Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Things I'm Supposed to Learn

by Betsy Love

Many of you know I teach 9th Grade English. What you may not know is I teach predominantly Hispanic kids, most of whom are the children of illegal aliens. Many of them barely speak English, let alone read and write it. Along with their background come challenges that I must cope with on a daily basis. To say that I am struggling this year is an understatement. But for some reason, and I don’t know why, this is where Heavenly Father wants me to be. I know He wants me to learn.

So here is what I’ve learned thus far:

  1. Mexican jokes are only funny when told by a Mexican.

My 4th hour class is my biggest problem and I have to admit, I really don’t like that class on most days. My principal tells us constantly that homeroom is where we are supposed to connect with the students, to get to know them, to like them. As I struggle with the idea of actually liking them, I think to myself, “Why?” They are rude, disrespectful, mouthy, mean, and hateful. I’ve taken it to the Lord and most days I still am thrilled when the bell rings and they are gone, at least for twenty-three more hours. Something happened yesterday that made me appreciate their culture.

One of my Hispanic boys, Jason, came and sat next to me and he began his usual light bantering, which nearly always turns ugly. He asked me, “Mrs. Love, do you like Mexican jokes?” This completely threw me off guard. I’ve certainly heard my share of racial jokes, which for the most part I find offensive.

“I’ve heard a few,” I replied.

“But do you think they’re funny?”

The rest of the class became silent to hear what I have to say. “I don’t tell racial jokes,” I said.

His questioning made me extremely uncomfortable. Then he tells a Mexican joke, which made everyone in the class laugh, including me.

I then said, “See, you can tell a Mexican joke and everyone laughs because you’re Mexican.”

He continued to tell joke after joke—all racial slurs and of course we all laughed. Then he says to me, “Don’t you know any Mexican jokes?”

Smiling, I said. “Yes.”

“Tell it.”

So I did, and it was one of the least offensive ones I could think of. The class laughed except for Jason, who said, “That’s just mean.”

“See,” I said, “you can’t tell Mexican jokes unless you’re Mexican.”

I then shared with the class almost every redneck joke I knew, which kept the class laughing until the bell rang.

So the second thing I’ve learned:

  1. Maybe I can like this class.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks, Betsy. Somewhere I've read, referring to God, "We love Him becuse He first loved us." There has to be a lot of truth in that.

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  2. Wow, Betsy! I like the way you handled what could have been a very volatile situation. You rock!

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  3. Betsy, Sounds like you're sliding up the learning curve with enormous dignity and resolve. Good for you. What a tough job!

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