I’ve now started with Wolf Meadow Elementary. As with all the other schools, the teacher I”m partnering with is amazing, kind, and supportive.
The only difference is now I’m working with fifth graders. I have worked with ages up to age 21, but that was in mixed-age groups put together in a library or at the university. This is the first time I’m working with a classroom that’s not second or third grade. I was a little afraid older kids might have an attitude, might be rolling their eyes at the whole project. But these fifth graders have not. It’s really cool to be working with them, and they are doing such good work so far. Last week, we read our stories and talked about the science behind them. This week we are drawing. There definitely is a difference between fifth grade drawings and second grade!
Today, one of the fifth graders called out, “do you like Trump?” He was clearly a product of a very racist home, just the way he said it and his nerve in calling out. Mind you, about 75% of the class is either Hispanic or Black. So they all have to deal with him. I was a little sad to see that afterwards, one of the Hispanic girls went over to sit beside him as everyone was drawing, to keep him on task (this kid apparently acts up all the time). I feel bad that the Hispanic girl thinks this kid, who isn’t worth any of her, is something she has to put effort and care in it. We often don’t recognize the little ways and efforts that kids have worked out to try to keep harmony and consistency amongst their peers.
Any case, I didn’t answer that bratty kid – I also didn’t really go over to him and check his work. I feel super sorry for any teacher who doesn’t have that freedom. And I feel sure that any racist person reading this will also want me and my volunteer program out of the schools. They will never understand – don’t care to understand – what kind of panic someone like Trump causes. I’ve read articles on and off since the 2015 campaign about teachers having to deal with kids who wear ‘Trump’ t-shirts, or kids who said nasty things. Imagine having to teach and care for a child who is spouting rhetoric whose end goal is ethnic cleansing, genocide, and death. I am sure I could not have handled that as a teacher. You’re already being yelled at, being snapped at, being mocked at as a natural thing by your students. Now you have to listen to racism and attacks on your life, and act like you don’t care and it doesn’t bother you and doesn’t frighten you?
At Irvin Elementary, in the hallway, the kids had hung up drawings of their heroes. Trump was among them. It’s so scary.
I believe that my 15-year-old self would idealistically have told me: I have a chance to show the little “do you like Trump”-er that racism and hate isn’t a path he has to follow! That I can model for him a different way! I can show him someone like me belongs in America! And that as a moral person, I should care about ALL children, even little racists. I can change his life!
But you know what? Me right now doesn’t really have the energy to do that. I really don’t. I don’t care about the little racist enough to want to change him. I think back to the day after the 2016 election, when we were all told that if we are just nice to the “economically distressed” folks out there, then they won’t want to kill us after all. Your perspective on things really changes when recalling things like that.