Sheesh, what a week.
I teach fifth grade, and this was the first full week of school. I bet you think my “sheesh” has something to do with my class, huh?
Well, sorry, but you’re wrong.
It’s actually the entire rest of the world that is giving me “agita” as we Italians say. I wish I could put the entire rest of the world into my “morning circle” and maybe life out there would make more sense.
Let me explain what I mean.
My class of ten year old children spent a good part of the week writing our “expectations” for the year. What do we expect of our classmates, of ourselves, of our teachers? The children created a list. It includes things like “be kind”, “be gentle”, “be forgiving”, “be honest”, “be respectful”.
We have talked about how to tell a classmate if your feelings are hurt. We’ve defined “swears” (“words that someone isn’t comfortable hearing”.) We have talked about how to make a good choice when we decide where to sit in morning circle, and how to ask if you can play, and how to step into the line.
This was the week of the 9/11 anniversary, an event that occurred before these children were born. They discussed it. They asked questions. We talked about it for a half hour. In the end, I tried to reassure them, to give them a sense of control over a scary world. “If you want the world to be peaceful, you have to live a peaceful life. Be peaceful in your friendships, and in your family. Be the change you want to see in the world.” They were somber, and serious and thoughtful.
They are coming to terms with the idea of personal responsibility, and of personal choices.
They are ten years old.
What in the world do they think when they watch the news? “We must destroy ISIL. We will bomb them, but we won’t send an army in to fight them.” We are stronger, so we can anonymously kill them from the air. I know, I know. Don’t lecture me: they are bad guys. I get it.
But how do I explain this to children who I’m trying to teach to be respectful and kind and not to use superior strength to hurt those who are weaker?
And then we come to the horrific mess that we refer to as the “NFL”? We pay millions of dollars to men who can throw or catch a ball. That’s all they can do, but we make them heroes. And we ignore the fact that they use their incredible physical strength to beat those who are weaker and smaller. Even when they say that they “love” those people.
To make this all more upsetting for me, I have asked my class to look into the future. We are doing our first writing/art project of the year. We are looking 20 years into the future, following the prompt, “What would you want to be doing, if you could have absolutely the coolest, most exciting, most awesome career in the world?”
I find it incredibly depressing to see how many of them want to be professional athletes.