School this week was filled with extras. One day, there was a duck & cover drill (in case of an active shooter) where we had to huddle our kids in the corner, turn off the lights, and remain silent as administrators walked the halls making loud popping noises, while banging on our doors and rattling door knobs. This drill sends intense anxiety through my bones as it brings up fears of “what if”, while I see the same thoughts reflected in the eyes of my students. I realize that we must be prepared for a situation like this, my heart breaks for the fact that our kids have to think about this possibility at all. I work so hard to create a “safe place” for ALL kids in my classroom, but societal norms and fears will always find a way to creep into our zone.
Yesterday, our district held the annual community Veteran’s Day Program. It is always a huge production, complete with performances by students of all grade levels, and a guest speaker who has fought for our many freedoms. As the daughter, ex-wife, and Aunt of several Veterans, it is always an emotional experience for me. This year was no different, as I planted myself amidst the crowd of students to take in the celebration and ceremony of the event. Students around me were laughing, mocking, and talking throughout the entire program. While the highly decorated guest speaker reminded us of the sacrifices of men and women who defend our rights and freedoms, students were throwing items at one another, and complaining because it was taking too long. This was a clear picture of the stark contrast I see every day between the respect that young people have for our beautiful country and the people who make it that was. Next, I fulfilled my obligation of cafeteria duty, visiting with students who were having lunch. When the bell rang, I walked through the tables left behind by students anxious to attend the next class. Heaps of trash were left behind, and I did my best to gather and throw the items away on my way back to class, trying to lessen the visible sign of disrespect left for our custodial staff each day.
Each of these scenarios reinforced to me that there are many battles occurring in our daily lives which are beyond my control. I do believe in the power of one, but I also believe that my family deserves 100% of me. What I give every day to fight causes where I may or may not have an impact is the small portion of mental energy I have available. The time has come where I must use what I have for the improvement of my physical and mental health, and the good of my own family. I know that many other teachers face this same challenge. In this case, I am grateful for cancer as its short appearance in my life provided clarity for me to see where to aim what I have to give.