People outside of administration, and outside of the teaching profession in general, often ask what my motivation was for going into my role, and how could I love a job that entails all the “running around”, paperwork, dealing with parents, etc. If only they could have been a fly on the wall in my school today, the reason would be crystal clear.
Some of our grade 7 boys participated in a restorative session today to discuss the impact their words have had on others, words that were racially derogatory and just plain ugly. Our school social worker facilitated, and the homeroom teacher and I were part of the circle. I also invited a colleague of mine to join and share his experiences and perspectives growing up and living with racial slurs being used against him.
I was incredibly nervous at first. The magnitude of what I was asking of the boys, the other adults and myself hit hard for me just as we began. Anxieties ran through my head: What if no one talks? And if they do talk, what are people going to say? Does my staff think I’m crazy? Or some “bleeding heart”? What if, what if, what if…
It was an amazing morning. The boys were respectful, compassionate, open and honest. They spoke about feeling powerless, whether it was in the face of being victimized by the words, or hearing them and not feeling as though they could be the lone voice against what seemed an insurmountable tide of ignorance and indifference. One boy expressed how the powerlessness of being a bystander just served to reinforce his complacency and he had been struggling with it. Others, adults included, shared intimate and personal stories of racism, bullying and anger, that as another boy put it, “felt good to just let out”.
We’re working towards forgiveness. At this stage, it seemed that the cathartic process of “letting it out” was enough to satisfy them. We’ll meet again to see if there’s a way to forgive one another for the hurt. I think we’ve begun moving in the right direction.
At that, my friends, is why I love my job.