Love is an innate characteristic that we all have when we’re born. I believe that with all my heart and soul and it’s been confirmed over the past two weeks. As educators, it’s important that we remember this and be the example for our students. When we do, they’ll take on the same demeanor and exhibit that characteristic, knowingly and unknowingly. Whatever the case, we’ll take it!
On Friday, I picked my boys up from daycare. I couldn’t find them at first, which was weird because they’re normally in the same place. I went to the front of the building to see the director, and she told me to make myself comfortable and she’d find them. I plopped down on the bench that was close by the door and waited. She walked around for a few minutes and I soon heard my youngest son yell, “Daddy!!!” He ran all the way up the hall, and of course I told him to walk. He didn’t listen. Excitement evidently made him deaf to my request. We hugged and I asked him where his book bag was. He responded, “Oh…be right back.” Then, he took off running again. I shook my head again, knowing my request to stop running would be ignored. I was over it, so I didn’t mention it. I went back to thumbing through my emails and waited another two or three minutes.
Then, his brother finally came around the corner with him. Now, they were racing and laughing. I signed them out, we got in the car, and were about to drive off. My oldest son started telling me that his friends got in the police car at school. That alarmed me, especially with all that’s going on in the world today. Before I knew it, I shot out, “WHAT!” I put the car back in park and turned around to look at him. Right after he told me that, his teacher came out and told me that a parent came in upset and said some bad things while the kids were in the classroom. She told me they’d started crying and asked my oldest son if he was okay. He said yes, they said goodbye, and we drove off. He started talking to his younger brother again. Evidently, there was a debate about who the best Ninja Turtle was, and they couldn’t come to an agreement. Kids argue about the darnest things. I thought it was all fine, and then we pulled up at our house and unloaded.
We walked in, and they stuck to their ritual by yelling, “Good evening, Grandma!” She was sitting watching the news, as she always is. My oldest son then told his grandma what happened. I wasn’t paying attention because I was having what my mom would deem as “grown folks conversation” with one of my friends who was celebrating his birthday on the same day. I was engulfed in my own conversation, laughing and talking loudly, but then I glanced up and saw my oldest son walking towards the front steps with tears in his eyes. I knew that this event had impacted him more than I’d initially thought. I told my friend that I’d call him back (which probably wasn’t true), and I walked over to our steps by the front door with my son. I said, “What’s wrong, man.” He broke down crying and said, “I just want my friends to be okay, Daddy.” I grabbed him, gave him a big hug, and I let him cry. I told him that they would be alright and that they were probably with their mom. The interesting thing is we’d sent out some requests for some of his friends to attend his birthday party that’s coming up, so we had the kids’ mom’s cell number. My wife texted their mom and told her that Kameron was worried about the kids. Their mom replied back and said that the kids were fine and would be at school on Monday. That soothed his little heart, and he was able to carry on through the weekend. He talked to his aunt Carla, who had a conversation with him about the importance of prayer and the reason behind us teaching them to pray for their friends and family. I was grateful that my kids were surrounded by so many great people who constantly feed and pour into them. They’re not perfect kids, but I know that all the lessons they learn will make a huge difference in their lives once they leave from under my roof.
But through all this, I asked myself a rhetorical question….”What happens to us as we grow older, and why don’t we have such care for those around us when we become adults? Why do we harden our hearts so tightly that we can show an ounce of care or concern for those around us?” I couldn’t come to an answer, and I still ponder on the question. One of the things that my son’s response to the event from the day did was help me understand the impact of things that kids see. Some kids are not affected by shooting, screaming, arguing, etc. because that’s what they experience everyday. Growing up, I can say I pushed all of it out of my mind because it was just the thing that happened daily in our neighborhood. Some kids are affected though, and they never forget those experiences. Some of our kids have stability at home, but the world will issue them a dose of instability, and they’ll have to figure out how to navigate through it. Some of our kids have instability all around, and they sometimes operate in a state of instability to survive. They argue back with adults; they scream and curse; they do things we would’ve never done when we were their ages…or maybe we just wouldn’t do it publicly. This is a different generation we’re dealing with. We have to understand our kids and the mentality they have. That will help us to have productive times and get to the root of whatever issue they have. Our primary job is to teach them the content, but in teaching the whole child, we have to make sure we prepare them for everything they will go through because some of them have been taught that noncompliance is the way to survive. That’s not it, though. That’s far from correct.
As with my own son, I’m glad that he had a chance to experience some instability. The world is not perfect, but I trust his teachers, and I know that their primary goal is to make sure he and his friends are safe and that they are prepared for the real world. As I navigate through the remainder of the year, that’s one of my top priorities as well. We’ve been sharing our views of what Cougar Accountability looks like, and it’s on all of us to make sure that we provide a students with a well-structured and safe environment. Honestly, we’re still working on some structures at Kennedy Road, but we’ll get there. It’s still September, and it’s time for some serious action plans to clean up a few things. Sometimes as adults, we throw a lot of things at our students (figuratively, of course), but we have to understand that they are kids and are still learning. At the middle school, we also have to remember that they are about to transition to high school, so we also have to prepare them for that. Whatever the case, I know that it all starts with a true, caring heart and an environment where students feel welcomed and cared for. If we start there, and hold one another accountable, we can work together to make sure our love for our profession and our love for our students conquer all the obstacles that try to hold us back. I picture it as a race. Imagine all of the teachers in the building running a marathon. It’s not likely that everyone would get tired at the same time because some people’s willpower to push through is higher than others. Some people have to be pulled to the finish line. Some people understand the goal when it’s set, and some others take some time to see the vision. What matters most is that we all finish as a collective team and cross the finish line.
The race is not won by the swift…ENDURE, LEAD, LOVE.
Be great. Be accountable.