Tuesday, May 10, 2016

In Her Shoes

I want to tell you about cannabis girl, but I shouldn't. I want to tell you about how a father might circumvent a difficult requirement for a Scout, but I shouldn't. I want to tell you about how I'd probably get fired if I were paid to work at the high school since I'm just alongside an edge that the staff wants me to run, teaching their way when my way seems to be working. Seems to be. Oh, I hope my way is working. I give my students snacks. I'm not certain I'm allowed to give them snacks. A girl ate a bunch of fruit today and told me she would get hives if she ate very much. Crap! I get students out of their seats to stretch when they yawn and admit they're sleepy. Sometimes we laugh too loudly about what we're doing.

I am not a teacher. I'm not trained to teach writing the way the teachers were trained to teach writing. I teach commas by asking students to notice their breath when they read a sentence aloud. I teach grammar that way too. "Does it sound right to your ear?" I ask them. If they weren't raised saying 'I hain't got none' or 'This needs done' or 'He done it,' their ears should tell them if the grammar is right.

Only, it doesn't work when it comes to the girl who's native language is not English. She's come a long way in speaking and writing since October when I met her. I tell her to imagine about how I would word something, or how her teachers would. She's getting there.

Today, I asked her to wrap my scarf around my head. It was an interesting moment that I'm ashamed I didn't linger within. What would it feel like to be a Muslim woman in America?

I wouldn't like being required to wear a head covering, but the women I've asked say they feel comfortable wearing a hijab. Did early Native Americans chafe under restrictive women's clothing, the corsets, the long skirts covering ankles?

I pulled the scarf down off my head too quickly, before she and I had a chance to sit in our scarves together to feel the communal nature of what we'd done. I felt uncomfortable. I'm not sure if it was because I wouldn't want to be forced to cover my hair or if I didn't want anyone to confuse me for a Muslim woman. Isn't that an awful thing to admit? Even though we sat in an empty classroom, I was a little afraid. Have I ever told you that I don't have a lot of courage when it comes to standing up for what I think is right? I wanted to ask if anyone had ever been cruel to her. I wanted to sit and listen to her story of being a Muslim woman in America. Yet, I was afraid to commit to experiencing that cruelty by keeping the scarf on my own head for any longer. I hope I didn't hurt her feelings.

We didn't have time, I like to tell myself. We were working on a time crunch for a paper she had to write by Thursday morning.

But there was this important moment between us, more important than the paper this girl had to write, more important than learning to listen for commas and word choices, more important than her entire education in this school this year. It was about a cultural clash that you hear about in the news, that is most likely a bit frightening for her. It was frightening for me. And I could have made it something significant between us, something strong.

I'm pretty sure I flubbed it.

Thanks for listening, jb

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