#atozchallenge: Youth in Action

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When I teach about France, I usually mention their love of strikes. For most Americans, strikes are rare and shocking, and a sign of laziness. Or something. I think strikes are valuable tools against capitalist oppression.

In France (and I believe Denmark) students are allowed to unionise and strike with their professors or teachers. School policies don’t just affect teachers, anyway. I believe that young people supporting an older generation (or even someone in their own) is a way to build solidarity amongst the proletariat.

The state in which I work is a right-to-work state, which is just a political euphemism for ‘right to be fired’. We cannot protest against unfair working conditions. And lest one thinks I am just whinging from my cushy middle-class career of teacher, know that when I can’t protest, nobody can, even those who aren’t seen as whinging.

I applaud the right to strike and protest and stand in solidarity with any young person who strikes to be heard.

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s challenge, check them out here.

Photo by Mister Theatre

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#atozchallenge: Politics in the Classroom

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This year’s election cycle is a popular source of conversation with my students. There are lot of big personalities and a lot of bombastic things that show up in social media. So many times, they try and pull me into the conversation. It is not moral or ethically appropriate for me to discuss politics except obviously if someone is saying something bigoted. It is very difficult to walk along that line.

There is also a lot of discussion amongst my students of colour (or non-white students, for those who want to nitpick) about what it means to be “woke”. Being “woke” is being aware of the problems in society and knowing that there is still a struggle in the fight for human and civil rights. I say this without bragging, but all of my non-white students have called me “woke” at one point or another. Often I want to point out that as a woman of colour, I have felt some of their struggles as well. But I just take the compliment and continue on.

One of the most difficult conversations I had this election season has been during the moments before a soccer match. My players, sitting together and chatting, began questioning one student’s choice on supporting Donald Trump. I don’t support Trump, but my students don’t know that–they could probably guess, but I refuse to say one way or another. I had to cut their conversation short because their questions were becoming aggressive and I didn’t feel like it would be a very helpful conversation.

Being a teacher means that you have to model proper behaviour at all times, even when you disagree with what’s happening, unless it is detrimental to the health and welfare of your students. It is so difficult to do so, but I have to say that it’s an important part of one’s job. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by Brigitte Werner

#atozchallenge: Justice vs Equality

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There is a comic I think about whenever I hear the word “fair”. In the first panel, three children are reaching for apples in a tree: a tall child, a child of average height and a short child. All three of them are given a same-sized box to stand on. The tall child is obviously able to reach the apples, but the other two cannot.

In the second panel, each child is given the amount of boxes they need to reach the apple: the tall child is given one box; the middle child is given two boxes; and the third, the shortest, is given three. They can now all reach the apples. The first panel is obviously equality: all three children get the same box. The second panel is justice, or equity: all three of the children get the number of boxes that will help them succeed.

This one is slightly less confusing than the same comic where the children are looking at a baseball game, so that one literalist doesn’t say ‘They should have paid for the game!’ (That is the very definition of missing the point.) I think about this comic whenever I decide how to best teach a lesson in class: I have 28 students in one of my classes, and I am sure there are 28 different ways to learn. How can I make their learning more equitable instead of just more equal?

Thinking beyond the scope of the classroom: how can we make our justice system more just, and not just fair and blind? Because we know justice is not blind. Every case has its circumstances, and whilst I obviously believe the law should be applied as fairly as possible, there is no “one size fits all” punishment for every crime. That is why I think laws like the “three strikes” or “mandatory minimums” are not helpful. They may be equal, but they are certainly not just.

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by Edward Lich

#atozchallenge: Educating without Moralising

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It is frustrating to be a teacher and not be able to talk about politics in depth with my students. I am sure that government teachers struggle even more than I. I cannot teach politics, or share my own political views, but transmitting my personal ethics and morals should not be too difficult.

I teach in Georgia, a part of the Bible Belt. I am not Christian, nor was I raised as one. My moral compass and personal ethical trail is much different from a majority of my students. How do we educate morality without forcing one’s own morals on our students? Should we even try to educate morality, or is it up to the parents, churches and non-school environments? What part do I as a teacher play in my students’ moral and ethical upbringing? Perhaps I am worrying for nothing, but we do have interesting and deep discussions about life in my classes, and I worry that sometimes I am unduly influencing them.

For me, the answer is neutrality. I teach the French point-of-view without mentioning if I agree with it or not. Since I’m German, I get a free pass for any ‘weird ideas’ I might have, but that is a lucky thing. Simple morality lessons are easy: talking about racism from the French point-of-view may open the discussion to racism in America, but my students will only hear what the French think about racism and not what I think.

Remaining neutral in the face of obvious bigotry is difficult, and I admit I’ve slipped in the past. Luckily, the easiest thing for me to say is ‘This has nothing to do with French, let’s get back on topic.’ It’s cheating, but it works. – SDM

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If you’d like to read the other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by David Mark

What I’m reading this week: 19 February 2016

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The thing about politics is that it is everywhere. People have a horror of talking about it, but it invades our daily life. Politics affects me as dual citizen; it affects me as a woman; it affects me as a person of colour. It insinuates every part of my life, so I take an interest in it (some may say it is quite an unhealthy interest).

In huge political news, Justice Antonin Scalia passed away the 13th February 2016. You can read my thoughts on his passing here, but I was also interested in seeing how his death affects cases already on the docket. Ian Millhiser at Think Progress wrote an interesting article about how his death affects decisions already made and those upcoming ones. The ramifications of his death are still to be seen, especially with the Republican obstructionist streak we are seeing now.

Justice Scalia was a lover of opera, and a comment I spied in NPR’s obituary about him mentioned that his favourite was Der Rosenkavalier. The opera was performed at PROMS 2014, and I read an article from July 2014 by Simon Callow in The Guardian about the opera. I’m not a fan of opera in general, but I do like comic operas, so I may just have to check this out.

Continuing on with The Guardian. In the US version’s Comment is Free, George Soros writes that Putin’s aggressiveness and dishonesty makes him a bigger enemy for the European Union than Daesh and Al-Qaida. Putin is looking at the instability of the EU as a good sign–an unstable EU is a weaker enemy.

Some of that instability in the EU is from the refugee crisis; the EU is scrambling to find the best solution for the issue. I will write about this later, at great length, because it is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. Le Monde’s Frédéric Lemaître writes about the increasingly strained and divisive talks happening in München (Munich) right now.

And finally, an article from The New Yorker that is quite personal to me. I teach French, and I’ve been working as teacher for the past five years. In David Denby’s Cultural Comment, Stop Humiliating Teachers, he writes that Americans tend to denigrate the teaching profession as a whole, even as they recall their favourite ones. Teaching is a stressful and usually thankless job, so reading this had me nodding my head vigorously at every line.

So, until next time then. – SDM

Photo by le bateleur