Friday, November 11, 2016

Moving Forward

I walked my dog this morning thinking about how we move forward. Thinking of what I can do to heal a nation as one person is overwhelming. That's just not possible. So what do we do? As a teacher, I think I need to continue the work to help my students be critical thinkers, to find a love of reading and writing, to know who their best self is, to remind them to be kind. As I wrote about the other day, I've been working with my students to see how our judgements create a "single story" for others, when we are all more than that. Using work from Jessica Lifshitz we have examined what our beliefs are when we assume, when we judge, when we only listen to one side of the story. 

This has been a hard unit. I think most of us, or at least most of the people I choose to surround myself with, would say they aren't sexist, racist, classist, etc. However, if you can be really reflective, truly honest, there are often hidden biases that maybe you aren't even admitting to yourself. That's what we want to confront and explore. In doing that work, we can grow. 

Of course, like everything else in this world, that is easier said than done. What I've been impressed with, however, is how willing seventh graders are to do this work, to dive in and have tough conversations. Not all of the kids, but more than I anticipated. One thing we've all come back to, however, is what is our own single story.

One of my students said it first, that he knew the single story others thought of him wasn't good. I was surprised, I love this kid. But he persisted, saying that he was rude at times because he'd rather not talk to others. He didn't have patience for middle school drama, but he didn't want to be known the way he was. We talked about how we can, to some extent, shape what others believe about us through our words and actions. We help to make our own story.

I hope my students walk away from the last few weeks with an understanding that we all are more than the boxes you could fit us in. I could be classified as white, middle class, Catholic, and female, yet I'm so much more. So are you. I want to have my students push past the stereotypes and what some of the media choose to rain down on us as fact. And in a time many of us have a feeling of hopelessness, I want to remind them that their actions and words matter. Hold the door open for someone. Sit by a kid at lunch that is alone. Give kind words to the classmate who had a bad game. Stick up for the kid that is being targeted. 

We make this world we are living in. We get to choose who we surround ourselves with in our small circles. We get to choose how we react to others, especially when we are afraid. Let's hold each other accountable for how we treat each other.  Let's move forward with love and kindness. I will be continuing along that path today.