Students – Stereotypes, Perception and Reality

It is hard sometimes to not fall into the stereotype trap.   I do, in my “politically incorrect world,” believe that stereotypes are at times well earned, well deserved and often times predictive not as an absolute truth but  as one more piece of information. Having said that and upset many of you I also  realize that  a stereotype is a generalization and generalizations by their very nature are almost always false.  Unfortunately each of above sentences  are themselves generalizations and you are left to draw your own conclusions as to their truth value.

One of the life and educational lessons that is not taught in college, on TV or growing up in a white bread neighborhood, like I did, has to do with the differences between perception, appearance and reality.

One beautiful cool spring day  I was walking behind a high school kid towards the main entrance of a high poverty middle  school. As I walked behind him I was thinking to myself, “ look at that piece of work.” His appearance was almost perfectly conformed despite his attempt to visually scream non-conformity.  I was thinking that his appearance was that of a gang- banger, classroom destroyer, office bait and future drop out. His pants were around his knees 12 inches of underwear showing and enough room between his butt and his belt to park a Volkswagen. He had an oversize jersey, gold chains, a hat with a long wide flat bill perched sideways over his expensive sun glasses, topped off or if you prefer bottomed off with oversized baggy pants and huge half laced tennis shoes. When we got to the school door he paused, stepped back and held it open for me, while he turned and said with a genuine smile, “nice day isn’t it.” A simple lesson but one I have never forgotten. A lesson that now never fails to appear to me when dealing with stereotypes and non-conforming parents and kids.


About safrisri

I was a school teacher until retirement. I have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. Now I'm the guy sitting on the porch with an opinion on everything.
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