Category Archives: Student Activism

Sad

When I came home this afternoon, this was in my inbox:

I miss you at school so much, Mrs. Chili. Ms. Danielli is apparently our English substitute this week and I’m about to pull my hair out. She screamed at Elizabeth this morning during class, and the sad part is that though Liz said some bold things; it was what everyone was thinking. The gist of it was that Ms. Danielli was being very unfair and micro-managing our class when Mr. Lannen specifically said we could handle making decisions for ourselves, and Liz spoke out saying something along the lines of, “I thought this school was supposed to be about freedom.”  Liz makes me nervous when she says things like this, but instead of just her feeling this way, this year she’s the only one not afraid to speak about the elephant in the room.

There’s a different mood to the school this year. It’s quieter between classes, cliques are really tightly-knit, there are noticeably less positive shares in the morning, no one has very much enthusiasm about anything, and for the most part, people are absolutely miserable. I can’t speak for all of the teachers, but Mr. Wayne took our sophomore advisory aside and talked about it as a group with the door closed last week and everyone agrees, including him. It’s just a really sad place to be, and it’s been made clear that it’s not just the students who have noticed this.

I don’t want to be another Sarah (ed. note; Sarah was a girl who attended the school last year.  She was generally miserable and felt that her misery deserved everyone else’s company; as a consequence, most of her energy was spent spreading malcontent) and I don’t want to cause trouble, but I’m upset, nervous, conflicted, and angry. I’ve wanted to talk to you about things for a while, not because it could possibly fix things, but because it might make me feel a little bit better. I don’t want to ever give up fighting for this school, because CHS has always picked me up when I was down, and I want to do the same for it. But I feel like power has been taken away from the students, and this hurts me most because you said you’d always be my advocate for these things last year when I felt powerless. I know you were an advocate to a lot of students this way. I think a lot of kids have lost hope this year.

I don’t know how much more I can say, because I’m sitting in advisory and I’m close to tears. Sometimes when I get really upset, I try to read and hear your voice in my head like I used to when we read The Book Thief. Maybe I’m just hormonal and having a hard time, but I’m really upset and I guess I just really needed to let it all out. Consider this a morning write

I love you and I miss you so much, Mrs. Chili.
- Amayah

Oh, Lord.  WHAT do I do with THAT?!  I wrote Amayah back and told her that, while there really isn’t anything I can do to change the conditions at CHS, I AM available to meet with her (and anyone else who wants to see me).  I can be a sounding board, I can help them think critically about the situation and work through possible solutions, and I will do everything I can to empower their voices.

This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen after I left.  I knew that leaving the way I was forced to did would result in at least some of the kids feeling abandoned and that, more than anything else, kills me.

I hate this.

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Filed under compassion and cooperation, concerns, critical thinking, dumbassery, ethics, failure, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., I've got this kid...., Student Activism, the good ones, winging it, Yikes!

Delayed Reaction

I don’t waste energy pretending to be someone I’m not at work.  I know a lot of people who make very clear distinctions between their personal selves and their professional selves, but I am in the fortunate position of not feeling compelled to do that and, as a result, I don’t.  I’m actually proud to be a very what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person; my students would recognize me out in public because I’m exactly the same person at work as I am at home.  It just so happens that this person identifies as a strongly liberal, enthusiastically progressive rational Humanist.

Part of how I express myself in my professional life is through words (no, really, Chili?!).  I have a plethora of bumper stickers and posters and hangings and magnets and quotables stuck on vertical surfaces all over my room, and most of them express decidedly progressive, liberal values.  Clearly, the students see (and appreciate) this, because not long after the school year started, they began coming in with things to add to my collection.

Around the second or third week of school, a student printed out this picture and gave it to me.  I taped it among a bunch of other things in what I thought was a relatively non-prominent section of a filing cabinet.

I was fully expecting to have to take it down in short order.  The image is a little pushy for the classroom, even for me, and even if the kids didn’t object, it is a fact that the school’s board meets in my room.   I know for sure that board members often peruse my collection of sayings while they’re milling about drinking coffee and eating pastry while waiting for their meetings to begin; I was certain one of them would express concern or raise an objection or ask my boss to talk to me about it.

September… October (when a student came back from the Rally for Sanity with the Less Condos / More Condoms sticker for me)… November… December… January… February… March… April… nothing.  No one mentioned it, no one even brought it up.

Yesterday – YESTERDAY – I get a message from my boss asking me to take it down.  Someone complained (I have no idea who – and, honestly, I don’t want to know – but I suspect it’s one of the same kids who’s been complaining that we’re not validating his or her Christian beliefs) and, as a consequence, I’ve been told to take it down because we can’t be “advertising” sex.

My boss, to her credit, made it clear that she has no issue with the image.  She’s responding to pressure from outside the school, and it’s just not a fight worth having.

I have chosen not to make a stink about this, but it is a very near thing.  I think, if I hadn’t just spent the last month raging and despairing about the state of our culture, I would likely have the energy to protest.  I’m just tired.  I’m tired of people being too closed-minded to understand that the KIDS brought this in, that this is an image that expresses positive ideals.  They would understand that this isn’t about sex; it doesn’t represent an advertisement for sex but rather is a First Amendment right to dissent, and that the message the image is sending is that while the closed-minded and ugly have a right to free speech, so does everyone else.  I would fight for this if I thought it wouldn’t give my boss any more stress than she’s already getting from the person/people complaining about it.  I WILL fight for this if a student notices it’s gone and raises questions.  As it is, I’ve transferred the image to the other side of the cabinet where I can see it, and where students who come to conference with me will see it.  I like the positive message it gives (notice who’s smiling in the picture?), and I want the kids to know that I support fully their right to dissent, but not to silence those who have something to say.

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Filed under Civics and Citizenship, critical thinking, debate and persuasion, dumbassery, ethics, failure, frustrations, Gay/Straight Alliance, General Griping, GLBTQ issues, Learning, out in the real world, parental units, really?!, rhetoric, self-analysis, Student Activism, student chutzpah, You're kidding...right?