Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tic-Tac-Toe and Racism

Yesterday, I was called a racist. And it really bothered me.  It bothered me because I honestly believe I’m not racist. In addition, it bothered me because I don’t feel like the comment was warranted.

So, why was I called a racist? I’ll tell you.

At this point in my life, I write full time (my fifth novel was just released), I’m finishing my Master’s degree in Creative Writing, and I substitute teach—mainly at high schools.

At the start of each class I substitute for, I do a little object lesson. I tell the class I’ve never lost at tic-tac-toe. I even draw the game on the board. I ask if anyone thinks they can beat me. I usually have a ton of volunteers.

I pick the first person to raise their hand. I let the student choose if they want to be X or O and even let them go first. Most often they pick a corner square, for whatever reason. (They almost always pick X as well. Weird!)

When it is my turn, I draw three Os (or Xs if they pick Os) in three separate boxes and then draw a line through my moves. I then tell the student they lost.

Inevitably, someone in the class says, “You cheated!”

I ask them what they mean, and they tell me I was only supposed to go once. I ask, “Says who?” They say, “Says the rules!”

I then clarify by saying, “Oh! So if there are rules, and I don’t follow them, that’s a bad thing?” (See where this is going?)

The students agree it’s a bad thing. That’s when I show them the rules for the classroom.

The first rule is simple: “Respect each other.” I explain that this means to keep your hands off of other people and other people’s stuff. There won’t be any bad language in the class. Also, there will not be any negative things said to another person like, “You’re stupid!” Also, when the teacher is talking, you shouldn’t talk. There are students who actually want to learn and if you are being a disruption, you aren’t being respectful.

I am quite clear on what I expect.

Almost always someone breaks the first rule within the first five minutes. When they do, I walk to their desk, stand next to them and ask them to tell me what the first rule is. (Which I have written on the board.) 99% of the time, that solves any issues for the rest of the class.

Yesterday was one of the 1%.

I was teaching a math class—actually teaching students how to solve equations!—and one young lady felt it was more important to tell the person next to her what her boyfriend said to someone else. I nicely went to the side of her desk and asked her the first rule. She told me. I asked her to please stop talking while I was teaching. She did. For about two minutes.

I went to her desk again, and this time I told her she knew the rule and wasn’t following it. In my opinion she was being disruptive. I told her if she disrupted class again, I’d have her removed. None of this was said in a hostile tone—though I was firm.

She lasted two more minutes before she started talking again. I called for an administrator who came to take her out of the class. When she left, she told the administrator I was racist because if she had been a white girl, I wouldn’t have kicked her out of class.

I was shocked.

This is my personal belief: I believe that I have a Heavenly Father and every person on this Earth are my brothers and sisters—regardless of the color of their skin, religious beliefs, gender, where they live or any other category the world uses to define people. I also believe that everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe.

I will also admit that there are some individuals I avoid and some I’m drawn to. What makes the distinction? For me, it is how they treat others.

I like to be around people who are kind. I like to be around people who are accepting of others. I like to be around people who look to lift other people up.

I don’t like to be around people who are mean. I don’t like to be around people who are judgmental. I don’t like to be around people who strive to tear other people down.

In the case of the girl who was removed from class, the color of her skin had nothing to do with her getting removed from class. It was her actions.

Frankly, I’m tired of racism on any level. If we want racism and racist behavior to end, everyone needs to end it. Not just those in the perceived majority.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more!!!

    Teaching has changed so much. No one has the backs of the teachers and the students/parents can say or do anything they want without consequences. If the student doesn't learn or something happens (or even if it really didn't happen but will get the child attention) then the teacher is guilty. It is a no-win situation for the educator.

    It was hard for me to leave the classroom but when I was called into a meeting where the parent blamed me for how they were treated before the child was even born, there is nothing I can do. I was told I had to apologize to the student in front of the entire class but no one know what I was to apologize for. Forget all of the time I spent trying to help this particular student and all of the lost teaching time because of this student.

    It is sad because the students are the ones who lose in the end.