Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What you see, what you think, what you do...

I am taking this class right now, "Managing the Classroom Environment". It's a very strange mix. It's a bit about behaviour - and what you do with bad behaviour and a bit about all the other things pertaining to power and privilege that come into your classroom that you need to be ready for. Things like racism and homophobia.

Last week, we watched, "A classroom divided" (You can click on the link and watch it, if you want) Have you seen it? It seems to be a super well known example, but no one else in my class had seen it. The film is about the exercise/experiment Jane Elliott ran on her students, beginning in 1968, in Iowa. She felt that even though she had spoken about racism and discrimination with her students, they didn't quite get it. So, she created a two day lesson, to 'show' these kids about racism and how it feels. (does this sound familiar yet?) she divided her class into the kids with blue eyes and those with brown. On the first day, those with blue eyes were superior. They got extra food, extra recess, they were told they were smarter, kinder, had better manners. She picked at the 'bad' behaviours of the kids with the brown eyes - and stated it as a symptom of their brown eyed-ness. To ensure that people could tell from a distance, what colour their eyes were, they were made to wear collars. The second day it reversed. The kids with blue eyes were now the kids who were targeted as 'less than'. They picked on each other for the two days - and then she debriefed it with them. She asked them about how they went from being friends, to being mean to one another. They talked about how it 'wasn't fair' that someone got treated bad because of their eye colour. The students spoke about about how it hurt and how they felt helpless, or 'less than nothing'. But they also worked to justify their behaviours. They followed it with certainty that they wouldn't ever discriminate.

Jane Elliott continued to do this lesson with her students for years. She's been hired to do with other people, like workers at a correctional facility, to help others really see racism in action - and have it become something personal (rather than something we talk about in pretty language). It's interesting to watch the difference, in the documentary between the children and their reactions to things on an emotional level, and the adults that try to argue or conceptualize their feelings - for more of an idea.
It's an interesting practice. I feel like it wouldn't work as well in places where there actually is a bit more diversity to begin with (I feel like the all white-white classrooms in Iowa in the 70s aren't as common here), especially as there are so many things layered over eye colour.

Anyway - This is one of the things I have been thinking over the last little while - and then something interesting happened (or perhaps more accurately, I noticed it happening). For the last week, everywhere I go - I see police officers walking in pairs. The part of this, that is interesting to me, is that they are, without a doubt, profiling who they're stopping to talk to based on race. If you're indigenous living in Edmonton, watch out - the cops are stopping you. I travel the same routes, at more or less the same time, most days - and it's interesting the shift in the last two days. So here's my question: What do you do - when you don't agree with what you see happening around you - but none of the specific incidents have anything "wrong" it's just the pattern that is 'wrong'?

And then - when you start thinking about those things, that are embedded into culture, what do you do - as a teacher or person who spends a lot of time with kids to try to prevent it, or stop it, or better yet - oppose it?

Anyway - these are my 'today' thoughts. I'd love to hear what you think.

Peace to you, 

ps... what do you think of the new look? A new year? a new design?

1 comment:

  1. Sorry I don't have a good answer.
    I am doing my best to raise my children without prejudice. I feel like I only have a short time as their main influence. I can only hope that they chose their friends well and end up in the classrooms of great people such as yourself.
    Love the new look and you!