There has been a lot of money spent in our schools on programs that are supposed to help us help our kids develop character. What I believe is that we have to demonstrate those traits in which we feel will best serve our children and our world. We have to believe that our kids have these traits within them, and then provide opportunities for them to reach within themselves to question, find and hone their own character. One way this is done is through teachable moments…
I was talking to some students at one of the middle schools I serve, and this was thrown smack dab into the middle of the conversation. (I think it might have been of those “let me see what this woman is really about” moments teenagers often use to test the authenticity of adults).
Kid #1: You know he’s uh… gay, right? (He and the rest of the kids snicker).
Kid # 2: So, you think it’s OK for him to be that way? (laughing, looking me straight in the eye).
Me: Why not? It’s OK for me to be THIS way and for you to be who you are, isn’t it?
Kid #1: So, that means you must LIKE gay people! (They all laugh)
Me: Absolutely! (Laughter stops. Mouths agape.)
Kid # 3: For real?!!!
Me: Yup! I like people. Gay, straight, black, white, male, female…
Kid#1: So, you’re saying you don’t care about none of that stuff… even if it’s wrong.
Me: I don’t think a person can be wrong if they’re being who they are meant to be, do you? I mean… just a few years ago, some people would have said that all of us (black people) were “wrong”… or less than white people, right? (Long silence)
Kid#2: Well, he IS nice.
Kid #1: Yup! Never done nothing to me!
Kid #1: Don’t matter that he’s gay. Right?
Kid #2: Yup.
Kid # 3: Don’t mean we’re gay just because we like a gay dude, right?
Kid# 1: Nope. He’s just people…
I slowly withdrew myself from the conversation, trusting that they would make of it what they needed.
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