In reading Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone, I’ve learned (so far) that I must define my blog a bit better. Well, I already knew this, but her book has been showing me how. However, it’s difficult to pin point exactly what kind of writer I am because even my book ideas are wildly different. Up to now, I’ve got romance, historical/fantasy, historical/adventure, dystopia, historical/sci-fi, and mystery. Yeah. So I can’t just say, “Shea McIntosh Ford – Regency Romance Novelist.”
But a common theme in all my ideas is learning to be open-minded. Hence this post’s title.
*sigh* I may be from the South, but I would never say “I ain’t no Yankee” in such a manner unless you replaced the word “Yankee” with “hater.” (I’d probably fix the grammar too. 😉 ) Since we’re in the season of ending school, I thought I might post one of my experiences from teaching.
A bit of background: I taught High School English for one semester. When I decided to resign, I thought it was due to burn out. I was frustrated because I loved the job and wanted very much to make a difference. I had no idea at the time what gluten was doing to my body. Once our youngest starts kindergarten, I may give it another try.
Back to the topic.
While reading through the textbook, trying to decide on the next piece of literature to teach, I read two essays that I loved, especially the first which was a light-hearted and witty satire on the difference between Canadians and Americans. (I wish I could remember the name and author, but Google has failed me on this one.) I chuckled through the whole reading and thought, “We could have a lot of fun with this!”
Then my 4th period class gave this idealistic teacher the proverbial kick in the pants.
Being from Canada, the author called Americans, “Yankees.” As a rookie teacher, I was so caught up with lessons plans, and trying to grade for accuracy, that I forgot how many Confederate flag mementos these kids were wearing. They took such offence to being called a Yankee, that all the humor in the essay completely missed them.
They were so caught up in their own inherited hate, they couldn’t see something for what it was. The companion essay was worse. It was about growing up in Texas on the border of Mexico and the beauty of blending Mexican and American cultures in the author’s life. During discussion, a student made the statement, “We need to send ALL Mexicans back to Mexico.”
I will never forget the look of horror on his classmate’s face. She was Mexican-American.
Had I been a seasoned teacher, I may have been able to handle such things with more finesse. Perhaps I could have asked to which country that kid’s family should return, as it was obvious that he was not Native American. As it was, being caught off guard, I pushed through the lessons hoping that I’d opened the minds of at least a few in my classes.
A few months later, after my resignation, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. I cried while reading it. Not so much because the plot moved me to tears. That indeed was part of it. But through the whole reading, I kept thinking, “What I wouldn’t give to be back in that classroom, armed with this book.”
To me, it read like an account of the Holocaust. Voldemort was Hitler and the Death Eaters were his Nazi soldiers. There was no mercy shown to anyone who did not have an approved heritage. Age, skill, intelligence did not matter. How sad to be filled with such hate!
The beauty of Harry Potter? Rowling illustrates the horror and evil of bigotry without “offending” anyone because it happens in the fictitious world she has created. This, in a nutshell, is why I love the Harry Potter series.
If I do get back into teaching, I’ll certainly be assigning certain essay topics from Rowling’s series for extra credit points.
Have you ever suffered from hatred and bigotry? How did you handle it? How would you have handled my racist students?