Sunday, April 20, 2008

Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

I'm going to tell you about my weekend in reverse, so I can tell the good news first.

I just got home from a delightful afternoon with Heidi and Brent. We went to dinner at Red Rocks Brewery (very good food, despite the "post-game" atmosphere), after seeing "A Clean House" at SLAC. The play was... eh... but the company was wonderful. Part of the magic of Heidi is that things always seem clearer to me after a conversation with her. I'm now rethinking my entire summer, but I'm getting the feeling that it's moving towards a better end.

This morning I went to church with a different ward, since I was going to be busy during my regular church time. I spent some time thinking over my dream from last night. I dreamt that I had forgotten all about the AVID field trip I'm chaperoning tomorrow, and had discovered that the students went without me. They were fine - Ben was still with them, but I was upset that I had forgotten and that no one had stopped by to remind me to go.

Yesterday evening I enjoyed some take-out from Cafe Rio, following a late matinee of "Definitely, Maybe". I didn't like the movie at all - the only redeemable part was the importance of a hard-bound copy of "Jane Eyre"; although any book could have been the cherished one, given the total lack of any actual application of the novel. Boo. Once in a while I want to see a good romantic comedy. The problem is, there haven't been any for a long, long time. The group sitting behind me loved it, though, and seemed genuinely amazed at the series of events that came from what I thought was a very predictable and mindless plot.

Teresa and Nick came over to my apartment Saturday afternoon so we could begin Season Two of "Slings and Arrows". I've been very good, resisting the temptation of watching more of that awesome show until we could all meet up again. Seriously - awesome show. We watched 4 episodes and made a plan for more. Unfortunately, we have to wait until after Nick's done with grading and past my next trip. Which means enduring a month of the DVDs taunting me. "They were Victorian and so could be forgiven, but you! You know better!" I am so going to save that line to use in class one of these days.

(warning - language)

Saturday morning I spent cleaning my apartment. It was much-needed and delightful. And good grief is my cat shedding like crazy. I'm trying to wait until June to shave her, since it grows back so quickly. Big fluffy kitty.

Friday afternoon I got out of my district training during daylight hours and with a great need to be distracted. So, I went to see "21". It was definitely better than "Definitely, Maybe" but not outstanding. And I'm pretty sure the original MIT students were not that attractive nor that sexually-driven.

Friday day was both nice and extremely irritating. On one hand, being sent to a mandatory district training meant sleeping in an extra 45 minutes, not wearing dress code, free breakfast and lunch, and a day off from teaching. Don't get me wrong - I love teaching. But it's exhausting to come up with and teach 3 different lesson plans a day.

On the other hand, I had to sit through 6 hours of training that was meant to teach teachers how to approach a diverse student population. Here are some of the quotes from the day:

One of the "Diversity Beliefs":
"Saying 'ouch' can open the conversation from the heart."

Another of the "Diversity Beliefs":
"Head, Heart, Hands, Healing"

Presenter, referring to above statement:
"Let the heart touch you!"

Participant's perfectly legitimate question following the presenters' claim that we should all be teaching students tolerance through exercises like sticking colored dots on our heads and being made to feel guilty because the presenter said "organized yourselves" and we organized ourselves according to the color of the dots:
"I teach multimedia, not history or the language arts. I don't have time in the curriculum to teach these ideas."

Presenter's response (and I quote):
"Do you have time not to do it?"

Vicky's whispered conversation with me after I let out yet another frustration-repressing sighs following above remarks:
Vicky: "Amanda, can you hear the birds?"
Birds outside, prettily: "Tweet, tweet. Twitter, tweet."
Me: "Yeah."
Vicky: "Concentrate on the birds."

Really, it was 6 hours of frustration. When they began by saying that today we would be having hard conversations from the heart, I knew it was going to be a terrible, terrible presentation. I was bugged by
- the lack of any practical discussions,
- the presenters' constant use of "we" (as in, "we often judge our students by the color of their skins," or "we do not appreciate how hard it is to learn a new language while going to school" and other such false assertions of what I believe),
- the weepy testimonial one of the presenters gave in showing us her "cultural object" - her granddaughter's hand print (I'm not sure how your granddaughter's hand print is demonstrative of her culture. The crying and breathy spiritual voice that could have easily wrapped up the speech with "I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen," only ticked me off. Guess I'm not spiritual enough.),
- the constant focus on racism. By my experience here, teachers need training on how to deal with diversity in sexual preference and religion just as much, if not more so.

If I had to give up three days of teaching, heck, if the school district is going to pay for every one of its teachers to miss three days of teaching for this training, it would be nice if it 1) was realistic about the fact that we are hired and tested on teaching the core curriculum, 2) recognized that being told to "let the heart touch me" is not going to help address the real problems that diversity (or lack thereof) brings, 3) offered actual, practical tools for dealing with these problems. But then again, if these presenters actually knew how to create a tolerant population in three days, I'm guessing they wouldn't be working at a school district.

(again, language)

See why I started with the good stuff first? I'm moving on, I promise. I just needed to vent a bit through my faithful blog. Tomorrow I get to take my AVID kiddos to Westminster to explore a real college campus, and Friday is the annual Shakespeare Festival, so it should be a busy week. Hopefully that translates as a week that goes by fast. In the meantime, my parents are living it up in Europe (and going to a medical conference - they're worse workaholics than I am). I'm thrilled they're getting away and having fun, but, boy, am I building a long list of things to talk over when they get back. Darn growing-up-real-life-choices.

Happy 2761st Birthday, Rome!

1 comment:

  1. You know what YouTube video I want to see on this entry? I want to see my buddy Amanda rise to her feet and shout tearfully at the trainers, "I believe in one race!! The human race!!" and then run out of the room.

    You either have work friends that are as gloriously immature as mine, or writing mocking haiku (as I do) during staff development is a very professional thing to do.

    I choose the latter.