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Showing posts from July, 2012

Ain't No White Kids

I went to the Big Brother Big Sisters picnic with my Little Sister a few weeks ago.  I want to say right away that I love this organization and think it serves a very needed purpose, especially for boys who often have no strong (or really any) male figures in their lives.  But I did notice one thing that disturbed me.  Not something about the organization, but rather about the demographics and socio-economic status in the area: almost all the mentors (the "Bigs") were white or Asian, while almost all the children (the "Littles") and families were black or Latino.  This was not without exception, but was true of the vast majority of the people there.

It reminded me of my first year teaching, when I was brand-new to the area, and still fairly naive about the racism and segregation that was (and is) present.  I started teaching in January of 2000, so I was trying to get to know the students at a time of year when most teachers can tell you more about their students th…

Discipline

The best principal I ever had (and I had quite a few) had a novel idea when it came to children who were being discipline problems.  She urged her teachers to realize that there was a reason for their behavior.  She wasn't condoning fights, disrespect, or any other of the myriad behavior problems we dealt with on a daily basis, but just pointing out that there are reasons behind their behavior.  She explained further by saying, "Many of these kids have been through things that none of you can even imagine."  That has always stuck with me.

It's easy as a teacher to say thoughtless things like "I don't know why you do this," or "You should be ashamed of yourself," or "Why can't you be good."  Some teachers try to be aware and compassionate and avoid things like this, while others are so frustrated/uncomfortable/unhappy/afraid that they don't try any more and just yell at kids about being stupid and bad (I've worked next doo…

Connections to Tragedy

A teenager was killed in Oakland last week.  It made the news - as most homicide victims of that age do - but not for long.  It was one of seven murders in seven days, with the victims ranging in age from 15 to 84 years old.  Six out of the seven homicides happened in East Oakland, where I used to teach.

Hadari was a friend to several of my former students who I'm still in touch with.  He was also related to my 9-year old "Little Sister."  She told me this, adding that she had no feelings about it and didn't want to talk about it.  Ever.  I don't know the reason behind the killing, and I'm not sure it matters.  The consequences are the same.

I've been facing these situations since I started teaching 13 years ago and I still don't know how to deal with them in the best way.  For eight years, I taught in what is the most violent neighborhood in Oakland.  Most years, the majority of the kids in my class knew someone personally who had been murdered.  All…