My last post raises an issue that more and more often disappears from the radar. We talk about differentiation and addressing individual learning styles. Too often, though, we don’t look at individual kids. Too often, we don’t recognize the myriad factors that are outside our control. Mabel likes me more than she likes some other teachers. It might be me. It might simply be the fact that I am a woman.
Family relationships spill over into school. When I smeared my eye make-up, applying it at some stoplight in the dark, a boisterous student came in and immediately quieted and said, “Oh, Miss, did your husband hit you?” (Some days, you should skip the make-up and listen to the music.) He sympathized even as I told him, no, I just messed up my mascara. I’m not sure he believed me. This student had difficulty being told what to do, but worked pretty well when asked politely. I understood that women weren’t allowed to tell you what to do, but you could be nice to them if they approached you with respect. His sister was extremely quiet. She never made demands. She never raised her voice. I talked to the counselor about these two students. I never had cause to call child services, but I can make some guesses about that household.
Eduhonesty: Culture matters. I know when I call home there’s a good chance my student may be physically punished. Parents have given me specific instructions to hit their kid when he or she misbehaves. But if we wonder why impoverished or urban schools have more physical violence, a fact documented in government literature, we need to look at home life. All the literature about the harmful effects of spanking? It’s read by readers. Many of the mothers in my district had two children by the age of twenty or even eighteen. They may have four or five children by the time they turn up for parent-teacher conferences. I always have coloring books and crayons in my room during conferences. These mothers are fighting to stay afloat. They have little time to read.