Labels: school, teenagers
Friday, 2 March 2012
This morning Shane came to me with a notice from school, and said “Here Mum, I have to show you this.” From the tone of his voice I thought it had to be something bad, maybe a letter sent home about bad behaviour – clearly he didn’t want to show it to me but had been told he had to.
It was only this:
I looked at him, a little confused, and asked “Do you want to go to this?” I was confused because he was standing there, teeth gritted, jaw clenched, with a look of irritation on his face, and he’d flicked the paper at me in a way that showed he really felt there was no point in showing it to me at all. Maybe it was something he wanted to go to but he thought we would say no?
Through his clenched teeth he said “No. Not. At. All.”
I was even more confused then, and it must have shown on my face when I looked at him, because he said “We’re not individuals. We’re just maori.”
I could absolutely feel his frustration as he stood there, and I explained to him that the school were just trying to be culturally sensitive and allow maori families to be connected to each other and to the school, and that this is important to a lot of maori families. He said “Oh yeah, that’s right, because we’re all stupid. And we can’t read. We probably just want to get drunk and go off the rails.” He continued mumbling sarcastic remarks about how he hates maori food and doesn’t need a stupid dinner, while Neihana acted out getting drunk and falling over and not being able to read. I sat there having flashbacks to my own high school years and trying to find the right words to say to him.
Shane’s not ashamed of being maori. It’s just that he doesn’t want that to identify him entirely. He’s also part Scottish, English and Irish. He’s also a Christian. He’s a student, he’s a teenager, he’s a boy, he’s a Cantabrian, he lives in Southland, he comes from a two-parent home. All those things play a part in who he is and he’s at a stage of his life right now where identity is everything. He doesn’t want to be boxed into any particular label, or have any assumptions made about who he is, based on something like the colour of his skin. It’s incredibly dissatisfying. I know because I had the same sort of experience when I was his age, and I think he has a point.
He’s 13. He doesn’t want to go to school and feel like he’s ‘different’ or ‘special needs’. And because of an invitation to a pot luck dinner, that’s how he feels. As though the teachers have said “Hey, we’ve noticed you’re different from the mainstream and so you need special treatment. Come to dinner with your family and all the other kids just like you.”
To me, it was just another school notice. To Shane, it was an attack on his individuality. Ahh the teenage years.