Archive for category Overheard Subbbing
Friday April 20 was the National Day of Silence where students take a vow of silence to protest the bullying of gay students across the world.
I was substitute teaching a high school science class. When I asked about the tape over her mouth a student explained the symbol on a piece of paper. (See: http://dayofsilence.org/)
I wrote, “Yay Gay!” on the board in solidarity since as a teacher I would not be able to tape my mouth. Under my slogan, another gay student with tape on his mouth wrote “National Day of Silence. Shh.”
As the students filed in, one took it upon himself to begin erasing the board. I told him to stop. He said, “Did you write it?” I said I did and he continued erasing it. I took the eraser and told him to sit down.
Another student asked if I were gay and I said I am.
The rest of the class period while the kids watched a nature DVD, I and every student—gay, gay supporters and the rest of the students—had to listen to a handful of homophobic students harass me with intermittent bigoted slurs such as: “Fagot.” “Don’t look at my ass.” “Which one are you, the man or the woman?”
To the last comment I said, “Well I’m a man and he’s a man.”
I always keep the attendance sheet so I can take roll for a second time at the end of class, in case I need to collect the names of students who walked out or acted out. I told the three guys I took their names.
The bell rang.
One grabbed my notebook but I pulled it out of his hands. He said he would tell his dad and, “He’ll kick your ass!” I came around the desk and told them to leave.
The same student stepped toward me asked if I wanted to start something.
On their way two out said, “You just hate black people. Another said, “Enjoy sucking dick.”
I really hate when someone else’s words can make me so angry and agitated. I erased the board because I didn’t want to risk another incident like this one. In retrospect it was the right choice since the no more students should witness such bigotry.
After a few minutes I called the desk and said I’d been threatened by a student.
Three security guards, two campus police and an assistant principal showed up.
I told them what happened and gave them the boy’s names. Another substitute was called while I went to the school’s police station to give more details.
The boys were called to the assistant principal’s office. They were all suspended and the aggressive student who came at me was put in a special school where the district’s students with behavior problems are placed for a few weeks as consequence for their offending behavior. I’d been to this particular behavioral modification school where inevitably the kids learn more because of the structure and high student teacher ratio keeps them on task.
The staff also does an excellent job modeling respect and self-respect and ensuring a structured learning environment. In many cases it’s a shame that some of these students must return to their respective campuses where they will most likely fall back into same behavior after they’d shown such solid improvements. I totally believe in how this behavioral school redirects improper behavior instead of relying on punitive measures which are more and more shown to not produce desired results but only reinforce undesirable behavior.
When I rejoined the boys at another assistant principal’s office I got a chance to say, “The ‘You hate black people,’ thing, you can’t even joke about that, especially in anger. There are so many minority groups who really do suffer bigotry, like the way you insulted me and other gay people in front of your classmates today. It’s so disrespectful to play that card because it belittles true victims of bigotry.”
To demonstrate how bigotry affects true victims, one of the campus police officers said, “My grandmother had to drive 100 miles just to find a hospital that would take her.”
An assistant principal added they mustn’t cry wolf because when something really happens they won’t be believed.
The boys did apologize. I told them that their apology was appreciated and as far as I was concerned it was now in the past. The boy who threatened me had to call his parents.
In closing I pointed out that not only did I have to hear all that but that their classmates—some gay, some with friends and family members who are gay, and everyone else, had to witness their display.
“You don’t have to like me or who I am. You don’t have to even respect me. You just have to act respectfully. Also, what you think of me—keep that to yourself, okay?”
The faculty and staff of this specific school and throughout the district are the salt of the earth. The young people of Austin are lucky to have us, and we are so blessed to have them.