Thursday, August 09, 2007

Supreme Awkwardness

So many situations as a male teacher are awkward. Number one in my book is the hug. As a compassionate individual with 33 young people around everyday, there are countless situations when at any other time, a hug would be a natural occurrence or remedy. The last day of school, when a kid is sick or his or her feelings have been hurt, etc. But alas, I have resorted to the half-hug, and only when initiated. Ka'aina, of previous posting fame, is a bit clingy, so he gets a lot of half-hugs (one arm around the shoulder).

Other awkward situations are one-on-one situations, i.e. tutoring, or when I keep someone in from recess. I basically just make sure there is always more than one student in the room, and parents sometimes request that other students be there if their kid is going to stay for extra help.

One particularly awkward moment was when on the day after school let out I called a couple of students to come help me clean my room. They'd said they wanted to the day before, but try explaining that to a parent. "Hi, can Angelica come to school (when school's out for the summer) to help me scrub some desks?" Courtney can do it and have parents think nothing of it, but if Mr. Landry does it, it's pretty weird.

So, that brings us to today. None of the previous awkwardness has even compared. See, I have a whiz in my class named Josiah. He's a brilliant little guy, part Hawaiian, part Korean. He's incredibly disorganized and habitually late, but so perceptive. He's truly gifted. The latest reading comprehension diagnostics I gave him put him at an 8th or 9th grade comprehension level. This is fantastic in itself, but presents a few minor challenges. The first being I teach 5th grade. Therefore, my classroom library is geared towards 5th graders. I don't have many options for him to have a challenging read. I do, however, have a couple of books. One of which is To Kill a Mockingbird.

On the second day of school, Josiah picks up To Kill a Mockingbird. My initial instinct was "Sweet!!" What teacher wouldn't want his student to pick up that book on his own? But after he took it back to his desk, I started thinking about the content. I remembered that the premise is a rape trial, though, of course the book is about so much more than rape. I thought about how relatively liberal my parents were with me growing up and how if I came across anything I was unfamiliar with, they generally never held information back.

I took the book away, but said I'd call and talk to his parents about it. So today I rang his mom, invited them to open house, then brought up the book. I explained that Josiah was reading on a super-high level, and that makes some books with mature topics accessible for him. I asked if she knew of the story To Kill a Mockingbird, and she said no. That should've been my first clue, but I went on. "Well, this story has a rape in it," I explained, "and I wanted to know if you were ok with him reading it and would just like to talk to him about the content first." Awkward pause. "Oh, no, I don't want him reading stuff like that." I ramble a bit about how I just wanted to check with them first and stuff. Awkward pause # 2. "Well, ok, I hope I see you guys at the open house, bye!"

Ahhh! Lorrdez, my fun-loving, matter-of-fact co-teacher (she teaches math), said I should call her back and explain what the book is about, but I just fear that would make things even more awkward. But I don't know - as it stands, Mr. Landry called to see if Josiah could read a book about rape. Hmm. I just wonder if this would've been as awkward if it were Courtney calling a parent.

No comments: