I don’t even know why I am so compelled to write my thoughts at this moment. I went to bed praying, woke up crying, and started praying again. What is happening in our country right now? Mass murder, cop killings, riots, looting, terrorism, hate, propaganda…
The last person I thought about before falling asleep was Martin Luther King Jr, and how saddened he would be by all of this. I am a wife, mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a teacher. I keep thinking about my role as an educator where I have spent over a decade in the classroom teaching the words of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, and so many more people who impacted the world. I have done so because it has played such a significant role in America’s history and allows an amazing opportunity for kids to analyze, interpret, and discuss the issues of the different time periods. But right now, I wonder, “Do any of my students remember this?”
As they are watching the world around them fall apart, do they remember what I taught them about the violence during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s? Do they remember MLK’s words of peace? “And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring form every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when ALL of god’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants, and Catholics, will we be able to joining hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at Last! Free at Last! Thank God, Almighty, we are free at last!”
My students have spent countless hours researching the assassination of John F. Kennedy. They learned about how our history is connected to our present. And it moves me to think about how much all of history is connected and resonates with me today. John F. Kennedy once said, “I look forward to a great future for America; a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.” My heart aches knowing that this is not the America we live in today.
Do they remember Elie Wiesel’s words about silence? “For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive the future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would not only be dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
Do they remember Anne Frank, “In spite of everything, I still believe people are still good at heart.” I have these words memorized from all of the years of trying to teach my students to be the good in the world.
I also think about the messages that I try to instill in my students. I teach them through history and literature not to judge others so harshly because we do not know his/her story. Sometimes I teach lessons in my classroom that would be considered risky. But it’s because I want my students to understand the past, so they can be a voice for the future and make the world a better place. My final project in college was a unit about social action. It made such an impression, that ten years later I am still pushing for kids to do their part. I want them to see that they can make the world better or that they can rise above their circumstances not make it an excuse for their shortcomings. Right now, I frantically wonder if they remember any of the discussions about love, peace, acceptance, voice, etc. that resonate right now with all that is going on in the world. For the most part, we teachers don’t know if what we do has a long lasting impact, but today, I just hope the young men and women who have sat in my classroom make a choice to do better and be better. Teaching is the only way I know how to make a difference in times like these.
Night, Elie Wiesel