Monday, February 16, 2015

After a Long Absence - A Smoking Start!

The reality is that I lost interest in this blog until tonight when my wife said, "You should start writing on your blog." When I originally started the blog I had a few IT "axes to grind" which provided sufficient motivation to write new posts. Then I got busy with other stuff and more or less put the blog on the back burner - as things tend to go.

Well, times have changed, and I now have a good bit of free time on my hands and some more "axes". So, time to start adding to the blog!

Today's topic is "Smoking". This may seem like an odd topic for a math blog, right? Well, as part of my job as a math teacher, I am also responsible for an "advisory group" of seniors. Our administration sent us an e-mail last week asking us to discuss the "perils of smoking" with our advisory group and generously provided links to multiple informational articles on the topic. Tomorrow I am supposed to have this discussion. Thanks!

As background, if you live and teach in the US this may seem like a pretty straight-forward request. Typically, school administrations and the majority of society support the effort to stop smoking. And, the US seems to be making some progress in this area!

However, living in Spain (a country, which as best I can tell, is an official division of the US Tobacco Company) discussing smoking with students is a little more challenging.

As background, from my personal experience, most people who have lived in Spain for more than a few years smoke (I recognize this is an extreme statement, but I don't think it is all that far from the truth). Almost all Spanish students smoke - at least socially. So, when you start a conversation on smoking with students, you more or less must assume a large contingent of smokers in the audience. In this audience, I am not inclined to start evangelizing about the perils of smoking. To add to the challenge, the school administration turns a blind eye to student smoking. Students reek of cigarette smoke in class or openly smoke in front of the school with no negative consequences. The school knows that Spanish society advocates smoking (not sure of their underlying social/economic motives) and does not want to "rock the boat". So, why should I, as an American teacher in Spain, throw myself into a battle that has a slim-to-none chance of victory?

Well, my answer is "I shouldn't." Instead, my goal tomorrow is to seek to understand the Spanish point of view on smoking. Why do many of the students smoke? What messages do they hear from parents and other adults regarding smoking? How is smoking viewed outside of school? Were they really given a cigarette and a bottle of warm milk when they were a baby (just kidding)?

I absolutely despise (I would be more extreme if I could) smoking! I cannot stand when a student comes into my class smelling of smoke - and I know when they do. One of the main reasons I am leaving Spain (among numerous others) is the rampant "smoking culture". But, that said, I am very curious to hear the feedback from my students - what is actually running through their minds when they decide to light-up?

More to follow...