Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 09 2011

Moral Lines

I’m not sure if I can write this story well enough that you’ll understand how heartbroken it left me, so let me preface it by saying this: I was just out salsa dancing with a fabulous group of friends, and the day was weighing so heavily on me that I couldn’t enjoy myself and had to go home. As I drove home I started thinking, and as I started thinking I started crying, and suddenly I was crying so hard I had to stop my car. This doesn’t normally happen to me.

Today was Field Day, which is supposed to be the best day ever. Instead, my homeroom ended up really irritating me, but that’s another story. What matters is that after school, one of our eighth graders was walking home with her mother when they both got jumped by a group of kids from my school. Both mom and daughter were beaten up by these kids, on the street in the middle of the day. Both of them.

I know that plenty of fighting happens between kids at my school, and it’s exhausting and disappointing and irritating and wrong, but playground brawls usually involve more yelling than injury. I can brush it off as middle school drama and just hope they’ll make better decisions next time.  But there’s something dramatically different when you attack someone’s mother as well. It crosses some moral line and stops being silly kid behavior. It suddenly means you don’t have limits or empathy for the innocent, and it becomes much, much more serious. These aren’t games anymore. What do you do when kids you know end up on the wrong side of that line? What can you do? What do you hope for them?

I have a lot more to say on this issue, but I just want to go to sleep now. For now, suffice it to say that there’s been plenty of violence leading up to this, each time more extreme than the last, and it’s giving me the sick feeling that I’m up against a situation that I will never ever be able to fix. (TFA, I need a pep talk.)

One Response

  1. Hokie mom/teacher

    Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world. — Jane Addams

    I’m a 55 yr old teacher of at-risk kids, and some of my colleagues still call me Pollyanna. (Not like I give a hoot about those opinions) There are a boatload of kids who are living in situations that are just not fair. To this day it makes me sad and outraged, but I’ve come to accept we may not be able to save them all. That SUCKS big time! But at least we can LOVE them all, and hope one day down the road they will catch what we have been offering all along. Kind of like fireflies in the night….you may be the only light in those kids’s lives. Every once in awhile they see that flickering light and it gives them a glimpse of hope and something much brighter.
    I’m not a huge fan of TFA, although I love the idealism of it’s teachers. It is a crazy world we live in, no doubt. Use your emotions and knowledge to build relationships with everyone you even though you feel like yelling at some of these kids…and by all means use your blog to vent (permission granted to “all caps yell” there) . Hang in there!

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