Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What Are Our Children?

Just saw a flock of teens exiting Oviedo High. 

Heading home, heading to practice, heading to rehearsal, heading to work. 

Getting on with their teenaged lives.

I'm glad I got to see that again. I was moved by it, grateful they were all okay.
Joan of Arc

I wonder how they felt about going to school this morning? Who roused them so unnaturally early?

What did they look forward to? What, if anything, did they hope for today? What did they dread?  What percentage of them went gladly? What percentage went because they couldn't think of a way to get out of it?

What motivated them to go? Why didn't they refuse to go?

Once they arrived, was it worth it? How many learned something that made life richer? How many were allowed to think critically, were taught to listen carefully, to feel the joy of creating, to support an argument with logic and evidence, to grow in discernment, to speak and otherwise interact with civility and respect?

How many walked out of a classroom eager to return to it tomorrow? 

Be honest: How many do you think? And how many wasted the day or had it wasted for them?

How many felt truly alive under the fluorescent lights and the drone of a teacher faithfully attending to the state's latest initiative?

All these kids I see now leaving the OHS campus went to school any damn way. They risked their lives today for whatever they received in that large facility that so closely resembles a prison. They'll risk their lives again tomorrow, with absolutely no guarantee of safety.

They can't take that for granted anymore. Parents' well-meaning assurance as their kids walk out the door rings hollow. A teen could rightly call B.S. on it. They know there could be a code-red drill today or there could be a Code Red today.

But they go anyway. 

Like WWII gunners climbing into the cramped confines of a bomber's ball turret, vulnerable, exposed, tucked up in a tight fetal position like some 4th grader trying to survive a school shooting. 

The gunner terrified by flak -- damnit! -- how did he even survive the pandemonium? Like a child with the howling or beeping alarm, maybe shouted terrified instructions from the P.A., the pop! pop! sounded like firecrackers! or the dead silence, the cold hushed silence smothering the natural rowdy exuberance of children.

Those kids I see now, talking and laughing and staring at their phones and a boy stepping onto a skateboard, they went to school anyway.

As a teacher, the end of a school day gave me a combination of fatigue and relief I've never experienced anywhere else, but way down beneath the depletion, I hated to see them go. I must have loved them, loved their potential.

So it was painful at the end of year when they left me in my room alone. I knew I might see them again or I might not. They had to get on with their lives, let their brains finish developing. Find something more enjoyable and rewarding than high school.

But that was at the end of a day and the end of a school year, worked into our accepted if rigid calendar, with its alpha and omega. 

The end doesn't always wait its turn, and the kids now know that, and they go anyway.

Daily they courageously risk bullets for . . . what?

If they never come back and there is one less table setting and their textbooks get returned to the school and and their college applications are shredded, at least they will have died in the name of . . .who?

For the benefit of . . . what? Who?

Ran out of words. What are our kids? Heroes? Martyrs? Sacrificial lambs? 

What is called when children die while grownups make up their minds.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, but I'm sorry circumstances led me to write it.

  2. I love the refrain: "they go anyway...they go..."

  3. After being in elementary for 24 years and switching to high school this year, I can relate to your words and have to grown to love all my high school students. Very well written, thank you for that

    1. Thank you for loving our kids. They desperately need it, and they know full well when it's genuine. And thanks for your comment.