We talked about racism this week. We have been building up to this moment, waiting until students had been exposed to the struggles and successes of the Civil Rights Movement. I went into class with a plan. We started off by looking at the frisking of Forest Whitaker by The Good, Racist People. We then talked about racism in our society. I was building up for a discussion on topics such as Trayvon Martin and whether or not affirmative action is still needed.
But that is not where students took the discussion. My plan got sidetracked. They started sharing personal stories of discrimination. We heard from students with mixed races in their families and how their own family members treated then differently. We heard from students who themselves had been discriminated against by strangers. Students were vulnerable and shared private personal things.
One girl had a boy break up with her when he found out she was Jewish. Another student shared how his deaf parents were called “retarded” just because they can not speak clearly. Other students shared the struggles of siblings with Downs Syndrome being treated as stupid and called names. One boy shared his struggles with ADHD and how he has been picked on for being immature because of things that he can not control. One student shared how she was kicked out of her church youth group when they found out she was LGBT. She had to find a new church to go to that would accept her.
We never got to the topics that I had planned. It was the best class ever.
Students felt safe enough to share some of the most painful moments in their life and not be judged. I felt blessed just to listen as I walked around the room handing the microphone from one student to another.
Things didn’t go as I had planned; they went way better.
I am thankful for students who will talk about the real stuff in their life. I am thankful to be part of a school that supports them.
Discrimination may never end in this country but I feel confident that these students will lead us into a better future where we will see it continually decrease.
Isn’t it amazing when a classroom acts like a community should? …When the planned lesson cannot match the learning provided through the genuine thoughts and conversations of the class? I love those days. Thanks for sharing this.
These are the greatest days! They make me change my planning style. I think about tying every event, time period, topic, etc to today and how the situation relates to now. Makes for great classes. Kids love it.
Although teaching students about racism is an important issue, I respectively disagree with your definition of racism. I believe that just because someone was to break up with another for a reason such as religion isn’t racist. Would you not want to be with someone who has your same religous views? Also because a church stands up for their beliefs does not make them racist. They are strictly following what the Bible says. But being hating on someone’s gender or skin color for pure meaness is not cool.
I don’t think those things are racism either. What I planned was to talk about racism, but students shifted it to discrimination in many different circumstances. That is where the title of the post comes from. My point is that sometimes teachers need to be flexible with class instead of “keeping to script” of “we can only talk about racism” because that is our topic today.
People have a right to their religious views and no one was slamming any group but it was also fair for students to share the hurt that they felt in these situations.
My comment after ever student shared was a non-judgmental “thanks for sharing.”