One of my more creative teachers has the habit of sending students one or two at a time to research some topic of interest to them that has come up in class. If I’m not teaching at the time, I will sit down with them and talk through their research goals and help them find reliable sources of information. Often, the topics that come up are current events – last Friday it was the events in Ferguson, Missouri.
Two students walked in while I was meeting with my principal to discuss ideas for celebrating reading as a school. They said they were in the Library to do research on “someplace called Ferguson where a boy got shot last weekend.” The principal very kindly asked them whose class they were from, and after they answered, I explained to the boys that since that was such a current event, we were going to need to look for information on the computer. My principal already had hers out and was typing away looking for sources that were age appropriate. I mentioned that I had read some articles on the NPR web site that were probably accessible and not visually disturbing. Then my next class walked in.
After doing a book talk for an 8th grade circulation group, I went back over to find the principal with the boys on the NPR site looking at the article from Friday morning about the Captain Ron Johnson’s work there the previous evening to help calm the tensions. In retrospect, it was probably the best possible timing for these students to be doing research on this topic. The principal made sure they stayed on articles that outlined the important facts but heavily featured the positive responses from the authorities and the community. I’m not sure what I would have done if those students had shown up today.
What I do know is that I am going to break my usual limit of 4 copies of a book when Coe Booth’s Kinda Like Brothers comes out next Tuesday. You can read my previous review here. There is a chapter in the novel where Jarrett (the main character) sees one of the older boys who attends his community center’s after school activities being harassed by police officers. He and the other younger boys are very disturbed by what they see and bring it up during discussion time. What follows is a very necessary part of life for every young male person of color in our country – the mentor running their discussion group makes them practice exactly how they are to behave when stopped and confronted by police officers. Do I wish it weren’t necessary? Of course. Do I think it will be for some time to come? Yes. I also know that in Ferguson, it probably wouldn’t have helped. How do I explain that?