Friday, February 17, 2012

Missing the Point

It was Friday morning and there were not enough substitute teachers to cover all the classes. We had the great idea to put all the K - 3rd grade students in the auditorium and show Ruby Bridges for Black History Month. The subject is a little deep for the 5 - 8 crowd so at certain points I would stop the movie and explain what was going on and try to put it in kid friendly terms using their own experience. When we got to the part where Ruby was attending her new school for the first time, I stopped and asked the kids to try to imagine that this was what greeted them on their first day of school. How would they feel? Would they come back?

Later that morning I passed a former student with his vision specialist working in a small office. He is especially bright and has very sophisticated critical thinking skills for a second grader. So I explained that we had been watching the movie and asked him to tell her what he learned from it.

Very slowly, in his stuttering kind of voice he said "Well, I.. I learned. I learned..." We waited anxiously for his insight, certain it would be brilliant as he is. "I learned...never go to a school with all white kids." (ah, innocence)

We laughed, of course, and explained that he missed the point of the movie. But did he? Maybe it is we who are missing the point. Our school is 99% African American, 75.5% free and reduced lunch and not likely to change any time soon. We have no supplies, no ink for printers, no toner for copy machines, few workbooks, few textbooks. There are no noon hour aides to watch over the kids at lunch, no lunch recess; no vocal music, no art. We share a violin teacher with 5 schools and consider ourselves very fortunate. When she retires this year, she will not be replaced. There is no nurse. The ceiling leaks in many classrooms, including mine, only half of the lights in my class are working. The list could go on and on. The threat of closure looms over our every breath.

Now that I think of it, Brandon is very insightful indeed. He gets it so much more than we do. Not much has really changed, has it?

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