Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"What if this kid keeps calling me gay?"

I'm in a 5/6 split this semester and I can't even begin to describe the logistical headache that is. 1/2, sure. 2/3 ok. 3/4 is stretching it a little but still manageable in most cases. But a 5/6? As in super low 5th graders and super high 6th graders and barely anyone in between? How do you meet in the middle?

A little less of a headache (although it still is in a way) is that sixth graders have certain special events and assemblies that they attend because they are sixth graders. And one of these events is a sexual harassment assembly led by the principal.

Say what?

Well, apparently, in CA it is a criminal act for 4th-12th graders to sexually harass each other. Which I get, and that is as it should be. But this type of assembly is certainly new to me. Although some of the questions during the Q&A session made me think this was addressed in a timely manner after all.

Then there are things like the title of this post. Does a fourth grader really understand what that means when they are teasing someone like that? It's very derogatory, yes. I would swoop down on any behavior like that at once, yes. But it reminds me of when I caught a first grader calling another student a "racist." We had a very serious discussion and this young person told me that a "racist" was something like "stupid" or "dumb." Setting the record straight on that was sobering and funny at the same time.

Because students hear things, all the time, from parents and other adults, from TV and movies and music. And all they know about it is from context, which can be skewed already.

And thus, it comes back to another unwritten duty of the teacher. So many misconceptions, so little time. It really is more effective to set things up so students figure out the right thing for themselves.

In the end, bullying is bullying, whether it be in physical, verbal, or electronic form. Schools have dealt with it from time immemorial, and we will forever have to deal with it to the end of the world.

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