The Blessing of Friendship

Yesterday I got together with a group of friends I hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic – former colleagues at an alternative high school – women who’d been shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the trenches as our school went through some challenging times. Our commitment to the well-being of our students, our shared sense of humor, and our trust in each other, had drawn us together and bonded us for life.

And here we sat at the local Starbuck’s – together again – a group of women ranging in age from 30 to 70 – two of us retired now, two of us still in the trenches of an educational landscape that has changed drastically in the last couple years. We hugged and we laughed. We got caught up – talked about families and skirmishes with COVID and what strategies we’re using to stay sane in an insane time, and how education changed during the pandemic. We talked about adventures and aging and the adventure of aging, and how older women are viewed by society – the bad AND the good of that – the tendency to dismiss older women and the freedom that comes with aging. We shared and listened. We took turns and gave each other time to talk – and it was a natural thing to do this – it always amazes me how naturally the conversation flows with these women. There are no prima donnas here. We are genuinely interested in each other.

After we’d been there a couple hours – completely enveloped in our bubble of friendship and mostly unaware of what was going on around us – a woman in her sixties rose from a table near us and headed for the exit. As she passed our table she stopped and smiled and said, “I miss my friends! I’ve enjoyed listening to your laughter!” She was very cool – I knew she would have fit right in with this group – and we thanked her and wished her a good day.

Not long after that, a couple of men in their sixties – they looked like men who might have just gotten back from a hike together- rose from THEIR table and passed us for the exit. One of them looked over at me as he passed and I smiled and he smiled back one of those genuine full-faced smiles and, in that instant, I just KNEW that he’d been listening into our conversation, too. And, for a moment, I was embarrassed, remembering all the things we’d been talking about at our table. But then I realized that his smile had been kind, and more of a “we’re-all-in-this-together” type of smile than a “you-guys-are-batshit-crazy” type of smile, and that felt good.

Two and a half hours later my friends and I hugged each other good bye – promised each other we’d get together again soon – and each of us headed home to our families. But those two and a half hours together were like an oasis in the desert for me. I felt my soul soaking up the love and inspiration and fellowship, and left feeling rejuvenated.

What a blessing to have friends like these.

Friends

Stand with the Students

A Facebook acquaintance recently suggested that high school students are incapable of original thought, and that the students from Parkland are being fed their lines by the “corrupt media” and “corrupt teachers.”

I’m a high school teacher. I’ve been teaching for more than 20 years. I know kids. I know the wisdom they’re capable of expressing. I have witnessed, first-hand, the intelligence and original thought of high school students. I don’t know about high school students from what FOX news is telling me about high school students – I know about high school students because I work with them every day. As a high school teacher I can assure you that there are high school students who are far more articulate, informed, and well-spoken than some adults I have met. The students from Parkland did not need to be “coached” to speak – they did not need to have ideas about gun violence fed to them by the media or their teachers – they lived through a school shooting – they saw their friends shot and killed – they have far more first-hand experience with gun violence in schools than the average adult. They are the experts – and it’s time to listen to them.

I once had to spend a day sequestered in a small room with my students because of concerns about our safety. I have experienced that kind of fear, first-hand. I am talking from experience here. Not from what FOX news has told me. I once (years ago – before Columbine) had a student tell me he could bring a gun to school and kill me. I know what that kind of threat feels like. And so when someone outside of education – someone who doesn’t have to worry about how he’s going to save his students if someone with a gun should suddenly appear in the door – tells me how I should feel about it all and cavalierly tells me that teachers should be armed – that that’s going to fix this mess – I get really frustrated. I’ve come to realize that, to some people, guns matter more than the lives of students and teachers.
That hurts, man.
We need to listen to the people who are dealing with this  threat every single day – the students and teachers who are walking into schools not knowing if they’re going to be walking out at the end of the day. Don’t discount their stories. Don’t belittle them. They are the ones on the front lines now.

I’m a teacher. I’m not a Marine.

I’m a teacher. I’m not a Marine. I do not want to have to make the choice to shoot one child to save another. I don’t want to be put in a position where I might be responsible for “collateral damage” that might include my own students. I don’t want to have to walk around my class with an assault rifle slung over my shoulder while I’m teaching a lesson on cosines and tangents, or Shakespeare, or the geography of Asia – a gun might be kind of a distraction to my students, you know? Do not think that you are solving the problem of school shootings by arming teachers. Frankly, that is one of the most ludicrous, insane, nonsensical propositions I have ever heard.
– Karen