Monday, May 19, 2014

The Crazy Witch at the Silver Birch Ceremony


That was the sound of last week flying by. I was only at my school teaching for a day and a half, due to leadership workshops, circulation system reviews, and the awesome Festival of Trees at Harbourfront. I debated long and hard with myself about what I wanted to reflect on here on the blog and I finally decided on a second-hand insult.

One of my students loves the Forest of Reading so much that he read from four different lists (Silver Birch Express, Silver Birch Fiction, Silver Birch Non-Fiction, and Red Maple) and used his birthday money to pay to go on both trips - the Red Maple Awards ceremony on May 14 and the Silver Birch Awards ceremony on May 15. He'll also be attending both our local Red Maple Marketing Campaign / Celebration on May 21 and our local Silver Birch Quiz Bowl Competition / Celebration on June 12. He had a fantastic time at Harbourfront but was really shocked by something he witnessed and he felt the urge to report this to me and every teacher at our school that he saw last week.

2014 Red Maple Awards ceremony at Harbourfront

The authors on stage during the Festival of Trees thank many people and groups during their short time at the microphone. I can't remember exactly who it was during the Red Maple Awards that asked all the teacher-librarians to stand up and be recognized - it may have been Ted Staunton. I stood up, hooting and hollering, and my student was aghast to hear a student from another school in the audience look in my direction and comment, "crazy witch".

How do you adequately respond to a story like that? My student was so flabbergasted that he told the same story to me twice.

"He called you a crazy witch!"

The second time he recounted it, I told him that it wasn't so horrible. After all, at the time I had inch-long fingernails painted black, my hair (red on top, white on the bottom) was tied in knots with Popsicle sticks sticking out the tops, and I was yelling "WOOHOO" and making "raise the roof" actions with my hands. Combine this with my smiley-eye wrinkles and Roman nose and I could see why this connection may have been made. This isn't the image of a typical school librarian. Just like women who are told they are too bossy, or sexual minorities reclaiming the term queer, I could accept and re-appropriate the insult - witches are powerful females!

Selfie taken with the awesome Leslie Holwerda from Peel DSB
But I have to wonder if my reaction was the "right" one that my student wanted or needed to hear. Did he need me to share his dismay? Did he need me to be outraged? Should I have suggested things he could have said or done in my defense? Should I have examined his response to the overheard mutter as a teachable moment for handling bullying? I'm just not sure.

I'm old enough now, with skin thick enough to withstand the unkind words of young strangers, that moments like that didn't ruin my day ... but it did make me think about my reaction to my own student. What would you have said or done in my situation?

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