I had one of those moments where I just sit back in my chair and go "WOW". My one group of freshmen finished all their work, but we still have 5 teaching days left. I don't want to just watch an unconnected movie with them, so I have been doing some short stories that we didn't do earlier in the year. I have a 30 minute video about "Harrison Bergernon" by Kurt Vonnegut that we watched and discussed (they are reading the text tomorrow) and about social stereotypes and the ideas of equality.
I teach in a high poverty school. Most of my students are African American, and the next largest population is Hispanic. I also have a lot of first generation and ELL students. So we started talking about racial and gender discrimination. I had a group of three boys who were goofing off and making off handed comments about why men should be paid more than women, throwing out some common misconceptions, etc.
I told them to settle a few times, and when they didn't, I said, "So which one of you is it going to be?"
They stop. Look at me. One finally goes, "What do you mean?"
I said: "Statistics show that 1 in 3 African American males will be locked up at least once in his lifetime. So which one of you is it going to be?"
They look at each other and shrug at each other. First boy goes, "It ain't me". Second boy says: "Nuh-uh". Third boy goes: "It's not gonna be me for sure".
I said, "I don't think it's going to be any of you. I don't think it's going to be anyone in this classroom. Because you are smarter than that, right? You know you have potential and you know that labels are limiting, right?"
They nod, eyes wide.
I said, "You know I love all y'all in here, even if you drive me up a wall sometimes. I know you are better than the stereotypes and statistics on our streets, but you have to want to be better! And being better means fighting those stereotpyes...all of them, not just the ones that apply to you. That means you see women as equals. You see people with different skin as equals. You see character, not shape or size or color or money. You got it?"
Nods. Smiles in the classroom. Second boy goes: "Daaaaang Ms. T with the deep thinking today. I like this class!"
First boy high fives me on the way out the door at the bell: "You know I'm not gonna be that 1 in 3, Ms. T. Imma get me a good job and a degree and a honey and come back here in 10 years and be like BAM, Ms.T, remember me?"
I CANNOT wait for the next ten years. Can't wait to see his degree, hear about his job, and meet his honey. Tears in my eyes at my kids and their ability to open their ears and hearts.