Helping students

I recently received some correspondence from a second year teacher in a well-respected high school in a fairly wealthy, fairly white town. Her email read, in part, ” My 21st Century Elective English class finishes [Neither Wolf nor Dog] this week, and they’ve grown increasingly cynical and negative–especially toward Dan’s “ranting on white people who’ve never hurt him” (their words). I wanted them to read your particular work once their personal narratives revealed how close-minded and narrow many of their worlds really are. After today, I fear some students have really gotten the wrong message. I’m not sure how to reverse their thinking…”

Any thoughts?

6 thoughts on “Helping students”

  1. By the fact of how we are made, we can only see the world through our own experience. Even one who is sensitive may easily be threaten in their reality by the experiences of another. That is why it is so difficult for each of us to open up to another. While it is unfortunate to hear of young people already locked into a closed way of thinking, it should hardly be surprising. The question is: Is there a way to break down that wall? I don’t know. I suspect one of the hardest things for this teacher was to read ‘Neither Wolf Nor Dog’, be moved by it (as I was), and then find that others to whom the story was related missed the point, or worse didn’t even want to discuss the point. Although it is easier said then done, the best thing (maybe the only thing) for this teacher is to say she did her best and move on. Be honest and continue to show the students the wide variety of experiences the world has to offer, but be prepared that the message will fall on many a deaf ear. That is simply the world we’ve made and with which we must come to terms.

  2. Renee S. Audette

    My first thought was that these are high school students, inherently small and narrow minded, and most of them will outgrow their thinking as they grow and expand their world.

    But then I remembered the small mindedness of the “adults” down here in Texas and Oklahoma. Oklahoma has a large reservation population, and they have grown wealthy from the gambling. The Oklahoma government wants to tax this wealth.

    Yet that is breaking the legal agreements in place between the U.S. government and the reservations. No one cares about what the Indians do until they make money, then they want it. Greed. It never seems to change.

    So be sad that small mindedness will always exist. That “white man’s greed” may always be among us. Dan in “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” was right on the money, even when ranting his point was correct. Indians have suffered appallingly, and continue to suffer, at the hands of the white man. Not much has changed for them.

    R.S. Audette

  3. I agree with the general idea that Dan presents in the book, BUT at some point the blame game/victim mentality of a lot of people, not just the American Indian population has to be rectified if we are to “move on” in our collective consciousness. I think Dan beautifully illustrates this at the end of the book with his words and wisdom and therefore provides what these students seek and what we all may be seeking: forgiveness of wrondoings to many people and healing so we can move forward and grow in a postive way. The book is wonderful in this way and that it makes kids/adults feel uncomfortable is really quite fitting in that they gain another type of perspective. A good lesson that everything is not put in a pretty package all of the time….

  4. Kara Fitzpatrick

    Certain things inspire different people. Although I haven’t yet finished the book “Neither Wolf Nor Dog”, what I have read so far has been eyeopening and inspiring. I find myself reading it and thinking “how could I never have thought about this deeply before”. Of course I had thought about the negative effect of white people on Indians, but some of the points Dan makes are so deep, yet so simple. The conversation between Dan and Kent about whether he likes to be called an Indian or a Native American was one of points. Anyway, as far as the high school kids go, maybe some of the kids were inspired and hid it behind their desire to fit in or may be they are inspired by different things. You can’t force everybody to appreciate every work of art, but if enough people respect and are inspired by that particular piece of art, then it has succeeded.

  5. Whenever I sense indifference or apathy to considering the pain of others I frequently try to hold up a mirror to them with a question, such as, “Can you remember when you were deeply hurt, wronged, or had something of value taken from you?” Most individuals can recall just such a time. Then I ask them how they felt about it, and frequently the response is anger and/or outrage. I remind them that the emotion of anger always has a “cousin” emotion right behind it. That is to say, once they get beyond the anger, usually they are more open to perceiving the cousing emotion accompanying anger. It could be grief, sadness, despair, fear, hopelessness, and a myriad of other human emotions. I would then try and tie that into how Dan felt when he “ranted and raved” about past injustices.

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