Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sorrow from Central High School

The work that fills the days of all of us is put into perspective by the tragic death of a child, one of our students. Children are the reason we do any of this work: successful conferences, well-designed lesson plans, balancing a budget, negotiating professional working conditions. We do all of this work for those children and their families who trust us with their most precious resource.

When we lose a student, the rumors or innuendo swirling around what happened distract us from the profound loss we experience in a school, a district, and in our future. As the news spread about the accident that took a Central High School student’s life our first thoughts were of that student, then the family and school community, and then to the students we serve and would face the next day. For some of us our lessons today went exactly as planned, for others it was a teaching day they hope never to experience again. Regardless, many of us paused and looked at our students differently, maybe watched them walk to the bus a little longer than usual, or made an extra phone call home before ending a school day that we would never get back.

In high school I memorized a passage of Meditation XVII from John Donne, the metaphysical writer, because it was an assignment and I thought it was a cool piece of trivia to learn that one writer (Hemingway) could lift a line from another writer (Donne) and use it as his book title (For Whom the Bell Tolls). What I didn’t know is I would remember it because it speaks so accurately of our interconnectedness, in this case how all of us come together to make our district whole.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

While it speaks to how we are made lesser by our losses, our losses can also remind us to redouble our efforts to do our best work preparing for conferences, delivering lessons, settling the budget, negotiating for our members, and making our profession stronger on behalf of the students and families we serve as the best and only way to fill that void.

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