As a fellow English teacher - I found this video to be incredibly inspiring - and made me think: how do I hold back in speaking my truth?
What have you been silent about in your life? Have you ever witnessed an injustice and walked away?
When I was your age - and it really started in middle school - I would hear a lot of bullying and I was a quiet kid. I didn't put my neck out to stand up for others. I wouldn't laugh or contribute to the teasing, mocking, or outright bullying - I'd often walk away... I still regret my lack of courage then.
One word that still burns me: "gay" as a deragotory term (or any other insult for that matter).
When I was in elementary school, I loved singing and dancing and that was supported and fostered in my little school. In my home, my mom and dad loved music, musicals, and dancing. My dad was a classic reticent Irish Catholic; my mom, also Catholic, majored in dance at Butler University. She taught dance at Lake Erie College; then, she met my dad and had three boys. Despite my parents's many differences, we would all listen to (and watch) musicals like West Side Story or Les Miserables.
When I went to the big district middle school, I will never forget that first day in our required chorus class (where I might have been the only boy singing) before I quickly learned that was unacceptable. In short, I was bullied into silence. The stereotype: real men don't sing or dance or show emotion.
Well, that was a lie - a story that immature kids learned somewhere - and pushed on others. I don't share this story seeking sympathy, but to illustrate a couple points.
It upsets me beyond words when kids are cruel to other kids because they enjoy music or singing or acting. I am not saying I would have had a life in musical theater, but I know personally how others can shut down an interest - out of some notion that it's not cool.
I can't imagine what it's like to be in the shoes of young people today with social media and how easy it is to be cruel in comments - since you don't have to look someone in the eye and say it face to face. In the world of anonymous Twitter handles and Yik Yak, you could easily lose hope in humanity.
Part of why I am a teacher is that I must hope - and believe in you - to take right action. To be compassionate. To be impeccable with your word. To be kind.
I hope this lesson today opens your minds - but more importantly your hearts. To embrace all diversity. Who are we to judge?
I would like to think with this day of reflection - in this silence - we may think more about how words matter. Words once spoken can never be taken back. Not even with "just joking."
I am not naive to think one day, one class, a couple videos, can make a difference. I know these days of awareness spark backlash and cynicism. Today is not a political agenda. You can call it a human rights agenda.
For today's class, I was silent. Here's why:
I asked my student to watch any of the following videos on laptops with headphones;
then, post to Canvas LMS discussion boards.
It might be my most meaningful class of the year - and I said nothing.