domingo, 18 de mayo de 2014

Shame, School and Our Girls

During my second year of teaching English to eighth graders in Boston, I found myself in a strange quandary. I was preparing for a meeting with the parents of one of my students; this was more to do with the student's progress and was required by the counselor. The student, a female of color who lived in low-income housing, was a newly-voracious reader and incredibly enthusiastic to talk about books and encourage her friends to read. I couldn't wait to tell her parents (whom I'd never met) about her progress.

"Don't tell her father about any of the books she is reading. Especially don't mention To Kill a Mockingbird. Try to change the subject if he asks," the weary counselor told me before the meeting. I froze, and asked why. She told me that her father, a devout Jehovah's Witness, had recently reappeared back on the scene, and had a history of vocally disapproving of most (all) books that his daughter read at school and for pleasure. This was the reason she had been slow to warm to reading in class, but with her father out of the picture for a while, she'd had a chance to really blossom. Now it was up to me to keep her secret, to allow her to read. It was strange to me to have to avoid telling her own father about how amazing his daughter was, but the school had already apparently made a tacit agreement within its walls to put its students' interests first.


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