Skinned knee. Tear-filled face. Embarrassment.
And in the week of This is America, I think so many of us are the kind of the person trying not to watch as we slip on our expensive coats. It’s tempting to just keep looking forward and not notice the person waiting for the bus. In a more corporate sense, it is really easy to forget about the things that don’t impact our own lives. It’s the allure of that blissful ignorance that allows those around us to be uncomfortable while we slip into our luxury cars.
A blog is really just a place for people like me to rant, or articulate, some of our evolving truths and half-truths. It's an all-opinions-are-valid world and anyone with a smartphone, or a seat at the corner bar, can jump in the fun.
But sometimes I forget where I am.
And I just listened. Sure, there were a few times where the teacher got the best of me and I wanted to throw my two cents worth of opinion and solution into the stories, but my “2 cents” held very little value in the kind of truth that they were sharing. It was one of those moments where I got the clear sense that being there made me a better person. I was the fortunate one getting to witness something amazing. Miraculous, even.
There is that pesky “default setting” that starts to think that this whole world is just in our way. When we get stuck in that for too long, we start feel miserable and annoyed. We start to live a life that we will forget the next week or the next day because we are barely thinking. One of the big problems in the world is that so many of us our thinking that way.
Teaching isn’t about a great class or an amazing lesson. It is about a full year that builds toward our student learning the content at varying paces and, hopefully, becoming better and more complete people.
But now we are at Easter, my favorite time of year has always kind of also been the hardest time of year.
While we should be encouraged and heartened by the amazing students from Parkland these days, I think any teacher just shakes their head and imagines the genius they see everyday that could very easily be leading marches and changing worlds.
Belief looks different in every moment. But I’m pretty sure it means sometimes sitting down on a dusty floor and holding the hands of a crying 8 year old. I think I believe in my students, but that teacher with a dusty pair of pants has been my inspiration for this week. Hopefully she is yours as well.
Why did you punch the security guard in the face?
How do we restore you to a positive relationship with the school?
Fear gives teachers guns for protection, but love does the hard work of listening, advocating, speaking up, and changing. It’s love that is moving students all over the country to march, walk out, speak up, and demand action. It’s love that moves us to do the same.
A “that was an amazing lesson” or a well-meaning “you are a great teacher” could keep us from making the revisions that would actually make us great.
Restorative practices, and the conversations that surround them, are some of the more important conversations that we are having in education today and I would never suggest that we should stop this work. However, I think this work needs more context. It needs a more nuanced approach that addresses one of the most fundamental problems in education: there are groups of people in our society for whom schooling has never worked. This tragedy is disproportionately impacting students of color. We can look at almost every measure available to tell this story, but systemic bias and racism, low expectations, and bad school models are creating environments in which so many students never enter successfully.
Although some people use the original airdate of this episode (October 13) as the official Treat Yo Self Day, mine has always been the Monday after the Super Bowl. Not only do I get to enjoy staying up later to watch the game instead of my usual insanely early bedtime, February is smack-dab in the middle of the school year’s winter blahs. It’s the perfect mid-year opportunity to get refreshed, and I look forward to it every year.
I think I'm going to start making student observations a more regular part of my practice. I'll come up with a more organized form to help the students give targeted feedback and conference with some students before I throw them on the spot like I did the other day. Then, I'll invite them in when they have a free moment and see what they notice. They are, after all, the client. I should be orienting my methods and styles to their methods and styles. I should be building a classroom that caters to them far more than it caters to principals, folks in business suits, or myself.
In this country, we have allowed for the existence schools that are failing and tried to find ways to ignore the problem, while entire generations of students, largely students of color, are slipping on our ignored sidewalks. The result is much more disastrous than my sprained ankle.
Let’s go get our shovels.
I don’t know if it was the beer, or that Trump-supporting poet, but yesterday in the barber’s chair I talked a little bit more.