Don’t Feel Sorry For A Teacher

I run an immediate risk with teaching colleagues with such a title caught in the eye of the storm that is COVID-19. Our lives and the students we teach are forever changed, anyone, anywhere in the world will be impacted more directly than indirectly by this virus. We will all have to adjust to the new normal until a medically healing vaccine will be discovered. I speak of teachers because in my world most of us still have our jobs, and before this pandemic, there have been history books written on the scrutiny of teachers and the lack of respect for all of their work in the classroom with ‘your’ children.

I would be remiss if I didn’t first speak of all of our civil servants, our police, our fire workers, our EMTs, our service workers, our medical teams who put themselves directly in line with the contagion. In addition many people have the opportunity to still work from their homes. We have become a necessarily adaptive society using our online social network at an alarming rate. So let’s get back to teachers shall we? Without discounting the incredible numbers of unemployed I want to speak of our opportunity as educators in this unique time.

A couple of years ago, in the district I teach we went one to one with technology. No one in their right mind imagined our current peril to be the reason. The planning committees across the world with research to back up their findings would suggest that students can go further with their learning using online resources. Our school district created a system of keeping academics in focus on what was once known as a snow day. The idea didn’t take the entire day of freedom from students at home, but it did offer a limited array of academic tools to keep students on track. This system was imagined to compensate four or five days of lost education in a winter bound region of the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the rules. Students need their education, they need to move to the next level. Students across the world need to be able to achieve a current level of education in order to hone theirs skills to live formative futures that lay ahead. Students in post-secondary also face the same challenge. For the sake of this writing, the focus in on elementary through high school, and primarily on senior classes whose graduation walk are now hanging by a thread. This does not even speak to the extracurriculars – athletics, fine arts, business, etc.

When this virus first began to impact education, we were told we would have a week and a half before our spring break to begin implementing tools to provide students distance-learning for the rest of the school year. It would appear we may not enter the classroom through graduation. I remember hearing a colleague one day suggest that maybe teachers will gain more respect now that parents are forced to stay home from their jobs in order to care for their children. I cannot imagine what parents who need to work and cannot are going through in respect to their children who are dependent upon their love, compassion and care in home. During our ‘shelter in place’ or ‘stay at home’ mandate in nearly every state in the country, every country in the world, our children are left living uncertain and vulnerable times.

I personally don’t believe this gives teachers a better opportunity to gain respect. In fact, it increases our responsibility to move students forward. It demands that as a teacher we find a way to inspire and support students to continue moving to the next level of their education. The COVID-19 virus is a mandate on education, and we as teachers need to embrace this opportunity in the midst of crisis.

Now more than ever teachers cannot manifest the identity that allows the general public to believe we may take ownership in lesser stressed occupations than workers in many capacities across the country. Teachers need to step up and create online classrooms that will capture the imagination of students across the world. In the classroom, we as teachers are asked to provide students with a safe environment for learning and coping in a dynamic and fluid world. More than ever, as we reach into student homes we need the parents to feel confident their children are not being ignored and not being forced to move in rampant fashion into negative aspects of such remarkable free time in their lives.

As a teacher, we need to reach our students and not let them believe at an ever increasing and alarming level that we do not take stake in moving them forward and giving them the tools to continue to hone their academic skill set. As a teacher, we need to continue to be a student mentor. That is what we signed up for. That cannot change.

Be safe everyone – keep your distance – wear your masks – love each other.


© Thom Amundsen 4/2020

We Have Similar Skin

Watched him today

many eyes

would notice

a downcast security

my body my own my mind

thrown to the wolves

with one glance

back.

Watched her today

some certainty

might allow

a surrounding hypocrisy

unleash ugliness

for is it not he, she once,

he will wish

they might he know

she lives, he

Lives.

When all they ever wanted

a glance a love none flaunted.


©️ Thom Amundsen 2019

Another Steps In

Remember the word invaluable

its mystique left in its own mythological

persona, that feeling of worthiness

beyond the normalcy of our lives.

 

Remember we always believe,

seldom do we allow ourselves

to fail the resilient nature of

respecting the human condition.

 

Remember we tend to pretend

‘everything is alright’

‘we should get together soon’

while our facade takes us away.

 

Remember all the questions

that will arise

when one makes a choice

no one else can understand.

 

Remember the fascination we have

with living breathing smiling

human beings

remember we are all the same.

 

Remember to never take for granted

the actions of one have nothing to do

with you.

Living In An Ideal World

We have students across the country

reaching their final days,

the year of the senior

so many being asked to take that next step

that freedom of becoming official

that adult thing

prayed for, imagined, perhaps sacrificed

well before their time,

readiness isn’t always an option

unless

we decide for ourselves

not for each other.

 

There’s an idyllic wind out there

waiting to engage

that heart and soul

of a youth finding their groove

wishing only for happiness

outside of

what has been routine for some

dozen years

 

Now take the walk

enjoy the ride

let opportunity speak

to the wonder of your own

personal design

 

Ride the crest

walk the stage

you’ve earned your moment

be happy be staid

be yourself

become your wonderful

self.

On Racial Disparity and an Unwillingness to Look Racism in the Eye.

In reviewing this tragic incident at Chaska high school this morning, I couldn’t help but feel some direct takeaways from the thread that follows this article. Clearly there is commentary that speaks to many sides of the issue, but the glaring reality for me is the ease we have with using blame and judgment to help us feel better about a situation that causes a certain anxiety in our lives.

With social media we are christened with an arm-chair response mentality, that we have seen can be as equally damning as the central idea of a topic. In this case a direct assessment of racial disparity in a public high school.

In the same article that speaks to the victims of the incident being asked to walk into a room and receive forced apologies from the students that created the mess, there is also reporting that suggests the administration sat on their hands about the incident at a timely Equity conference with parents and members of the community.

See this is the part I have a real hard time with. We cannot continue to hide ourselves behind the idea of racism when the reality of its impact occurs every day in our lives. We cannot simply hope incidents like this will go away without being dealt with directly. We cannot miss opportunities to open doors to this challenge of understanding how such moments interfere with our students of color and their desire to engage themselves in a community that openly ostracizes them, only to have the instigators receive perhaps public slaps on the hand for doing something they thought was ‘funny’ and harmless.

We cannot pretend that there is no harm that occurs beyond the incident of blatant racism itself. There is a great deal of damage that occurs when something of this level happens in any community. The traumatic nature of not being liked, or respected or appreciated for who we are cannot be measured in the eyes of a staged public apology. There has to be more.

Our students need to feel like they are being heard, their issues matter, they take the front seat and receive time and attention rather than a quiet dismissal to prevent a public outcry.

In reading the threads on Facebook that follow this article, I came across a number of personal assessments of the environment – “Oh (community) will never learn” or “same old ‘trash-**’ summarily beating the issue into the ground in such a manner to put it away, blow it off, call it unimportant, and try to put a ‘funny’ light on the issue. In fact, one thread noted, ‘this happened a week ago’ in a manner to suggest we move on. Really?

It is a sad reality that our students could continue to have such behaviors be condoned by society because of an internalized fear to have the difficult discussions. We cannot allow these moments to drift away because we are almost at the end of the school year. We cannot continue to rely upon our political horizon as the reason for such attitude and disparity in our communities across the country.

We must have the conversations and listen rather than simply join the outcry of ‘oh this is bad, but I have no commitment to helping change.’

We need to try to openly become a part of the change and move forward rather than continue to drift aimlessly backward.

A Teenager Committed Suicide

Yesterday, a former student took his own life. The circumstances are horrific to realize that life had come to such terms. It is also ironic for many people including myself. We all have dark moments that cause us to imagine a deadly option. This young man somehow felt there was no one he could speak to that might help him through his crisis. In my life the issue of suicide has always been thought to be a cop-out and an easy option, a valueless choice for those around their lives.

I have students crying in the hallways today. I had a student contact me yesterday evening in tears – we spoke for several minutes, and I invited him to come by. This situation has impacted a lot of people including those that have the feelings themselves. Nobody really knows what a person is going through when they choose this deadly way to stop the pain. Nobody knows the tears in the final moments because we just don’t understand. I do.

I believe suicide is a mental illness beyond the circumstances of finality for a person suffering from inevitable mortality. That is the only time when such an act seems feasible. I say that again knowing in my own life there are times when the world I live in becomes exhausting and I no longer like the loneliness I feel. I am especially mortified by this situation with our student. He touched a lot of lives. I watched him laugh both in the classroom and with his friends. I watched him be successful in his love of sports in the events he participated. I watched people groom his life.

Today, I see the outcome. I sense the family and their reaction not as a close friend but as a person that appreciates the grief they feel. I understand why students are at a loss in their actions as they try to wrap their heads around his loss.

Suicide is something that everyone needs to acknowledge is a terrible way to end a person’s life. If someone reaches out be there for them, because the moment you take that for granted they may take action on something they didn’t have a chance to rethink or turn away from the act. Sadly one must though realize the end game is not their responsibility. A call, a visit, a wellness check may be all that is needed. Let them know they are not alone and they have a possible firm ledge to step back onto, let them find their own professional guidance.

Do not abandon a person when they are at their seeming lowest. Look for the signs and be there no matter the effect the notion might have on your own life.

The victim needs your real love.

Pachelbel’s Dream

images

When I was just a kid,

I watched a movie,

about a choir,

a group of talented expectations

each one that had reason,

though the focus upon one another.

 

They all grew up together,

lived similar lives,

went to the lake in the summer,

played games meant to

out wit one another.

 

This one day, during a storm,

one of them slipped

why does it always have to be

the tougher of the two

he let go

leaving just the one to hang on.

 

The moment left him changed

he never went back

always found himself to be

the easy one to blame,

it was just a boat on a lake for crying out loud

how can mystery be so powerful.

 

Anyway, a story began to be told

and a song could be heard

a life of its own,

and ironically he heard it resonate

one day

after meeting her,

she was so beautiful

and he knew it to be true

 

he sang the melody of her elegance

inside the irony of a cemetery

all the way home,

he’d found a new life

and she was his muse

long before he might ever know

the mystique of a woman’s touch.

 

Until he might one day understand her beauty,

he left his fantasy in a place he’d call Pachelbel

 

his dream.