My Students are Individuals – Not Stereotypes

stereotypesBy Shannon Bentley – About a week ago, I went to Hamilton High School on the south side of Milwaukee to see who my students were for the first time before I begin student teaching on the 26th of January.

I found out that my classes are filled with a great amount of diversity. I have a good chunk of Latino students, a hint of white students, some Asian students along with Black students, and to my surprise, I have some Middle Eastern students.

The Middle Eastern students caught my attention the most when they first walked in to the classroom speaking their native tongue of Arabic and shooting a beautiful smile at me while saying, “Hi.”

I overheard my cooperating teacher call one of the Middle Eastern students Osama, and I noticed that he didn’t flash a smile at me as I smiled at him.

I know for sure that life is not easy for Middle Eastern students once again in the Western world as the worldly known “terrorists” committed their 12 kills in Paris this past month. I looked at the students and saw children – I didn’t see “terrorists” or any traits that lead to the idea of “terrorism.” They were individually and genuinely kind students who loved getting their teacher’s attention, and I just wondered to myself what they think about being stereotyped as a terrorist?

They are young and English Language Learners, but they still must be aware of what others think of them. Especially with Osama being named after one of the known leaders of Al-Qaeda, I know it is a tough road for him. Understand that as a teacher, you will experience students from all walks of life. These students will be portrayed in the news as stereotypes, but being open-minded about where they come from and understanding their lives will make it easier as a teacher to understand their personal identities.

I believe that my experiences living in the homes of Arabs/Muslims in Morocco for three weeks opened up my mind to realize that they are genuinely kind people despite how the media decides to portray their life. I know that I will find a way to connect with the diversity of my students. It is important to all of them that they are individually recognized and not deemed as stereotypes by someone who does not know them well.

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