Our school lost a shining light this week. A little boy -- six years old. He, the lover of hockey, fishing and fun, was taken suddenly, leaving our school community grappling with life and death issues. In my classroom, I turned to the one sure thing I knew could shed some light, love and laughter on an otherwise dark cloud that hovered low. Your books.
To paraphrase John Locke in his Essay on Human Understanding, we want to be lovers of the truth; we want rational knowledge, we want proofs. And we want probability to help us assent to matters, where we do not have sufficient knowledge and proofs to ground our reason. And we want our ethics, which is the seeking out those rules and measures of human actions, which lead to happiness, and the means to practice them.
We sit, huddled tightly together in the cramped space of a corner. The blinds are darkly drawn, the door is shut. Locked. Little bodies press in close together to the wall. I place my body as a barrier along the tips of their tiny feet, all the while smiling into anxious children's eyes and modelling breathing.
On December 2, poet Suli Breaks posted a spoken word video titled "Why I Hate School But Love Education." Breaks' video certainly does have some positive elements but his argument is flawed in many ways. He reduces a post secondary education to something which takes place solely in the classroom. Regardless of what Breaks believes, school can foster education beyond the traditional methods.
Our daily routine was very predictable: my son would arrive home from school, he and his siblings would be given a nutritious snack, and then it would be homework time. That's when the tantrums, rage and complaints would begin. Common complaints were that I was SO mean and unfair, or "torturing" him to do his homework! Here are some tips I have used to get my son to do his homework.
I was called every name in the book, my locker was vandalized, but I did nothing. I simply tried to ignore it all. Every day in the first half of my freshmen year I was reminded what the kids thought of me, and those thoughts weren't nice ones. Eventually, magically, they stopped bullying me, and ended up ignoring me. It was a nice trade off, but my mind, my thoughts and my future were already damaged.
As reported earlier this week, the fine folks running The Toronto District School Board have been up to a few things which have led me to conclude that they do, in fact, hate kids, or at the very least have some bad ideas on what to do with them. First on the docket was this little number. Now in the perfect world, an all gay school, or one that allows the "free expression of homosexuality" would be awesome, a big step forward as they say. But here's the problem with it. It is, for all intents and purposes, segregation. Removing a visible minority from the public high schools, and placing them in their very own school. Sounds good, but isn't that what they did in Little Rock, AK circa the late 50's. If I recall history class, there were riots and national guard deployments over that. And also note the idea of having an "inclusive society" generally implies having everyone working together, not in their own little sectors.
Developing a school that not only makes students feel welcome and safe but encourages students to unleash their creative potential is a huge and important challenge. There is no silver bullet for transforming school buildings into an environment that inspires and ignites the creative flame, but an imaginative design can go a long way.
This is a space for both Israeli and Arab students to coexist at school and at home. The conversations at Project Harmony in Jerusalem usually start organically because, after all, the campers were born into the conflict: sixty years of failed peace treaties, losses on both sides, destruction of lives and heartbreaking stories.
Administrative efficiency, human rights, respect for minorities and the integration of immigrants are all good reasons to put an end to religious segregation. Yet for politicians, the question remains taboo. We're in the early days of the provincial election campaign, and leaders are avoiding the subject like the plague.