Thursday, August 31, 2017
TEACHING IN VIOLENT TIMES
I heard you in my head yesterday.
I taught a lesson yesterday during a lockdown.
I taught in a whisper.
I heard your voice say,
"If we don't teach today, they win."
This morning, Terri, a woman who once taught at a school where I served as the site principal posted the above on my page on a popular social media site. I was touched deeply by her remembrance.
(For the record: I’m retired, and a different district employs Terri now. And “Terri” is her real name.)
September 11, 2001 wasn’t all that long ago. I recall driving to school, listening to NPR’s Morning Edition and wondering what the hell was going on. Once at school, I tuned a TV in to discover that hell was indeed going on that day.
At a hastily called staff meeting as we discussed how to address this great unknown with our students, one teacher asked, “Shouldn’t we just send the kids home today? What could we possibly teach them?” to which I replied: “If we don’t teach today, they win.”
That was a damned fine statement I made, but honestly, it must be the case that I heard it somewhere else that morning. I don’t think on my feet all that well.
I didn’t glance at my Facebook page this morning until after I’d read the local (Santa Rosa) paper. A page five story reported that in the midst of an investigation a Sacramento County stolen vehicle task force was fired upon. An assailant armed with a high-powered weapon injured to CHP officers and fatally wounded a deputy. A witness reported, “It sounded like a machine gun. It just kept going and going.”
When I read Terri’s post on my page, I connected some dots concluding that her school was locked down as this incident played out in the neighborhood.
All the while, she taught.
Walloped by a few moments of introspection, I got to thinking: Maybe I’d lied on that morning of September 11th. Maybe they are winning anyway.
A hit and run on a local highway left a bicyclist dead. A driver in a white pickup shoots into the passenger compartment of a car he’s passing on 101 then disappears. A homeless Santa Rosan, know for his writing and story telling bleeds to death on a sidewalk after being knifed by someone unknown. Daily we read about or witness violent demonstrations or mass shootings or assaults on the police or assaults by police somewhere in the country.
Yep, maybe they are winning.
The moment passes. I find myself remembering visits to classrooms. In pretty much all of the classrooms, students are engaged in learning – rich, deep and challenging. But in a lot of classrooms, more is going on. Kids’ unique needs are embraced, their differences celebrated, their fears quelled, they feel safe; their smiles glowing, their hearts in tune with the teacher who’s heart is in tune with her students. Education steeped in nurture. Good things are happening.
Such things happen in classrooms across America every day.
Yesterday, I know, they were happening in Terri’s room.
And because of that, I know the bad guys aren’t going to win.
© 2017Church of the Open Road Press