Thursday, December 07, 2006

Teaching a cultural lesson

I've shared with you how I love doing the 3 comment / 2 question letter with kiddos whenever I can. It's now a staple in my day with kids 9 and older. I've done it 5 times, and I am starting to be able to predict the questions that the kids will have.

it is interesting how the questions and comments vary from the kids aged 9 to the kids aged 11. I had the 11 year olds (Year 6, we'd call the 5th graders) this week, and my lesson went according to plan. Their letters were VERY well written (I only asked for 5 sentences, for God's sake, they better have been written well). They were very interesting to read, more interesting than the younger kids' were. They had good grammar and thoughtful insights. Mostly.

Kids at this age have a natural tendency to want to be funny. Or repeat what they've heard without understanding why. It's how they learn about the world. Often they listen to it from their parents, then try it out their opinions on their friends (or substitute teachers) to cull out what is real and what is not. Unfortunately, though, they can be a bit offensive, insensitive, and opinionated about things in which they have little conceptual understanding.

So today, instead of sharing the lists of comments and questions, I'd instead like to share a few answers I shared to the questions they asked in their letters, and how I was (hopefully) able to change a few opinions.

1. "No. To be honest, I really don't care for President Bush. I did not vote for him, and I wouldn't vote for him. But, I have to respect him as my leader, because he has a really big job to do. It's very much how many of your parents do not agree with Helen Clark or many of the things she does, but they still have to respect her, as she is the Prime Minister. Really, no politician EVER has 100% of public support, and he/she has to do the best job possible, usually against all odds and opinions. So please keep that in mind before you speak poorly of a public official, of any country, in the future."

2. 'John, I know you were trying to be funny when you used the word 'kamakazied' to describe the fall of the Twin Towers, but I want you to really think about that. Many thousands of people died when the Twin Towers fell, and I doubt that any of their families would consider kamakazie to be an appropriate word for the destruction of buildings and lives that took place. I was not personally affected by the event, but as an American, or as a human for that matter, I was hurt that people would ever think taking down two buildings full of innocent people would be the answer to a solution, and I think the event deserves a little more of your respect than using the word 'kamakazie.' Please be more considerate in the future."

3. "Alice, you are very opinionated, and I respect that from you. I think it's interesting that you wrote 'I don't think it's America's fault, I think it's George Bush's fault.' You seem to be very knowledgeable about the world and what is going on. But I would say to you that in every case, when a big country goes in to help a smaller country, their intentions are always the best. But, that role of helper is a complicated one, and your efforts do not always go as planned. Nobody, not even George Bush, wants lives to be lost, but at the cost of winning something greater, and potentially making the world a better place, a good try is necessary. Thank you for your thinking, though, you obviously are a well thought out individual. Nice work."

4. "Yes! I DO love Reese's Pieces!"

5. "Felix, I am barely going to waste my breath on your paper. Your fast food restaurants in New Zealand have picture menus on them. It has NOTHING to do with how stupid people are. It has to do with advertising and marketing, and helps people who speak different languages understand what they might be looking for. And to be honest, I have been in Auckland long enough to see that there are just as many obese people here, probably more. The only reason it seems like Americans are fatter is because there are more of us to fill that role. But I see heaps of children each day after schools at the dairy and chippie shops buying lollies and pies to eat as an after school snack, which is NOT something that happens in America. Please think more carefully about your own environment before you try to be the joker and offend mine." (In response to the following comment: 'In America there are lots of big, fat people and the menus for some fast food places have pictures because heaps of people are stupid and cant read. And George Bush is stupid and will blow up the world...')

6. "No, we don't paint the inside of ketchup bottles red so that people think they're full all of the time (laughing). But we do have 57 varieties of Heinz ketchup. Can you beat that?"

My favorite line of the day:
My sister wants to go to America because she says she wants to meet Avril Lavigne. I think even if she did go there she probably wouldn't know where Avril Lavigne was.

Please tell me I'm making a difference here?

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