Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Like lambs to the slaughter...
For the past month and a bit, once a week I have been running an after-school basic digital literacy class. It is doubtful that the irony of me, an example of computer-ineptness at its finest, actually teaching anything to do with those plastic boxes is lost on anyone, least of all myself, but here we are. So far it has been going really well. The size of the group varies from week to week, sometimes upwards of thirty, others closer to three. Although I am fully aware that teachers – like parents – are not supposed to have favorites, I may have a few of my own. The computer class is composed of students from a variety of classes and grades, including each of mine.
Three young men from my Grade 11 class are the most consistent attendees of the computer class, all very eager and keen to learn as much as possible in the computer class, just as they are in English class as well. In the lesson where we set up email addresses they could not stop smiling. These three may be my favorites.
Last week was the last week of school before break, and as the norm, a notoriously low-attendanced time of the year. The turnout for the class was meager, more specifically, my three little stars were there alone. As the computer lab we usually have used was being renovated in preparation its big unveiling later in the week (more on that to follow), and students were writing an exam in the other, I opted to use an empty classroom and to change the lesson plan somewhat.
Earlier in the week, one of these three students had asked me for help with his CV. So we sat down and talked curriculum vitae. As none of them have ever had a job before, there was not much to list in that department. When we came to volunteer work, they were equally at a loss. I asked they what did when they weren’t at school. Other than watch TV, they said they played sports, and participated in their youth groups. I asked if any of them coached sports, and what sort of youth groups they were part of. One of them did indeed coach a sports team and all three were involved in youth groups related to their churches.
The conversation then snowballed into a particularly interesting discussion on religion. All three young men are Christian, though each belongs to a different denomination, none of which I had heard of before. Not wanting to pry, I asked very surface-level questions about their beliefs, and let them tell me what they wanted to. They asked me about my beliefs, and what church I belonged to. I told them that while I have been baptized as a Roman Catholic, growing up and today my church attendance has been generally limited to the big holidays (much to my devoutly religious Grandmother’s chagrin).
Then they asked me about religion in Canada, and the role it plays in people’s lives. As previously mentioned, religion has a large role of the day to day lives of the communities in which my students and colleagues live, with Christianity being the overwhelmingly dominant faith.
I talked about the religious diversity of Canada and in particular Toronto, and how we have such a cornucopia (say it with me now – cor-nu-co-pia) of people of different beliefs living together.
‘So Miss, you wouldn’t ever slaughter a sheep to celebrate an important event?’ They asked me next.
I attempted to broadly explain the Western world’s take on this sort of thing (the physical slaughter of animals for religious or cultural purposes, not to be confused with those animals who are slaughtered for human consumption, particularly on religious holidays - although in writing this now I find myself confused as to why and how the two differ). I also touched on groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and the importance of respecting the laws of the land. This then bled into an analogy on Female Genital Mutilation being practiced in Canada by Sudanese immigrants and the uproar that it created. Little did I know at the time that none of them were familiar with what FGM is. Oops.
In any case, the conversation was an interesting reminder of some of the stark cultural differences that exist between their lives and my own, or more specifically the social/religious mores and attitudes that are commonplace in and unique to each of our home environments.
Oh and I received an invitation to the next sheep-slaughtering ceremony that any of them attend.