Dear Readers, Film Goers, Teachers, and Parents,
Part One: The Followup to “50 Shades of Crap: a Feminist’s View.”
Where to begin? I’ll start by saying that I did not realize that so many people would be reading last week’s post. I typically post at least once a week; sometimes it’s about a recent trip, sometimes about teaching, and sometimes an opinion piece like last week. In my open letter, “50 Shades of Crap: a Feminist’s View,” I was direct with my opinion and still maintain that opinion, despite the mixed reception. Whenever you post an opinion, solicited or unsolicited, there’s bound to be varied responses and reactions because people have so many different views; also, we tend to feel strongly about our own opinions, myself included.
Today, I’ll simply offer a few clarifications on last week’s post, knowing that there will still be some who disagree and that not every comment will be addressed; then, I will move forward with the rest of today’s post, which I’m excited about!
- “50 Shades of Crap” was not an actual book or film review, rather a commentary on the shift in values and the specific reception and release of the film in mainstream American Cinema; it is also not the only film with explicit content to be released in theaters.
- Consensual, private relationships were not the intended subject of the post; my comments were directed towards the public release of a film that I consider to be pornographic, again, in what I consider a public point of access.
- Pornography has a negative impact on people and on families.
- The intent of the post was to judge a film and its release, not individual people.
Whether or not you agreed with my observations and feelings about 50 Shades is your choice and freedom, but I do want to thank everyone for visiting and commenting. I do think it’s a discussion worth having, even if many of us disagree strongly.
Part Two: “How’s Home?”– A Simple Question.
Let’s start with some stories. These experiences really reminded me of what matters most as a teacher and human being in my community: seeing people as people.
First occurrence. On Monday afternoon, I said “Happy Monday!” to Jose, a 4th Block student. This time he didn’t even grumble as he usually would on a Monday afternoon in reaction; he simply shrugged, and I barely caught it. Just as I normally do, I asked “how he was,” to which he replied he was really tired. Normally, that’s where the interaction would have ended. But this time, “how’s home?” popped into my head and I asked him. I probably thought to ask him because he had previously written a “This I Believe” essay on avoiding addictions because of his older brother, who was constantly in trouble and causing his mother grief and anxiety; his brother would come in late at night and he would have to deal with it since they share a bedroom. This time, Jose told me that he didn’t sleep but two hours that night because of his brother. He was arrested for possession “again” and his mother was distraught; I could tell that he was as well; it was written on his face. Though English is his least favorite subject on any regular day, my class was definitely the least of his concerns that day.
The following day, recalling that experience with Jose, a female student approached me outside while I was on lunch duty and I repeated my question, “how’s home?” Brittany is one who often comes to see me in between classes, during lunch, after school, and so on. Usually it’s just a quick check-in, but this time she was obviously melancholy. As soon as I asked her about home, she immediately teared up and started telling me about how hard things were with her mom. I hugged her, and we talked for the second half of her lunch. While I realize I am only listening to one side of the argument, she did say that when her mom said “she’s looking forward to her being out of the house,” it hurt her feelings; it obviously stuck with her. She was listening. Sticks and stones can break bones, but words my friends can crush. People remember them, or the lack thereof in some cases.
Repeat again on Wednesday: Lela had been somber for two days. She normally walks in the room with her bright workout gear on, dancing with her headphones with what I would assume is upbeat music based on her stride. She answers questions cheerfully and definitely exhibits pride in her work and learning; her face expresses her thinking and analyzing. But not on Tuesday or Wednesday. Both days, she came in expressionless, propped her head on her hand, and was silent as can be. Her face was gray and flat. “Hey Lela, how are you?” She admitted not great. She was struggling with stuff at home. This time it turned out to be her mother as well. Both girls expressed that they feel like they can never do anything right.
So many times when students walk into my room, they are dealing with so much outside of this little hour and a half class. Some of it is exciting, some of it is not. They are figuring out life and their individual circumstances just like the rest of us. A lot of teachers laugh when students make it obvious that they think we don’t have lives outside of our classrooms, but I think that we as teachers or adults make the same mistake. We forget sometimes that our students and children have their own lives outside of school and home, which can be overwhelming. Friend problems are real. Home problems are real. Work problems are real. They are easy to overlook.
Life gets busy with the projects we’re working on or the standardized tests we’re preparing for (which is another issue for another day), but really, Jose’s brother is of course more important to him than reading Night or writing about injustice that day. Brittany cares more about the fight she had with her mom than her vocabulary quiz on Friday. And Lela has been sad for several days; why would she be concerned about writing the perfect journal when she was worried about something big or small that happened at home?
The worst case this week was when a girl showed me a note shoved in her locker. In it, it made fun of her and then said at the bottom really small: “go die.” It may have been written small but the message was big. (After talking with her, I referred her to guidance and administration where they are working on handling the situation more thoroughly.) These might sound like stories aimed at pulling the heartstrings, but they were true and they all happened just this week.
The same thing happens all around us; so many people are just barely holding it together. The waitress at dinner last night admitted it had been a long night. I bet when I go grocery shopping this afternoon, the grocer will be much more concerned with his personal problems than with superb customer service. And in my case, I know that sometimes I don’t have on my best face on because I’m more concerned with some personal struggles or feeling overwhelmed. I even think that when people are posting on their social media sites, they are hiding a part of their real concerns.
We have to see people. Really see them. In person, online, everywhere we go. You never know what’s really going on in a person’s life. In a student’s life. In a child’s life. What I learned this week is to simply notice and ask. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to answer and maybe even hoping you’ll ask.
“How’s it going?”
“You don’t seem yourself. What’s up?”
Maybe one of those questions to your own child can reveal a lot. Maybe to the random waitress, just the acknowledgement will lighten her night. It’s definitely something that I learned this week. My goal is to make it something I remember, especially on days when I’m feeling impatient.
Sarah (& Parker)
*Note: all student names have been changed.