Being a teacher is hard work at the best of times, but this week is definitely one for the books. Dealing with your own emotions in a time like this is hard, but trying to help teenagers understand the ramifications of their own actions as well as trying to understand the motivations of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church – well, it’s a supreme challenge.
At 7:30 this morning is news that the WBC will be picketing my high school on Friday to protest our ethnic studies programs. Oh, good. How do you explain to young people whose brains are not yet fully developed to make good choices that they will be confronted with hateful messages and they shouldn’t respond? In my classes, after managing to get some math accomplished, the questions just kept coming. Why are these people coming to our school? Do they hate us? Why do they say that God is glad little Christina is dead? Can we protest? Why do these people hate Mexicans? Are they really Christians?
Wow. Makes finding the equation of a line using only two points pretty insignificant. How do you get kids this age to understand the wackos who spew hatred deliberately to inflame and sue and collect damages, regardless of whom they hurt. My high school has amazing students within such incredible diversity: we have a support group for homosexual students, we have strong ethnic studies classes that help students understand their own diverse cultural backgrounds, we have fine arts programs to rival small colleges, and we have students who are organizing to present a calm, peaceful face to these protestors.
But we also have kids for whom violence is a fact of life. Too many students here have lost loved ones through acts of violence. You tell them someone wants to cancel their classes because they’re a minority, and they want to lash out. It is so difficult – and so needed – to get the kids to listen to your message that what these people want is to have you react, to mess with you, to get you upset, and that the best way to cope and make a statement is to stay silent. They lose when you don’t respond.
So they leave my class after 30 minutes of intense discussion and historical background, and you wonder how much made sense, how many would reflect on this evil that will take over our sidewalks on Friday, and how much more can you as their teacher take? This has been a very hard week. So many questions, so few answers, so much hate.
I’m going to sit and watch the President. I need this.