I usually jot down the important conversations that I have with my students. Anything meaningful, or that I can’t believe they would say, I like to write down in my planner.
Earlier this month, my lovely dog ripped up my beloved planner in an attempt to get to a granola bar that was inside my bag. This is a major offense. I love my planners. If you want to hurt me, hit me right in the planner. As I was sadly cleaning up the scraps, I came upon a note about an important conversation that I would like to share with you all.
At the time, I was noticing that in the media many people were using their platforms to spread messages of hate and inhumanity. I knew that the students were seeing it at home on the news, and I knew they were going to want to talk about it.
I asked them the question that I always ask them: “Why are you here?”
This always sparks a conversation that leads to them saying that they need to learn so that they can become a productive member of society. They need to learn to get good jobs, and help other people in the world, blah blah blah. We had already covered this.
Then, I asked them a new question: “What do I get out of this? Why am I here?”
A lot of hands shot up. “Money.”
“Yeah yeah yeah, forget the money. Sure, I need money to live, but what else? What am I doing here? What good does this do for me? Why don’t I work somewhere else and get money some other way?”
The kids thought long and hard about this.
One kids shyly raised his hand.
Some of the kids giggled.
“Oh yes. That is a major perk of my job here. What else?”
The kids looked at one another as they thought about it. Another student raised their hand.
“Definitely,” I said. “That is another great advantage of being a teacher! I get to have all of you as my best friends! What else?”
At this point, they seemed to be out of ideas.
It is an interesting thing, but I usually get the most meaningful and thoughtful responses in conversations with my class from the students who would never openly volunteer themselves during an academic lesson. This was one of those times.
“You can teach us that Down syndrome is cool.”
Immediately, a huge smile took over my face. I wasn’t even going to take the conversation there. Well I sort of was, but this kid picked right up on it.
“And why would I want to do that?”
The student explained that if I teach them that Down syndrome is cool then they will be nice to people that they meet with Down syndrome instead of bully them.
We had already established earlier in the year that they were more alike people with Down syndrome than they were different, so why not treat those people as they deserve to be treated? Isn’t that what we want ourselves? And what about all those other differences? Should we hate them and fear them just because we don’t know about them? Many of the students did not even know about Down syndrome before my lesson.
I told them that sometimes, people who have a lot of people listening to them use that opportunity to spread sadness, or hate toward people that they don’t quite understand yet. Those people who listen to them trust their opinion, and might agree with them.
I explained that I wanted to be a teacher to spread good messages to all the people who listen to me. These good messages include the acceptance of diverse people all over the world. The things that the students said during this “family circle” were so amazing. They gave me so many other example of meaningful messages I should teach to all my future students so that they will be good people. I wish I could see the world as they see it.
I especially can’t wait to see the world the way that he sees it.
I just wanted to share that story before all of the planner scraps were gone for good. Thanks a lot, poodle.