Sunday, September 14, 2008

The story behind how I was

accused of being racist.

Last week, my class as part of our social studies performance standards, started discussing the Presidential Elections.

Now mind you this is a lesson that at the end of it, I thought had gone very well. I only had one little girl get super emotional about it. And even she was able to handle the lesson.

We started off discussion the fact that no matter the outcome of the election, history would be made.

If Senator Obama wins, he will be the first African American president.

If Senator McCain wins, Gov. Palin will be the first woman vice president.

Now let me point out that the day after Obama was "officially" nominated, a HUGE deal was made out of this. Part of his speech was read over our loud speakers. While Mrs. Palin's selection as the VP choice for Senator McCain, was basically ignored. But we (my co-teacher and I) didn't make a huge deal out of it. Got to take into account where we are teaching, and the population.

We explained and discussed the nomination process, and the selection/election process from here on out.

I had several students ask who I was going to vote for.

I (and my co-teacher) explained several times that, that was a personal choice and that no one should feel like they need to know who their neighbor/friend/teacher is going to vote for. That each registered voter in the US votes for who they think lives up to what they personally believe in.

After this tactic did not work, I fell back to my standard that I have used since the first Presidential election since I began teaching.

Mickey Mouse

I explained to my students that no Mickey isn't running, but I do not feel right telling them, my personal choices on a matter this great.

Which all stems from the 1980 election, when my first grade teacher went on and on about Ronald Regan. I remember telling my parents that they should vote for Mr. Regan. I had no idea why they should have voted for him, just that that was who my teacher said she was voting for. So Mickey Mouse is my stand in for a real candidate.

Then we left it alone, and went on to the election process.

We talked about the voting process, and how if you are 18 you have the right to register to vote for your choice.

Toward the end of the lesson about 20 minutes later, we talked about Mock Elections that are done in schools, and how they are held, so that we can see who the students would choose if they were 18, and could vote.

Now keep in mind at this point we had not mentioned a candidate by name in at least 20 minutes, because we were focusing on the process, not this particular lesson.

Then I gave a personal example (that whole personal connection thing that everyone is sooooooo big on.)

In 2000 Kelsey was able to vote in the mock elections for the first time.

When we got home that night we were talking about the voting process and how she got to vote.

Then Kelsey asked me who I voted for (at the time we were overseas, and I had voted weeks prior).

I asked her who she voted for.

Her reply was George.

When I asked her why she chose George (thinking that the teachers must have done a lesson on what each candidate stood for, or something).

Now here I stopped my story and asked my class if they could think of why a second grader would vote for someone named George. I had about 8 of my students start singing the same thing as Kelsey:

Kelsey's answer was, "You know mom, because of George, George of the Jungle, Watch Out for That Tree!!!" Sung in perfect tune.

My students all seemed to get a kick out of why Kelsey chose her choice when she was about the same age as what they are now.

I had 3 different parents call the superintendent and tell him that I said that Senator Obama, wrote George of the Jungle, and/or that I was calling Senator Obama Mickey Mouse.

When I had to sit down with the superintendent and explain my actions and my choice of words, I was dumbfounded and hurt beyond belief that someone would think such a thing.

Like I told him (bawling, mind you), I didn't even think about the George of the Jungle song in connection with Obama, because it was done at a different time in the lesson. PLUS when I think of George of the Jungle, I think of Brendon Fraiser, or the little cartoon guy, who is far from being African in decent.

His answer was that they said I was either saying he wrote the song, or that I was saying he was straight out of the jungles. Which just floored me, because, I don't think that way, I just don't.

The Mickey Mouse comment, he wouldn't even let me defend. He told me that I lied to my students. Because Mickey isn't running. Never had that problem before, every other election I have been praised for working to keep my opinions from influencing my students choices. But this one I guess I should have just told them it was none of their beeswax.

What makes me laugh (now several days later, because goodness knows earlier this week, I cried every time I thought about it,) is that if I was referring to Obama as Mickey Mouse (as I was accused of doing), shouldn't that be a good thing in these peoples minds?

Because shouldn't they take it as I am voting for him?

I mean really people you can't have it both ways.

So now, I fear that everything I do is going to be looked at under a microscope.

Even though I was assured that the superintendent and the principal both understand that I didn't do any of this in a purposefully derogating manner, and that nothing more would come out of it.

Its just a feeling I have, especially after the football game tonight, where I was ignored by the superintendent, when before he went out of his way to say hi.

Needless to say, something that should be a great teaching point, is now a totally taboo talking point in my classroom. I am not sure how we are even going to do social studies until after the election at this point, because so much of the standards for third grade work with the election process.

And the honest truth is that I don't know who I am going to vote for yet. I have a basic idea, based on certain things, but I do not know 100% yet. I am watching the CBS evening news because of the "things you need to know" segment that they have started.
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