I often work late at school and my desk is somewhat out of sight so I sometimes overhear students talking about things Not Meant for Teacher Ears. Usually this merely piques my anthropological interest. Occasionally, however, I overhear something that requires intervention. Or not. Consider a recent incident:
My grading trance is interrupted by an unknown boy saying sarcastically to another, “Your hair looks like Ethiopia!” Sigh… I’m not sure what this means, but it can’t be good — somewhere on the spectrum from ignorantly inappropriate to overtly racist. The student repeats it, louder, “Seriously, your hair looks like ETHIOPIA!” The other student makes an unintelligible, but baffled-sounding response, while I get up and head to the commons with my stern face. As I round the bend, he repeats it a third time, “Your hair really looks like Ethiopia…” I’m surprised to see a seventh grader who didn’t strike me as the type to say this sort of thing — he’s a sophisticated, culturally sensitive boy. I open my mouth, preparing to Summon him to a Conversation, when he continues, “…see, it’s kinda round here and has a thing sticking out on the right, just like we learned in geography!” I close my mouth and they walk onward, discussing the shape of Ethiopia and other nearby countries.