Sunday, December 16, 2012

Silence for Sandy

Good and Evil

After lunch the afternoon resource room students file in.
The large glass windows, the over-sized radiator and partitions dividing an already divided classroom combine to make the space more suitable to growing tomatoes than teaching remedial academics.

But unlike many classes in the school, they all come everyday.
They are representative of the New York City School system, African American, Hispanic , Southeastern Indian descent via Central America and European descent via any number of earlier New York immigrant groups.  Two live with people other than their parents. One is the senior class president.

They bicker,  They touch each other when I say "keep your hands to yourselves."

But they are kind.  Really kind - to each other (and me).

When Nina has a social studies test- everyone pitches in with answers.  Okay- so technically that's cheating, but what's the point of a non-credited test preparation class, to fail a 16 year old dyslexic or master the material?

When Eva can't to do the math Laurence helps her, until he gets stuck, then Nina kicks in, 'cause dyslexics are good in math (Nina tells me).

And Bernie has Joy translates his Spanish homework, while Michael rereads Joy's essay in English.
Not all groups work out like this.  Okay- very few do.

But on good days I remember why I teach . .

Like last Friday, after lunch and a week of crack down on technology usage, which had basically kept  us all away from our Smart Phones and other electronic devices distributing the news,   we huddled in our room discussing what at that moment was the most significant event of the day.

The fight in the cafeteria.  Noteworthy because it involved a boy hitting a girl.

Michael says boys shouldn't hit girls.
Bernie agrees.  Nina says she's stronger than most boys, so if a boy hits her she'll hit him back.  Eva agrees with Nina's assessment of her strength and say if a boy hits her (meaning Eva) she's want's Nina to hit him back.

Then Laurence says that no one should hit anyone.  He's right of course and I make a big point of agreeing.  That no one should ever willing hurt another person.

But then I start to over think it- and feel like I have to modify the blanket statement with the amendment, that if someone was hurting my children, and I add, I consider all of them "my children",  I might have to do something.  I don't know what I would do - but I couldn't just let them get hurt.

Magnanimous of me.  (Though, I have physically inserted myself into school yard fights- thankfully I have never really had to test my verbal bravado).

But Friday's  instructional day ended, I pulled out my cell phone and the fight in the cafeteria faded to a very tiny spot in the scheme of violence of the day.  In thirty years, not all the groups have been like the one above.  I have had very disturbed young people come through my programs..  There are a few who I can imagine shooting up a classroom.  Were they evil incarnate?  I think they were sick. I think that just as I would not blame the diabetic young person for his pancreas' inability to manufacture insulin, I cannot blame the social deviant for the horrible voices in his head who tell him to hurt others.

But I blame the healthy individuals that sold his family the gun.I blame the forecasters of doom, who encourage people who live in suburban sub-developments, to arm themselves.  I blame the well sponsored gun lobbyist who hide behind a Constitution written at  a time when an "arm" required stuffing powder into a musket, not pulling a trigger enough times in a twenty minute period to destroy the future of twenty-six people many of whom had not reached their eighth birthday.And I blame the elected politicians so afraid of the NRA that they will not  pass real gun control laws. They are the evil incarnate.

I try to keep this blog away from the buzz of the social media world but the picture and story of Victoria Soto was all over my Facebook page.  According to the stories posted she hid her second graders, told the gunmen they were in the gym and was shot and killed.

Do I know if it really happened?
But I believe it.

I don't know if there is really a heaven, but if there is, the population increased by 26 Friday.
I do know that there is little chance sick people won't continue to want to do terrible things. The only way that we can limit the chance this will happen again  is a real change in the gun laws.

Rest in peace, Victoria, your coworkers and  the first graders of Sandy Hook Elementary School.