Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Affirmation

We've started reading Night and our entry into the book involved a discussion we've needed for some time. We talked about the names we call each other and about feelings of isolation and anonymity. We had a hard time seperating the ideas of prejudice, stereotype, and racism (as they all seemed to fade into a big wad of sameness). We read the first chunk of the book and one kid had some questions.

"Miss,"


Can we stop right now and have a conversation about calling one's teacher's "Miss"? Good, let's do that. I hate it. No one called me "Miss" when I was a waitress, why does it happen to me now? My sister loves these stories and glories in the Dickensian tone it gives to my day ("Please, Miss, may I have a hall pass? I had ever so much figgy pudding at lunch!"). You have four teachers, kiddo, you can manage four names.

"Miss, is it a stereotype just to call someone a Jew or a Mexican or
something?"


"No, there's more to it. If the word has an emotional punch because of
society's ideas then it's a stereotype. To call me white is no big deal, it's
what I am. But when you add that my hair smells like a wet dog, that's a
stereotype."


"Oooh, and it's a simile too, Miss!"


I am simultaneously charmed by his recall of figurative language and hurt that the alleged wet dog status of my hair was not challenged.

4 comments:

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Ha. I get "Mizzus.... Ummmmmm?"

Which is not charming.

rebecca said...

In fairness, they probably haven't smelled your hair.
I've taught foreign adults, and gotten "Miss Rebecca," which always made me feel like a Romper Room hostess. The male teachers said it made them feel like hairdressers. So a Dickensian schoolmistress isn't that bad.

Anonymous said...

Very usual in England. Is it normal now in America?

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