Friday, September 09, 2005
Bridging the Divide
It's hard to believe my first week of my in-school observations is already over... just one more week left. Working with the 3rd graders has been fun so far, and it's amazing how quickly one becomes attached to the kids. Plenty of the kids call me just "Mr. C" now, and since they found out that I love hip-hop, I get extra cool points. I try not to abuse my popularity too much, though it definitely comes in handy when I'm trying to help keep the kids on task or encourage them to work - one hard look with a raised eyebrow and slow shake of my head is enough to get them to listen.
Since the class is so diverse, one of the most interesting things for me to observe and take notes on is the interactions between various different groups. Contrary to popular notion, kids are not "colorblind" - they notice the physical differences between themselves. The key thing is that while many adults already have derogatory ideas attached to those differences (black people are less intelligent, hispanic people can't speak English, etc.), children are still forming their own ideas about those differences - the deorgatory ideas haven't taken root yet.
One of the guiding principles of the elementary school I'm observing is the value of honoring diversity, and it definitely shows in the kids, most of whom have attended the school since kindergarten. Though they commonly segregate themselves by gender, they freely mix and interact positively in other ways. Some examples:
-Bilingual kids, especially those who speak Spanish as their first language, are respected and never thought of as "weird" when they use their Spanish during the day, because the school has a Spanish immersion program where the kids attend regular Spanish classes during the week - a sort of "turning the tables", where the Spanish-speaking kids can shine and are involved in teaching their classmates.
-One girl in the class who comes from a Muslim family and wears a hijab (head scarf), but is never treated differently by her classmates - they're so comfortable with her wearing the hijab that she's one of the most popular girls in the class.
-There's a student in the class with a glutin allergy, who's both new (recently moved from New York) and slightly shorter than most of the other boys. When the teacher asked for volunteers from the guys to sit with him at lunch and show him around the school, nearly every boy raised their hands right away.
As pessimistic as I usually am about the world, I can't help but see anything but hope when I observe the kids in my class. They truly are being educated in way that will enable them to better understand and change the things that are wrong in this world, and yes, that makes me happy. They'll be the ones to stand in the gap and connect many peoples, all over the world.
Maybe one of them will become the next Ghandi, Yuri, Martin, Malcolm, Romero, Che, Sun Yat-sen... or maybe someone even greater.
Comments: Post a Comment