Not Even Close to Caught Up

from Nigel Gibson’s flickr

Every April (just in case it wasn’t clear how far behind I still am…) Ralph Fletcher shares some of his poems for Poetry Month. This one has long been one of my favorites.

I teach in a huge school district. Huge. We have about 190,000 students. So we also have a lot of teachers. Sometimes I don’t realize someone I read online is actually in my district. This was true for a while about Katie Eustis. She’s another (like Christie Nold) white person helping me see how to better do the work of serving all kids and working against systemic racism. In this piece she’s reflecting on how she got started on that path.

When I think about the work that POC do everyday to bring white people to this work, and how without them, I wouldn’t be here, it truly breaks my heart. They are expending so much emotional energy (TRAUMA)  justifying why their lives matter, why what’s happening in communities of color isn’t because of “poor life choices” but systemic issues that really have left people with not many choices for how to survive, and how completely fed up they are with white moderates who claim colorblindness and that all a person has to do in this life is “be nice.”

More on the systemic issues are in this piece from Sherri Spelic. In it she reflects on reading Inequality in the Promised Land: Race, Resources, and Suburban Schooling.

Lewis-McCoy talks about “concerted cultivation” of children that commonly happens in White middle class families. He describes the ways in which those same families throw their political weight around by being particularly vocal in making demands on school officials to insure the best resources and opportunities for their own children by resisting efforts that specifically seek to address racial disparities in both opportunities and outcomes.

On a completely different note, if you enjoy photography you should be following Tom Woodward because he shares the most amazing photos. (He also shares lots of strategies in coding that I don’t understand at all but read just for the fabulous footnotes.)

This piece, from Scott McLeod, struck me for a couple of reasons. One, it begins to get at something that frequently irritates me in education, which is how often we think we are giving students choice but it is really so limited as to be almost nonexistent. He also addresses something that struck me with my own daughters. I can remember a conversation we had about what to do when feeling stressed or frustrated at school and we brainstormed strategies. Unfortunately, most of the things they would want to do to calm down (take a walk, listen to music, do some writing) would not be an option in a classroom. They wouldn’t be able to just get up and go do one of those things if they felt they needed to. I’m taking the punchline of Scott’s piece and sharing it, but I can’t help it. It’s perfect. The piece is short and definitely worth a read.

Want to know who has true agency in a school? See who has the ability to say no.

As I’m still going back to pieces from April, here’s another one about poetry. Kevin Hodgson writes poems regularly throughout the month of April. Bud Hunt shares images each day to prompt writing from others. This is a poem Kevin wrote after seeing one of the images Bud shared. Not only do I love the poem, but I love the online collaboration (one in Massachusetts and one in Colorado).

I’ve said before that one of my favorite blogs is One Good Thing. Rebecka Peterson writes most regularly there and I wish my own daughters could have her as a teacher. This post beautifully captures why I feel that way.

I Have Issues (as my daughters will attest)

Next month I’ll kick off the 19-20 school year at a new school. This will be my 22nd year of classroom teaching and this will be my 3rd school. (I spent 16 years at the first school in which I taught. Then five years at my last school.) Changing schools is stressful for so many reasons. One of those reasons, that is a really big one for me, is moving everything from one building to another. In 21 years of teaching I have accumulated a lot. Many, many, many books. Several tables. Floor lamps. Stools and chairs of varying sorts. Some bookcases. A couch. I knew it was a lot but didn’t truly get it until we packed it up in a truck.

My wonderful husband took the day off to help. Our poor daughters just have to, regardless of their feelings about it.

We filled a 10 foot truck. And had to leave some behind for a second trip. (I believe if we were professional movers we could have made it fit. My husband does not agree.) In case this wasn’t enough to shame me for my classroom excesses, we had to go through the gate at the army base on which I’ll be teaching in the fall and the guard was properly shocked by this when we opened the truck. He was, of course, exceedingly polite and respectful. But you could tell this didn’t really fit into his understanding of elementary schools.

I have come to realize that I own a classroom. Not the physical space, but everything I could possibly need for that space. There were things we left behind in my previous classroom (bookcases, tables, chairs, easel) but it was a shockingly empty space when we were finished.

Just in case this isn’t really clear yet. Here is all of my stuff in the hallways at my new school. (I fear the custodians will hate me before they get to know me.)

In a month I hope this will all look totally reasonable when it is in the physical classroom, awaiting children.

 

Hurting

This evening my youngest and I arrived home after several hours at the pool with friends and I scanned through the mail my husband had brought in. The first thing I saw was an envelope that had been returned to me. My first thought was surprise that a Christmas card was arriving this late. I know I tend to send holiday cards far after other folks do and it can take a while for those that can’t be delivered to be returned, but July still seemed excessive. I picked up the envelope and I felt as though I’d been hit. It wasn’t a Christmas card.

About two months ago my aunt, we call her GAB (great-aunt Betty – she was Aunt Betty when I was young but when my girls were born she became GAB), went on hospice. That is, of course, concerning. But GAB was on hospice a decade ago and things got bad enough that my sister and I flew to Texas one weekend to be with her. We spent the weekend reminiscing, laughing, and helping her decide what to do with all of her stuff (she had a lot of stuff as she loved to buy things – for herself and even more for others). The result of that hospice run was a move into independent living.

This time hospice didn’t go quite the same way. My mom, GAB’s younger sister, flew in. She knew immediately (she was a nurse for many years) that the end was near. She and their youngest sister were both there with GAB.

Aunt Betty, as she had been for the majority of my life, is the only one of my parents’ siblings to have never married (my mom has four siblings and my dad has three). We lived in Texas when I was young and Aunt Betty was a frequent part of our lives. She spoiled me and my younger sister. She took us to movies and amusement parks. When we moved to Virginia she sent random, fun gifts often. We adored her.

In more recent years we didn’t see her very often. Last year I decided I wanted to go and visit because I didn’t want to miss the chance to see her. I thought I’d take a long weekend, maybe meet my sister there. I was surprised when my daughters told me, quite fiercely, that they wanted to go too. They wanted time with GAB. They hadn’t spent nearly as much time with her as I have done, but they loved her greatly. We went at spring break and met my parents there. GAB tired easily so we spent some time with her but did lots of other things as well to give her a break. It was wonderful and it was hard. I am so glad we went.

Tonight, that card I found, was to GAB. For the past few years I wrote a card to her every month. Sometimes I sent pictures of my daughters. The reminder to write shows up on my to do list every month (as the reminder to send a postcard to Grumpy shows up weekly). I can’t bring myself to delete these reminders. The last card I sent her didn’t get to her quickly because she had moved from independent living into the nursing home area of the facility. The card was forwarded but didn’t get there before she was gone. Now, more than a month later, it has made its way back to me. It now joins all the other cards I’ve sent her as my mom collected those and returned them to me.

GAB’s death happened in the last few weeks of the school year and I was barely treading water for many reasons. I did not have the time to process her loss. We haven’t had any service or gathering to mark her passing. I haven’t seen my mother since then, and likely won’t for many months still. My sister and I had some time together and did talk about GAB.

But holding that envelope in my hand tonight really hurt. A lot. In the last year and a half we’ve lost three family members, from three different generations. Part of my pain is on behalf of my daughters, in their short lives they faced so much loss. (This may relate to how few people I lost in the first twenty years of my life.)

I love my nephew and miss him all the time. I love Grumpy and think of him frequently. I love GAB and feel a hole in my life with her loss.

my youngest on our visit to GAB last year

More Catching Up

I have somehow been blessed with a lack of anxiety or stress, as a general rule. I don’t tend to feel those emotions often (which means when I do it really freaks my husband out) and I am grateful. I also feel like an anomaly in many ways as people around me seem to face plenty of anxiety, stress, depression, and more. The Bloggess is one of my favorite writers because she is so open about herself, her struggles, and her life. She is amazing. And funny, which is such a gift. This post is a conversation between her and her tween/teen (I can’t remember for sure) daughter about mental health and suicide. She’s advocating for having these sorts of discussions with kids. I couldn’t agree more.

Having a talk with your kids about sex doesn’t make them have sex.  Having a talk about llamas doesn’t make them llamas.  Having a talk with your kids about suicide won’t make them suicidal.  Having a talk with your kids about mental illness doesn’t give them mental illness.  It does, however, give them tools to help recognize things that might otherwise confuse or terrify them.  It may help them to recognize things in themselves or in their friends.  And that can save a life.

Our two daughters are just older and just younger than her daughter. I’ve watched them and their friends and peers and I am more certain every day of the need for such conversations.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sherri Spelic can write. Seriously write. This post, What Silence is For, is one of the most powerful, poetic pieces I’ve read lately. I’m not pulling out a quote because it wouldn’t do it justice. Please go read it and think about how silence can be a cage and a barrier. (I’m currently reading Austin Channing Brown’s book, I’m Still Here Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. I wasn’t reading it when I first read Sherri’s post, but rereading it today I am finding so many connections.)

It is important to me that I’m reading the words of people of color and others whose lived experiences can be so different from my own. It is the only way I can gain any understanding. In addition, I am grateful to the white folks who are doing the same and sharing their journeys with us. I struggle with how to be white in this society and not harm others. I appreciate mentors, others who are white who are working for racial justice. They help me determine a path to do better. Christie Nold is one of those mentors. This piece, for Teaching While White, address both her own journey and the work she is doing with students. Both are invaluable to me.

This story has made me think more deeply about the “equity lens” metaphor. I am struck by the realization that adding a new lens to my pre-existing way of thinking has the overall effect of simply tinting my way of seeing the world. While this new “tint” might move me closer to equitable ways of being, it’s not enough for the level of change our society, and my classroom, requires. It enables an intellectual understanding of the issues related to equity and justice in society and schools, but it can keep us at an emotional distance. It is for this reason that, instead of just “adding a lens,” I think more about shifting my worldview and perspective entirely. I’m trying to develop a much deeper cultural fluency.

(If you aren’t reading Teaching While White, I highly recommend it.)

Jose Vilson is another one I link to often because he can write and he has things to say. (These math teachers, like Jose, and P.E. teachers, like Sherri, who can write my socks off really challenge my preconceived notions about content area teachers.) I’ve never taught in a district that had choice in the way NYC does so understanding the high school application and testing process is challenging for me. Recognizing the ways such a process holds back students of color is not a challenge at all. Jose has written quite a bit about it and this piece really pulls it all together.

Liberation means not having to choose between test prep and meals to get into a school that loves you back.

(I wanted to pull a different line for the sheer poetry of it, but this one is more to the point. And also poetic.)

My 3rd graders probably didn’t all play Fortnite last year, but they definitely all knew about it. Kevin Hodgson wrote about Fortnite from a perspective I hadn’t considered. I don’t know enough about the game (I mostly know about the dances I see regularly!) to see the positives and negatives. Kevin probes some of the negatives here in a way that helped me.

All the things one may worry about — bullying, peer pressure, profanity, etc. — now seem to play out in the Fortnite battlefields, and sometimes spill over into the school day.

It’s important to note, if you aren’t familiar with Kevin, that he is in no way anti-gaming.  It makes his take here even more weighty for me.

One of the books I started to read as soon as I got it was Cornelius Minor‘s We Got This.

We Got This.

I gave up because the book is so dense, in the best possible way, that I decided I needed brain space for it. I put it aside for summer. I’ve started it again just recently and am taking it slowly. I need it to sink in. I need to mull it over. Reflect as I read. A few months ago Angela Watson talked with Mister Minor about this book and even this is something that shouldn’t be read quickly or lightly.

Jefferson began to ask the question, who could we be if we were more inclusive? I think that’s a really powerful question. He began to theorize that if we want to move away from a monarchy and to have a democracy, one of the things that a democracy needs are strong public schools. That if people are to vote on the issues of the day, those people need to be educated. I think that that’s a pretty radical idea because basically, Thomas Jefferson was positing that a strong public education is our greatest defense against tyranny. And, for me, that’s huge. That means that the work that we do as educators is hugely disruptive. It keeps us free.

Rereading all of these pieces is a bit overwhelming. In the best possible way.

Playing Catch Up

Thanks to Tim Stahmer I’ve managed to keep my tabs somewhat under control by keeping all the posts I want to remember to share in Instapaper. That’s a good thing, but it also means they are out of sight and easier for me to ignore. (I’ve also just been trying to keep my head above water as school ended – and then took a vacation – so I’m working on some catching up.)

That means I’m going back a ways to share some things I’ve saved. First up, Science Goddess always pushes my thinking about data – how we collect it, how we use it, what we can learn from it. And this post is no different. She’s taken an Amazon IoT button and programmed it to collect information. What information? That’s up to the user. The concept is amazing. Brilliant. I haven’t given it a try yet (shocking, I know, given that it’s taken me months to even write about it) but I think I’ll order a button to force myself to prioritize this during the summer. She makes it seem doable…

You can configure each button to communicate over wifi. It can receive and transmit data related to a single, double, or long click. Slip one in your pocket. What are the kinds of things you might like to track? How many minutes in a class period the teacher is talking…or how many boys, girls, or non-binary students s/he calls on? What if you gave one to a student and asked him/her to push a button every time an adult in the building greeted him or her by name? We could even go bigger. What if you put a set in the office with a different question each week and asked visitors to respond?

So many possibilities.

Peter Anderson hasn’t been writing as often since his daughter was born (a far better excuse than any I currently have) but when he writes I’m ready to read. This post is titled, Be Curious, Not Furious and explores how we respond to kids and why we do so. I was really struck by his thinking around all the options we have for supporting students in schools today and why all those supports and tools might actually be a challenge for us.

In a way, the availability of these resources can make it harder to respond to a child with compassion. You can have a million different hammers, but you’re still out of luck if you have to do anything other than push in a nail. And with students like James and Kelly, it’s obvious there’s more there than a kid simply choosing to ignore their studies.

I hadn’t considered the idea that we turn to the tools and options we have and implement them without realizing that we may be solving a problem that doesn’t exist and ignoring the one that does.

I saved a few tweets that spoke to me (something I don’t do too often but might be worth doing – I’ll have to think more about this because tweets often hit me in the moment and then are gone and I don’t hold on to them in the same way as I do blog posts and articles).

Matt Kay is one of my favorite people on twitter because he is brilliant, thoughtful, and genuine. This tweet totally captures something I do often, when I’m lucky. When I’m not lucky I chastise the kid without realizing they were actually doing something great. Sigh.

Another tweet is from Yamil Baez. Yes to all of this tweet, but I think it really struck me because of the “It is up to us to become more informed…” I have been thinking about that a lot lately as I try to read books and articles from people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community and as I try to follow such folks online. People are out there doing the work of teaching us white folks and it is on us to learn and do that work. “It is up to us to become more informed…” That is a mantra I think we need these days.

In college I was an RA for a couple of years. Senior year the head of our building (and my direct boss, of sorts) sat down one-on-one with each RA once a month. She wanted to check in with us and it was great. She always asked how we were doing with the job, school, and our social lives. All three mattered and she wanted to help us balance, if we needed it. I can remember telling her school was not going as well as the rest and she was shocked. Apparently I presented as a strong student with great grades, regardless of the reality. It took me a while to realize that I did really well in college when I was invested (my education classes mostly). Otherwise I felt I was learning as much or more through things I was doing outside of the classroom. (A bit ironic that education classes preparing me to be in a classroom were going well but otherwise I was focused outside of the classroom…) So this tweet from Michael Doyle struck me.

One last tweet came from Franki Sibberson. Franki is such a role model for me. She is a classroom teacher who has written professional books and articles and is now the president of NCTE. When I think I can’t do things because I’m ‘just a classroom teacher’, I remember Franki. Her tweet got me thinking about one of the reasons I love hosting pre-service teachers in my classroom. Having someone else there, watching me, learning about being a teacher from me, pushes me to be the best version of myself. I like this idea that we can imitate that best version and it will help us.

A few years ago, at NCTE’s annual conference, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo was on the opening panel. I was not familiar with her but immediately wanted to read her books and learn more. I’ve done so and am even more awed and amazed by her since then. This post, for Nerdy Book Club, was written when her book Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution was coming out.

A few weeks ago my novel Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution, the sequel to the Stonewall Winning Fat Angie, released. A word that came up in an online review was “uncomfortable.” There is a negative connotation often associated with the idea of being uncomfortable, but being uncomfortable is not necessarily a bad thing. Rarely, do we grow from a place of comfort. As much as this book, like my others, are about humor and hope, they are also about those moments that make us uncomfortable, and what we do with them.

I don’t like being uncomfortable but I am learning the importance of it. My husband, a college professor, says he wants his students to be “uncomfortable, but not paralyzed.” That’s where the learning happens. When we’re comfortable we can’t grow. I am so grateful for e.E. Charlton-Trujillo for her words, in books and elsewhere, as she can make readers uncomfortable while being too engaged to walk away. And so the learning happens.

There are at least three more posts worth of items saved in my Instapaper. The goal is to get caught up in the next week. Fingers crossed.

 

Wrapping Up a Year with Families

Two and half weeks ago, during the last week of school, we invited our families one last time to our classroom. (We tried to invite them once a month and managed six out of the ten months. Not the best year I’ve done when it comes to this.) For our June event we invited families in the evening. (We try to vary the times in order to accommodate as many families’ schedules as possible.) I ordered fourteen pizzas to feed us all and families brought juice boxes and desserts.

It was, I think, the best family event I’ve ever done. The goal was to share our writing with families and we did that. However, I realized a few weeks before the event that I had a lot of photos to give families. Throughout the year I’ve been ordering 100 photos every month because Snapfish offered me a deal if I downloaded their app. For a year I would get 100 photos each month for the cost of shipping. I’ve been ordering photos and passing them on to families. But I hadn’t done so in a while so I had a lot of photos piled up.

So I ordered some photo corners. When kids and families arrived I gave them their pile of photos, some card stock, and lots of photo corners. Together they created scrapbook pages to keep.

Pioneer PCR-1 Photo Corners Self Adhesive, Clear, 250-Pack

I really wasn’t sure how this would go. I ordered two boxes of photo corners, figuring I’d save whatever we didn’t use for a future project. I set it up for the pizza to arrive about half an hour after families were due. If they didn’t get into creating their scrapbook pages, plan B was that they could share their writing first thing.

I needn’t have worried. Kids kept asking for more photo corners. At the end of the evening I might have had 25 photo corners left. Looking back at the pictures later I am convinced this was brilliant (if brilliant by chance). Siblings worked with my students. Parents got involved. Our classroom was full and lots of stories were being shared from our year together. I now know I’m going to have to keep ordering photos and hosting an event like this every year.

Such focus. Such collaboration. Such an amazing way to end our year together.

Missing My Grandfather

This is my first Father’s Day without a grandfather. I am 45 years old so I do realize what a gift I was given. Interestingly enough, I never knew my maternal grandfather. He died when my mother was pregnant with me. I grew up surrounded by women. My mother had three sisters and one brother. My father has two sisters and one brother. My mother’s grandmother was around for much of my childhood as were both of my dad’s grandmothers and his step-grandmother. His grandfathers were as well. So there were men, but they were far outnumbered.

My paternal grandfather was only in his mid-40s when I was born. My father was my grandparents’ oldest child and they were both 19 when he was born. So they were my age when I was born. That’s amazing for me to consider. My dad’s youngest sister was in high school so my grandparents were not only grandparents but were still parenting full time.

My grandfather was a petroleum engineer in west Texas and he had his own small plane to travel from oil rig site to oil rig site. He would also fly to Austin or Dallas (wherever we lived at the time) and pick up me (and later my younger sister as well) for a visit with them. I recognize that isn’t a common childhood memory! (He actually had two small planes. He crashed them both. After the second time I think my grandmother put her foot down and the plane was not replaced.)

My own daughters have many memories of visiting my grandparents, their great-grandparents, in the mountains of New Mexico where they retired years ago. Our oldest describes New Mexico as her happy place. The closest airport is an hour from my grandparents and the airports we might actually use (as they have more than four flights a day) are three hours away. And yet we’ve visited on an almost annual basis during my daughters’ lives. Our oldest’s first flight was to New Mexico for Christmas when she was four months old. (She was the first great-grandchild so it was a special holiday.)

This picture was taken on our visit almost a year ago. My grandfather, Grumpy as we call him, is sitting on the patio he rebuilt just a few years ago. He was at least in his late 80s when he laid new sand and then bricks to rebuild this patio, my grandmother’s favorite place to sit. We (me, my daughters, my dad) helped some but he did the great majority of the work. And no one was surprised by that.

Last summer Grumpy taught my youngest how to make peanut brittle. He had perfected making peanut brittle at altitude (the town in which they live is at 6,920 feet) and in the microwave!

Here are the three generations of fathers in my life. Grumpy had an impressive train room in the last couple of years of his life and my dad (as well as my uncle) helped with it for the last year. When we visited my husband was enlisted to help solve some electrical challenges.

I am truly grateful for 45 years with my grandfather. I’m also greedy and I would have loved more years.

Final Day

from the start of this school year

Tomorrow is the last day of school with students. (I’ll have at least one more day – likely several – to finish packing up my classroom.) I have been an elementary school classroom teacher for 21 years now. I spent the first 16 years in the same school, teaching three different grade levels. It was an astounding place to work and leaving it was somewhat heartbreaking. Sixteen years meant my colleagues were more family than anything else and the students and their families were too. My own daughters attended that school.

I have been in my current school for five years. When I started there it was so hard because I didn’t know anyone. No one was my family. It didn’t take long to change that. Five years has been plenty of time for me to know and love colleagues and to feel a part of so many families. For the past couple of weeks some second graders have stopped me to ask if they can be in my class next year. It hurt to tell them I won’t be here next year. (I know they’ll be fine. They’ll have fabulous teachers and they’ll learn plenty. They won’t remember they wanted me by September. It still hurt me.)

Change is hard. Endings are hard. This is the 21st year I have sent a class on. (Well, more like the 19th as I looped twice so I was getting those kids back.) I know I’ll be out waving goodbye to our buses tomorrow with tears in my eyes.

And…

I am super excited about next year. I anticipate learning and growing so much as well as bringing my skill set to my new school. The challenges intrigue me.

Twenty-one years of kiddos I have loved and still love. I will cry tomorrow. I will be sad and worn down as I pack up my classroom and reflect on the year.

Then I will take those reflections and all that I have learned this year, and the twenty years before, and begin thinking about the twenty-second group of kiddos.

Perspectives

from Carolyn Whitson’s flickr

My oldest is halfway through high school. It really hit me as I’ve watched seniors doing things for the last time. We’ve only got two years and this will be us. (That’s a good thing. She is amazing and she will do wonderful things in the world beyond her high school and our home. That is as it should be. I don’t actually want to change it. Which doesn’t stop it from being hard.)

I realized that two years goes awfully quickly for me now. A year is only 1/45 of my life. That’s not a significant amount of time. For my girl, it’s 1/15 of her life. Still not huge but so much larger than it is for me.

Thinking about this got me thinking about my students. Most of them are nine. A year is still more than ten percent of their lives. That’s a lot of time. A summer, which I know will fly by for me, looms large for them. For some that’s exciting. It’ll be a time of travel or summer camps or time at the pool with family and friends. For others, it won’t be that.

This isn’t something that is decided by income level or religion or race or language or anything. There are so many factors in how a young person views time away from school (just as there are for how a young person views school). And I know that summer is a gift for some students and a challenge for others (one of my daughter’s friends comes to mind). I just hadn’t considered how long or short a summer can feel, depending on one’s age. It may seem shorter to a high schooler, even one who is dreading it, than it does to a second grader.

Not only is this impacted by one’s age and how much shorter a year feels as you get older, but also by knowledge of what you have already survived. A 16 year old who has made it through multiple summers with food instability or abusive family or other challenges, may have a better sense of their ability to make it through this one than a younger child who doesn’t yet have that history.

None of that should suggest this is okay. If we have children, of any age, who are dreading summer because their family doesn’t have the resources to provide enough food for everyone or because they must care for younger siblings full time due to lack of other child care or because they are emotionally or physically abused by someone, that is on us.

A society that does not ensure children are cared for, safe, loved, is a society that is failing.

Finding Community

Sunday morning I did a sprint triathlon. Every time I do one I am struck by the community I find. Even when I don’t know anyone else doing that race, I feel a part of the group. People are encouraging, supportive, and welcoming. Racers cheer for each other, share advice, commiserate over challenges. Spectators high five as you run by, scream out your race number with encouragement, and play cowbells. Total strangers find themselves as one.

from the race I did – some of that community is purposeful

Last night was my daughter’s end-of-year choir banquet at school. Seniors can perform – one last time in their high school career. There are four different choirs at her school so there are plenty of people who don’t know each other. It doesn’t matter. They are all hooting and hollering for the seniors performing. High fives all around as kids head back to where they were sitting. Prom was last Friday and graduation is tomorrow so these kids have a lot of things going on and these probably aren’t their most polished performances. Again, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is here for each other. They are one.

Communities like these are everywhere. Anytime someone finds a connection with another they feel this sense of togetherness. It is powerful. Seeing oneself reflected back from another. Humans naturally look for these connections.

And yet.

Both of these events were overwhelmingly full of white people. Not completely, and there are times I find myself in situations that are completely white, but by a significant margin. Does the same sense of community and connection exist for people of color in these spaces?

What about members of the LGBTQ+ community? At my daughter’s banquet, one senior, who has been a part of every choir over the years, won multiple awards. They do seem to be an integral part of the community (even if the choir director struggled a bit with their pronouns). It seems like a triathlon, in which one must designate one’s gender when registering, might be less welcoming to members of the LGBTQ+ community than a high school today.

How much of my sense of community comes from my skin color? Would I feel the same if I spoke another language, were a different religion, had darker skin, or different sexual identity? I don’t know. I only truly know my lived experience.

That said, as a white, upper middle class, cis-gendered, straight woman I believe I should be doing all I can to ensure that everyone feels welcome and part of a community. Whether that is the school in which I work, a race in which I am participating, my daughters’ schools, my husband’s university, or simply a place in which I happen to be at any given moment (physical or virtual) I need to be more aware of people who many not feel as welcome, who many not find the connection to the rest of the  group. Everyone should be able to be themselves and be one with the community.

 

*I feel a disclaimer may be necessary on that last statement. Everyone should be able to be themselves and be one with the community AS LONG AS being themselves does not harm or demean anyone else.