One belief I just don't share with my students.
Teach For America training heavily emphasizes the "diversity competencies," a set of skills designed to help corps members think pluralistically and demonstrate tolerance towards others, no matter what your students say.
A couple of conversations from my classroom yesterday:
Student A: Hey [Mr. N], did your parents ever put you on time out?
Mr. N: Yeah, sure. Why?
SA: [giggling] Ohmygawd. No way. I was watching this show [something to do with nannies; couldn't quite catch it] with my mom, and she thought it was just so weird when they put the kids on time out! I can't believe people really do that!
Mr. N: Why, what do your parents do?
SA: Hit me, duh!
Student B: Yeah, my parents hit me all the time!
Mr. N: Funny thing about white people, we're not so into the hitting.
SB: That's so weird! So time-outs actually work?
Student C: Hey [Mr. N], did you ever play with a Ouija board?
Mr. N: Yeah, once or twice as a kid.
Student C: Do you believe in them?
Mr. N: I believe they exist. I believe they can tell the future about as well as any two people's hands pushing against each other can tell the future.
Student C: Is that really all it is?
Student D: You shouldn't play with those! The devil will get you!
Student C: Yeah I know. My dad won't let me play with one because he did once, and then bad stuff started happening.
Turns out items sold at flea markets are to be avoided as well; they're often bewitched.
While new teachers often feel the urge to try to "blend in" in the community in which they serve, there's really no point; they can tell you are white/rich/educated/etc, and students can smell B.S. a mile away. Mine have come to see me, I think, as a quaint kind of creature that uses overly formal speech patterns, can't pronounce local place names to save his life, and hasn't heard of anything cool; a visitor from another world (often erroneously assumed to be Texas or Europe, as any real Californian would have a Mexican accent).
Who can blame them? The only white people from wealthy backgrounds they meet are other teachers -- we just seem like a foreign breed.
"So you're white -- just white?" one will ask from time to time.
"And your parents -- they had money?"
"And you went to college?"
"So... why are you here?"
Nothing ever seems to satisfy this last question -- maybe in part because my own answer changes from day to day. But most days (the ones when I don't feel the overwhelming urge to correct every "can I go restroom?" I hear), I'm happy to have crash-landed on this strange planet.