Today we begin one of my favorite units of the year: the HIV Mini-Unit.
I enjoy teaching this unit for several reasons. Firstly, I'm really proud of a lot of the activities I've cooked up for it, including the T-Pain Suicide analysis activity (culturally appropriate pedagogy for the win!). Other activities that come with the curriculum, like the "Drinking Party" or the "Mix and Match Fluids and Orfices" activity, are fun just as written. It's also fun to get to teach something that I know will definitely be relevant to my students' lives, practically no matter what choices they make. Everyone should know how to do science - it adds a lot to your life to understand the world around you, and the problem-solving skills it provides are invaluable - but let's face it, a lot of people don't remember an iota of middle school science and they do fine. HIV-avoidance, however, is a matter of life and death.
And, let's face it, I'm a bit of a sadist about this work. I enjoy cracking open my kids' brains and challenging their adorable little assumptions and preconceptions for its own sake. It's fun. The HIV Mini-Unit gives me lots of opportunities to do that.
"Do we have to do this unit?" C asks me, in a typical whiny twelve-year-old voice.
"Yes," I reply, curtly. I don't like to spend a lot of time answering questions my students already know the answers to, things like 'do we have to do this?' and 'can I go to the bathroom?'
I thought the matter was safely resolved, until I walked by during the Pair Share to discover that C was sobbing. A moment of conversation revealed that C's aunt had died of AIDS last month.
I had been trying to explain to my kids that HIV is a growing problem in Oakland. Case in gut-wrenching, tragic, mother-fucking point.
Anyway, I shuffled C off to the counselor's office. It turned out later that all of the counselors are out sick today (wtf?), but when I saw her again she was feeling better; I guess a break from class did her good. C's mother - I called home to giver her my condolences and a head's up about C's feelings - is adamant that C participate in the unit, and I can see why. She's also a little puzzled about C's feelings, since the deceased was her father's sister and not someone she knew very well, but you never can tell with kids. Sometimes things effect them in weird ways.
Anyway, I don't think I actually did anything wrong, but I feel weird nonetheless. It's not every day I dive feet first into someone's personal family tragedy, and while I've had kids who have lost family members to HIV in three years I haven't previously had the bad luck to begin the HIV Mini Unit a mere month after an AIDS death.
That's it from the trenches today - unless someone else starts crying in my six. Wish me luck.