Kings’s blog is full of quirky humour and insight. One post that got me thinking in tangential directions was Thank you for pissing off my teenage daughter . It was an open letter to her 14 year old daughter’s English teacher. As a retired teacher (English/Spe.Ed/Media Literacy), I found it delightfully refreshing in how it both expressed parental concerns and showed a depth of understanding of a teacher’s difficult role in a child/teen’s life. The ironic humour was very effective and the observations were insightful.
Of course it brought up a number of ideas that I would like to address. The first thing that jumped out at me was how her daughter was not allowed into the Honours English and that as a consequence she was in a mix of students whose life/academic goals & classroom behaviour/attitude were disappointing.
Here in Ontario ( Canada), the educational goal/challenge levels currently Academic (University & College), Applied ( College & Workplace), Open, Essential ( Locally Developed) and Life Skills. While a student and their parents are given guidance and suggested educational pathways to choose from, they are free to select their own pathway. This means if you want to take an Academic rather than Applied or the reverse there is nothing preventing you.
Applied students are motivated to succeed and have a wide range of life & educational goals, as they come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. As a consequence, it is more difficult to create a programme that satisfies and engages them all equally. There also tends to be more students within the demographic requiring Special education support, creating even more diversity in learning styles and motivation.
I am not sure of what kinds of choices in educational programme were offered in this situation (American), but from the description of frustrations expressed, I think Vampire Daughter is more Academic oriented than many of her classroom peers. This is challenging both for her and her mother. It will also mean her teacher has a challenge as well in engaging the girl and any other students who are in similar circumstances .
One of the concerns in Juliette Kings’s post was about how her daughter’s reading interest and attire could have been misconstrued by the teacher.
……She reads books about drugs, suicide, cancer and mental illness. These books are dark. These books don’t have happy endings. Nobody celebrates at the end.
Her reading list includes: Go Ask Alice, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Fault in Our Stars. ……………. No doubt you noticed that my kid wears a lot of black and too much black eye liner as well.
Fortunately, this Maman could see both her child’s unease and positive aspect of the teacher’s concern. She responded with a post that acknowledged both the child and the educator as partners with valid issues. She accomplished this with humour and a balanced understanding of her child’s needs and the professional needs/duties of the child’s teacher. Very well done.
This brings me to where education, Media Literacy and Personal Cultural Regions meet – sometimes in an uneasy conversation. We all have our own Personal Cultural Space that we live in. It comes with its own idiolect that we use when expressing our Self to those around us. It includes not just our language(s), vocabulary, gender, age, race, ethnicity and personal interests, values &beliefs, but also our body language including dress, the accoutrements of our daily life ( key chains, wallets, cellphones, tablets, actual printed text, recorded music, vehicles, pets).
As you can see, this Personal Cultural Space is heavily saturated with Mass Media ( both content and devices). We need to keep in mind the Principles of Mass Media when we encounter and interact with others and their Cultural Space. All Mass Media convey intended and unintended messages. Mass Media always has context, but that context may be altered. A team logo or religious symbol has specific meaning for different individuals. In effect, each individual creates/carries context with them, as a part of their own Cultural Space. The transmission of messages has to cross Cultural Spaces that can disrupt context.
When the English teacher became concern with her student’s choice of reading material and style of dress, the teacher’s Cultural Space was influencing how she parsed the message that her student was expressing through within the student’s own cultural Space. This is part of the daily interaction that educators, students and parents must negotiate.
We can take this a step further, and consider wider generational and social communities. We then see that many conflicts within North American society ( Canada & America) can be seen as form of Mass Media interactions. The use of Media Literacy as a means of interpreting the messages of Personal Cultural Space will go towards breaking down misunderstandings & averting potential conflict.