Category Archives: Empathy
This past week has been a tough week so I will process it the best way I know how–writing. There were a lot of reasons this week was tough. First, I ended up working what felt like 16-hour days all week, leaving the house at 7 AM and returning to scarf down some food and go to sleep. The reality is that I did have long days every day this week, I’ve been fighting a bad cold (despite the fact that I usually only ever get stomach bugs—teacher immunity—I managed to get this cold), and it’s just been emotionally draining in every aspect of my world. I’d like to wallow in this misery, but I have decided it’s healthier to find some bright spots in my week. And I have to say, I’ve had some AMAZING bright spots this week.
Because I’ve been reading a lot about classroom libraries, I’ve been making a conscious effort to add books to my room that represent all of my students. I’ll be honest, teaching in a predominantly white, middle/upper-middle class school, I wasn’t sure how students would respond, but not all of my students were white, upper-middle class, Christian, heterosexual people. Not all of my students had families that were “normal.” And so, I started listening more closely to students talk about books like Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, Rules by Cynthia Lord , or Wonder by RJ Palacio. I began to have conversations with my students when I thought about adding a book like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseBenjamin and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz to the class library. I took their suggestions when they recommended books to me. I asked them about favorite characters, especially when the books they were reading had characters who were no cis-gendered, mainstream people.
The events of the past week (or let’s really be honest, the rhetoric spewed since 2015 when the Presidential election race began) have left me at a loss for words. I know that racism never really went away; it just became fashionable (or politically correct) to not share racist beliefs publicly. However, we, as a society, can find plenty of examples where (institutional) racism exists—whether through the literary canon taught or the films watched. As educators and scholars, we discuss how to include a more accurate picture of our society in the texts we teach and the books available in our classroom libraries. I’ve found, with the exception of balancing male and female protagonists, we haven’t really moved beyond discussion. Over the course of this week, as my husband and I watch the news, we’ve had conversations about what can be done to combat racism if it is what is taught at home. How much of an impact does one person have, does one text have, does pedagogy have, or does one class have?