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A Different Kind of Readiness

Eve Rifkin Current Affairs, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Love

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My students, like so many across the nation, want to do something. They are on their Instagram and Facebook feeds, during the aftermath of the post-Douglas HS shooting. They see young people that look and sound just like them giving speeches, planning walkouts, getting fierce about something that matters deeply.

The first walkout is planned for tomorrow. They want to stand in solidarity with the young people in Florida who are taking busses to their capital in Tallahassee. According to my students, this will be the first of a series of walkouts, each one intended to be bigger than the one before.

They are writing OpEd pieces. I tell one of my students that her tone is too cynical and that she won’t get published. “They want something fresh…like optimism,” I tell her, as if I know what editors of newspapers want. She doesn’t care, she tells me. She is angry and sick of watching people be too nice about this. I admire her anger. There is nothing I was as angry about when I was in high school.

My colleagues and I want to support our students. We will send a few teachers with them when they walk out of the school tomorrow at noon. We want them to be safe, after all. The next walkout, the bigger one, might be more complicated. “What if all of the teachers want to walk out too?” a colleague asks.

My co-founder and I exchange glances. We are both administrators. We know that teachers in most schools are afraid to walk out because of the consequences that “their administrators” will have for them. We don’t want to be those kinds of administrators.

We agree that in the event that all of the teachers want to walk out, we will stay behind with the kids that do not want to participate. They too need a safe place.

My colleague looks at me, surprised. “Are you sure?” she asks. “Yes,” I tell her. “I’ll find other ways to demonstrate.”

I am a little sad about this for a moment, about agreeing to stay back while my angry, fierce, committed, active students march out of school to the courthouse to demand that their lawmakers make better laws. They will be stunning out there, yelling and holding their handmade signs.

We often worry about them. They don’t seem ready for what comes after high school. They miss deadlines and don’t always use their time well. But tomorrow they will join their peers in Florida–friends they have not yet met. They will shout at the top of their lungs that this cannot happen again. Not one more time. They will show us that despite our worrying they are, in fact, ready.

 

 

Eve Rifkin

Tucson, Arizona

I have been an educator for over 20 years. As a founding co-director of City High School, I have held a variety of leadership and teaching roles, including academic director, humanities teacher, and principal. I am currently the Director of College Access and support students as they envision their lives after high school.

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  • Leah Clark

    Thank you for sharing the sentiments many of us and our students are feeling. Talking to my students today about how we would handle a situation like the Douglas HS shooting was not a conversation I enjoyed or wanted to have, but I believe that we must talk about it with our kids to help them and ourselves process and protect one another.

  • Treva Jenkins

    Your scholars are sharing the sentiments of all of us right now. Thank you for sharing this. We are truly at a turning point in our country and what we do as a nation to address this issue will absolutely define us for years to come.

  • Yolanda Wheelington

    Thank you for taking the time to honor our youth and our nation with this piece. My daughter is in 9th grade and she told me they are also planning a walk out. I asked her if she planned to participate. She said she plans to talk to her principal about it first and she also wants to see how serious they are about it. Will it last past spring break? She also said she feels it is a great show of emotion but feels she will do better addressing the politicians. She is on Student Government and plans to help her peers become more educated about the politics and policy, and key politicians so they can educate their parents on how to vote/act. Yes. I am very proud.

  • Jen Robinson

    Eve-
    Thank you for posting this blog and sharing the heroism of your students. I am so proud of the students standing up and having the courage to find their voice. Thank you for thinking ahead and supporting their cause. I hope there are other educators that step out of the box to support their students.