Here is the scene. I am sitting at my desk scoring scoring an assessment they did earlier today while the children are having their silent reading time at their seats. Y'all know who it stars...your favorite and mine...J!
J: [racing to my desk] (in an emphatic whisper) Miss _____! Miss ______! You NEED to come see my book. There is a VERY bad word in it. I don't think this book should be in our room.
(Side note: earlier today J was appropriately distraught because there was a curse word written on one of the stalls in the boys' bathroom. He was afraid another kid would see it, say it, and get in trouble...how sweet is that! Oh, in case you are wondering the word was fuck, but it was spelled fook...clearly by a kid who needs to go back to Phonics 101 and waste less time graffitiing the bathroom.)
Me: Take a breath, is it something someone wrote in the book that we can erase?
J: No, it part of the book! The arthur (yes, arthur) wrote it!
Me: Ok, bring the book over. [Now at this point I am getting nervous, because we have over 600 books in our classroom-seriously, I stopped counting when I reached 600-and I have not read every one. I was trying to control my freak out since who knows what word he found in what book.]
J: It's right here, in this poem.
Me: [looking] Where?
J: [emphatically pointing] Right here!
Are you wondering what the bad word was? Are you on the edge of your seat? Have you made a prediction? The word was.................................................................gay.
He was freaking out.
Over the bad word.
The gist of the poem from what I quickly skimmed was about an elephant who played with friends, lived in the jungle, what they did for fun, and that their life was carefree and gay (i.e. happy--it was an old poem)
Now at this point I have about .003 seconds to decide what to do. How to handle this, how to address this, what exactly he will understand, my legal limit of explanation, and then I said to myself, "Self, fook it and do what is right."
So I did. I fooked it and did what was right. J and I had a very long talk about how in the poem it means happy, origin of word meanings, other places it is used (Flintstones intro, Christmas songs), how word meanings have changed over time, now it's a synonym for homosexual, etc. Here are bits and pieces of our conversation.
Me: Gay is not a bad word.
J: It's not?
Me: Nope. It's not.
J: [hesistating] But then, how come people say it like they're mad? Like it's something really bad?
Me: Well, it's like when a bully yells "freckle-face!" or "four-eyes!" It's not a bad thing someone has freckles or glasses, it's just a fact.
J: Oh. Ok. [pondering] Someone should tell them it's not a bad word, they might hurt someone's feelings. Cuz I know it hurts A's feelings when people say four-eyes, and his glasses are nice. It would hurt my feelings too, cuz I like my freckles. I can't change I have freckles and it's mean it tease people.
(How much more do you love this kid!!!!)
At one point another child, T, who was sitting nearby joined us for our little impromptu PSA conversation.
T: Hey! I read that poem too! I thought they just forgot the r.
Me: [totally lost] The r?
T: Yeah, that the elephant was gray.
So today, my job actually mattered. I made a positive impact on society, helped to mold the future of our country, and hopefully, aided in the progressive change of understanding and acceptance of all.
As every good PSA should end....the more you know :-)