As the summer recess is starting to wind down, I am beginning to think about teaching once again and daily life in the school.  I’m not particularly concerned with graduation rates, declining test scores or even the more mundane issues of instructional quality at least for the present however engaging or lacking at times mine may be.  Regrettably, I am giving increasing thought to the rising tide of violence, a problem on the scale of which I never envisioned when I began my teaching career.  Thousands of serious incidents have happened upon the seriously good people in the city’s schools last term.  Oftentimes, I have noticed that bad things happen to good people when good people fail to follow through with the right actions over time to keep bad things from happening.  Climate and safety have been bushwhacked by a veritable chamber of horrors whose emblematic ghouls are policy initiatives designed to accommodate almost the entire spectrum of abhorrent behavior.

Call me old fashioned but I don’t like working in places where life is mocked and made perilous by a large cadre of children who glorify violence and death as societal goods, where the lesson of the day it seems is “kill”.  Many of our children are still committed to their academic and moral excellence and the accoutrements of success which come with them.  They deserve far better than having to abide in a learning environment rife with chaos whose only products are the endless cacophony of four-letter expletives together with the caustic odor of drug use and the cascading consequences of violence which follow with all alacrity.  So do their teachers and so do their principals.

The ubiquity of malevolence has run education off the tracks and well nigh ruined it. I can fast remember not so long ago when it did not.  Our schools were once considered to be the best in the state, as even some of the most recalcitrant children of the time can remember.  High-level policy makers understood well and were sympathetic to the challenges we as teachers faced in our classrooms and appreciated the senses of accomplishment our students experienced, now thought to be miracles from such things as listening to a teacher act out parts of a play or recite a poem which they actually liked.  All were responsive to the needs of the other.  We had each other’s backs.  We did not allow the skullduggery of neighborhood violence agentially affect our practices.  We simply didn’t let it.  We were too busy teaching how to dream and realize large dreams including those of the heroic and dramatic, the “gold seal” lessons which we as teachers and our students even to this day are especially accomplished and proud.  This is the celebration of life which teachers live, love and would without question, surrender all.  This is the drama of the moral grandeur to which we in such full measure commit ourselves.

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