Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Break! Also, Bragging about My Students.

And not a moment too soon! The kids and I were all getting tired and cranky.

I must say that I have been very proud of my kids for the past few weeks. We have been doing our drama unit, which in the eighth grade means reading "The Diary of Anne Frank." This text is often the introduction of empathy for a lot of young people, because it is so mind-blowing a premise. I can almost literally watch them realizing: There were people, in recent enough history that my teachers can talk about their grandparents' experiences, that wanted to kill other people -- even KIDS -- because of the 'church' they attended. (The town I teach in is not religiously diverse at all. Everybody goes to the same church, therefore religion = church.) But you can't save yourself by changing your church, because the people who wished to kill you were after your whole 'race.' And, unlike the movies and the church stories they are accustomed to hearing/seeing, Good didn't win. Not really. Millions of innocent people were tortured and killed before this evil was stopped. It's terrifying.

In the past, I've had some students who handled the terror by distancing themselves from the people being oppressed, but this year with the help of Eve Bunting and Martin Niemoeller the students were able to see the danger in that tactic.

My students have been fascinated, and terrified, and really INFURIATED about what happened to Anne Frank and the other residents of "the annexe," and about what happened to the other children in Europe. They have demanded to know why the US government didn't save Anne and Peter and Margot, where the hell the international community was while this was going on.

When they asked me to reassure them that genocides are relics of the past, and I told them I couldn't do that, they started looking up recent genocides.

They have started watching the news to make sure the US is "doing the right thing" in other cases of oppression, and almost started a protest march on DC regarding the situation in Libya.

They have netflixed movies and watched PBS and read online articles and gone to the Holocaust Memorial Museum with their parents on the weekend and researched Nazis and Jewish history (They have a thing for the maccabbees ever since Act 1, Scene 5.), and all this without my asking them to do any of it. So that every day, at least one of my students will come in with something to teach me about the Holocaust.

They have been just amazing.