It’s Not Easy Being Different

ElphabaBy Bill Henk – The proximity in time did it.  That’s what led  me to one conclusion.  And that conclusion led to another and then another and another, finally arriving at teaching and learning.

You see, last Friday and Sunday I enjoyed two entertainment treats — the cute children’s movie entitled “Monsters U” and the truly amazing stage production of “Wicked,” the last show of its Milwaukee run.  (In hindsight it’s kind of interesting that I saw one at a Marcus theater and the other at the Marcus Center. Come to think of it, I also saw John Mayer on Saturday at the Marcus Amphitheater, but I digress).

WazowskiAnyway, it dawned on me that two of the lead characters, would-be scarer Mike Wazowski, and the evolving Wicked Witch Elphaba — both of whom faced major challenges in learning were …well … GREEN.  Mike’s color wasn’t his hurdle; he just wasn’t scary enough.

But being green made everything difficult for the kind, caring, and well-intentioned Elphaba.  Her classmates shunned and marginalized the young girl, her father rejected her, and most of the other characters found her appearance repulsive enough to both avoid and underestimate her.

kermitIn turn, the GREEN theme took me back to the lovable Muppet character, Kermit the Frog, and his song, “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”  At that point, I started to think about other GREEN characters — The Incredible Hulk, The Grinch, and Shrek, and it occurred to me that each one of them had special learning challenges, too.

Why?  Because they were different.

Oh sure, life is good for Gumby and the Jolly Green Giant.  And we even have green heroes and superheroes like Robin Hood, the Green Hornet, The Green Arrow, and Green Lantern.  But basically, as characters go,  it’s not easy being green.  And as learning goes, it’s not easy being Black, as just one powerful example.

And oh sure, your difference could be extreme intelligence or family wealth and privilege.  But more often than not, being different from whatever society deems as normal, puts a student at risk for learning. It could be race or culture or language or country of origin or poverty or personality or  gender or age or appearance.  There’s almost no end to how different children and adolescents might be.

And guess what?  Schools are expected to teach ALL students, and rightly so.  Hispanics, Asians, Middle Eastern, and Native American among many others.  Girls and boys.  Rich and poor.  The linguistically different.  The disabled.    Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Atheists. The well-adjusted and the emotionally distraught. The tall, the short, the skinny, the stout.  The attractive and the unattractive.   The confident and the confused.  The gifted and the challenged.  The popular and the ostracized.

So much for homogeneous grouping.  So much for inclusion.  So much for differentiation.  So much for individualization.

In other words, it’s not easy being a teacher either.  Which is why society would do well to think of them as another kind of superhero, green or not.

green teachers

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