Seminar at Greenfield
I recently led a seminar at Greenfield Elementary School here in Center City Philadelphia. Greenfield is a public school near the Rittenhouse Square section of Center City. The pupils are racially diverse and mainly are drawn from the local neighborhood.
I had the opportunity to lead a class of 6th graders and a class of 8th graders. Teaching is something that I, occasionally, wished I pursued as a profession as when I have the opportunity to do it, I love it. Of course, who knows how I would feel in the daily grind of teaching the kids and I am not a featured speaker for the day?
I am always amused by what the kids in the class think I do for a living. Thanks to television shows the kids presume some combination of the following: (1) I am always in court and doing glamorous things; (2) dealing with crimes and alleged criminals every day; and/or (3) engaging in the sort of drama one would see on the Judge Judy television program. Like most people, they are fascinated and/or incredulous to learn that I do not bear any ill will or bad feelings toward an opposing attorney (how could I? We are just doing our jobs after all). Further, they are similarly simultaneously impressed and repulsed by the fact that I could represent someone who I “knew did ‘it'” (“it” usually means some sort of crime or bad act). Again, it is just part of the job. Part of my task when I lead these sorts of classes is to help the kids realize just what exactly I do and why it is important and, quite frankly, just how one can represent someone “who did it” and why.
It is very clear that for most kids in the classes I have led, their view of life, that is to say “real life” or the life of adults, is shaped and molded by what they see on television and movies and the internet more than it is shaped by the actual adults in their lives. I do not know exactly why this is and why the adults in their lives are not as influential as they could be, but regardless of the cause it certainly makes for a significant challenge for any teacher to overcome the influence of all of these sources of pop culture and replace it with something more meaningful, profound, and, frankly, accurate and reflective of real life.
Although amused by some of their misconceptions, I am often saddened by how intimately some of the kids know about the legal system already at their young ages. Many have been in courtrooms already participating in the litigation for their own custody between their parents. Unfortunately, others have already been invoked with having been arrested for something. These kids almost always wind up asking questions about “their friends” which is, more of often than not” a thinly veiled version of themselves or people the know.
Whenever I do these classes I hope I leave the kids with a better understanding of the legal system and perhaps some inspiration as to what to do with their lives or, as it were, what not to do with their lives. Although I am sure teachers (and speakers like me) will never completely overtake pop culture (one girl in the class knew the exact date of Beyonce’s wedding but her knowledge of basic American civics was, as one may expect, rather light) I hope I leave them with something to think about and consider for their future.