While progressing through my MA studies, I met with a young woman (I do not denigrate her youth, for she is only one decade younger than I am, but her outlook and attitude certainly were “youthful”) whose open expression of her life experiences affected me quite deeply. She was born and raised in Utah; her mother was of the White Earth Nation and her father a White Euro member of the Church of LDS.
She is, to say the least, very bright. With an undergrad degree and an MA, for a number of years she taught at a charter school in Salt Lake City. She is currently a 2-L at MSU College of Law working toward a JD, seeking certification in “Indigenous Law”.
Her interest in me focused on my two decades of experience practicing law, while my interest in her was upon her heritage and teaching experience. She had, while teaching civics and social science classes played “Stand on the Line” with her adolescent students. The majority of her students came from less-than-average income households and further included a fair number of youths recovering from domestic violence, substance abuse and other problems.
The students that played the game, at least by way of ‘anecdotal evidence’, showed improved academic performance and, at least as important, had moderated some of their behaviors.
“Stand on the Line” is a simple-yet-complex game. She would start the day by asking her students to “Stand on the Line” with her, a line actually drawn on the floor. “Whoever had breakfast this morning, come stand on the line”… some students would get up and stand on the line with her. “Whoever did their homework last night, come stand on the line”… students would shift places.
After a bit, her students began to express agency and started asking their fellows to “come stand on the line” with them. Many matters arose. Some were nice. Others were, well, not so much.
- Seen a drug deal going down? Come stand on the line.
- Been called a ‘nigger’?* Come stand on the line.
- Been beaten up? Come stand on the line.
- Seen someone shot? Come stand on the line.
For the life of me, despite all the good intentions of policy makers, the public, parents and teachers, I think that the most important issues are missed in their entirety when it comes to the subjects of ‘the children’ and ‘education’ – there are few who are willing, or able, to “Stand on the Line” with the students.
* I know the “N word” is offensive, but saying “N word” does not carry the impact of the word itself. As an attorney who has represented clients the epithet/lable has been applied to, I know it is very real, and is used much more frequently than many would prefer.