I was the first to show up at today’s blood drive in my home town of Shelburne Falls. I sat patiently by the intake table checking my Twitter and Facebook feeds (and those of the school) on my phone as they finished getting everything ready to go. Ten or 15 minutes later, I was lying on a table listening as the donation specialist sang along to Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” which was playing on the radio. I waited for the right moment to tell her that I taught Rock Band in my school, and the kids had chosen to do that song twice over the years, and she told me about her husband, “a real singer” in a metal band who was planning to participate in a benefit concert for suicide awareness this September. Moments later, “Titanium” came on the radio, and again we bonded as I told her about the time the middle school band was scheduled to do the song in a Winter Solstice Performance - and then Sandy Hook happened. We had to postpone that performance as everyone was just too raw and upset, but when the kids worked with my colleague Greg Snedeker and me to ready “Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber for performance with just one rehearsal, we pulled off what my colleague Karen Suchenski called “a Christmas miracle.” (see "Resolution" if you want to read more about this.)
Friday, May 18, 2018. All times Eastern time.
It was a sunny morning in the early spring of 2017, and I woke up in a pretty good mood. The weather was decent, most of my clothes were still clean, I wasn't driving kids to community service, and we weren't expecting any visitors, so all in all it was one of those days when I could wear more or less anything I wanted to. I chose an Oxford shirt, a black sweater (to complement my nail polish), and my favourite purple and blue skirt.
Yesterday, I attended a day-long conference sponsored and hosted by Vermont Academy. The idea was to send teams, or “pods,” from each attending school representing different constituencies, and emerge from the day with a personal action plan to bring back to our school. I attended with four students from our school and Shawn Durrett, our Dean of Faculty and an English teacher.
Amia Tyrae Berryman. Say her name. Say her name. The media didn’t. They used the name she was given at birth when her sex was assigned male, in an article on her murder. On March 26, 2018, she became the seventh trans woman to be killed this year, and the fourth Black trans woman.
During advisory lunch on Monday, one of my eighth grade advisees asked why people might not want to arm teachers. The conversation quickly shifted to our school’s policies around lockdowns and other policies meant to help keep kids safe, so we ran out of time before her question was really answered. I told her I hadn’t forgotten the original question, and said maybe we could talk on Wednesday.
“I am not a pretty girl. That is not what I… do.” - ani difranco
It’s 10 days after Parkland and, while some of the initial rawness has subsided, I know many teachers who are still having difficulty sleeping, having nightmares when they do get to sleep, crying on basically a daily basis. While one of my colleagues and I were discussing actions the kids here are resolving to take, she told me, choking back tears, “I just feel so helpless.” My office mate and I had a long conversation yesterday in which she pointed out she was so young when Columbine happened that she can’t remember a time when we didn’t have to worry about school shootings. She’s profoundly angry about that, and goodness knows I would be.
“But don’t you think there are differences between men and women?” I thought for a moment, and responded, “Well, I know that brain differences at birth are minimal, and it seems to me that the gender constructs created by society drastically amplify those differences.” The conversation continued for a moment, still focused on binary gender differences, and I added, “But we don’t even know what would happen if a child were to actually grow up in a non-patriarchal society. I only know of a few isolated examples.” My friend affirmed that a few matriarchies do exist, at a minimum two in China that she knew of.
A year ago on Martin Luther King Day, it was still President Obama and President-Elect Trump. The nation as a whole was living in a jittery state of uncertainty about exactly how January 20 would change us, and as yet unaware of the extent to which January 21 would play a role in reframing the context for the Trump presidency.
If you had the chance to listen in on a conversation between two longtime friends, both of them among of the best known, most respected, wisest people writing and speaking about girls in particular and children in general, you’d jump at the chance, wouldn’t you? I certainly did, attending an event Tuesday night at Smith College sponsored by Smith College Campus School, finding a seat next to our school counselor and my own longtime friend, Ellen Carter (and a few rows behind Julie Mencher, a noted gender specialist with whom our school has worked in the past).