I don't know this guy.
Fall of 1999 I was student teaching in metro Nashville. I wanted to go to the city kids because I thought I already knew how to get the country kids to eat out of my hand. My first rotation was in a 5th grade class where I taught English and Social Studies, an excellent combo that was much fun. There were about 26-28 kids in my homeroom class, one who spoke no English and another 5 or 6 who were in ESL (English as a Second Language) programs at the school. Another ten kids in the class barely read on a third grade level. (And you want me to teach a lesson on gerunds?) I think my class alone represented direct lineage from five or six different countries around the world.
And like every other elementary classroom, we were all mashed up together, teaching down the middle to hope that the slow kids would catch on and the smart kids wouldn't get too bored. They were the future teachers and politicians, construction workers and NFL running backs (all of the boys either wanted to grow up to be Eddie George or Steve McNair), the future sociopaths and homemakers-- all together in a glorified trailor-park classroom learning how to be good little citizens (as any Foundations of Education professor will tell you is the purpose of the Department of Education and Brainwashing).
I always tried to connect current events into my lessons. I tried to use examples of things that they would understand. I tried to use names of people who I knew they would all know. Usually this strategy worked for me.
Until one day.
One day I was in the middle of an English lesson (on something probably as exciting as gerunds) and I wrote a sentence on the board with the name "Saddam Hussein" as the subject. This was in no way a political statement, but that didn't matter... two of my usually quiet and nonconfrontational kids jumped up and started yelling.
One of them jumped out of his chair and ran up to me in the front of the class. He kept yelling, "I hate Saddam! Saddam is a bad man! You should hate Saddam! I hate Saddam!" and so on.
These were city kids, remember. I broke up fights just about every week I was there. I had even taken knives off of a couple of kids... and this one was in my face just getting louder and more aggressive.
What does the diplomat do? I agreed with him. I repeated everything that he said. Yes, Saddam was a bad man. Yes, I do hate Saddam. I told him I hated Saddam so much that his name wasn't worthy of being on the board, and I erased it. I yelled as loud as he did, reaffirming everything he said.
He nodded his head, went back to his seat, and I wrote a different sentence on the board. We returned to the lesson.
After the class was over, the teacher with whom I was working told me that I handled that situation well, as it was different than the usual attention-seeking outbursts we usually had in the class. And then she told me that student was Kurdish and Saddam Hussein's minions gassed that kid's family, and that's how they ended up in Nashville.*
I don't know that Saddam Hussein guy, but I'm compelled to think he's a bad man.
I've just refreshed my CNN page to see that the bad man has been hung. I can't say if killing him would really make a difference in the world, but I do hope it will bring peace to those who were tortured and killed by his hand.
* Nevermind that was something she should have told me earlier in the semester, especially considering how I dropped all kinds of political names in class... That's a good point, but not the purpose of this story.
* I still think about those kids. If none of them dropped grades they'd be Seniors this year. I wonder if they remember getting in trouble for sneaking under the stairs to look up my skirt.