Sunday, April 23, 2006

A new week

A couple things to think about today, and a rather long post... (just a forewarning). Mr.Pants took me to a "Dim sum" event at Pix tonight that was super fun. There were 3 courses. You choose a dessert from each course and can opt for an alcoholic beverage as well. We were in table in the corner, and the server kept forgetting us... so he gave us an extra dessert each round. Totally made up for it. Yummy stuff. I had something called a "Shazam!" and a salted caramel chocolate, a wee lemon-rasberry mousse, a smidge of rosemary & candied pecan ice cream and a "Grand Royale." We also tried a Trappist beer, a Hungarian dessert wine and a super amazing apple wine infused with cognac. All in all, it was yummy and fantastic. Well worth it.

The other thing I was thinking about today... At my current school, there's not a whole lot of diversity, as they say. I'm surrounded by white kids. This is pretty different from the high school I was volunteering at in Vancouver earlier - lot of kids from a lot of places. Lots of immigrant kids from the Ukraine and Russia, and quite a few from Vietnam as well. So, I'm reading this book today called White Teacher written by a kindergarten teacher who taught in a newly integrated classroom in the 60's. Really interested stuff. She relates a lot of what she sees and hears in her classrooms back to her own upbringing and her own family's racial perceptions, and how careful people were being with discussions of race at that time. Makes me think about how I react to kids in class, and what I bring with me from TheBeach.
She discussed how she went through a period where she wouldn't acknowledge any child's color. She didn't use the terms white, black, brown, race, etc. She didn't discuss skin color with kids or acknowledge any kind of difference for several years. She put in a few pretty poignant examples of situations that lead to changing her own theory on dealing with race. I'd like to think that I've at least progressed beyond that. I can and have talked to kids about where their parents are from, language differences, etc.
I don't know that I've been comforable enough to talk to the kids about more complicated issues. When the high schoolers were talking about being "ghetto" and talking about fights at school that used racial slurs, I let the teacher handle it. That wasn't something I wanted to jump into. I'm realizing that I don't have a lot of good examples to work from, growing up where I did. The biggest racial difference at TheBeach was whether you were German-Finnish or Swedish-Finnish (I'm exaggerating, of course. We had three kids from Mexico in my class. I just didn't ever see them because they kept them in the Spec. Ed room the whole time.). I remember a lot of ignorant and/or hateful statements being made by kids I grew up with, and by some of the people in my own family. I also remember hearing my mom repeatedly saying, "that's not nice." That was the creed I went by. Only say nice things. If you can't say anything nice... yadda yadda. It was also used as code for subjects that should best be left alone. That's the hardest part for me. I have to get past the point where I ignore things I don't want to hear. I will have to address these issues, and sound reasonably intelligent and adult about it. At some point, I'm going to just have to jump in and make mistakes and learn as I go. Best to do it now while I have some back up with me in the room. It's just that initial jumping in part... that's the hard part for me.

Ok. Time for bed. As this article says... I should perhaps sleep more. Since I'm not getting a dog.


rebecca said...

I also find it difficult to talk about issues of race and culture. Earlier this week, in fact, I drunkenly attempted to articulate my thoughts on how I can see that behavioral and cultural differences between races can cause tensions which might, in turn, lead to racism. The embarrassing part is that during this discussion, I probably came off as a complete racist, which wasn't my intent. I was just saying that I can understand where racial tensions come from, but it's a hard subject to tackle. We white folk always feel that we have to start off by declaring, "I'm not a racist" or "I have black/gay/multi-cultural friends." Anyhow, I agree that it's a hard subject. I guess the key is to choose words carefully, but not clam up entirely.

Sarah said...

I am also trying to deal with the "race issue". The is the focus of the first unit in class right now. We are reading a book "Cultural Competence". It's pretty good. There is a chapter about white privilage. Interesting. The chapter quoted a study that American white children are much slower than other children to identify their own race and culture. I think in education system we have a tendancey to identify white culture as "THE culture" or "American culture" and all other cultures are different. The chapter talked about how white teachers need to identify their own culture and how they feel about it before they are able to relate to children about culture. I agreed with this. I have a very hard time excepting myself as white and priveledged espesially sense I don't feel privledged.
PS I really wish this thing had spell check. It is hard to read my misspelled jabber.
PSS Dinah is sitting on the back pourch looking out at the yard meowing at random. Very odd cat.