Early in the school year, I brought to school an article, [obtained from http://www.tolerance.org ], written by an African-American journalist, after her 10 year old son asked her if she thought he "acted white" for my Survey of Literature students to read, hoping it would generate a class discussion about stereotypes in general, and racial stereotypes in particular. Unfortunately, in several classes some students chose to react only to the title and ignore the content. More than a few students suggested that I shouldn't teach something like this, wondering aloud whether I was a racist.

During the first semester that I was assigned to teach 5 freshmen classes of Survey of Literature, I discovered that only a very small percentage of my students wanted to learn what I had to teach. I thought of ways I might show my students what they look like shouting out loud every time they have something to say from "I've gotta pee" to "What are we supposed to do?" (after I've just explained 2 or 3 times) to "This is boring", regardless of what I'm teaching. I thought if they could see themselves talking to each other and ignoring me while I'm teaching, or see how they just get up and walk to the wastebasket or shoot a basket right in front of me while I'm teaching, or get into nasty arguments with each other while I'm teaching, or write on the desk, or wander into the classroom late and instead of quickly sitting down, putting on a brief drama for the class, while I'm teaching, that perhaps they might be more aware of doing all of these inappropriate, out-of-control behaviors, and be inclined to act more studious.

I told a friend, a former Harper student of mine, that I wanted to video tape how my students act in class. She warned me that it might not be a good idea for my career, and that for greater insight into why my students seem so unreachable, that I should rent The Boys of Baraka, (which I did) and then she wrote an article that she posted to her blog site. The post is titled Social vs Academic. Elsewhere on her site, she linked a wonderful short film documentary, A Girl Like Me by Kiri Harris, who made the documentary when she was a 16 year old student at Urban Academy,


Reflect: After viewing the video, discuss this issue at our Survey of Literature Tangler Forum



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