They Get It.

by beccaborrelli


Trade. Juane-Quick-to-See-Smith. 1992.

H1N1 is ravaging attendance. Rather than glaze clay with half the students missing such a highly anticipated event… I introduce the next artist that will go along with their Native American Unit in Social Studies.

Juane-Quick-to-See-Smith makes art that addresses stereotypes of Native Americans. It’s appropriate since I suspect student textbooks are limited to teepees, Cowboys v. Indian warfare, and scalps on sticks.

In order to define such an elusive concept, we watched Susan Boyle’s first audition on Britain’s Got Talent. It was a pop culture reference they could identify with. Teacher eyes got teary as she watched all 3 classes erupt into unprompted applause at the end of her song.

When probed for times they experienced stereotype, candid responses poured forth:

“My bus driver never smiles, so we decided he was a grouch.”

“When I first moved here from my other school, kids called me “Mean Noreen” because I never smiled. Sometimes I was mean because I was afraid, but inside I’m really a nice person.”

A random fourth grade arm pats Noreen on the shoulder. I get goosebumps on my face, which kids never fail to notice.

“Yeah, I came here from Akron. Kids thought I was bad because I was from the city.” (Or perhaps because this poor kiddo is one of 3 black students in the whole fourth grade.)

“Me too! I came from Akron and and kids thought I was bad.”

“Yeah, I was really quiet when I moved here, and kids all thought I was shy.”

“Haha! Yeah Josh isn’t shy NOW!”

Class laughs…

Mina raises her hand.

“When I was in Kindergarten we moved here from Turkey. My accent was really thick and kids thought I was strange…”

I know I shouldn’t be surprised. I know 4th grade children are into double digit years of life experience. I know this, and yet I still wrap up today bewildered and slightly befuddled.

Whenever I’m afraid they won’t get it… that I won’t teach it in the right way… that a concept is too “old” for them… the boogers prove me wrong every time. They jump for the bar and clear it by many inches.

I like to think… somewhere in the hidden corners of my ego… far away from where other teachers or parents will ever see… maybe, just maybe it’s also because I’m good at teaching it.

Just maybe.