I’m mad. I’m furious. And I feel alone.
How did we get here? How did we get to a society which broadcasts more violence and hatred than kindness and generosity? A society where people are more likely to turn their back instead of offering a helping hand. A society which is fighting to hold onto a perceived “freedom,” instead of questioning the cause of why innocent children are heinously murdered in the very place they should be the safest-school.
The answer to why our society has devolved into what it is today, as we all know, has many parts, but I feel it starts (or really, stops) with the simple interactions we have with those in our own community.
Let’s take today, and my personal experience, for an instance.
I have the opportunity to work with students, while also spending a large percentage of time with my child. Today, it is an absolutely beautiful day on the east coast: the sun is shining, temperatures are in the 70s and it is one of the first playground days of the year.
I took my child to a community park, and there were approximately 25 other children and parents/guardians that we encountered during our outing. Want to guess how many people returned our attempts at pleasantries, conversation, or invitations to play?
Am I completely out of touch with the world, or does this seem like a staggering amount of people who simply would not return a kind “hello,” wave, or respond to my child or me?
I am just in shock. Why don’t people respond or reach out anymore?
My child is learning social cues and how to make friends while also learning that cautious amount of “stranger danger,” but how am I supposed to teach her to be a team player, trust in others, or God forbid, simply communicate with a peer? Isn’t this something any other adult wants for their child these days?
And, it’s not just my experiences as a parent. My experiences in the classroom as a teacher is often the same. Students and parents alike don’t seem to want to engage with one another whom they don’t already know. Classroom morale and the environment is one that I take weeks to establish at the beginning of the year/semester and one of the hardest aspects to maintain until the end of the course.
I appreciate that building trust and a relationship takes work. I know that new surroundings and peers induce stress for many. As technology has taken the top priority of the world as we now know it, I have also seen how students learn, how students play, and how teachers do their day-to-day job has changed. I begrudgingly also recognize how children today don’t communicate or play with friends as I did, because of the role technology plays.
I can’t help but ask the question, “What are we, as adults, doing right these days?”
I look around to my colleagues who I know value communication and relationships and who try to make these elements a component of their classrooms, too, but I don’t see it anywhere else in the “real world.”
When our students leave the school building, they are facing very different environments than so many teachers try to create daily. If the only verbally safe, friendly, open, engaging environment a student experiences is with her teachers in school, our society is ultimately destined to fail. Teachers are doing great work, important work, lifesaving work, every single day, but we cannot do it alone.
I am so proud of the students who are speaking out today and in the upcoming days trying to change laws so that they and future children may have a better chance of truly being safer in schools. I am proud of those students for being outspoken, feisty, and rebellious because they are demanding change. I know that so many other teachers share these same opinions because teachers know the value, intelligence, and morality of their students. But, does anyone else in our society know?
I hope, pray, and work to continue to find a change in our student’s safety.
As a teacher reading this, you, too, know the importance and expertise that teachers and their students embody.
I urge you to continue to stick together, hold one another up, and continue fighting for change.
I urge you to write, call, and e-mail politicians.
I urge you to be that safe, enlightening, and encouraging environment for students.
And I definitely encourage you to instill the importance of being outspoken, feisty, and rebellious in your students when they inherently know that what they are fighting for is so essential to the progress of our society’s future.
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