Slice of Life: Let’s Not Go There

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I teach in a fairly conservative town in the midst of a very progressive part of Massachusetts. Sometimes, that tension becomes visible. Like yesterday …

My sixth graders are working on Interactive Fiction stories and one student, louder than they needed to sound, asked if it was OK if one of the characters in their stories shouts out: Let’s Go, Brandon. (If you don’t know what that is, you need to look it up).

To which I not only shook my head in an exasperated “no,” but then launched into a response about how I know exactly what they are trying to do by asking the question, and no, that would not be allowable in their story. (Although part me wonders about free speech and all that …)

Later, as we were walking from our class to the next, outside for fresh air, this same student shouted that phrase out loud.

Sigh.

I took them aside, and now went into my full speech about respecting the presidency, whomever is in office and whatever your political views, and I reminded them of how I served in the military myself and I believe in level of respect and expect them to, as well, and we left it at that.

I know they are using the term because it seems furtive and a way to get a reaction out of friends, and probably, it’s something they are hearing at home from either family or the conservative news channels that the family is watching, or it’s something they are seeing on YouTube or other social media, or perhaps it’s some mix of all those things.

It’s another reminder how words matter, and how the level of discourse in our country has reached yet another low point, and how sad that is that echoes of it has come into our sixth grade classrooms.

Peace (respectfully),
Kevin

9 Comments
  1. Kevin, I can relate to your experiences – I am in a very small conservative county in rural Georgia. Students hold up mirrors of their homes in their words and behaviors without even realizing it. Massachusetts is so beautiful – I spent the summer of 2005 there near Boston getting my master’s degree and just visited Rockport, Salem, Gloucester and Boston in October on a girls’ trip! Such beauty in those leaves and wharfs.

  2. It is so hard when that kind of behavior finds its way into the classroom and the every day, YOu are modeling respect so well.

  3. This must have been so difficult to navigate and it opens up an incredible need that extends beyond the scope of your classroom. I wonder often about the changing conventions of civic decency and that “tension” as you cite between respect and accurately naming the failings of leaders. Your students are fortunate that you care enough to address these easily dismissed moments which grow into larger ways of being.

  4. Oh, Kevin, this breaks my heart. There are too many places I have heard of where this phrase has been used. Thank you for being there for your students and giving them caring and patient guidance.

  5. I feel this one. I teach in a left of center community in a very liberal state. Last week, my neighbor teacher came to me with some student works that decried cancel culture and LGBTQ rights. She needed advice on how to respond. We came up with something, but I am pretty sure we’ll be having this conversation again before the end of the year.

  6. Teachers have always had a difficult job. in this polarized world, amidst a worldwide pandemic, it’s even more difficult.

    I salute you and all others who are in this role.

    Are there any bloggers in the Slice of Life challenge who teach in highly conservative schools who have had one, or two, kids stand up and express Black Lives Matter or similar sentiments?

  7. Just up the road in elementary school, I had no idea what this meant and had to look it up. Props to the student for being savvy enough to know and to taunt you and others with this. As we used to say about our own and other children, if only they could use that evil for good. Our new normal student before seems to be more challenging… (sigh)

  8. Kevin, I think the idea of respect that you explained is a thoughtful approach; unless we respect one another, though different, the road to common ground is difficult.

    What bothers me the most, though, is that these pronouncements are an announcement of their difference and their belief in their supremacy— establishing power in public ways and in ways that belittle others as they proclaim their place as dominant. It’s very manipulative and a strategy of the bully.

    It’s different than the displays of those struggling to find their place; this, instead, claims ownership of the space— over all others. So, bringing the conversation back to respect opens the space again to all voices. It’s what we must do, over and over, so all voices are heard and our spaces stay open and shared. Thank you.

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