The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference. ---Elie Wiesel
Oh, how I am growing to love Elie Wiesel more and more each and every time I read something by him. I know he's famous for Night but I just started A Mad Desire to Dance and it's phenomenal.
Wiesel gets me fired up, about becoming an educator, a writer, a reader, and an activist. I don't understand how people read what he writes and not be inspired, engaged, and, possibly even a little outraged about what has happened to humanity. Holocaust Lit is wrapping up Night at the moment, and I have been hitting a wall with this class.
Maybe it's the fact that Holocaust Lit is first block, first class in the morning. Maybe it's the fact that I am not as confident as my CT in leading discussions. Maybe the content is just so shocking to these kids. Whatever the reason, I CANNOT get these kids to talk.
I don't want to take their silence as indifference to the subject at hand, but day in and day out, that is what it feels like. I have a handful of kids whom I know I can depend on when the others are not willing to contribute to discussion, but I feel terrible for calling on them when the awkward 45-second silence has taken hold and I feel trapped. I try to call on everyone, but many kids will just sit there and say, "um... I dunno."
How do I cultivate meaningful discussion on a subject that requires activism in a class that has been resistant for an entire term? One student gave a presentation on human trafficking (www.love146.org) and it was completely shocking. Did you know that I-80 is used for mass amounts of human trafficking? I did not. We sat for a full 60 seconds in silence and no one said anything. I called on someone who doesn't normally talk, saying, "what are you thinking about all of this?" and his response was, "I'm thinking about how nobody talks in this class."
Granted, this term is almost over, and a new group of kids will be shuffling in, but I'm wondering what to do if I encounter this again. When we discussed the difference between perpetrators, victims, and bystanders, I introduced the term indifference, asking what it was. And they sat there in silence. I wanted to say, "think about what you're doing right NOW."
I don't think these kids are indifferent. Many of them indicate their understanding through written reflection. Many are brilliant writers. However, trying to lead discussion on a heavy subject when your class won't talk can sometimes be a little nerve-wracking. I hope this is something I just gain with experience.