Friday, February 16, 2018

One of my favorite quotes credited to Ayesha Siddiqi says, "Be the person you needed when you were young."

When I was young, I needed someone who had a different perspective - a wider lens of life and humanity and culture and experiences than our small (albeit beloved to me) town. I wanted to see more and learn more and experience more. And I was lucky enough that my parents and teachers could see this in me that they pushed me towards those people. My parents (with reluctance but good faith) put me on an airplane headed to Honduras with a group of doctors and dentists when I was sixteen. They also became what I needed themselves, my Dad the curious researcher and questioner - my Mom the ever patient listening ear while I went on and on about some new thing I learned.

As a teacher now, I see everyday that what so many of my students need is someone who simply has the time of day to notice them. I have students everyday starved for meaningful connection.

The person our young people need is

Someone who puts their phone down. and looks them in the eye.
Someone who listens to what they are saying without a planned, predictable response.
Someone who smiles.
Someone who is silly and cheesy.
Someone who finds common ground with them despite age and interests.
Someone who notices when they are particularly happy or sad or worried and then asks them 'you okay?'
Someone who see when they aren't okay at all and need real help and puts them in touch with who ever it is that support them.

They are the most 'connected' generation in history but there is so little real connection. Our young people need us. We all need each other.

Were we lonely back in our day? yes. Were our parents lonely and their parents lonely and theirs for all of time? yes. But the danger now that we did not have then, is that we have this new layer of artificial connection that is also a means for infinite distraction from dealing with real feelings.

We cannot continue to look at our young people and say - we've all gone through the teenage years, yeah, it sucks. we've all been bullied. we've all felt lonely..."  Because although that may be true - we have not gone through it like them. How often have you said, "thank goodness I didn't have the internet/social media when I was a teenager." If you are like me it is all the time. I read back through my diaries and laugh and cringe. And on top of the social media aspect of it - if we're being honest, really honest with ourselves, painfully brutally honest, they are also living through it with parents, older siblings, and teachers who are so 'connected' themselves they aren't there to help our young people sort through the feelings and bounce back.

I'm not trying to say that phones and social media are the problem. But we cannot ignore the potential impact of having the whole world in our palms and we cannot ignore that social media is false sense of connection that encourages us to ignore the people right in front of us.

There's a million things we can do (need to do) so that when I tell my eight year old son about the Parkland school shooting, his first response isn't, "Momma, maybe you shouldn't work at a school anymore." But some of those things are big and take time in a way that my impact is small.

Maybe there isn't even a point to this post. I'm just typing to sort through my own broken, tired, sore, momma-teacher heart. I can do what I can in this little sphere in which I can reach. I can love and hug our kids and have the hard conversations with them and I can look in their faces and talk and connect with them and do everything I can to try to break poor phone habits so I can be a better version of myself. And I can love my students and push them and encourage them and check in on them and in the face of all their wise cracks and bad behavior see that they're just kids who need someone to not back down or go away. (hi, students who discovered my blog - see you Tuesday, happy long weekend. I do care about YOU!)

there's no answers over here in my corner of the web. Just a call to action. Action in love and kindness and grace and connection. None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something. And I hope that what each of us do is Love one another.

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