To say that I’ve had a hard time getting something down on virtual paper for a blog post would be an undersatement. Looking back, the last time I wrote to share my thinking was December 15th, 2015. In my draft list, I think I have about 40 « ideas » in waiting. This current post was not part of the 40 things I’ve thought of saying but can’t get myself around to actually writing out. No, this one jumped the queue, this is something that I felt compelled to write ahead of those others and actually publish today.
I’ve started reading Tracy Zager‘s recent book Becoming The Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had. So far, I’ve read about Deborah Nichols and Heidi Fessenden– teachers that are striving to create safe, inclusive learning environments where students feel comfortable taking academic risks, criticize and question ideas that are shared, not the person that shared them. The described classrooms give rise to students that are strong, positive, open, perseverant. The subtitle to the book is Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classroom. Vibrant. That word sticks with me….
I’ve also been reading about the recent presidential executive order banning travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority nations. I’m not American. I live in Ottawa, Ontario in Canada. I’m not Muslim. I am not « affected » by President Trump’s order; however, I am affected. Sadness, frustration, heartbreak, unease and restlessness- I have felt these in varying degrees throughout the weekend. I think of the families seeking refuge from war, atrocities, things that bring tears to my eyes if I imagine my 4 year old son experiencing. The excruciating fear those children must bear. I think of the families filled with so much hope, so close to finding a new beginning, only to have their hope extinguished and transformed into the unknown, into doubt. I’m left wondering if in trying to create a « safer America », the executive order is creating a closed, divisive, critical of the person, unsafe and weary environment. This, to me, is very, very far from vibrant.
The juxtaposition of Tracy’s book and Trump’s order couldn’t be more stark. In thinking about this contrast, I think about the children we currently have in our classrooms, in Canada, the U.S. and everywhere. What are they feeling? What are they wondering? Many surely feel fear, anxiety, concern. But I won’t pretend to know what they are living, nor should I or should we for that matter. Rather, regardless of where you are or who is in your class, let’s do at least one thing in our classroom for the next little while: listen. Listen to our students’ feelings. Listen to our students’ questions. Let them get their emotions out so that they don’t stay in, so that they don’t slowly, gradually polute them. Let’s not say things like « Oh, don’t worry » or « Don’t feel that way ». Let’s acknowledge that it is hard, that we are also feeling fearful and sad. Let’s, however, also remind them that having these emotions is good because it affords us the possibility to show our courage and our strength. We will feel what we are going to feel, but we don’t have to be paralized by it.
We can’t control what President Trump will do or how he will go about doing it. What we can control, however, is the environment that our students come to everyday of the school week. Let our clasrooms be a refuge, let them be at least one place where children can simply be children so that their innocence can have a rest and their hope can grow.
Vibrant classrooms … this sticks with me.