A Different Climate
Shuffling into the library media center, I lowered myself into a chair near the back. Around me, I watched as my colleagues straggled in, weary from a long day of teaching. Tension seemed to permeate our air, but it might have been just my interpretation. Teachers huddled around the snack cart recently wheeled in, making small talk about the day.
Finally, after we had all settled into chairs, our principal began. “Has anyone heard anything about the upcoming student walk-out?” she asked. Our discussion that day pivoted in a direction that, I suppose was not completely unfamiliar, and yet it felt unfamiliar. In light of the most recent school shooting tragedy in Parkland, Florida, what exactly is our role as educators? I listened as my colleagues shared their thoughts and ideas around ways we might support our students in the wake of yet another school-related tragedy. Of course, this incident is one-of-too-many our nation has had to endure over the last nearly-twenty years. And yet, in light of the recent mobilization and speaking out on the part of some of America’s student youth, something feels a bit different this time.
All of us agreed that, as educators, we would play no role in politicizing the issue. We also agreed that although our students are middle schoolers, parents possessed every right to shield their sons and daughters from such a horrific “news story.” And as I sat in my chair that day, I came to a realization I am sure many of us who work with students in educational settings have come to– we are living and teaching in a strange new era. An era with no easy answers. A time when grappling with unimaginable questions has become our reality. Questions like, how much shielding should we do? How much darkness is appropriate to keep our students away from? What level of acknowledgement is appropriate? And when it comes to student-initiated action meant to call attention to a glaring national problem, how do we position ourselves as adults of influence?
Not surprisingly, this agenda item dominated our faculty meeting. And while many positive ideas emerged from our discussion, resolution remained elusive. Our principal thanked us for the thoughtful exchange of ideas, and everyone rose to leave.
But one idea had definitely risen and crystallized that afternoon. One idea inarguably true. One that contained not one bit of murkiness or question: We love our students. And that is likely why all of us educate. In this new strange time that has shaken many of us to our very core, loving our students has not changed. Perhaps some comfort might be taken from just that.