Of course there was a point on the ride out to Boston where the kids were singing show tunes. How could there not be?! Singing “We raise a glass...” from “La Vie Bohème” at the top of their lungs, they all clinked their Dunkin’ Donut cups, their faces lit up by smiles.
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.
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.
Every day, when I walk into my classroom, I’m thinking “Who are these kids, what do they need in general, and what does it look like they need today?” To my thinking, good pedagogy is quite simply that which enables me to know the answers to those questions and fulfill those needs.
I remember the air of celebration surrounding the first GLSEN Massachusetts student-educator conference I ever attended, some years ago now. I got the sense that here was a place where LGBTQ+ kids could - however temporarily - feel safe enough to burst forth from the closet. This year, that same sense of being accepted as one’s exact authentic self persisted, but in a calmer, more matter-of-fact way. This year’s conference theme, “Undone - Undoing - Still,” undoubtedly played a role in that. And in her welcome speech, Board member Trenda Loftin further expressed the mood of the conference, quoting activist Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
When you see the world through another set of eyes, it's a more beautiful place. - Melody Brook
I had a good fortune to attend the Translating Identity Conference on Saturday, October 14 at the University of Vermont. As the website says, “The largest conference of its kind in New England, TIC is a free, student organized, non-profit conference that seeks to reach not only the University of Vermont & the Burlington community, but the nation as a whole.” As I arrived, the “Welcome” was just getting underway, and Melody Brook, an adjunct professor at Champlain College and a member of the Einu Abenaki tribe, officially welcomed us with words and song to a site that once belonged to her people.
(This post was written after encountering yet another courageous link admiring yet another courageous blog about the importance of courage. While that blog, and thus this post, is centered on the diversity of gender and sexuality, I want to explicitly recognize that many marginalized people have been saying exactly the same thing for years, be it non-white people on “courageous conversations about race,” disabled people on “inspiration porn,” and so on.)
It builds up over time. Sometimes, you ignore it. Other times, you shake your head. Or mutter, “I don’t think so.” Or suddenly close your laptop and jump up and stride away. And then, every so often, you crack.
Alfie Kohn is one of my educational heroes. His thoughts and work have infused my practice for decades, as well as that of a number of my colleagues, and from our first days in 2004, these principles have provided key foundations and touchpoints for our middle school program. I follow him on Twitter, and read nearly everything he shares.
Invocation delivered at Convocation by Shayna Appel '78
The legendary poet, writer, playwright and social activist James Baldwin once wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
I started a blog post back in mid June entitled “Beyond Intentions,” but time and time again I would crank out a few sentences or even a paragraph and then grind to a halt, staring at my screen with an increasing sense of despair before acknowledging I was - once again - stuck. Stabbing at my laptop’s keys (apologies to our IT team, Tod and Jason!), I would erase everything in my Google Doc and, with a mental sigh, find something, anything else to do.