Thursday, February 12, 2004
From the "I Can't Believe You Just Said That!" Files
I was observed teaching the other day by one of my boss' who will, for the sake of my job, remain nameless. I felt like I had had a good day that day and I wasn't too worried about how my post-observation chat would go.
I went in this morning to talk to this woman, who has decades of experience over me, and we started off in a really pleasant way. She was told me I was on the right track, showed potential, etc.
Then, in the delightful way that things tend to do, everything went surreal.
"There is one fairly big problem with your teaching style..." Boss X began. "It has to do with your use of sarcasm."
Me, sarcastic? Never! Oops, I was being sarcastic just then. I thought this may come up at some point. It has been mentioned to me in the past. I was told early on that kids don't "get" sarcasm and it takes too much brain power for them to figure it out. I just heartily disagree. I think that my students find my sarcasm funny and I think that the way it catches them off-guard and makes them think is healthy and educational. Not to mention the fact that I find it absolutely impossible to delete sarcasm from my way of being...I just swim in it all the time. I was taught to be sarcastic before I was taught to walk, probably. But I wasn't going to argue.
"Yes," I agreed. "I have been told that I should tone it down. I'm working on it."
"Well, perhaps it has worked for you in the past. You see, sarcasm works for the smart children," she began, as I smiled and nodded in affirmation. "...the white children. It just doesn't work for the Blacks."
My smile froze and my nodding head kept bobbing up and down senselessly. I hate these moments and I have them fairly frequently, here. Where I am relating to someone or having an innocent conversation and suddenly I am trying to figure out how to get out of it quickly and whether to say something about how awful I think the person is but feeling very much the foreigner and just ending up staring like a deer caught in the headlights.
I can think of a lot of people I know in the Bay or in Portland who would tell me that I can't let racism go unchecked...that I should stand up for what is right. In fact, I myself have a poster in my classroom that reads, "Stand up for what is right; even if you are standing alone" and I spout that to my kids daily. But I just never know what to do here because I do feel like I would be terribly unsupported if I said anything. I wonder why these teachers work with the population they do if they feel the way they feel.
The rest of the conversation went something like, "And I should know because I have worked with the Blacks for many years...blah blah blah." I had stopped listening.
I know that it is good for me to get out of the bubble of the West, where people just don't say that kind of thing-- not out loud and with immunity, no matter what evil really lurks in their hearts. It is just still so shocking to me that these folks just assume that I will be with them in their beliefs about non-white people.
And the kids got on my nerves today. But tomorrow is Friday. And we all know how much I love the weekend. ¶ 2:10 PM