since i left work, i have been unravelling the layers of this story one of my students told me today, while waiting for her parents to pick her up:
This girl, we'll call her S, was born in the u.s, not far from san jose. Her family, however, is from India, and most of them still live there. "When I was born, my skin was white," she explained, then added that actually, it was "kind of a pinkish color." Then, she went to India. She went a few times, for months at a time, and after a series of these trips, the sun in India turned her skin brown, little by little, till it transformed into the color it is now, and she said proudly "that's why my skin is brown," and looked at her arm, smiling.
Another transformative moment during the actual class:
Another child (also Indian) today told the whole class how NOT to mispronounce his name: "It's not chimney, chimpanzee, etc," he said, and listed a variety of unwanted nicknames he'd received throughout his life. He then pronounced his name clearly, so that everyone knew, and would remember what it was.
Of course the rest of the kids responded by calling him everything he'd asked them not to. Eventually I asked them to stop - gently - and told them that it was important that we all feel safe and trust each other, and that means being respectful. This boy had specifically requested that his name be pronounced correctly and not mocked, and we all had to honor that request. "We can all make requests that are important to us, and everyone should honor those."
And after that?
Not because I threatened them, but, it seems at least, because they understood that it was important to be respectful. And more importantly, because he had asked them in the first place.
Respectful children make me smile.
Empowered children make me hopeful.
Strong, respectful, and empowered children inspire me to be a better teacher and a better person.
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3 years ago