RE: C, I, & A decisions of teachers

Debbling 3 (
Wed, 6 May 1998 09:52:37 EDT

>As a teacher and a parent, I have been grappling with these issues, and I am
>respectful schools and classrooms. I wonder whether anyone out there on the
>list has specific suggestions for how a teacher can do what R. Macintosh
>suggests. For instance, suppose that when an overwieght boy or girl walks
>into class, several students make "piggy" noises. What would you do or say?
>How would you make a judgment on how to proceed, and what strategies would
>you use?

Kathy Cochran

Dear Kathy,

This has happened to me on more than one occasion (not just the fat issue,
but racial stuff, too). My reaction and the direction I would proceed to take
would depend on whether the person was a class member, the member of another
class or an adult. Not long ago, we had an open forum when a few of my
Kinder/first graders called a student from another classroom "gordito" and
laughed at him. Keep in mind that being fat doesn't carry the stigma for
Mexican children that it does for people born and raised in this culture, but
nevertheless, they had meant to insult the child.
I first talked to the child who had been made fun of and we discussed his
feelings about what happened. I asked him how he would like to deal with the
children who had teased him. He didn't have any ideas so I suggested that he
take the opportunity to talk to the entire class (with me leading a
discussion) on name-calling and feelings and what it actually feels like for
this boy to be fat, how he sees himself and how namecalling affects his
perception of himself. We had a great 45 minute conversation. There were
some tears shed (by the offenders, the little boy and a few empathetic
classmates) but the ability to actually talk with this boy, realize he was an
intelligent, sensitive human being and not just a blob was of utmost
importance to the children. I have seen a profound change in EVERY one of the
children present that day, especially the offenders. They call each other on
comments made, words used, etc. that could be offensive to people or groups of
people. A few have also had heart-to-hearts with their parents about their
use of insulting names for groups of people. And they are only 5-7 years old!
Some parents have actually come to me to tell me how embarrassed they felt,
but that they thought it was a good thing that the kids were learning this
stuff because it wasn't anything they had previously considered.

Anyway, sorry I rambled. But I have always been an avid believer of taking
advantage of teachable moments, so I get excited when I get to talk about it.

Debbie Michels
Bilingual teacher, MSEd Intercultural Education

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