Last Wednesday, I sat in an elementary classroom and thought, “it doesn’t get any better than this.” I was sitting down to share my experience in this blog on Friday, when I heard “the news” – and I thought it couldn’t get any worse. I did not have the heart to write about the joy, the smiles and the pride that the teachers and students demonstrated at PS 154 in NYC, when I knew that same joy, smiles and pride were obliterated for some 26 people. I have participated in many a drill, sitting with kids in complete darkness and silence, trying to console some and make others realize the seriousness. Even the drills were scary. I cannot imagine the horror and fear those students and educators all must have experienced, and now the sorrow. I know my colleagues are struggling with their emotions as they return to their classrooms with an acute awareness of the respect, responsibility, and compassion they feel for their colleagues, students and their families both here and in Newtown, CT.
The kids at PS 154 were celebrating their learning with videos and action plans. Given a framework, technology, and teacher guidance, they were given the ability to see other perspectives and problem solve. Imagine 4th graders researching the issue of child labor and discovering that the children affected were their age and that child labor exists even in their own country. They developed an action plan that included writing poetry, short stories and filming public service announcements. They sang Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World – Make it a Better Place” with the passion of true believers. Their presentations were touching, powerful and could not help but make you smile.
These children demonstrated what is best about our children and the importance of school in their lives. They were developing the capacity to think outside the box, demonstrate empathy for those less fortunate, and develop actions. Through this simple activity, the teachers had given those students hope and confidence that they have the power to create change and overcome adversity. This is truly what education is all about, “life-readiness.”
In the face of all this sorrow and despair, these children have given me a reason to smile. What went on in PS 154 is happening all over this country. Our children are our hope and it is an honor and a privilege to help prepare them to take on the world.
My thoughts and prayers go out to those families that have been shattered by a senseless act of violence. Peace be with you all.