Ten Blog Posts to Start the School Year: Summer Solitude

Summer had just started when I first saw the footage of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. I watched, and then couldn’t watch, remembering how wrecked I’d been after listening to Trayvon Martin’s last moments a few years ago.

Then, I read all about these cases and about who these men were. I watched the news conference where Alton Sterling’s son wept: raw, confused, angry and in mourning. I read about Philando Castille’s school and his students and wondered how those kids and families were healing while they were on summer break. And then the shootings in Dallas left four police officers dead bringing a whole new level of madness and bafflement to my summer vacation. The vilification of the #blacklivesmatter movement intensified, and when I came up for air, I felt so alone.
One of our city adventures this summer...

I talked about these events with my husband, my sister, my friends, but being home with my kids instead of teaching, I felt so disconnected from any sort of community where I could discuss gun violence, racism, and police brutality.

Our family took a little trip into the city that week. I was eager to reconnect with the world again, and as I rode the train, it hit me how much I was missing my students. If events like this occurred during the school year, I would talk about it with my classes. We would process it, frame it and attempt to make sense of it. But while on summer break, that couldn’t happen. I wondered if my students felt it too, this isolation in the midst of devastation. 

My kids watched our city pass by with wide-eyes, bouncing knees, endless questions, and wants. And on the trains, coming in and out of stations, talking with people on the street and as we ate lunch, people were friendly and engaging, despite the ills of the world. People were kind even as the world seemed to have lost its rational mind.

The #blacklivesmatter "meeting" that became a march. 
A few night's later, some other educators and I showed up for a #blacklivesmatter meeting in Inglewood, and the size of the crowd gathering there let me know that I wasn't the only one feeling alone. Thousands of Angelenos yearned to do something to stand up against brutality. That meeting became a march, and we walked through the streets of our city speaking the names of the fallen, hoping to be heard, hoping to will our country to believe that Black lives matter and when they don't we all suffer. 

The difficult news cycle of this summer reminded me what a huge impact my students have on my life. They bring with them such a diversity of experiences, a wealth of stories, and an energy that I miss during breaks. Getting to hear and read their thoughts and experiences fuels my work and helps me better understand our world. In the face of tragedy, they remind me how resilient people how, and they help me remain hopeful. They keep me sane when the rest of the world seems mad.

I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have a school with such diversity, and I'm so fortunate my students continually allow me see the world through their lenses. 

Teaching is not easy work. Some days it's my students who I think have lots their minds. But it is also work I miss profoundly when I am away.

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