Name Calling


The field trip went better than I expected, though that’s not to say that it wasn’t without its own brand of drama and excitement.  One thing in particular stood out as a spectacular little bit of teenage dumbassery.

I’ve got two kids (and yes, they were two of MY kids, from MY class, not my colleague’s).  One of them is a gay boy who we’ll call Ben for our purposes here.  The other is transgender, female to male, who’s just recently come out and requested that the school refer to him by masculine name and pronouns; we’ll call him Mitch.  I wouldn’t point these identification details out under normal circumstances, but they are important to the story.

My colleague, Mrs. D.,  had wandered over to where these two kids were because another boy near them was putting his feet on the furniture.  While she was over there, she noticed that Ben’s drawing book had something written on it that seemed to be making another boy – we’ll call him Jon – uncomfortable.  When my Mrs. D. got up to get a closer look, Ben snapped his tablet shut and tried to cover by talking to Mitch.

Later, she found Ben and confronted him about what was in the notebook.  Ben denied it several times, but Mrs. D. wasn’t giving in.  Eventually, he ‘fessed up and showed her the page, on which was written “Jon’s gay!” with little stars and swirls.  It was clearly written in Mitch’s handwriting, but it was in Ben’s tablet.  Mrs. D. took the page and scolded the kids, telling them that there will be consequences at school when we returned.

Now, here’s the thing; Jon IS gay.  That’s not particularly secret, and I’m expecting that the kids didn’t consider that their calling him so would have upset him.  It DID upset him, though, and they seemed all the more intent on showing him the page when they saw that it did.

I understand that kids tend to prey on those they feel are somehow “less” than they are, even and especially kids who feel marginalized themselves.  What happened on the trip yesterday was completely unacceptable, however, and I came to school this morning with the intent of taking these two kids aside and reminding them that CHS is a safe place for all students – and that it’s not just the grown-ups who bear the responsibility for making it so.  Both of them are absent today, though (coincidence?  I wonder…), so they didn’t get my all-school, morning meeting speech about the power of language and how we are responsible for the work our words do when we send them out.

I hope they understand that their being out today won’t get them out of this with me; of all the people in the school, these two – who’ve been shown nothing but acceptance and kindness here – have no business making someone else feel left out.



Filed under colleagues, compassion and cooperation, concerns, dumbassery, failure, Gay/Straight Alliance, student chutzpah, You're kidding...right?

4 responses to “Name Calling

  1. magicalmysticalteacher

    Primer Lesson

    Look out how you use proud words.
    When you let proud words go, it is
    not easy to call them back.
    They wear long boots, hard boots; they
    walk off proud; they can’t hear you calling—
    Look out how you use proud words.

    —Carl Sandburg, American poet and essayist, 1922

  2. I’m having conversations with my 14 year old on this very subject about how much words can really hurt. We don’t like being on the receiving end, so let’s not be on the giving end.

    I’ve noticed how often kids these day use the word gay, “that’s so gay, gay much?” Is it my imagination or is it more prevalent.

  3. MMT, exactly. I’m going to be seriously less poetic, though…

    Seester, it’s a BIG deal. My sister, who happens to be gay, says “that’s so gay” all the time, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

    Joe, I know it, huh?

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