In recent news there has been a great deal of commentary on schools. I’ve seen articles calling to arm teacher, shut down protests, allow protests, and every other imaginable scenario, but I don’t think people are truly taking in the human aspect of things. We are all nuanced creatures, and as such there lies a grey zone with everything.
High School was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was transferred into a small high school, less than 500 kids total, who had mostly known each other since childhood. To add to that, I had just been kicked out of a private school I attended for 10 years, for kissing a female, spent my summer under parental house arrest, and then uprooted an hour away from everything I knew, into what I considered the middle of nowhere.
My freshman year consisted of me wearing my hood up and reading various books during classes; trying my hardest to speak as little as possible. Years later, through a candid conversation with my mother I found out that the high school had voiced concerns about my potential for violence. Mind you, I had never threatened anyone, I had never made any violent outbursts, and I kept good grades. But rather than seeing a lost kid who needed guidance, they saw a perpetrator. This was how the school had trained their teachers and staff, enforce not guide, accuse instead of sympathize. In a school where kids regularly brought their hunting rifles to campus, snug in a gun rack on their truck, the silent reader was the threat. The issue was, while I never knew during my school years what they had told my mother, I did feel their scrutiny. I felt every stare and watchful glance, and that first year left me with little hope for the three years to follow.
I can’t speak for every school or every student, but I can say, if we teach without compassion and understanding we set ourselves up for failure, and if we tell our kids their protests for kindness are out of line or “in opposition to kindness” we send them the message that they cannot speak. There is no black or white solution, but we have to allow silence to be heard. School shootings are a multi-faceted problem, and while a handful of walkouts won’t solve them alone, they do set an example for the future, and voice a universal statement of change.
As for kindness, that I can speak on, my high school experience ended surprisingly well. Through the random kindness of three girls, I found a voice and a place when I was at my worst. That made high school one of the best experiences in my life as well. It shows that if you take a chance on your own humanity, to be kind, to listen or to simply read between the lines there is so much that can be heard, stopped, and even eliminated.