Friday, December 9, 2016

Year 7: Week 15 – The Past Month And The How We Find Hope

“I don’t pretend to know the challenges we are facing.”

The past month has been challenging. I got a massive head cold the weekend before (11/5) our 5th grade outdoor education trip and went on the trip anyways even though I wasn’t better. That cold stuck around, got slightly better but a cough remained and I found out two days ago that this cough became pneumonia, and now I’m home taking a sick day.

Things with my students haven’t been bad; there have been no major issues. Lots of little ones but that’s the nature of my job.  None of this is new for me. It’s my seventh year at this school, but my illness combined with this other piece, the results of the election, have added another layer of struggle to my job as a teacher.

We found out the news when we were on the camping trip the morning of Wednesday 11/9. Many of the adults on the trip stayed up after the kids went to sleep and sat is disbelief like most Americans at how the night turned out against our expectations.

The next morning we collected the kids and they all had a sense that we would tell them the results of the election. As one of the teachers started talking about the election, I stood and noticed two girls sitting next to each other. They were holding hands and their hands moved up and down, like they were skipping. When the teacher told them that he had one, their hands tightened around each other and dropped to the ground. The smiles melted from their faces. One girl put her head on the other one’s shoulder. The other girl patted her head gently as she started crying. At that point I had to look away as I felt tears coming to my eyes.

Somehow I kept it together for the rest of the trip, but when I was driving home from the trip, I felt myself falling apart. I wanted to see Ollie but I also dreaded looking in his face and knowing how much we had all let him down. When I entered the house and hugged Diana and Ollie. I completely lost it. I tried to apologize to Ollie through sobs, but I could barely talk. Diana see how distraught I was, wisely took Ollie away to give me some space.

I calmed down a little bit and walked into the kitchen where my mom was, and when I saw her, I lost it all over again. She almost seemed panicked to see me this upset and she asked over and over what was wrong and as I managed to get the words out, “the election,” she pulled me close and I cried, and cried, trembling in my mother’s arms.

I’ve never cried like this before. I’ve never fallen apart over politics or for anything else in my life except for the loss of a loved one.

That moment and the feeling of pain and loss is still with me. I feel my mom’s arms around me, the wetness of the tears, and the strong, powerful look in my mom’s eyes when she told me after I calmed down a little, “I don’t know how to explain this to you, but I can tell you that you are not alone.”

I walk down the hallways of my school and I see my kids and their parents and when I least expect it, I’m back at that moment. I try my best to make the emotions from that moment motivated me to be more kind to my students, to take more time to listen to what they have to say and make a stronger effort to make my school and in turn the world a more accepting, respectful and inclusive world. But it’s hard.

It hasn’t gotten better. Every day the news gets worse. As a teacher it demoralizing that the next secretary of education in charge of our public school system has no experience in the public schools as a student, parent, teacher or administrator.

There are some of you who know exactly how I feel and there are those who probably think I’m just need to get over this and stop whining.  If you are in the latter, please have a conversation who is someone is in mourning this election and do more listening than talking. If you just want to ride us all off as whiners, then you are taking the lead from him and creating a less tolerant and harmonious society.

I don’t know what’s up ahead and how all of this will impact my teaching. I know it strengthened my belief that my primary goal a teacher is not musical but rather to help my students embrace diversity and actively work to ensure the rights of all people.

Yes, journalists are an essential part of our democracy, but so are teachers. It is up to us to educate our student to be positive citizens that make our country a better place. It’s a role that is difficult to learn, and it’s not a role that’s easy to play. However, it’s our blessing and our burden.  Teachers now have to help our children understand this critical part of their lives.

Teaching is harder than ever in America, and as we create citizens, we are also creating hope.

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