OBSERVATIONS · slice of life

“Those kids” were my kids so don’t tell me they’re unmotivated.

I scheduled the MRI after the EMG* since so I could “relax.” But I didn’t fall asleep in the MRI and it had nothing to do with the banging and clanging.  It was because of what she said.

It started off as the usual banter.

“What do you do?” she asked.

“I’m a literacy consultant and a writer.”

“What do you write?”

“I’m writing my second book for teachers about using children’s literature to help kids write better.”

“I bet that’s needed!” she said.

“I suppose so,” I replied.

“My daugher is a 4th grade teacher in Miami,” she paused.  “Hang your arm down so I can find your vein.”  

She began poking around.  Once she found one I asked, “How long has she been teaching?” 

“Four years.”

“Does she like it?”

“Well, the kids don’t work hard.”

“Oh?” I asked.

“Yeah, they’re from South American countries and they’re completely unmotivated. A little alcohol and then you’re going to feel a pinch.”

I felt the coolness rub across my skin.  I wanted to respond to the outrageous statement she just made, but then the needle went in.  

Just like that a horrible statement was spewed and the IV for the contrast was started.  The tech applied the paper tape and I tried to think of the best response.  Should I start with “Maybe your daughter isn’t making instruction relevant for the children” or “Do you realize what a hateful thing you just said?  I taught in the inner city and I find your comment lacking in consideration for the children and their families.”  

Before I could decide, she loaded into the MRI for the scan.  It took everything I could muster not to grit my teeth because “those kids” used to be my kids.  Sure I came across unmotivated kids during my years in the classroom, but the majority of my students wanted to do learn and to make something of themselves.  I detest the stereotyping of children and people from other countries as “unmotivated.”  That kind of world view frustrates me to no end.

*= Today’s tests are an effort to figure out if I’m suffering from cubital tunnel-only or something more.

15 thoughts on ““Those kids” were my kids so don’t tell me they’re unmotivated.

  1. That is frustrating! We don’t have many immigrants in our area, but the few I have taught have been among my hardest workers. I do deal with the stereotypes about families living in poverty. “Those” parents do care about their kids and their kids’ education, but they aren’t always able to come to scheduled school functions. It’s hard to take off work if it endangers your job or to find time to supervise homework when you are working 2 or 3 or more jobs just to survive.

  2. Ugh. I’ve heard people say things like this for many years, and I always respond just like you did, Stacey. “Those kids” is code for a type of close minded dimwittedness I find appalling. I would have been very rude to this technician, I am afraid…

  3. I can imagine how outraged you felt. How insensitive and unknowing that remark was. Arrgghhh.
    I’m excited about your second book! And will you be at June Writing Institute?

  4. “Unmotivated” is a phrase that I detest. I find it to be a pet phrase used by school or teacher unable/unwilling to look at practices/ assumptions/ that may be getting in the way for a child. one of my soap box triggers! I can so relate to your frustration here.

  5. External blaming is “SO” easy and “SO” harmful! I’m offended on behalf of my nephews in school in Florida. It has nothing to do with “those” kids and everything to do with “these are my kids” and the growth mindset that I am literally going to “move mountains in order to provide the experiences that they need to be successful”!

    When the kids “don’t get it”, it IS my job to figure out a different way, problem solve with a colleague or two, and begin again with enthusiasm and a “can do” attitude with ALL my students!

  6. Lumping kids in to any group and drawing a conclusion about them is woefully unfair, lazy, and insensitive. It makes me mad too. We all teach “those kids” and you know what? “Those kids” deserve better that silly stereotype. Thanks for standing for something.

  7. Who among us has never heard those words…”Those kids”? They are bad enough when they come from the general population, but I have also heard educators utter them as well. My thought has always been, “Then why are you a teacher if that is your attitude?”

  8. Oooh, this ELL teacher needs to go put in her anti-teeth-grinding device NOW! Those kids are my kids, and this is why I teach them. When I got this job last year, I was shocked and saddened by how disengaged my HS ELLs were, and I have worked nonstop for two years to change that. They need love, understanding, and meaningful work that empowers them. When they get that, they flourish. They are such amazing kids!!!

    Thank you for this post, Stacey! Obviously we need to speak up more about this issue.

    (I hope you’re feeling better and they’re able to find what’s wrong!)

  9. That happened to me at the salon, so I found another person to cut my hair. And it happened to me during a pedicure. She kept talking about how “they” (teachers) don’t do things the right way. It’s hard to know how to respond though! If I respond, will I just feed into the belief that we all suck?

    Hope you get arm answers soon!!

  10. So glad you shared, and now it’s time for a book with chapter after chapter telling of all “those” kids who are working so hard. It was a tough situation for you while doing a procedure. Maybe you could file a complaint?

  11. I’m always happy when I see a news segment on “those kids” because “those kids” mean something and are important. I don’t know about you, I get so tongue tied when I hear those comments because I don’t know whether I want to yell, try to persuade and rationalize or cry to the commenters!!!

  12. It’s terrible to hear anytime, but your particular situation made it even worse. “Those kids” are “my kids” and they are here with their families seeking the bright hope that the USA at its best has to offer…they can be the most motivated students of all!

    Hope the test provides needed answers…and that the next time you need a test, you will be taken care of by a kind and more positive person!

  13. Comments like this always bother me too – so shortsighted. One time a teacher had just told me that the challenge with a particular class was that “no one has ever held them accountable”. When I asked academically or behaviorally, she said both. Then in strolled some of my former students from two different schools and my hunch was confirmed that the statement was inaccurate. To top it off, and this still makes me smile, one of my students said hi to me from across the room as he was walking in, and the teacher said, “Oh, you know her?” He responded something like, “Yes, she taught me everything I know,” which was hilarious because I knew that the program labeled some target students as “instructional casualties”. It is so hard to think about some of the programs and assumptions that impact students.

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