Dunked in Deep South

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Back home in lovely Luton, Radio 2 kept me entertained on my morning drive to school.

Here in the United States in sunny Georgia I'm stuck with two cowboys called Randy and Spliff (I kid you not) playing wall-to-wall country music gems such as "Redneck Woman" by someone called Gretchen Wilson. Eventually, old Gretchen's lyrics start to sound a little too familiar. I may only have been in the Deep South for three months, but I fear I'm becoming a redneck teacher already.

I've learned that the journey to school is so much shorter when the speed limit is optional and you can turn right on red. I no longer need to peek at the words during the pledge of allegiance to our classroom flag, and thanks to the patriotic karaoke on the school's TV station each morning, I can now sing "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Georgia on my Mind" with gusto.

These days, I realise it's me my students are addressing when they say "Ma'am", while my colleagues just call me "Miss Mary" (as in Miss Scarlett or Driving Miss Daisy).

When teaching Civil War history, I know that the Confeds were the good guys and the Yankees were just darn lucky. I can now tell the difference between the fire alarm and the tornado drill. I know that when a twister comes, I'll take my kids into the hallway where they'll crouch on the floor and hold books over their heads.

In the school cafeteria, I find myself eating such delicacies as catfish nuggets with French, oops, freedom fries, cornbread and of course Southern fried chicken. And during recess, I don't bat an eyelid when my third-graders practise cheerleader routines or sing controversial 911 songs (they may be banned from airplay, but some of those tunes are real catchy).

I'm no longer amazed that every student in my class attends church every Sunday or that serious cussin' includes the expletives "hell" and "damn" when you live in the Bible Belt.

But the really scary bit is that a trip to the rodeo is now my idea of a great Saturday night out, and I sense this assimilation stuff may be going too far.

Time to take action. I've told my kids, "If you ever catch me saying 'y'all' or worse still, 'yee-haw', please shoot me!" On second thoughts, perhaps that wasn't so clever, someone's bound to have a gun at home. Yep, there's hope for me yet - a true redneck teacher would have kept a comment like that to herself.

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