I don’t know what to say.
I woke up on Sunday morning, early as always (around 6:00) with my cat meowing outside my bedroom door because he wanted to be fed. My general habit on days when I don’t have anywhere to be is to stumble out of bed, throw some food in his dish so he’ll shut up, check my phone for notifications, and go back to sleep for a few more hours.
I couldn’t go back to sleep after opening my Twitter app and seeing all of the devastated tweets about Orlando. I’ve barely stopped thinking about it since. I know that I don’t have any of the right words to say – because I don’t think there ARE right words to say, but I do know that most of my initial thoughts were about my students, as they so often are.
I work at a school that prides itself on being a safe haven for students who identify as LGBT+. The thing that I can’t stop thinking about the past few days is that I, terrifyingly, cannot guarantee that those students will be safe outside of my classroom. I cannot protect them from the hate and the judgement and the struggles they will have to go through.
Love, Teach said it much better than I will ever be able to when she wrote, “Teaching has fundamentally changed me, is changing me, and it has to, because I spend hours every week interacting directly with kids who represent a vast array of beliefs, values, and experiences. I love each of you so much that sometimes I think I’m in actual danger of my heart exploding out of my chest, and more than anything I just want all of you to live in a world where you feel safe and strong and valued.”
To my students, especially my LGBT+ ones: I miss you guys. I worry about you all summer. I know that when you are inside my classroom, inside our school, I can ensure that hate directed towards you is not tolerated. I can ensure that you will encounter someone each day (me) who will acknowledge your worth. During the summer, I can’t do that. It is eating away at my heart that I cannot help you process what has happened this week, that I can’t be there to grieve with you and answer your questions. I probably don’t have answers anyways, but I would be there to listen. I know that you would be helping me process this too – we have processed tragedies together before and explored our feelings about this unfair and scary world.
I love you all. I wish that I could keep you inside the safe bubble we have created forever and ever, but that is not how the world works. I am so sorry that you must live in constant fear of someone rejecting your right to safety, to expressing yourself, to life itself.
Come August, know that I will be waiting impatiently by my classroom door, ready to overenthusiastically and embarrassingly welcome you back from your summer break. I’ll be ready to hear about all your summer adventures and struggles. Together, I hope we can continue to learn, and grow, and become more compassionate and loving humans. I hope that your pathway through my classroom helps make you a better person. (I also hope we can learn some math, but to be TRULY HONEST, that is secondary.)
I’ve told many people since I began teaching that my high school students are often more open-minded and understanding, more willing to accept differences of belief and culture, than most adults I know. So I hope you are proving that – I hope you are helping to make the people around you consider new perspectives, that you aren’t tolerating their close-minded hate, that you are listening to and consider their point of view and trying to find common ground. I hope that you are promoting love.
Above all, know that no matter how much hate there is, there will always be love coming in behind it. It is the only thing that can ever truly beat hate. Look to the long lines of blood donors in Orlando this week. Look to the LGBT+ community, coming together all over the world in unity and support for each other. Find your own communities that make you feel safe, and even if they are threatened or someone tries to forcibly take them away from you, LOVE HARDER.