perder la vida

Learning to Live Missionally and Mindfully

Katie Lewis, breaker of racial barriers. March 2, 2010

Filed under: fun times,general information,mindful living — Katie @ 1:29 am

Today marked the start of my fourth week in my second grade placement. To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure I liked my placement at first. These kids are TOUGH. They have little attitudes and talk back and are NEVER doing anything wrong (it’s always someone else’s fault). But, I really have grown to love them. There are so many sweet moments throughout the day that remind me what I’m doing what I’m doing. Three or four of them came up and gave me these really big hugs today and, even though part of me is thinking “Get off of me… I am your teacher,” an even bigger part of me is savoring these sweet little moments and thankful that I have an opportunity to touch their lives in some small way.

In addition to my new-found sentimentality, there has also been a slew of hilarious moments. Last week at lunch, I talked to a few of my students about our favorite musicians. Since Michael Jackson’s death, young children everywhere have put him on some pedestal. They all said they like Michael Jackson – I think I impressed them when I said “Billie Jean” is my favorite MJ song. We talked about Beyonce, Alicia Keyes, Lil Wayne, Tupac… you know, the stars. πŸ™‚ Today I talked to some kid about the Lakers/Nuggets game. ME. Katie Lewis. Talked about basketball.

Anyway…. so all of this has a point. Today at lunch, some of the kids and I were talking more about music and life. And then someone brought up skin color. I mentioned that some of my kids first assumed I was Chinese (because of my dark hair??), but other than that, no one has noticed that I’m the only white person in the room. The only reason this surprises me is because I’ve heard of the kindergarteners and 1st graders at this school flat-out tell their teachers that they didn’t have to listen to white people. So, I’ve been surprised not to have any problems out of my second graders regarding the color of my skin.

But today… man, today. They just about made me fall out of my chair. The kids were going around the table talking about how they were “brown” and then one of them looked at me and said, “Miss Lewis…. are you black or white?” I about died!! They had to ASK! I looked at them and said, “Now, what do you think?” Their response: “You’re white. Or maybe you’re just light-skinned.” WOW.

I guess the combination of my love for Tupac and my sass, they have been confused about my skin color. This has been one of the most surprising and also touching realizations of the semester. I am not one to necessarily care about skin color, but I have been concerned about how minorities react to a white teacher. I want to teach in low-income, racially diverse schools and…. well, I’m a well-to-do white girl. I have wondered, Will they respect me? Can I connect with them? Will they just see me as some white girl?

What I have learned over the past few weeks is that my skin color truly doesn’t matter. If I can connect with these kids and try to find common interests and try to be friendly (without being their friend – meaning, I maintain authority), then they could care less what color my skin is. I could be purple for all they care. If I don’t make a big deal of it, then they don’t make a big deal of it.

Maybe I should have known this all along, but… I really didn’t. I really expected forming relationships and gaining respect from these kids would be much more difficult. Part of me thinks that I was just given a good class with a good personality, but I wonder if what I’ve been doing (trying to connect with them) has actually helped. Either way, these kids have taught me so much already… and I’m so thankful for those 20 precious faces! πŸ™‚

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