For educators, reflecting is necessary integration into our daily professional lives. Most often, I find myself thinking about a lesson, an activity, what went well, what didn’t, how to improve, or how to reach a student. At the end of the school day on March 14th, I found myself reflecting through a different lens.
On this day, students around the nation organized a national school “walk out”. It would start at 10:00 am and last for 17 minutes, one minute for every life lost in the Parkland, Florida shooting. While in certain respects, this created significant logistical and security challenges for our middle school, it also provided an opportunity.
March 14th, 2018
I walked out of my classroom…one part anxious, one part curious. The anticipation of not knowing what to expect threw me off, because, as a teacher, my day is always planned long before I’m entrenched in it.
10:00 -- While we were allowing our middle school students to “walk out” of class, for security and safety reasons, they could not leave the building. I was tasked with receiving our 5th graders in our “pod."
I think I expected a downpour of students immediately, but instead....a few from here, a few from there. Anti-climatic in a way.
10:01 -- A large wave of students leave their Social Studies class to join their classmates in the pod. And then another ELA class arrives, as well. The hallway floor begins to fill as students take a seat in both memoriam, and in protest.
The discussion begins with the students expressing why they “walked out”. While there were some instances of “followers”, the vast majority truly understood the stance they were taking. It was impressive to me; Ten and eleven year olds taking stance on such an issue. While they may have been influenced by older siblings, or cousins, or social media...it didn’t really matter, not to me at least. Sometimes, we must be inspired by others first, and followership can play as important a role as leadership does.
The truth is that our nation’s 10 - 20 year olds are constantly vilified. Spoiled brats. Lazy. Entitled. Just check out Google’s predictions when you search millenials are…
Well, if that was the case, it sure isn’t the case right now.
10:05 -- We push further into conversation, attempting to bring the focus to the things we can more readily control. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that legislative policy is not exactly in a preteen’s wheelhouse. This leads us to the idea that, at times, these types of tragedies may be partly fueled when a student does not feel cared for at school, and when they feel like they don’t have a place at school.
10:07 - 10:17 -- Together, the students begin to identify ways we can create a school culture that fights against students feeling this way. They are quiet and focused. Tossing thoughts around, but careful not to step on each other’s voices. The ideas start to flow. We write them down as we go...
- If you see someone is upset, try to talk to them.
- Seek to make new friends.
- Comfort people.
- Create more opportunities for participation of others in your circle.
- Talk to people you’re not typically friends with.
- Help someone in need.
- Provide encouragement to others.
- Don’t leave people out.
- Treat others the way you want to be treated.
- Sit with someone you see sitting alone, or invite them to sit with you.
- Provide extra support when someone needs it.
- Stand up for someone being bullied.
- Always attempt to include others in the things you do.
- Don’t keep secrets that make others feel left out.
- Find the good in people. Compliment them.
- Treat people like they are valuable.
10:18 -- The Principal asks students to calmly return to class over the PA System, and they do so, without any hesitation or argument.
I leave the Pod feeling like I was just part of something different, unique. One of our country’s youngest generations found a voice and realized their power. Some are proud of them. Some disagree with them. Some see them as uninformed and “out of their league”. No matter where you stand politically, I view it as a day when our youth realized they can engage in, and drive national discussion. That they have a voice. Isn’t that what we want? To find the student voice in our kids...to empower them. It is a day that will be remembered...at least it will be for me.