Openly Gay Teacher Was Unsure When His Student Wanted To Play A Video, But Never Expected THIS.
Teaching is hard. It can be even harder when you bring your personal life into the classroom.
Here's a story of a teacher being a bit reluctant to let a student participate in class, with amazing consequences.
Many thanks to reddit user BitiumRibbon for sharing this story.
I teach Grade 8 (13-14 years old) in Ontario, Canada. I am gay, and my students have known this for about a month or so. I am in my first year of teaching, and I am teaching something of a "tough" class.
In particular, I have one group of boys that can be a bit of a pain in the neck. Never keep their hands to themselves, always talk out of turn, have gotten in fights, etc. There is one boy in this group (he will be known here as Harry) who is a little quieter than the others, but very popular.
Hes a bit tough to get close to, and seems like the type to be resistant to new ideas and different people. He hangs out with another tough kid (lets call him Mark), who is loud and boisterous and often rude.
Now that its so close to the end of the year, I do a YouTube of the Day with them every morning. Kids can send in a short YouTube video for me to show to the class, I preview it, and if its appropriate, I play it. So this morning, Harry comes up to me and says, I have a video I want to play.
Now, I preview things for a reason. There are enough horror stories out there of teachers accidentally showing their kids porn for me to be very careful what I show my class. So I tell him to send it to me because, yknow, thems the rules.
I really want to show it, he says back. Youll like it, I promise. Its a music video.
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Given what Harry listens to, Im wary. He listens to a lot of rap and hip-hop, and thats fine, but Ive heard some non-school-appropriate language come out of the music he listens to. So I ask him if its appropriate for school; he tells me yes.
This kid is many things, but he has never lied to me, that I am aware of. Not once. So I take a deep breath and tell him okay. What the heck.
I did read the lyrics, and they were beautiful, but what came next was unexpectedly awesome.
So he goes on over and pulls it on up, and on comes a song I have never heard before. The artist is rapping about growing up gay, about the struggles of being gay, and about standing up in the face of hatred and homophobia. Same Love, by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. The video was beautiful.
And theres Harry, proudly watching along with the rest of the class as the artist stands up for those gay kids who struggle, and the video shows a difficult, lonely life culminating in a fabulous wedding. Harry. My tough kid.
The video finishes, the kids applaud, and I thank him, and he says to me, I told you youd like it.
And then his loud, rude friend Mark says: That was for you, Mr. K.
The whole class applauded again for me this time and then I cried. I cried the proudest tears I have ever shed.
Harry and Mark they might tick off every teacher they ever have, but today they gave this teacher a moment hell never forget.
Some Important Questions Answered:
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1. I understand that Macklemore isn't gay. He says it in the song. I think that makes it all the more awesome.
2. I told my kids I was gay for a few reasons, but primarily because I think it's extremely important for gay teachers to out themselves to their students. This gives kids positive, successful queer role models. Having said that, my school board has an explicit anti-discrimination policy, so I can understand that it might not be safe for some teachers in the USA to do so. Remember, I'm a Canuck.
3. To the idea that my sexuality is my own business, this reminds me of the argument against teaching kids about gay people because "they don't need to know about gay sex." My answer to that is a two-parter: 1) you don't need to talk about sex to talk about relationships. Kids understand relationships, and I have talked about the LGBT community to kids as young as Grade 4. 2) Lots and lots of teachers keep a photo of their loved ones on their desk - why should I have to be any different?
4. No, to my shame, I hadn't yet heard of Macklemore, really. I HAD heard of the Thrift Shop song but I hadn't listened to it. I sometimes avoid things that are over-hyped.
5. "Pink Day", the occasion on which I outed myself to my students, is a day (up here? Not sure about the States) where people wear pink to stand up against (primarily homo/transphobic) bullying. My tough class didn't bring pink, but they went ahead and wore the pink bandanas I brought in!
6. My school/school board is in a very multicultural area of the province; there are a lot of immigrants from south Asian and middle-eastern countries, which makes me all that much more proud of my class, because I know (and they have told me) that many of their folks back home don't exactly approve of teh gayz. So, though it isn't a high Christian-evangelical population, it isn't a giant left-wing backyard either. And of course, for the record, I grew up in this community (and I am a pasty white boy myself) and I absolutely love the diversity in this area, and I love teaching it. Talk about learning a lot!
7. As for the controversy surrounding this song in a classroom down south (south of me, perhaps not actually SOUTH south), I'm glad that I live up here... ... because honestly this isn't the most controversial thing I've done by a longshot. A few months ago I had a trans* guest speaker come in and talk about his experience to two different homeroom classes, and it was simply wonderful, and the kids were super respectful.
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Racism is an insidious, and unfortunately prevalent, force in all of our daily lives. Maybe we're on the receiving end of it, being treated differently and losing opportunities because of others' preconceived notions.
Or maybe we're on the other side of things. Even those who aren't actively racist or discriminatory still have to process the world through the filters of the things they've been told about people who are different.