January 10, 2010

A message

Oh, where to begin? So much has happened I feel as if I have too much to write in a 'short' blog post. While the holidays have come and gone, I still am glowing and my Christmas lights are still up (they probably will be for a while). Here's a summarized version of the past three weeks- went home to Port Angeles by way of plane, spent a few days seeing Mom, Dad and Corey, the new and totally sweet Hot Shop (still in the works, but open!), the mountains and the ocean. We celebrated Christmas two days early, and then it was off to Grandma and Pa's house in the Tri-Cities. It was packed to the rafters with family, food and large dogs- I love it! As if this wasn't enough, we were then off like a shot to Logan, Utah to be with Caitlin and Andy, the expecting PARENTS!! and we spent the days before the New Year in a Cabin up in the mountains. So nice. The New Year was brought in with pots and pans and screams of delight, and then I flew out of Salt Lake City to get back to St. Louis last Sunday. But, that's not all folks- instead of having a full week waiting for me, I was delightfully surprised by a four day weekend due to, get this, three inches of snow and 'extremely cold weather conditions.' WOOOOWWW!!

So here I am, back in St. Louis again, caught up on sleep and re-energized with family goodness. I was so exhausted before the break and I'm sorry to say I kind of took out my suppressed frustrations with school and stress on my family over the break. I am so lucky to have people who love me enough to deal with that kind of stupidity. My kids, in the two days that I saw them, have successfully forgotten how to act at school- woohoo! and I'm sure attendance is going to be awesome tomorrow- HA!

Well, now I get to the nitty-gritty part of this blog, and I would really appreciate your prayers about this. The entire time that I have been in St. Louis I have felt safe and grateful to be in such a wonderful school with such great kids and such a supportive staff. However, I have found the St. Louis Public School system extremely wanting in many respects. To put it mildly, many of the people in power have their priorities twisted in a messed up, complicated knot of funding, stupidity and backwards thinking. And that's mild. There are many problems here, and while I feel that I am doing alright with my kids, I feel a great hopelessness for many of the students who attend public school in the city.

The reason these feelings of inadequacy are surfacing so passionately right now is because one of my roommate’s students was shot and killed over the holiday break. It happened in north St. Louis, and while it was a drive by gang shooting, and while the school had nothing to do with this horrible act of unnecessary violence, the school handled this student's death very badly. In fact, they did NOTHING. My roommate was pretty shaken up by this, and when she had her students do an activity to say goodbye to the student who died by writing on sticky notes, which they then put on the student's locker, she received a blow from the administration that I would have a hard time forgiving. The assistant principal actually came into her class, told the students that what they had just done was pointless, silly and that they should take the notes off the locker. Then, she was called into the principal's office and told that she should 'handle this better next time,' that crying in front of the students was a bad idea, that she really "shouldn't get so attached," and that the school had sent staff to the funeral, just like the other seven students who had died.

Wait a minute...SEVEN? My roommate knew nothing about five of the other students who had died and there was next to nothing said or mentioned in the news, except for maybe a little blip on pages 5 or 6 in a newspaper that nobody reads. It was as if these children, for that is what they are, had simply disappeared from existence, without any trace of them ever having been here, reduced to just another tally mark on the long list of gang warfare fatalities. The run-by shooting that occurred at her school last year was not even REPORTED and the police didn't even show up. I can understand a school not wanting to glorify gang violence, but COME ON! It doesn't matter how much death a person has been around, they still need an outlet to grieve. That grief is going to come out in some form and more often than not, it will be in retaliating violence, a continuation of what has been going on for far too long. How is this OK? When did things become so screwed up that a person is made to feel embarrassed and shamed for crying over the death of a freshman in high school, a fifteen year old kid with the potential to lead a fulfilling and productive life?

So please, family and friends, loved ones all, please say a prayer of thanksgiving for the education you received, for the place that you are living now, for feeling safe when you sit on your front porch, for knowing that if you were to move on from this world, there would be those that would grieve your passing, those that would miss you. And, while I know that this student, and all the students who have died, are missed terribly by the family and friends they left behind, please say a prayer for them too. Pray that this student is at peace and that his/her death will not be a cause for further violence, but instead a message. A message that dying young is not natural. A message that being in a gang will not protect you but bring you down into a dark place that few escape. A message that things need to change and that death must be addressed and not ignored. Ever.
Remember always that I am in a good place here- that I am safe and feel that I am doing important things and making progress with my wonderful kids. There are just things that need to be said. I love and miss you all.