While reading the text book this past week as well as during the in-class discussion, I was struck by the reference to the graduate class that set out to improve the world and do good by entering the inner-city in order to ‘make a difference’ in the lives of the underprivileged. They were surprised, I’m sure, when the people they thought they were helping turned out to not want their help at all- and even asked them to not return. This must have been discouraging, I can imagine- wanting to make a difference but having your best efforts rejected. Might have even been enough to make them even question the point of all their efforts. If the people don’t want help, then why waste time and energy on something that is not going to make a difference anyway? This would be an easy conclusion to draw. But then I have to think about it from the perspective of those in the city who were trying to be ‘saved’ by these privileged students (This is an assumption on my part; I don’t know the background for any of these students so I don’t want to assume incorrectly…however, I do know that they at least had the privilege of attending a not-so-inexpensive university such as SU). When looking at it from that perspective, the implication is that the lifestyles of those in the city are so inadequate and that they need someone to come in and improve them. I can see how that might be a little off putting. It involves the assumption that their lives are inferior. And so I can begin to understand their attitude of not wanting the student’s help a little more clearly. Its not that I think the SU professors and students were wrong in wanting to help- they saw a need and wanted to make a difference! But I think it is how the issue is approached that makes the difference. Instead of entering the situation with the mindset that something must be fixed because it is broken; how much better it is to enter and ask ‘what can be done to help?’ Ask the question, ‘what am I capable of, that you WANT me to do?’ This is something one might do for a friend, which is a genuine sentiment that may be easily translated. I think this might create a much more positive relationship, which might actually have the potential of making a difference.
I’m in the school media program, and so, naturally was attempting to do some applying of this concept to my own life. My mother works in a city school, and so I hear plenty of stories about unruly students who just don’t want to behave or learn. The majority of classroom time is not spent on teaching, but rather on attempted behavior management. Similarly, it would be so easy for teachers to ask, ‘why put forth wasted effort, when it is not going to make a difference for these kids anyway?’ But I’m trying to put myself in these kids shoes; and their impression of the teachers that are drilling them all day…instead of ‘how can I, as a teacher improve their lives,’ I want to ask, ‘How can I, as a friend, help them?’ I’m going to think on this- if I come up with any sensational ideas I will be sure to post them accordingly!