The Other is “perceived as lacking essential characteristics possessed by the group, the Other is almost always seen as lesser or inferior being and is treated accordingly” (The Other, 2009). A group sets guidelines and if a person does not meet them they will not be accepted as “normal”. Otherness to a group represents awkwardness. Although each person does have its own unique characteristics to prevent from being labeled as the Other you must possess common characteristics within a group.
I read “This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona” written by Sherman Alexie. It is about a boy named Victor who lives on an Indian Reservation and his dad has just died in Arizona. He wants to go to Arizona and bring back his dad. In this same reservation lives a boy named Thomas Build-theFire, which in this text is the Other. Victor cashes one hundred dollar at the Trading Post where he with curiosity approaches Thomas.
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He wanted to see if Thomas knew of his father’s death. Sure enough Thomas says to Victor, “I heard it on the wind. I heard it from he birds. I felt it in the sunlight” (Alexie,1994).
While Victor was listening he felt embarrassed. “All other Indians stared, surprised that Victor was even talking to Thomas” (Alexie,1994). Nobody talked to Thomas because he told the same dam stories over and over again” (Alexie,1994). His story telling was why he was the Other. This was not a “normal” characteristic. Thomas joined Victor in his journey to Arizona to pick up the remains of his deceased father. During this journey Thomas reveals to Victor of a dream he had of his father.
Thomas tells him how he was saved from the danger of Spokane. He then continues to say, “Take care of each other is what my dreams were saying” (Alexie,1994). In this text Otherness is represented my making it a point to take care of each other no matter our differences. In many instances, Thomas protects Victor. The author’s perspective in this story is that a person who has been labeled as an Other lives their own life without paying attention to others rejection. Even though Thomas helped Victor in many ways Thomas is aware they cannot be friends after coming back from Arizona.
After their journey Thomas does not expect anything in return. Thomas tells Victor, “I know you ain’t going to treat me any better than you did before” (Alexie,1994). “I know your friends would give you too much shit about it” (Alexie,1994). It is also apparent that the author realizes it is not nice to treat people as Others but we still do. Even though Victor seems to appreciate all the things Thomas has done for him it is not easy to accept him as a friend. How would I deal with otherness?
Each year teacher’s get a new set of students these students all bring diversity into the classroom. Unfortunately, not all diversity is welcomed. As a teacher I will make it a priority to notice, identify and assist a student who is experiencing otherness. I will need to pay attention to my students individually. This will enable me to notice any inferiority if any amongst them. One thing I can absorb is their eye contact. If they tend to turn away or always have their head down I know I have identified one who is experiencing otherness.
I cannot assume they are experiencing otherness. It is my responsibility to make my students feel comfortable. This will make a line of communication between them and me. When I am positive a student is experiencing otherness then I will go into action. First of all, I believe students need to be educated. Each one of them should be aware that someone might or could experience Otherness and it is not acceptable. Talking to my students and encouraging them to tell me what it would be like to experience Otherness could make them aware that no one should be rejected in any way.
To assist those experiencing otherness I will always engage my students to learn in groups. This will enable them to feel comfortable with each other and become friends. I will choose their partners and make sure my student experiencing Otherness gets a passionate, friendly, and helpful student. I will always monitor their actions and discussions. This will help me assist any unacceptable behavior toward that student experiencing otherness. I will take advantage of any teacher parent conference to speak to the parents about why they think their child is experiencing otherness.
They might be able to help me understand and come up with a way I could assist him or her. The best practice to prevent and assist otherness in my classroom is to make my students feel comfortable and always have an open line of communication.