Wednesday, March 12, 2008

back to school

I'm late and I have to pee. The halls are mostly empty but I see the universal sign of a neatly dressed woman, white against the blue. The door is locked, damn, I mutter. It says Staff on it in big letters but I don't care. I yank on it like it might magically open if I pull hard enough.

Senorita? A man with a mop says from down the hall. Bathroom? I have the key. I turn and thank him and he opens the door. As he's fumbling with the key I say you mean I don't look like a student? He looks at me for a minute then laughs. No. Can't blame a girl for trying.

I find the room and peer inside, it's a group of high schoolers and I don't know any of them. In fact I don't really know what I'm doing here at all. Come and talk to my students about homelessness was all she asked. I asked for specifics and got an email in return thanking me for coming with a map of the school. Traffic was a bitch and I'm in a rich part of town.

The teacher introduces me and asks me to come to the front. There's no chair and damned if I'm standing so I pull a desk out of a row and sit on top. I tell them my story, why I care about this and why it matters, how alleviating suffering can be one of the things they choose to do with their lives. They look bored and you know, it's not that boring so feeling slightly offended I pause and ask for questions and none of them raise their hands. I wait a minute. You know, I didn't drive all the way up here to hear myself talk. If you guys don't raise your hands I'm calling on you. Fear sizzles across the room and hands stay at their sides. Good enough. Girl in the red sweater, why are people homeless? She's mortified but answers a decent answer and then a few more hands go up and we're rolling. But then one of them cites our recession as a reason, that our poor country has no money to do the right thing. And then I went all liberal-psycho and started bashing the government, going back administration by administration citing the failures and the fact that no matter what we want to tell ourselves, our country simply doesn't care about those who suffer in poverty and that we can't continue to subscribe to an establishment such as this. I think it was then the principal walked into the room.

The kids and teacher both started watching him as I continued to speak. I had a thought that maybe I might want to tone it down but then I figured what the hell will he do, make me leave? As I was (finally) wrapping up he smiled and said from across the room it's important to hear all viewpoints from the conservative to the liberal and I think that may have been his way of telling me I've filled their liberal quota for the month or maybe even the year.

46 comments:

Bungi said...

One of the answers i can't take as an explanation for poverty is, "It's their own fault. They don't work hard enough..."

Z said...

It could be that some of those kids will ask awkward questions of the next 'conservative' speaker who comes in.

It's usual, in my experience, that if no one asks a first question, the teacher asks one to get the ball rolling. Teacher missed a courtesy/educational trick there.

carrie said...

They were lucky to have you.

Oh, The Joys said...

How do you feel about how it went?

Jenn said...

Ha.

I'm guessing for the decade.

If not you, who would speak those words for those that are most unable?

Keep talking, keep talking.

cce said...

I bet there were some Republican parents having to answer some sticky questions later that night. Good for you, get in there and stake out your ground. I don't wanna be simplistic about it but if these kids come from privileged homes they may have never given any hard thought to the ideas you expressed today.

Her Grace said...

You planted a seed...good for you!

kristen said...

i love you going all liberal on the kids - it is good to hear a well-rounded perspective.

i like the question jess asked, how do you think it went?

uurchin said...

I 3rd the question jess asked... They do need to hear all perspectives to make informed decisions for themselves. You never know what you did, who left there thinking about things differently....

Her Bad Mother said...

Dude, the first part of this read like a recurring nightmare that I've been having.

ANYHOO.

Good on you for going all liberal-psycho. It's good for them.

alejna said...

What Her Bad Mother said. I thought you were going to describe a dream. I've had that one. Except I'm always late for a final for a class I'd forgotten to attend.

I'm glad you made them ask questions. If your words sank in for even a couple of them, that's progress. Maybe they'll keep asking questions.

Ally said...

All in a day's work for good old Super Jen.

Seriously girl, you rock!

Magpie said...

Liberal pyscho = good.

Was it a public school, or private?

marymurtz said...

You know, if the principal's comment came across as dick-ish to you, it probably did to the kids. I don't recall a single principal when I was growing up whose opinions we revolted against, so he may have done as much to reinforce your point as anyone.

I'm so proud of you for speaking to them and not just giving a spiel and leaving. You engaged them. Some of those kids will look at that day as the door between before and after in their social consciousness.

thailandchani said...

I'm really glad you didn't tone it down.

jen said...

jess, kik, uu, not well. i was disjointed and they were disengaged.

Ally, hardly!

Mag, public in a rich part of town!

CCE, i did tell them to ask their parents how they alleviate suffering at dinner...

Kyla said...

You would have scared the crap out of me as a teenager. LOL. But I totally love it now.

Deezee said...

I think it's great that the school asked you to come.

Gwen said...

I totally thought you were going to end up without your pants on, too (oh, you mean I'm the only one who has those back to school nightmares?), like HBM.

You'll feel better about it next time (and oh yes, there will be a next time).

painted maypole said...

or maybe even the decade.

but you know what? I bet AT LEAST one of those kids walked out of there thinking "I could do more. I can do more. I will do more."

and that makes it all worth it

mamatulip said...

I love that you did this.

I am confident that, whether or not it was visible to you, you affected many of the kids in that class.

Cynthia said...

good for you!!!!

meno said...

Thank you for doing this. Maybe they will think about it.....

Angela said...

There is no quota when it comes to sharing thoughts like those. Nope. No quota.

Janet said...

If just one person was going to fill their liberal quota, I'm glad it was you. Your passion is contagious.

Jennifer said...

The ol' "It's important to hear all sides" brush off. *sigh*. But, disjointed or not (I'd we willing to bet not!) and ruffling feathers or not (good if you did!), I think it is a pretty sure thing that you planted some seeds today. And seeds have a funny little way of growing...

Hetha said...

There's more where that came from! I hope you told the principal that you are ready and willing to speak to any additional classes that would be interested :-) So glad you did this! I think you might have really opened their eyes, and maybe even a few of their hearts.

Defiantmuse said...

even if they seemed disengaged I bet one day when they finally wake up they'll remember back to some of the things you said and it'll click.

Jocelyn said...

You deal with and articulate this hugely-serious shit, but the fact that you relate it in such a self-deprecating way is what makes people really like and respect you--keeps them open to your thoughts.

The passion plus the humor equals The Jen.

flutter said...

I would have loved to have heard you

hele said...

Warrior Jen,

If you made one of them think or remember your words even five years from now you have accomplished something great.

Julie Pippert said...

How amazing...good for you keeping to the truth of your message.

Lucia said...

You rock! I've wondered often over the last several years if we all spoke our minds more whether we would be living in a different world.

KC said...

I would have loved to have heard you too. I would so have been like "Right on, sister!" Although it should have been a school-wide speech, methinks.

So great of you to go and stir their complacency a bit.

Amy Y said...

Good for you, Mama, good for you!

jason said...

hey, here is the site i was talking about where i made the extra cash, I was making about $900 extra a month...
check it out ..

Mommahbear. said...

lol! I would have Paid to have seen this go down. Good for you, Jen!

Suz said...

Bwhahahahaha!

That's just great! Although, I guarantee you that just one second of your talk would have filled the liberal quota down here. Sadly.

Redneck Mommy said...

I love a good liberal psycho. Guaranteed you converted many a young mind to join us in our psychotic liberalness..

Blog Antagonist said...

You are my hero. I don't think I'd have the balls to go back into a high school if I was actually a teenager, much less as an adult.

You rock. Sadly, I think all they probably heard "blah blah blah and something about politics"

Gah. Teenagers.

heather said...

At least you made them think about something besides themselves for a half hour, we all remember how self absorbed we were as teenagers...and even if they only got 10% of what you were saying, they left with more than they started with.

metro mama said...

I bet you gave them lots to think about.

crazymumma said...

They may have looked bored because that may be their job right now - to APPEAR like they do not give a shit.

But I bet you gave a couple of them something to muse upon.

I love that you pulled out a desk and stood on it.

Ron Davison said...

You know what ticks me off? Calling a failure of compassion a philosophy as opposed to a flaw. That is just so many kinds of ...
Well anyway, this is me applauding you making some attempt to shatter the apathy before it gets set in stone. Homeless has nothing to do with recessions and everything to do with priorities.

ms chica said...

Even if it was disjointed, they needed to hear it. I'm glad they heard it from a passionate speaker with personal experience.

bgirl said...

love it. man you rock.