Monday, September 24, 2007

Death as Part of Life

In my first week of school I noticed a seriously disturbing trend. Students wear lanyards with pictures attached. It didn't take long to figure out that these are pictures of a friend or loved one who has passed away. I also noticed another trend of funeral programs stuck in the front covers of binders and being passed around. What's particularly disturbing is that most of the tributes I've seen are pictures of young people.

Today two students (at separate times) mentioned that they'd had bad weekends because a relative had been shot. In one case, the shooting was fatal; in the other, the student's relative is in the hospital with a 50% chance of survival. Both students declined the suggestion that they go talk with a counselor in the school's Wellness Center. Both said they'd rather be in class to have something to take their mind off of it. ...Certainly makes me reframe my concept of school as a safe space.

There are so many dimensions to all of this that make my mind reel. Of course there's the actual situation that two people were shot and one killed. The shootings themselves are horrifying, as is the frequency with which I see new funeral programs and picture lanyards. How are so many people dying like this? But the students' reactions--or seeming lack of reaction--is what's really scaring me. Death, particularly death of young people, should not be such a prevalent part of anyone's life. It's unacceptable that gun violence (or any violence, for that matter) has become so commonplace.

It definitely makes me rethink my priorities (and theirs) when I'm chastising them for talking too much or not turning in homework. Algebra is hardly a matter of life and death; what some of them are dealing with when they leave school definitely is. I am continuously amazed by how much my content area doesn't have to do with being a teacher.

1 comment:

Jen said...

but you know school IS a safe place in the fact that they can just be students and live the kind of lives they should be able to live at that age. And they need to do well and be held accountable for all the "normal" stuff because it DOES normalize their lives and help them to know how to live and survive in places where survival isn't the only issue. How tragic, though.