Saturday, September 17, 2005

debate diary: teacher's pet

On Thursday, I met with the teachers at De La Salle Education Center, to fill them in on my plan to start a debate program there. We gathered in the library. I was pleased to see that more than a few of them were white, somewhat old and, by all appearances, not particularly cool. Pleased because I've really been stressing about whether or not I'll able to connect with the kids. So when I saw all these old white people fairly nicely, I though a'ight, a'ight.

What was cool about the meeting was that there seemed to be no concer whatsoever about decorum and protocal. It was decidedly unbureaucratic. Which is why I chose to approach De La Salle about starting this thing. I steared clear of Kansas City School District schools because I know that it's entirely bureaucratic, that protocol and hierarchies and protection of the system trump all.

So I started telling the teachers what I had in mind, making a concerted effort to tone down my usual radical rhetoric (like, "what I want to do is take these kids out in the 'burbs, have them get in white kids' faces, and tell it like it is"). And right away they got into it and started suggesting alterations to the plan. They said I'd have a hell of a time getting kids to stay after school, that what I'd really need is a class during the school day (which is what I'd been thinking all along). They tossed out ideas. I could team up with a teacher in English and social studies. All the teachers could recruit kids who would get into debate, and they could send them all to a separate classroom to meet with me. These folks were ready to go!

On my way home, I called Jane, the coach at Central, and told her about my experience. She was impressed, and more than a little jealous. At Central, every idea has to be brooded over by handringing administrators. If a decision finally is made, it's got to be documented from all angles in an endless stream of paperwork before it can actually be carried through. But, more often than not, the idea is simply shot down.

I've only been working with high school students for a couple of years now. But it's clear that spontaneaity and adaptability are key to success.

So then yesterday I got a call from the woman I'd been working with at De La Salle. They've got it all figured out. I'll be working with one of their social studies teachers, and she's young and energetic and ambitious like me, and she's just totally pumped about it.

No paperwork, no waiting. Just, here's a here's a challenge, here's good idea. Let's do it.

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