I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...
"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe
Saturday, September 19, 2015
You've Got to Be Taught
Never have I been a more firm believer of the idea that you have to be taught prejudice and fear, just like the classic musical, "South Pacific," reminds us:
One of my 8th grade students took the initiative to present to her classmates about her summer experience at a leadership institute through one of the local universities that allowed her some field experience working with the homeless population in our city. I could clearly see that spending time just talking to people had made a huge impact on her outlook, no matter what preconceived notions she had before. Her classmates, on the other hand, who did not have such an experience, were quick to offer their own "experiences" of seeing people on the street who take money given to them to buy cigarettes or drugs.
"Why don't they get a job?"
"Why don't they just go to school?"
Do you hear what you're saying? (Probably not - it's probably just repeating what they hear their parents say...) What would you do if you had to choose between providing shelter for your family or getting them food? What would you do if you were mentally ill (or someone in your immediate family was) and you couldn't afford medicine without forgoing other necessities?
The young people I teach have not even begun to grasp how fortunate and privileged they are - not everyone in this world can send their children to private/Catholic school, let alone one like ours with such fine facilities and opportunities. And why should we be so lucky to have these chance? There's no answer - it's pretty simple and straightforward: many of my students have won the proverbial "middle to upper white class" genetic lottery - they were born into their families, doing nothing to earn where they are today.
It's so easy for those of us privileged with opportunities to point fingers at those who have less, when, in reality, we need to turn those fingers around and ask ourselves what God wants of us because we've been blessed with so much. We are in the prime positions to make a difference. (Granted, I'm a Catholic elementary school teacher so it's not like I have money flowing out of my bank account, but it's enough to get by on and then some, for sure.)
My 8th graders are on the brink of their unit on Catholic Social Teaching, so this is as good a time as any to address these prejudices. But I've been in enough situations to realize that it's going to take more than merely trying to tell them facts, figures, and stories - their prejudices may never change (or at least maybe not until they get a chance to spend time with others outside of their immediate social class), but I'm going to try. I'm trying to think through some optional enrichment projects that include students reading a book like Crenshaw, Paper Things, or No Place (any other suggestions are welcome too!), and then having them spend time on websites or with agencies that reach out to those in need in our community (church or otherwise). With the insight from the book and information researched, I am hoping they can put together a Prezi, Weebly, iMovie, etc. that helps them demonstrate some new-found understanding and just maybe helps them start to shift their views towards homelessness in our community.