Recap for Rabbit Box “Getting Schooled – Stories about Education”

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September 10, 2014
by Melissa Harward

In a town that centers on education, there was a surprising number of teachers and professors getting schooled at last week’s Rabbit Box, featuring stories on—you guessed it—education. Time to take notes, boys and girls.

“Tea-cha” Rachel Bailey started the evening off with a tale from a South Korean kindergarten class. Bailey, a former snarky music-writer-turned-teacher, tries to turn her five-year-old students on to “good American pop music” and instead gets a glimpse of how growing up is hard in any country. Justin Bieber, unfortunately, saves the day.

UGA Veterinarian Hospital professor and Director of the Community Practice Clinic Ira Roth recalls one of the most onerous things about being a teacher: failing a student. When an anxious and seemingly dull-witted student joins the rotation, Roth struggles to accommodate his anomalous mannerisms. A botched surgery is the last straw, leading Roth to face the Scholarship of Appeals Committee.

With kids, says Debbie Mitchell, there’s always two things that are true:
One: They’re risk-takers and two: they’re hungry. The perfect combination for a gardener. Debbie, an AmeriCorps volunteer and the agricultural teacher at Clarke Middle School, learns quickly that controlling middle-schoolers outside is a little like herding cats. Throw a little dirt and some veggies into the mix, and a classroom garden can get a bit messy. This is the story of how a small summer garden project transformed kids as they prepared meals alongside local chefs, showing Debbie that outside in sunshine isn’t the only place growth can be seen.

The quick-charmed Paul Quick learns that a fancy education can sometimes leave you empty handed. From fisticuffs in a suburban Ivy League high school to weave-pulling girl brawls in the Charlotte, NC public school system, Paul’s adjustment comes at a price: his white-collared background.

After a brief, craft-beer-filled intermission, Amy Watts, our crackerjack speaker of the night, laid out the ever-present question in a Southern society: What church do you go to? For those living below the Mason-Dixon line without an answer, peer pressure, fear, and a ferociously independent mother can make fitting in at a new school that much more challenging.

What do running and the never-ending struggle to keep kids safe — from themselves — have in common? Dr. Larry Johnson, former principal, knows all too well. Dr. Johnson learns a lesson in stamina after chasing a stubborn little girl to the brink of disaster.

Ian Altman has a dream that the intelligent young students he teaches at Clarke Central will all go to college. Seems reasonable enough coming from a teacher, but when you add in the label of “undocumented,” things can get heated.

Politics in education almost never ends well for one group: the students. For undocumented students, the battle lines are clearly drawn as barriers to a proper education. This usually leads them to the door of an understanding teacher, and in Ian’s case, a teacher-turned-advocate who goes above and beyond to fight for them.

Bravery looks like a 16-year-old undocumented girl named Diana Umana walking onto the stage and declaring herself a willing and able-minded student. Diana, who has lived in the United States since 2002, described the real struggle of undocumented students striving for an education of their own. The crown jewel of the evening, Diana—straight-faced and steady—remembers how she discovered she was in this country illegally and what she’s trying to do about it now.

Our final storyteller of the night, Joerg Mayer, demands respect with a European flair in his classroom at the University of Georgia. When a Facebook violation by a student sends him over the edge, he learns that when the Dean of Academic Affairs leaves you a message, there’s only one type of appropriate response: immediate. What do the students have to say about his “little incident”? Find out in the recorded sessions.

The lovely Mary Whitehead was our emcee for the evening. The next round of Rabbit Box features stories on the theme “Bewitched.” Has something or someone ever cast a spell on you? Let us know. We’ll gather around a bonfire at Sandy Creek Park on October 8, 2014. I hear there may be S’mores involved.