Slice of Life: Facing a dilemma

At recess L* said, “I have a dilemma. Do you know what a dilemma is?”

“Hmm. Yes, I know what you mean. What’s your dilemma?”

He was worried about participating in an academic competition. A math competition. I understood his fear.  No way would I have considered such a thing at his age.

I assured him that this competition was about being able to work as a team. Only students who could explain their thinking, listen and then rethink their ideas would be successful. Those who were all about speed, no matter how “smart” would be wouldn’t make it if they didn’t listen and consider other’s thinking.

T* overheard.

T is the type of kid L is worried about. The speedy quick kiddo who always has the answer. The kid who prides himself on it. The kid that says, this is so easy.

I looked at T.

“I heard you,” T said.

“I know you did. You listen.”

During PE we ran. Short sprints. They are exciting. Students cheer.

Every year at some point, students make this decision about who to root for, and they start to chant that student’s name. It breaks my heart for those kiddos running so hard and not being cheered for.

It happened yesterday.

After the race, I had everyone sit. Close. I say that type of cheering is unacceptable. We cheer for everyone. Because that is who we are.

They listened.

Last week, Jason Reynolds’and Jacqueline Woodson’s thoughts led me to this podcast featuring the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and to this podcast with Ta-Nehisi Coates. I listened. And was left unexempt and uncomfortable. Owning racism.

I have been afraid to face racism straight on in the classroom. Fearful of being wrong. The thing is, it’s a done deal. I am wrong. I had manufactured a dilemma to hide in.

My slice of life is small. It’s one group of kids. Yesterday was one conversation. One race. But. This group of kids will not go on without experiencing intolerance to arrogance and exclusion of others in teachable moments and explicit lessons around race and equality. We are different. None of us fit. And in that way, we are one. That is the beauty of it.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesday. Read more slices here.




8 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Facing a dilemma

  1. You keep learning as a teacher in order to understand issues deeply and being able to make a difference. You don’t only think on your own but also provoke the people around you to broaden their perspectives. Thank you.

  2. Kudos for first listening and then for naming the behaviors that would not be tolerated. It’s a brave world when you are at the helm . . . ever listening, ever ready, moving forward, taking action! ❤

  3. It is hard, but important to make kids aware of when they exclude others, for any reason. It is easy to see the behavior in others; less easy to see it in ourselves. It is the power if ONE person, ONE group, to change the paradigm.

  4. It’s good to listen and look for ways to change thinking. That’s how teachers do well with each student, each class. I admire your thoughtful work, Julieanne, every time you share.

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