When a student says things like this, how do you respond?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by orangetea, Dec 1, 2012.

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  1. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    My school has introduced advisory, which happens for 10 minutes a day, two times a week. I have 10 students, and we talk about issues in school/life. We were talking about discrimination, and someone brought up how her Muslim friend always needs to get to an airport early because her family is always questioned. This student said that he believes that airport security should be especially focused on Muslims and that there is nothing wrong with that. The period ended, and I had a discussion with him afterwards. (I also talked to his vice-principal, but I'm not sure what's happening with that yet.)

    He also said he was opposed to the idea of having LGBTQ week because there was no "straight" week. I basically responded that it's almost like every other week deals with the issues of straight people, so it's important that we have an LGBTQ week...

    But I'm not exactly sure how to deal with comments like these in the future.
     
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  3. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Hmmm...I think I would want to stick to school issues and drop the "life issues". It's not that they're not important and worthy of discussion, and wish they could be discussed and debated in school because it's important to think these things through, but there are too many things thing could turn ugly both for student and teacher.
     
  4. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I suppose I could--but the thing is that what we talk about is decided by an administrator. So for one week, discrimination was a topic and a student brought up airport security as an example. I wasn't sure if I wanted to discuss it, but it does relate to discrimination... (but I understand what you mean--it wasn't about school)

    And we were supposed to discuss LGBTQ week and what that means for the community, so there's no way I could avoid that discussion or comment.
     
  5. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Hmmm. Well, administration better be ready for some issues to come of this. I wouldn't be comfortable saying too much about some of these topics because parents would be contacting me immediately (which might be absurd, but true) and I would be uncomfortable allowing some students to even open their mouths.
     
  6. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Look I'll say it- sounds like that kid needs to learn a little empathy and tolerance for others. When he said that thing about needing to check Muslims at the airport more, I would have said "that is incredibly selfish and narrow minded" And at the LBGTQ comment I would have said that this group of people is being discriminated against at the moment and we need to talk about ways that as an entire community we can treat everyone equal.
     
  7. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I actually like talking about controversial issues and so far it all turned out great. My philosophy is usually this: everyone has the right to feel the way they feel, but they shouldn't say things to hurt other people. So in it's basic form, you, a student have the 'right' to be racist, I mean there is nothing I can do about it (besides trying to educate you in so many ways, but I can't change your mind), but I do not want to hear it or see it in your behavior.

    In this situation I would say that comments like that are racists. He made a general comment about Muslims. Yes, a lot of the terrorists are Muslims, but they're misinterpreting the religion and use it for their agenda. That doesn't mean other Muslims have anything to do with that. That's discrimination. Then I would turn it on them. Let's say this guy has red hair, and all of sudden they had terrorists that had red hair. Would that be fair to single him out and harass him because he has the same characteristics?

    I have to say in my situation I don't have to deal with parents. I don't know why or how parents would have a problem with this, but I guess that's because I'm not dealing with them :)

    I think as long as you teach tolerance and compassion, a parent shouldn't have a problem. (I know, I know, some parents are difficult)
     
  8. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Just curious...what did your conversation entail?

    What issues of 'straight people' are you dealing with every week? Seems like the 'discrimination' topic could apply across all demographics...
     
  9. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Not much...I just asked him if he felt that his comments were acceptable and if there was anything he wanted to say to me. He didn't say much, so I talked to the VP.

    I didn't mean that we are dealing with issues of "straight people" every week. I meant that LGBTQ people are discriminated against, and that we need a week to recognize those issues, while straight people are not judged by society, which is why I don't think we need a "straight" week." Sorry if I was unclear.
     
  10. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Yes it could, but some demographics obviously receive more discrimination than others. As a white, straight female, I don't have too many issues getting a job, expressing who I am, feeling beautiful, getting married, not being judged by my looks. Where a black, gay male may have many more discrimination issues. Because those demographics have been discriminated against throughout history.
     
  11. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    The discrimination topic was separate from the LGBT topic.
     
  12. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I'm with Linguist and others - I like the idea, in the right context, of talking about those kinds of issues in school. I had a class in high school that really got into a lot of social justice issues, and I credit it for really getting me started in my overall life philosophy and career. My viewpoints really changed over the course of my high school experience, and it wasn't because of my family (not saying they weren't supportive, just didn't provide the right context for discussion), but because of school.

    I think one of the most powerful elements of changing perspective is personal experience with someone who is the subject of prejudicial thoughts - not just passing experience, but really personal experience. For me, I did some community service my last year of high school in a hispanic community, and my viewpoints about immigration were completely transformed. To meet someone personally, hear their story, and feel their struggle was transformational.

    Does your high school have a community service department? If so, you may want to think about integrating your particular segment of discussion with those community services. Also, it may not be important to have exactly the same experience related to your discussion (e.g., volunteering with Muslims when talking about Muslims), but simply seeing the world from a new perspective and personally experiencing poverty and struggle helps you personalize it, and open your eyes to considering new perspectives.

    One side note about LGBT issues - while it certainly is within the purview of the school to protect students in the group, and to promote treating those students with respect, it's another thing to try to convince students to try to believe a certain thing about that issue because it intersects with religious issues, and you may run the risk of challenging religious beliefs.
     
  13. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Yes, this can be complicated. This is why my philosophy is this: you have the right to feel the way you feel, I just don't want to see it or hear it. So if a student has a problem with anyone from the LGBT community, I can't change their mind, and I won't even try to. But I do not want to hear comments, or see any such type of behavior. No parent can have a problem with that, at least not one that will be a real problem.
     
  14. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    And that's the problem. You can't have a discussion about such issues and tell someone they can't speak their opinion because you don't like it. That's not a real discussion. I don't think that does anything to teach students about growth, tolerance, acceptance, and so forth.
     
  15. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    We do have community service options, but nothing specific like that. It's mainly within the community, which isn't too diverse, other than a large population from Asia.

    About the LGBT issues--I do understand that it can get complicated. Do other schools promote LGBT week? We have teachers and students wearing ribbons, announcements, etc.

    And thank you for the insightful post. :)
     
  16. comaba

    comaba Cohort

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    One of my classes had a similar discussion a couple of years ago.

    Rather than discuss the merits of airport scrutiny, I steered the discussion to the internment that Japanese-Americans and other Asians faced during WWII simply because of their appearance. It helped that we had read a story in our literature books about one boy's experiences in an internment camp during WWII.

    Students compared the similarities between the two during the discussion, but there was no debate about who was right and who was wrong. Did that change anyone's opinion? Who knows? I don't think it's my job to change anyone's values, and I wouldn't be comfortable telling a student that his viewpoint is wrong. But I am comfortable in providing an environment in which students can reflect on and question the world around them.
     
  17. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I can't imagine it happening here.

    It was frowed upon when I showed a commercial a few years ago that demonstrated why "that's gay" (and "that's retarded") isn't nice.
     
  18. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Without formal approval it may be better to leave the LGBT issue off the table when having deeper discussions, but there are still a number of issues that I think would be within bounds of discussion, and tolerance/acceptance in one area can breed that same sentiment in another.

    Hearing what JustMe has to say, I do think it's important to make sure that, if you do discuss something, you have the full capacity to do so. I don't agree with the statement "I won't change their minds" because that happened to me, and happens to many - especially in formative years when they've never had such discussions, and never had related experiences. Taking the viewpoint that you just want them to share what they think, but don't expect them to challenge themselves to question their perspectives, may communicate the opposite of what you want to communicate.

    Still, it sounds like maybe with other types of discussions (outside the LGBT issue) you may agree?
     
  19. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Administration told us to discuss LGBT week and what that means for our school community and acceptance. We also participate in the day of silence in the spring. (It's a choice of course, but many teachers support it and many students are silent.)
     
  20. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Yes, I understand that. What I'm saying is that we can have a discussion, and students can speak their mind, but not in a derogatory way. This can get tricky, and may not work with every age group, or even every class. It can get difficult, or end up badly.
    So far I've been lucky that any discussions we had, it ended up a productive one. But the ones I had come up were usually about racism.
     
  21. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    It's been an insightful discussion :). Truthfully it's been a while since I've worked at the high school level, so I'm not sure in recent years if other schools do have such a week. What's your school's policy about discussion? If they're giving you permission to lead discussions and challenge people to think more deeply, maybe you should push on. I would just make sure to know the difference between challenging someone to think more deeply or question assumptions, as opposed to arguing with a student about beliefs. Certainly a fine line, but if the school has already instituted an LGBT week, and is encouraging teaching to have open discussions, I'd probably do it. You do run the risk of parent complaints, but it may be worth it to promote social justice. Sometimes things worth doing have associated risks. If those risks are sanctioned by your school, you're probably on safer ground.
     
  22. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    If the topic is decided by the administration, you always have the opportunity to redirect any parent complaints about the subject to the administration. :haha:

    Secondly, I think it's expected that some of these students will have these types of views and we need to be prepared to deal with them. There are a large portion of adults who are still racist, or beliefist if that's a term, and an even larger portion that are anti-gay. When I was that age, I took everything my parents said as gospel truth. It was only dealing with other students my age who had different views that my world-view began to change.

    As a teacher, you have to be careful not to inject any of your positions into the discussion, but to deal with a student like that, his view needs to be brought up as an issue to discuss with the class. This is where it is helpful to have a very student centered discussion.

    Dealing with these views would take a lot of time, and probably the whole period, so it's good to introduce his view perhaps informally early on, and have students address this view with their experiences and beliefs.

    This would definitely require clear communication of expectations during a discussion and requiring students to treat others views with respect even if they don't agree with them because you don't want the student to be bullied because of their views.

    I would also stay away from having students 'vote' on the issue lest he feels singled out.

    It's a tough situation to be sure but I think you need to be a skilled facilitator to guide other students to address his views.
     
  23. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Peregrin, I agree that these issues cannot be discussed in ten piddly minutes.
     
  24. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I'd go for it then. I just wouldn't communicate that every student is right. Yes, they are entitled to an opinion, but we all owe it to ourselves to periodically reflect on why we think the things that we do. I'd also stick to the word "thought" as opposed to "belief" - not only has less religious connotation, but thoughts might be perceived as more easily changed, while beliefs tend to be thought of as more hardened.

    As a means of being fair, challenge everyone - even those who have thoughts similar to yours. If someone says, "We should be respectful of LGBT students," ask why. Think of yourself as a journalist - not there to sway kids into accepting LBGT issues, but into delving deeper into their thought structure and really understanding why they think the things they do. It's healthy and acceptable to know that there's only so much you can do in a classroom discussion, but that "so much" may be more than you think. To this day, I think back to some of those discussions I had in my social justice class in high school, and my viewpoints of several controversial issues were either shaped or transformed by those very discussions.

    JustMe and others are right in that its a risk, but you assume a risk as soon as step into the classroom, coach a team, or go on a field trip. It's just a matter of whether you've considered that risk and have decided that the potential reward outweighs the potential risk.
     
  25. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    In response to Peregrin's helpful post, I definitely think it would take time (multiple classes), second Peregrin's advice against a vote, and second the idea that a skilled facilitator (or a teacher within training is such issues) would be ideal - but, if not available, some discussion may be better than none if done considerately.
     
  26. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    I disagree with those who say that controversial topics should be avoided. The whole purpose of a teacher advisory period is to build community and to discuss teen issues, and you really can't be effective at this without some controversy.

    The key with regard to efffective discussion is to encourage respectful comments. Students are entitled to their opinions, but in stating them, they must remain respectful to others who may disagree. Setting the overall tone for the discussion before it begins is a critical element. I try to encourage students to consider mutiple sides to any issues that we discuss. Immigration/illegal immigration is always one that sparks controvery.
     
  27. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Apparently true in some schools, but this concept is brand new to me today. Our advisory periods were always, always related to academics...schedule help, college questions, etc.
     
  28. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I'm also afraid that some of his comments could hurt other students. For example, what if one of the students in the room is Muslim and heard that comment?

    I like the idea of discussing some of these topics. My administration is great, so I'm not worried about upset parents or anything. I'm just not sure if I want to do these discussions anymore.
     
  29. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    This is new for me as well. Last year, we did a bullying homeroom for 6 weeks, but we've never done anything like this before.

    In advisory, we also discuss schedule help and college questions, but since we meet twice a week, that's not all we talk about.

    The idea is to get comfortable with a group and teacher so that if a student feels like they need an adult to talk to, they have another option.
     
  30. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    Part of what we try to do is to encourage students to develop opionion that they can justify and to think for themselves - all while respecting the opinions of others. I don't feel that you can do this without engaging them and talking about why they feel the way they do.
     
  31. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    In my country we had a couple of advisory classes / week. So we had 2 hours to discuss any issues, relating to students, school, community, current events, anything. Nothing academic. It was great. The teacher got to know us, and we knew we had someone to go to with any issues.
     
  32. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Tread carefully here. Unfortunately, many people have views like this and they have every right to express them.
     
  33. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    In fact I think a useful distinction can be made - and should be - between what one thinks of another human being's religion, race, orientation, etc., etc., and how one behaves toward that human being. I agree that schools are not in the business of regulating belief (epiphanies arising from knowledge are a happy benefit devoutly to be hoped for), but surely schools ARE in the business of regulating and modeling overt behavior, including a becoming reluctance to act on the stereotypes one harbors.
     
  34. ecteach

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    Totally agree. I am white and my husband is black. Most of the students know this. I have had several girls over the years tell me that their parents don't want them dating black boys, and they had to break up with their black boyfriend. (This happened more when I was doing inclusion...the students I teach now really don't "date".) Do I think it's wrong? Of course I do, but I mind my business. That's their family, their issues, and no one is perfect.
     
  35. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    It's interesting that there seems to be a real philosophical divide here about the place of schools in social and moral development.
     
  36. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    True. The more experience I gain the more I believe schools should be academic institutions with far less stress on social and moral development.
     
  37. MikeTeachesMath

    MikeTeachesMath Devotee

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    And I feel the exact opposite. Obviously this kid picked up this crap from home, so there's no moral development going on there. It's up to the school to help mold him into a functioning member of society. He's going to have to eventually work with people different than himself, so if we continue to let him harbor these "opinions", it will only hurt him in the future.

    :2cents:
     
  38. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    That's fine. You're of course entitled to believe that.
     
  39. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    So an interesting question is are we entitled to a belief about what is in the purview of schools? For example (and an obviously extreme one), a teacher is probably not entitled to believe that s/he shouldn't have to teach higher level thinking skills in a high school chemistry class. I guess what I'm asking is, to folks like MikeTeachesMath and others who believe schools have the obligation to promote moral and social development, is there a mandate to do so? Should teachers feel compelled in that area like they are with academics, or is that something that each individual teacher should feel entitled to decide?
     
  40. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I think as teachers our focus for which we are trained is academics. Of course there is the expectation, and a fair one, that teachers maintain a safe and comfortable learning environment which would include ensuring that kindness and and respect is shown to all. It's just that some schools, in my opinion, steal too much time from the academic day to focus on other issues. It's possible to have a more balanced approach, though.
     
  41. MikeTeachesMath

    MikeTeachesMath Devotee

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    I believe it's more of a moral obligation.
     
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