Thursday, April 15, 2010
After many weeks of angst and a ton of activist activity, Governor Charlie Crist held a press conference midday and ended the speculation of what he was going to do with Senate Bill 6. Amid the cheers of my students and my own tears, I could barely contain myself when I heard him say that he was going to veto the bill; effectively killing any possibility that the State's House of Representatives and Senators would take up reworking the bill before the Legislative Session comes to an end in two weeks.
After weeks of helping organize some activities and participating in more than a few (with my children to boot), I was grateful for this mess happening in the first place. Without it, I would have not had an incredible teaching opportunity to explore law making with my third grade students. I would not have had the ability to explain how the three branches of state government interacted (or could have, in this case) in creating and enforcing new laws.
My students learned first-hand what goes into fighting for something you believe in. They saw hundreds of teachers take a personal or sick day to protest in the streets of Miami earlier this week. They asked why I had come to work. I told them that I felt that my place that day was with them; teaching them, seizing the moment, if you will, to teach about staying true to your responsibilities, to your convictions, and doing what you think is right. (P.S. I admired the teachers that did this; what they felt was right, and in no way judge their actions as right or wrong. What makes it a big deal is that a "sickout" has not happened in Florida since the late 1960's, when teachers gave up the right to strike.)
My students learned that wrongs need to be righted. Sometimes, when all the right components come together, those wrongs are righted. Other times, they are not. But you need to do all that you can, when you can, so that you have comfort in knowing that you left no stone unturned.
Yesterday and today, a few of them made their own little posters out of construction paper, and pinned them to their shirts. I was overcome with emotion, watching my little sprouting activists blossom before my very eyes. That action demonstrated that they had indeed learned the lesson. They told me had they had urged their parents to call and email the Governor. They were excited to share what they had done; the discussions they had with their parents. They were filled with questions.
As I watched the news conference this afternoon, I felt the goose bumps rise on my arms. Sure, I was anxious for what it would mean for me as a professional, but I was more concerned to what it would do to my students, those sitting in my room this year, and those who will sit in my room in the years to come. I thought of how these little souls already lived in such stressed out times. How they turn on each other in adolescence; vicious, enraged, lost, because their childhood is plagued with circumstances beyond their control, and this would be one more thing on the list. How would this do anything to help them be heard? How was this going to impact the futures that are yet to be written?
In one fell swoop, when I heard that he would be vetoing the bill, my heart overflowed with gratitude for this man. If he did it for political gain or because he understood the lasting impact this would have on our state's schoolchildren, I cannot say. But, for me, he seemed to speak from a place of thought and conviction. He stood up and did what he thought was right. I looked around my classroom, those beautiful, innocent, bright faces, lit up by happiness. How can I describe the feeling that washed over me, knowing that there was nowhere else I wanted to be, than here with them, to hear this news?
They watched me, curiously, I suppose; as my eyes filled with tears. "Why are you crying, Mrs. E.?" they asked. "Because that's what girls do when they are happy," I answered.
As the afternoon wore on, we wrote thank you letters to the Governor. I emailed teachers to get a group together tomorrow morning, to stand and thank our parents and community for rising to the occasion.
Afterwards, I distributed report cards. I thought of each student when they began the year, how timid and anxious they had been as a whole. I thought of how much progress they have made over the year. I thought of some who have overcome seemingly insurmountable circumstances and just flourished. I thought of how no test on Earth could measure what these kids had accomplished over the course of a school year. I see that my goals for them are within sight. And now, they can set goals of their own. They are ready to move on.
Today, my students learned that were there is unity in a belief, there is strength. That if your heart is in the right place, you can right a wrong. That if you speak clearly and intelligently, you will be heard.
I have never been prouder to be a teacher.