Archive for February, 2011
We’re all accustomed to hearing ”Oh girl!! You are lookin’ FINE right now!” on an episode of Jersey Shore, but when I heard that phrase in my classroom from the mouth of a seventh grader, it was a different experience. I’ve learned in my job that unexpected situations are like being on call for a 9 alarm fire.. if you don’t react immediately and appropriately… well, you’re toast.
I had to look beyond the absurdity of the situation, and respond…fast. This student (not one I teach) had managed to drop his not-so-suave line on me a few minutes before my seventh grade class started in front of 16 other students of mine. It became obvious to me that it had to be dealt with immediately, and loudly enough that the entire classroom understood what I was (hopefully) crafting into a teaching moment.
As I very sternly looked him in the eyes and replied that his comment was, in fact, incredibly inappropriate, it became very obvious that it was not the reaction he had anticipated. His face transitioned in sequence from joking to happy to confused to uneasy to just plain scared. I have worked hard to make sure my boys know when they’ve crossed a line. I made a point that this was not just something he shouldn’t say in front of me, but why it was an issue to talk to women like that, and he affirmed that he could see the issue. He apologized profusely, and even showed up after the next class to apologize again.
This is not the only time I’ve been slapped in the face by an off the wall comment like this. When meeting with a group of high school boys who will play rugby for me this spring a few months ago, I was informed by a student that if i “dressed nicer” to attend their school meeting “more people would sign up for the team”. At first I waited for him to be joking, and as the seconds went by and he waited for my response, I realized that he was not in fact joking at all and then I was at a loss for words. A real concern on our team was not having enough numbers to play this season; his intentions were genuine. However, the fact that he fell back on blatantly “selling” his young female coach to attract his classmates to the sport, is indicative of a deeper issue that runs through their culture.
I take my job very seriously when it comes to being communicative with my boys about what it means to respect women. I also understand that they don’t always have the best examples, particularly with what they are bombarded with in the media. I’ve never seen an episode of the Jersey Shore, but I do know a a good number of 11-14 year olds that watch it religiously. Examples and influences like these might make my job more difficult, but they also make it all the more important. Setting good examples and challenging the boys to think about issues such as gender is something I often discuss with my female colleagues, many of whom have had experiences like mine. Based on my prior interactions with the students that made these comments, I don’t think for an instant that they were aiming to disrespect me; however, kids need to learn that life doesn’t operate like an episode of reality television.