We are studying WWI, and I was sharing photographs, quotes, and information particular to Delaware during that era. The text
touched on segregation, and we were sidetracked into a lively discussion. My students find segregation unfathomable, they can’t wrap
their minds around the fact that your skin color determined your place in the world.
One little girl , whose Dad is biracial said, “My Dad said you can’t be part black or part white. What are you going to do, split yourself down the middle?” They make you think. Which is why I was so surprised by the statement she made later, while we worked in our small group.
We were reading a Sioux myth, and one of the students said it was an Indian myth. I asked them what is another name used for Indians, and after a few incorrect answers, the same little girl yelled out “Dotheads!” My jaw dropped, but I quickly recovered because of the other students’ harsh reaction to what she said. I calmed everyone down, and explained to her that the term “dotheads” was offensive and it was something that shouldn’t be used.
I realized that she was not aware of what she was saying when she replied, “But that’s what Ms.Bonnie says”.
Maybe it wasn’t my place, but, I told her that I didn’t know Ms.Bonnie, but I did know that the word she used was offensive to Indians, and that she shouldn’t use it. She said, “Ok”, and we moved on with the lesson.
I am hoping it doesn’t turn into a big deal (Ms. Bonnie calling the school, etc…), but I felt like I needed to “unteach” what this student had been taught. Sometimes the things our students pick up from those at home are offensive, rude, or just downright lies. Is it our job to “unteach’ what has been “taught” at home? Or should we just move on and hope that life straightens everything out? Is it a lost cause, because home trumps school most of the time?
Well, even if it becomes a big deal, I stand by what I said. There was no screaming or yelling, just some well-needed(hopefully well-heeded) advice. I only wish I could give the same advice to “Ms. Bonnie” . 😦