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TEACHER VOICES: Michele Godwin, #5

“Is that a white thing?”

Michele Godwinfavicon Wednesday, 12/17 – 11:25 am
It’s the last advisory meeting of 2014 and Finals week is upon us. My students have surprised me with their focus and last-minute scrambling to get their grades up, turn in make up work, and meet with their teachers.

Most surprising, though, are their presentations. All but two have stood in front of their classmates and tried to convince us of something (anything!), as long as it was a well-considered and -supported argument. I am impressed with how seriously they have taken it — if not in preparing and researching, at least in standing up in front of the room and speaking.

And I’ve never seen them be so supportive of one another, listening and asking good follow-up questions. Occasionally one of them will interrupt the speaker with a question or a funny comment. I have to remind myself to stop shushing them all the time, that they know how to be audience members, even if their definition is different from my own of complete silence, still body, delayed questions.

I wonder: is that a white thing? I think of the call-and-response of Black churches; the Indian weddings I’ve been to, where folks wander and chat throughout the long, drawn-out ceremony; the Mexican celebrations, full of music and dancing; and compare those with my own student-as-empty-vessel paradigm, the hours and hours I have spent sitting still, eyes on the speaker, hands folded in my lap. I let them be.

We celebrate the semester with food and drink; I have brought crackers and cheese, hummus, fruit, and vegetables. Some of my students struggle with weight, so I avoid bringing too much sweet stuff. The Martinelli’s is a huge hit. They take pictures of themselves posing with the bottles, as they have seen their adult counterparts do in music videos or movies. I ask them to toast with me, and they raise their plastic cups.

“To you, for being so patient with me, and for teaching me so much every day.”

Cheers. favicon

Ed. note: Michele Godwin is beginning her 14th year of teaching high school. She’s back at Leadership High School, where she taught from 2001 to 2008. An English teacher by training and experience, Michele has changed her focus to build a library for Leadership. In addition to her fundraising and library organizing, she is an 11th grade adviser. These are her musings from the past few weeks, her fifth contribution to TEACHER VOICES. Please donate so Michele can buy more books!

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