The Larry Nassar case has really affected me. These women who faced this monster are true heroes. I felt the very least I could do was to come home and listen to every single survivor's statement. It was heartbreaking and powerful to hear their words. The judge is a hero, too. She gave an opportunity for survivors to have a voice, to be heard, and to be empowered.
My own reflection after hearing these horrific stories: “I’ve always taught my biological and school children to respect authority. Maybe it’s time I teach them to question it.” There are some awful people in power who take advantage of children. Too often we are differential to authority and learn not to question authority over the perspective of a child. I want my children to have a voice. I want my children to know someone will listen and will take action. I want my children to be safe.
“Inaction is inaction. Silence is indifference. Justice requires an action and a voice and that’s what happened in this court. 168 buckets of water were placed on your so-called match that got out of control”
~Judge Rosemarie Aquilina on the comments of survivors during sentencing
Then, I reflected on the fact that this isn’t just about a horrific predator. It’s about knowing when someone has been hurt, taking ownership over actions, and apologizing. I have had to apologize numerous times to students (and adults). Sometimes I have been short with a student, sometimes I have been sarcastic, and sometimes I have made a decision quickly when I needed to give it more time. The truth is, I have been wrong. The students always seem surprised by my apology. And, they are always willing to accept my apology. Just as I want my children to have a voice, I also want them to learn to listen to others, to take responsibility to act when there is a need, apologize when they have wronged someone, and to take ownership over their actions (or inactions).
Traditional school teaches compliance. It is easy to teach our students to “respect teachers”. It is hard to own up when we have made mistakes. I believe we are different and we should encourage our students to question us. I believe our students learn more from us when we truly listen, when we apologize when we have wronged them, and when we show that we are human. I believe relationships are built when we learn to listen instead of chastise, truly understand someone instead of dismissing them, and take action when there is a need. We need strong youth with voice who are not silenced by position of authority, but learn to value empowerment, responsibility, and action. What do you believe?
“I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against.”
As I think about this MLK Day, I am so proud of our Bryan/College Station community because of how we chose to march together and rise above all the racial conflict that grips our nation. Our coming together to celebrate strength and diversity sets the standard for our nation and for others to witness and meet. Community. That is a powerful word. I have learned that “community” can be thought of as a place of shared responsibility. We all have a responsibility for the health and vitality of our community. And, celebrating and embracing differences is one of the ways we make our community healthy and vital.
When I think about what community means from this perspective, my first thought is, “Where do I need to improve to be the best community member I can be?” Part of that answer lies in my need to continue to grow in awareness of where injustice has happened and to grow in assertiveness to bring about change (first within myself). I must ask myself, “Do my own children know why a sanitation truck leads the MLK March?” (You may find the answer here). “Do my children know the Black National Anthem?” “Have I taught my children about all African American leaders or just the ones our history books have endorsed?” I have learned the hard way (thank you, George Lee) that during Black History month, I’ve selected who we celebrate. And this is wrong. Who am I as a privileged white woman to decide who our children should and should not learn about in celebrating Black History month?
Honestly, I was scared of Malcolm X. But, I was not scared of Christopher Columbus. That is not right. We need a Rosa Parks, a Pope Francis, a Malcolm X, a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We need to learn from each of these people. My children deserve to learn a full history, not one selected by a place of privilege; not a “history” I choose to tell them. God continues to put people in my life who challenge my thinking. I hope I choose to challenge others as well.
“…Facing the rising sun of our new day begun; Let us march on ‘till victory is won.”
Pecan Trail’s first staff development was February 2017. We wanted it to be a true retreat: lots of time outdoors, away from town, a true opportunity to bond. We wanted a space to share about ourselves, to share about our belief in children, and to share about our beliefs and hopes for our new school. We wanted that space to be in an environment of openness to expand our thinking, nature to stir our creativity, and reclusiveness to focus on and bring us together. Our planned day of sunshine and time outdoors turned into a torrential rain storm. The monsoons of the far east had nothing on the downpour we experienced that day. Our cars were stuck in the mud and we were stuck inside with each other all day. It turned out, that is exactly what we needed.
Fast-forward to our staff development time before the start of the new year. It was HOT! Really hot. We decided to take a day and go to a roller-skating rink out of town. We thought it would be fun way to spend time as a staff. Each team dawned their own roller derby attire and we set out for Brenham. Our hope was to be in an environment where we could let down our guards, take risks, and laugh at ourselves. Our hope was that it’d be a fun way to experience our own and others’ humility and to find ways to embrace being uncomfortable. While that all did happen and resulted in some owlstanding pics during a hotly contested round of limbo, the weather again had its own impact. The air conditioner on the bus was broken. The 45 minute ride to and then back from the skating rink was hot. Not just hot, but hot, muggy and stifling. There was absolutely no air movement. We were tired, hot, and (again) stuck on a bus. But we persevered, found ways to laugh about it, and no one will ever forget the trip.
“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”
Shortly after that we were ready for the “Trail Through Our School” event. This would be our ‘grand opening’ to the public. Students, their families, and anyone in the community was welcome to come to Pecan Trail the last weekend in July. We wanted everyone to see our new school. We wanted students to walk the halls, check out the library, run through the gym, and tour the classrooms that would be theirs for the coming year. Hello, Hurricane Harvey! Everyone was canceling events just prior to school, but we were determined to be open. We were not sure if anyone would be able to make it due to the heavy rains, roadways covered in water, and threats of high winds. But, they showed. Teachers showed, students showed, families showed. We had a TON of people!! There was a buzz in the air and everyone could sense the excitement of the brand new building and all the potential ahead for the new year. People were wet, we had a couple of small leaks, and umbrellas were continuously turned inside out by heavy wind gusts. But the character of our PT family shown through it all. We had students helping families in and out of the building. We grabbed some mops and cleaned up a few puddles. And, everyone LOVED the school. People lingered well beyond our closing time, commenting on how beautiful PT was and how excited they were for the year to come.
While we were so excited for the first day of school, Harvey had other ideas. Schools across the area were cancelled. We were devastated. We were ready to see our Pecan Trail students and to get the year started. We were also devastated for our students. From what we had seen at the “Trail Through Our School” event, we knew they were excited for the school year to start. We also knew many of our students would be more heavily impacted by the hurricane than others. One of our teachers suggested we buy up every donut we could find and deliver them to our kids since they had to stay home that day. It. Was. Life Changing. The kids loved seeing their teachers bring donuts to their neighborhood! That donut delivery trip showed them something about their school and their teachers. They saw that their teachers just couldn’t wait one more day to get started building relationships. And, their teachers saw that the students felt loved and cared for … and how much everyone loves a good donut. Harvey wiped away the first day of school, but our PT family found a way to get started anyway.
Finally, for our first Christmas faculty party, our PTO rented out the beautiful Kyle House for us. We all looked forward to a fun evening together with good food and laughter. What we did not count on was the biggest snowfall our community had seen since the 1940’s! The snow was AMAZING. Our faculty dinner party turned into a Norman Rockwell scene.
Everyone (slowly) braved the drive through the snow and we had the most incredible backdrop to our dinner. Defying the cold and the weather’s effort to get us stuck inside, we stepped out onto the porch for a staff picture (and a few well-placed snowballs). Everyone was stunned by the event.
Time and again the weather has had its footprint on our plans. Time and again the spirit of Pecan Trail rolls with it and turns these experiences into an opportunity. I. Love. This Place. And These People. #ThisIsPT