I just finished watching Freedom Writers and I swear it feels like I was watching my life. Okay, there are obvious differences. I am not white. I do not work in Long Beach. I don’t work with high school, etc. I do, however, work with kids who live in less than ideal situations.
I felt the exact same way that she felt on my first day of school; so out of place. I felt like I was going to be eaten alive. On my first day, so many people looked at me like they didn’t think that I would make it through the day. Truth be known, by recess, I had questions about it myself.
Another thing that reminded me of Erin Gruwelll was when the caricatured picture of the black guy was passed around and everyone was laughing. That is one thing that really upsets me more than anything else- the racial disharmony. At least two of my students (3rd-5th grade) throw around racial epithets when they get upset at someone who doesn’t look like them.
To try to help bring my students together and to try to quell the racial tension, I brought in some books from my personal collection to read to them to try to help them see the other person’s side and not be so judgmental of each.
One is called “Oh no gotta go” by Susan Middleton Elya. It is a bilingual book about a little girl who has to go to the bathroom. The only problem is that it is Sunday and almost everything is closed. When it was time to read the spanish words, I let the spanish-speaking children help me sound the words out. I then let them tell me some stories about other spanish words in the book.
(I will review this book
later this next week.)
The other book that I read to them was “I Love My Hair” by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley. (Earlier in the summer I reviewed this book. If you would like to check it out, click here.) In the story the little girl has braids. The book illustrates the process that her mother goes through while doing her hair.While I was reading the book I stopped periodically and told all the students about how I go through the same process when I braid Phillise’s hair.
Although tensions didn’t immediately ease up, they did get better. Now I am at work building up a community out of my little classroom.
Here’s to being cautiously optimistic about the future for me and my classrooom. Until next time people!