Everything Is Cancelled Until The Students Are Safe

Protecting America's ethnic minority students, students of all sexual orientations, and students of all genders will require unprecedented, courageous action.
01/30/2017 03:08pm ET | Updated January 31, 2017
Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images

I had lunch with my friend the other day, and we were talking about just how stalled out and technical all the fights seem to be in education when compared to the existential threats our kids are facing. We’re still tinkering with testing, and reading programs, and observation frameworks, and arguing about so much of the same shit we’ve created industries to argue. My friend said, “I just want all that to be cancelled until no one is coming for our lives.”

I’m there. Let’s do it. Everything is cancelled until the babies are safe.

It’s on us now. Not because it’s fair, or because it’s right, but because we have to. They’re coming for our classrooms, they’re coming for our kids. Everything else is cancelled.

No more throwing up our hands and saying, “but poverty!” No more saying that we’ll just close our door and wait for help to show up. The best of our political leaders will be playing too much defense, spread too thin on too many issues. No one is going to help us, we know that. It’s on us. It’s on us to take care of the kids while they’re with us. It’s on us to focus on giving them tools to resist that and those out to harm them, to give them a space to be accepted and affirmed.

Our President doesn’t care about our kids. Our President was elected by stoking fear and hatred about the future of our country ― how it looks, how it talks, and where it’s from. That’s our kids. That’s our classrooms.

Teaching was never easy, and it’s been getting harder. But now ― now is something different. The world is getting harder. The country is turning backwards.

“I can wait four years and I will be safe, but the same is not true for millions and millions."”

I’m scared, but I’m not poor, I’m not gay, not trans or genderqueer. I’m not Black, or Latino, or Muslim, or Native, or a woman. I’m going to be ok, but I’m scared. So long as I can close my eyes and my heart, so long as I can imagine that the best version of my country is one that erases whole segments of humanity from whatever “us” is, I likely have little to fear, personally. I can wait four years and I will be safe, but the same is not true for millions and millions. Millions. Humans. Children. Students. They’ve been told, loud and clear by the now-leader of our country, “I’m coming for you.”

There is work to do, work on the way, and too many places to do it all at once. There will not be one right way to do it. No exact right place to be. There is no one retweet to save us all. We will all need to do our own work, do the work where we are best suited and situated to do it.

To do this work, to do the work well and where your impact will be felt, where would you rather be than in schools? Where would you rather be than with kids? They will need us. They will need us to stop caring about the little shit.

Our students will need us to provide and protect their space in our schools. If that’s not the work you want to do, then this job hasn’t been for you forever. If it’s the work you’ve been waiting for, it’s time.

Our petty fights are cancelled, and so are all the things causing them. We can fight about testing later, and charters and reform or protection and common core and ed tech and teacher observations. It’s cancelled. It’s all cancelled, and all of everything we do is about working together will be together, will be against.

I’m willing to work with someone I disagree with against anything that threatens the safety and wellness of our kids.

I hope all of our big bosses and big organizations, and all the entrenched power that has been created digging in battling one another will let go. An Armistice, even, just for the babies. Take the big, big things we agree on, join up for just this current now. This big battle will need many armies, and it shouldn’t be hard for us to figure out where we should be pointing.

We can protect schools as a place that celebrates cultural diversity and gives students tools and experiences to humanize people who aren’t just like them.

We can stop asking for free emotional labor from staff of color; we can stop undervaluing the professional labor of staff of color; we can start acknowledging how difficult it is in many schools to be a person of color of any age.

We can make sure our school is not an instrument of shame or danger for students for any reason, but especially because of their sexuality or gender.

We can lead with love, always. We can let the humanity of our students override the convenience of our systems, always.

We can use our classrooms and hallways to fight against the criminalization of Black people and Black culture. We can dismantle all the ways we currently contribute.

We can cancel everything else until we get these things done.

We can risk our jobs before we risk our kids. We can throw punches.

We can make sure that anyone coming for our students needs to go through us first.

We can hold each other accountable ― we have to ― but we can fight oppression better if we’re not fighting each other.

Later, after, you can go back to shouting at one another, if you really want. Later, after the kids are ok.

There’s around four million of us working in education, probably more when you count support staff, policy workers, and everyone else. Combined, we have the power of our voices. Individually, we have the power, the tremendous power, of our classrooms. We have exactly as much power as we are willing to risk, as much as we are willing to give.

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