Monday, September 27, 2004

Heavy

I’m down in it here. I really am. I’m just in the door, and I’m drained. I didn’t turn on the stereo in the car on the way home. I think I need to take all the downtime I can get!

I spent the morning in an alternative school. I got to sit in on a History class that uses the Facing History curriculum. It’s so good, not filled with all the euphemisms and revisionist bullshit I learned in school. I loved it. This one kid in particular really made an impact on me. This teacher starts class by asking about their weekend. It was clear this one boy had a terrible weekend, and he didn’t want to talk about it. Once the main part of class got started, they were talking about slavery and the precipitating events leading up to the civil war. The teacher (and the curriculum) did such an amazing job of getting these kids to think about what happened. The boy got so engaged, and by the time he left the class, he was really excited about what they were learning.

Something about hearing these kids read from this textbook… I mean, they are the direct result of slavery. Their situations would be better if slavery hadn’t gone down the way it did. And the persistent generational poverty and continued lack of access over so many years has everything to do with why the kids in this classroom are at least two years behind educationally. This one girl read a section about how slaves counted as three-fifths of a person. Man… And she’s just exactly the result of that messed up system.

The social worker with me raised her hand and shared about how when she was a kid in Memphis in the 60’s, black people could only go to the zoo one day a week. I wonder how many white people living here then knew that. And I wonder how many who knew had some sort of rationalization that made that make any kind of sense.

After that school, I went to the high school where there was a murder almost two weeks ago. There’s so much to say about that few hours that it’s hard to know where to start. I guess mainly, I was amazed that this was a school like any other. I liked the teachers I met. I thought that the kids there were as well-behaved at lunch as any I’ve seen. The faculty found out this morning that the father of the child who was murdered is suing the school, but most faculty members wondered about his involvement in his son’s life prior to his death.

I think what was perhaps most emotional for me was that after speaking with a special education teacher for about 40 minutes, I found out that she was actually the first teacher who arrive on the scene. I can’t remember how much detail was in the papers, so I don’t want to say more to be doubly sure I’m not breaking any kind of confidentiality, but I was just amazed that this teacher was still around, focusing 100% on the children in her classroom. I don’t think she’s missed a single day since everything happened.

Being there in the building, knowing what happened in detail and where… it was really intense in some ways, really everyday in others. The hope is that we can do some things to help kids in general at the school after what happened. The sad thing is that many of the kids have already experience violent deaths in their short lives. Makes me feel lucky.

Phew. I need some downtime after days like this!