Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Chapter 15: Giving beyond Care: An Exploration of Love in the Classroom

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Chapter 15: Giving beyond Care: An Exploration of Love in the Classroom

Article excerpt

1993: A MIDWEST CITY

A short 25-minute drive from the city where I live to the suburbs leads me to yet another day at Ignatius Jesuit High School, a small school in a Midwest city.

Located in an ever-expanding suburban area, the school serves a predominately white, affluent community. Today, not unlike other days, I arrive a few minutes late to school. There he is, Mr. Bull, waiting with that same contempt in his eyes. "Card!" he barks. I reach for my wallet to take out my demerit card. After five demerits for being late, each additional lateness entitles you to an automatic "JUG," or "Justice Under God," as the Jesuits called it. In these detentions, students must carry out menial tasks such as rewriting the Declaration of Independence or counting from 500 to 0 by subtracting 2 and adding 1, subtracting 2 and adding 1, subtracting 2 and adding 1.... By now, I had done this so many times I was completely numb to it. After giving me yet another late demerit (my 10th), Mr. Bull looks up at me and asks, "Kid, when are you going to learn?" I sigh, shrug it off and go on my way to homeroom. I sit down just in time for Channel One to begin to play. The school had recently received a TV in each classroom in exchange for subjecting us to Channel One for 10 minutes each morning. If I had not been late, I would have heard the morning prayer along with a few announcements. In any case, after a few minutes the bell rang and we moved on to our next classes. Leaving the classroom, I realize that I have Mr. Kenson's class this morning. A sophomore English teacher, Mr. Kenson is by far my favorite teacher at the school. He is a former Jesuit brother who had left the order, but who nonetheless still teaches at a Jesuit high school; and I am grateful for it.

After having been in Mr. Kenson's class for several weeks I had decided to take up poetry writing. Mr. Kenson had spent a great deal of energy teaching us how to write a five-paragraph essay with a thesis statement. I had no difficulties with this, but I was more fascinated by ideas and poetry. Today, after situating myself strategically in the back of the classroom, I open my small spiral notebook and call on the muses. The bell rings and Mr. Kenson launches into a class discussion on The Catcher in the Rye. Somewhere in between discussing Holden's preoccupation with "phonies" and Mr. Antolini's potentially homosexual gestures, the class began to grow tense. Feeling a bit uneasy, I stop writing my poetry. The next thing I know, we enter into a discussion of racism in our school. The student body in this predominantly white school is fairly racist. I am impressed with the way Mr. Kenson tries to connect the readings to things he knew were prominent in our lives. "Do you think racism is a positive or negative thing?" Mr. Kenson asks. Most of the students are either tuning him out or sitting there motionless. I am so unpopular with the students in this class that I try not to speak much. Today, however, I raise my trembling hand: "I think it is wrong to be racist." Not the most popular person in the room, many skeptical eyes turn and look in my direction. A little flicker in Mr. Kenson's eyes is enough to make the risk I had taken worthwhile. "Why do you think it is wrong, Kevin?" I respond, "Black people aren't any different from anyone else; they are human beings like the rest of us," with all of the eloquence of a shy 16-year-old, I continue to say, "I think that people just live out here in the suburbs too long and never get to know anyone who is Black." "Anyone else want to say something?" Mr. Kenson asks. The bell rings again. "Saved by the bell," someone said to my left. I stand up, look Mr. Kenson in the eyes, and go on my way.

INTRODUCTION

It has been close to 14 years since this incident in Mr. Kenson's class, but I still remember it as clear as day. That was the day I made a real and long lasting connection with my sophomore English teacher. …

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