The Perks of Being A (Reformed) Wallflower

The world is a big place, and I always felt so very small.

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Credits for photograph to Samantha Freitag

Not going to lie, I grew up painfully shy. Timid as can be, this particular trait, coupled with a serious case of crying at the drop of a hat, caused me great social anguish early in life. However, now an elementary school teacher, I’ve definitely spanned the full spectrum, from standoffish to…standout? Meaning, I’m basically teaching (shouting) in front of at least 75 to 100 kids per day. Last week, I had an incident with a fourth grade class due to ignorance. The basic thought behind the loud yelling was “You’re not American because you’re Chinese-looking. You look like you’re Asian, so speak Chinese.”

At first, I felt like this after class:

Image via Idealist Career.

Seriously, why? Why were these kids being rude and obnoxious during class, while I’m talking about Thanksgiving? I didn’t do anything to deserve this, etc, [insert self-pitying, exaggerated commentary here.] After venting in a FB status, my friend Matt offered me his own Multicultural America powerpoint as a suggestion to make the situation a teachable moment. Looking through the creative content, I based my own Prezi on his fun “Who is the American?” cultural activity.

Take a look at Multiculturalism in America. Or, if you’re too busy for that (really?), at least take the time to watch this pretty insightful Coke commercial.

After the disconcerting incident at first, I’ve been playing “Who’s the American?” with all my cultural classes in the mornings. They’re learning how not to judge people by the color of their skin, but as MLKJ would say, by the content of their character. It’s been a whirlwind journey, coupled with blood, sweat and tears, but with more than my fair share of laughter and proud Mama moments.

The classes give me so much work to do, but work I embrace with gusto. As crazy as it sounds, I do love these kids who are sometimes rude, but always curious. With speech competition season in full swing, I’ve been writing, editing and rehearsing story speech scripts like the crazy poet lady I was destined to be. I’m looking forward to what else my kids have for me.Whatever it is, I’m ready.

~S.

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