Tuesday: Like all good middle schools, we constantly educate our kids on how to be kind to each other. In response to some recent bullying incidences, a teacher produced a wonderful activity for a grade level meeting of 120 students. They shook hands with 10 kids with whom they have never eaten lunch. The activity went beautifully. The whole idea was to foster inclusiveness and acceptance of everybody in our community. The kids felt good and there was a lot of laughter and friendliness. Ten minutes remained, and the teachers opened up the floor to “What’s on your minds?”
There was, of course, the continual commentary on the food. Then one kid, who happens to be a minority, (you’ll see why this is important), said something that some kids chuckled at. He then shouted, “And today, Minecraft ENDS!” The students erupted with applause and laughter. The teachers quieted the group and swiftly pointed out what the boy had just done; he single-handedly undid everything the group had just accomplished. He used his “power” to single out a minority (the geeky kids) to be targeted and picked on. Please read on…
When I was first told about this, I immediately felt for the dozen or so kids that play the game in the grade. Then I began to realize what this boy had really done. Is this any different from if someone had stood up and said “Today, ____ ends!”? (Fill in the blank with any minority group/interest you wish.) Maybe yes. Maybe no.
An apology should be in order. Written. No, maybe to the class. Maybe at assembly. I don’t know. We have a diversity mission statement at Brentwood School:
Brentwood School embraces diversity and inclusivity as essential to a full education, and is committed to creating an environment that fosters openness and acceptance. The school recognizes multiple dimensions of culture, including but not limited to: age, ethnicity, family structure, gender identity, geographic origins, multiple learning styles, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.
Does this comment violate our diversity mission statement? My thoughts began to race. My son plays Minecraft. Was he being teased at school or would he begin to shy away from the game because of this comment? I was thinking about how other students might have felt. I began to boil. Then I realized that this boy had insulted me and that I was part of this minority. Does he realize that he insulted a teacher that offers an Exploratory activity in Minecraft. Most likely not. Does he even know what the game is? Probably not. Should he be transferred to the Exploratory for a period of weeks or months to learn the game and become familiar with whom and what he targeted and insulted. Maybe. It might happen. If it does, will I embrace him and forgive him as he joins our group and learns the game? Absolutely!
Wednesday: I didn’t sleep very well last night. Found myself going over the comment in my head again and again. I subtly asked my son about the meeting; he mentioned the comment but didn’t seem too bothered by it. Was I making too much of this?
I arrived at school. Taught two classes. Walking around the pool patio during break, the following scene caused my walk to stop and my heart to leap.
Four “geeky kids” gathered around the “Today, Minecraft ends!” kid teaching him how to play the game. How this happened, I wasn’t sure, but I knew something powerful was occurring. They were playing Minecraft again at lunch.
Thursday: The student had signed up for another Exploratory but for some reason today it was not meeting. He and one of his new geeky friends asked to join my Minecraft Exploratory. Of course. After several minutes, I found myself helping the student to learn the game. He was so polite, and he was definitely enjoying playing.
Concluding Thoughts: Minority groups are based on many qualities. In this situation a common interest in a computer game created the minority. And why are minority groups targeted for ridicule or bullying? One word: ignorance. Constantly educating kids to be kind is worthwhile, but dispelling the ignorance is most effectively achieved when precipitated by an authentic event, experience or transgression. Sometimes, you have to fall to a new low to reach a new height.
On a different note, I am now even more determined to provide a safe place for the “geeky kids,” to be, to play and to explore their interests.
And I thought I was just getting into Minecraft.
Thanks for reading.