of the 8th graders came back upstairs after lunch and asked special permission to use her laptop and do some work, which I allowed for as long as I was going to be up there myself. A French student proudly told me how hard she was worked last night making index cards to study for the final. And all this is just a sample of moments
Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, NYC, On Education, Boarding and Day, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, racism, Education