This entry like all my entries, is recorded as I see it, through my own subjectivity. Other people may have a different emphasis and would choose to record things differently.

teaching context: a white teacher with a class of Bengali kids.
We were writing short poems about an artwork as a way of understanding it. The idea was to find our own understanding of the work using the poem as a vehicle. We started with one word and used the letters that make up the word as the beginning of each line. One of the pairs of kids said they couldn't think of a word in english that started with D, that was relevent to what they were trying to describe, but there was a Bengali word. I said no problem as long as they think of some words for the poem in english.

They went away, happily completing their poems in both english and bengali. A few minutes later, the child came over and said, 'the teacher said we had to write it properly.'

Becuase the child said properly, I knew the teacher must have used that word, like english is proper and bengali is improper. What kind of a message is that? The culture these kids experience outside the home is the only proper one - somehow homelife, home culture, is less than 'proper english culture'? I answered the girl that I think Bengali is proper and let her continue bi-lingually.

The teacher came marching over and demanded that they write in english only... 'this time would be part of their literacy hour', she explained. I answered that I want to honour their background. It's only for a couple of hours in their life. She then replied that it was school policy that the kids speak and write only in english. I didn't point out that they weren't at school or that the kids had amazing english language skills, better than many who are born here, of english parents. Besides, the idea of the exercise was to look at art, think about it and verbalise it, not necessarily be part of the school's literacy program.

At the end of the session, I asked whether the kids were going down for lunch or whether they were fasting, and then I said, 'but you're probably too young...' These completely bright, polite, lovely kids didn't answer. Then after a lenghty pause another child answered that they fast only at the weekends.
My reading of this, rightly or wrongly, is that the kids were taken aback that any white person knew enough to ask them about their home culture, their homelife. I imagined that it was never talked about it school, because it's 'improper', or not relevent to the school ethos. I don't know, it could be they just didn't hear the question, or some other reason. I read it that way because I was still angry at the teacher for what I understood as her, or the school's, racism - and for interfering in what I was trying to do.

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