Is This Okay To Write About?

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slice-of-life_individual

One of the hardest things about teaching middle school is that most of the time middle schoolers don’t have a filter.

One of the best things about teaching middle school is that most of the time middle schoolers don’t have a filter.

Why? Because sometimes, sometimes what flows from their mouths is absolutely profound. Words that make you stop in your tracks… Like today.

Today, while conferring with a few of my kiddos in an attempt to work on narrowing down topic ideas, one of my writers interrupted to ask if a topic was okay to write about. She didn’t know if it was appropriate; and it broke my heart. Very little is off topic in my class…

The topic? She has been noticing that TV shows are doing a poor job of promoting diversity through their programs, and the programs they did offer were pretty stereotypical. And she was mad about it.

Mad that every time she turned on the TV, she had to hunt for a program that she could find herself in- and sometimes, they were hard to find. Mad that every time she did see herself in a program, it did not always portray her race in a positive light. Mad that when she did see someone of color in a show filled with a predominately white cast, the characters were showcased in rich areas being raised by the “perfect” family. Mad that she couldn’t really find herself in a show…or a book… or a movie.

She was mad.

And then we started talking. Talking about a lack of diversity in books. Stereotypes that were unfair and hurtful. A lack of knowledge. Prejudices that people might not even be aware they had…

More students came over and joined our conversation. And they chatted and shared. I listened and encouraged. Internalized and reflected.

And felt so proud that these kiddos are my students. Because these kids…these kids are going to change the world.

Today, we didn’t just narrow down a topic…

Today, this student discovered a passion worth fighting for.

8 responses »

  1. These are the moments to capture and cling to. I’m so glad you wrote about it. As a former 6th grade teacher, I can’t resist the pull of middle school posts!

  2. Damn. That is profound. And sad. Sad that she’s in a world where there is that to notice. And amazing that she’s got a teacher who is willing to facilitate that.

  3. Thank you for sharing this experience and your student’s feelings about the topic of representation. It is teachers like you, creating an open space for these conversations and choices for writing, that will help our students use their voices to create change.

  4. Wow! That’s a great moment and conversation captured. Renee Watson’s new book, Watch Us Rise, is pretty amazing for especially middle schoolers. I think you’d like it, as well as your students.

  5. I love middle schoolers for similar reasons you do. And this conversation you shared is an important one. Your students sentiments should be a message to all of society that there is still work to do around representation– not because we “should” but because it actually matters. Thank you for sharing this post!

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