At the last minute I realized National Coming Out Day was Friday. So in the middle of Thursday night I was going round and round in my head about whether I would do something, the possible negative consequences, my responsibilities to do something, how I would even fit it into my classes, etc. Finally, I realized that recognizing these kinds of things in my class was kinda the whole reason I chose to teach and work in education, so like duh, I had to.
My first period was a dumpster fire so we didn’t even get to that part of the lesson. But we had time in my second period–who I love but also 🙃. I started with a video, and then posed a question asking what the students knew about coming out–what it means, why people do it/care. And the response was IMMEDIATE. One student said she hadn’t told her parents, another one just yelled out PANSEXUAL. And then there were some ignorant comments as well. I responded to those by reminding my students to think about how they may not mean to hurt people with their words, but can unintentionally do so. And to think about when that’s happened to them. And the room got very quiet. It got loud again eventually, but then the bell rang and I realized we would have to pick up the conversation later.
Cut to my 6th graders. I was physically, emotionally, and mentally done at the end of the day. But I knew we needed to talk about colonialism because of what we’ve covered so far in terms of learning about different francophone countries. I asked them why we talk about countries that aren’t France. They know that people in these places (Vanuatu, Tahiti, Haiti, Belgium, Algeria, Quebec, Cote d’Ivoire) speak French. Then I ask them if they know what colonialism is, and I hear a chorus of “No!”s. And I’m shocked and honestly too tired to think of how to address it properly.
All this is to say that I’m getting a better idea of what I want to teach and how I want to teach it. I don’t want to teach French, given the neoliberal expectations of achieving proficiency for profit. I want to have dialogues and discussions with children that allow them to learn about themselves, learn about the world in a critical way, and then express themselves in that context. And I don’t have the freedom to do that given the demands of my county and school. I’m constantly struggling between teaching the way I think is needed and those administrative demands, which just adds to the stress of working in a new environment and having to *show up* for work everyday.
I’m not where I want to be and that’s fine. I need this time to learn what’s needed and how I can get to doing the work I value in terms of K-12 public education. But it’s hard and I feel so isolated.