we go through

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song

-U2

how did the year go???

that is probably the question i get asked most in june…by friends and family…who want to know how the past year of teaching went–and how, exactly, it measured up to past school years…

in those moments, there are usually other people around, and it’s summer, and the sun is shining, and it’s over…so, usually i don’t mind talking about it–but at that moment, i didn’t want to talk about it at all…at least not in regards to the 2016-2017 school year, anyways…

because even though it was 80+ degrees out and i was standing next to the community pool (watching my kids play without a care in the world) on a bright and sunny summer day…when a friend asked me that question…i could feel the clouds coming, i could feel the temperature dropping…

i could see the shadow again…

here’s what happened last school year…

from november to january (within 8 weeks), at my work, shit went down: multiple types of hate-motivated harassment (primarily along racial and religious lines) between students occurred, serious online bullying and harassment took place, drug abuse was rampant, one student was raped by another student, one of our principals was charged with child porn (fired and charged), and one of our teachers was shot and killed by the police.

many of these things, and more, kicked off right after the election…

then, there was a little lull, a little bit of quiet…before the next wave hit…

in the spring, four of my own students were on short-term placements at mental health facilities…for wanting to take their own lives…young people, teenagers–for whom life had become just too much…thankfully, none of the students were ever successful in their attempts…in one case, i got word from a school social worker that my student was going to be gone for several days while at a placement after attempting suicide…when he returned, i got the chance to tell him, “i’m glad you’re back.  you know, there are a lot of people around here who are, too–there are a lot of people around here who care about you.  i do, too.”  even though i meant it, and even though it was the right thing to say, i couldn’t help but feeling like my words were feeble and lame and weak.

it’s safe to say that, by june, i was sick and tired of seeing people being hurt.  it’s also safe to say, that i’ve never seen a school year like the last one…never.  and that’s saying something, given that i’ve seen some things in my time.  the sheer level of emotion–especially, fear, anger, and sadness–was unimaginable…these emotions were laid bare, raw and exposed…and it took it’s toll on all of us.  to say that i was in over my head this past year, would be an understatement–i don’t think i’ve had a year where i’ve felt more at a loss or powerless to do anything helpful in response to what i was seeing than i did this last year…the pain, the suffering, the brokenness–were overwhelming…never mind, trying to teach a class and go through lessons when all this shit was going down–in fact, i remember going to administration several times during this onslaught for help because i was drowning (and because, i’m not a social worker or counselor) …but, the party line was “keep doing what you’re doing”, “keep teaching” — their posture seemed ridiculous and impossible, if not laughable (were the situation not so serious)…especially since, the shock waves from the above incidents seemed to be knocking everyone down (again and again)–especially the kids…

to be fair, none of us saw this year coming…and nobody was prepared for it…

well, the school year ended and the summer began…personally, i was grateful for the reprieve and the rest…and now, it’s august and there’s a new year on the horizon…and i can say, wholeheartedly and humbly…that i am very, very thankful to the friends and family who helped me come out of the darkness of the past year…your great embrace of kindness, generosity, mercy and love have brought me back…thank you!

at the same time, i’m not foolish enough to think that just because i have found my smile again that that’s the same for others–the students, their families, and other staff members…i know well that some of these people remain in pain, i know well that some of these people haven’t been able escape the shadow…and may not be able to do so for months, years, or decades to come…

these people, these precious souls…are still on my worry list…

so, i hope and pray, that someday and some way…the storm will break, the tide will turn…and they will make it through…

 

 

 

 

civil war

in honor of national mental health month, i’d like to dedicate the following poem to all those who suffer or who have suffered mental illness…as well as the friends and families of those individuals–peace be with you.

civil war

the most savage war i ever fought

was the one i waged

against myself.
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