Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 03 2012

Pick Your Battles

Gems from today:
Toothpik, after I accidentally set the timer for 5 seconds instead of 5 minutes: “Miss,  that was barely 5 seconds! This aint Aisa! I aint Chinese!” … if I were a better person and hadn’t been dead-set on getting him started on the problems on the board, I would have laid a smackdown on race and stereotypes. Next time, I thought.

Packer, after I wrenched his hand away from my Castaway’s neck: “Nah miss, that’s my ho. I hate her, but she my fuckin ho.” … When he saw my reaction, he thought I was mad at him for using the f word. I took a deep breath and told him he was almost done with #10 and he knew what to do next.

 

… In hindsight, I definitely chose the wrong battle, both times.

Truly, deeply, achievement gap or no, I’d rather my kids be really good at telling people off for saying things like this than be really good at solving equations. Maybe I should start acting like it.

5 Responses

  1. els

    it’s just so HARD to have those conversations. I totally cop out more often than not and say something like “let’s get back to math” — I’m usually too tired. if you’re going to tell kids something and expect them to believe it, you have to have a sound argument; sometimes it’s hard to have a sound argument when my throat hurts and I haven’t eaten in 6 hours :)

  2. Dear God.

    I completely agree, but also… I think those things can be taught sideways. Call me brainwashed from Teach like a Champion, but all I was thinking when I read this was, “Do not engage.”

    At least he saw your face. Maybe that’s a pull-em-during-lunch kind of conversation, or a whole group mini-talk about using respect in the classroom. I sound totally disassociated from reality, I know, I’m sorry. I recognize what it’s like in those moments. You’re still doing a good job, even when you feel like you’ve made a poor choice.

  3. Ughhh yes. As an Asian-American math teacher, I’ve heard more than my fair share of stereotypical comments from students–even the few Asian ones. Most of the time, I just don’t have the energy or articulateness to respond in a timely manner.

  4. When I tried to talk to my students about race, I felt like whatever I said made them say “Miss, you are racist.” I just didn’t know how to address it.
    So much harder than math.

  5. Wess

    To els, Cameron, Mr. K, and Caroline: Everything you say is true, but I think this is the Most Important Thing. I’m starting to think I’d rather teach this head-on and teach the math sideways. We need to be good at teaching math, but we ESPECIALLY need to be good at orchestrating these conversations and getting our kids to think twice about perpetuating exactly what makes the world ugly in the first place.

    Think about it: why is getting back to math easier? Because that’s what you’ve planned for, that’s what you expected to be talking about. Yes, it’s also less controversial, but these are not overly complicated things to explain and with forethought, one could make Going There the easy thing to do.

    I’m right there with you–it’s hard, not so much because I’m tired but because I come from too much privilege to feel comfortable imposing my thoughts about these things onto my kids. But I’m realizing more and more that I just have to go ahead and risk being a little unsure or causing a little friction or even making some glaring mistakes because of my own biases or being deemed a racist–if only for the sake of impressing upon someone that racism and sexism and prejudice are NOT okay, even though the whole world acts as if they are.

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Region
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Grade
High School
Subject
Math

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