We use silent lunch at our school as a consequence for poor behavior. Philosophically, I am still waivering on the merits of this type of system. Professionally, I have learned to rely on it as a motivator for students who need to sit up, shut up, and work.
Today I assigned silent lunch to two of my young men in 3rd block. It was convenient – since that’s our lunch period, I just dropped them off on my way. The teacher who oversees silent lunch is untouchable; think Madea, but better. As I was leaving, one of the boys said to me, “But Mrs. Russ, why are we in here?” To which the silent lunch warden responded:
“Cause you a black male, that’s why. Now sit down and shut your mouth.”
I smiled and shook my head as I left, because I knew what they were doing without having to look back- they were sitting down and shutting their mouths. I also knew that I could never, ever get away with saying anything like that.
I have been reminded countless times over the past four years that I am a young, white female. I cannot do anything about this. But it is useful to know that, even in 2011, there is a collective history that I do not share with my students. The silent lunch warden does, and she speaks to them differently than I do.
There were many days when, before I knew myself as an educator, this angered me. Now I am grateful that I can rely on the strengths of my colleagues, and proud that I have my own history and attitude to bring to the classroom that my students appreciate and respect.