I am not usually one for writing about current news stories because my blog was never supposed to be serious. I found that in the stressful world of being a busy working mum, writing comical stories about my misgivings as a parent gave me (and perhaps one or two others) some light relief to what was usually an end to a busy day teaching and parenting. However, every so often the real world sneaks up on me, smacks me right between the eyes and I feel compelled to write about it.
That’s how I have felt about this past week.
I shy away from controversy and tend to keep my opinions to myself on social media. This is for two reasons:
Firstly, I don’t want to say something that others don’t agree with and end up reading cutting remarks about and me and my writing (because I am a total wimp and cry easily). For me, social media isn’t about my airing of political views and spewing about what is wrong or what is right about the world today. No, for me, social media is about sharing the fact that one of my amazing Year 8 boys asked me yesterday if ‘Utopia’ was a country. ‘No,’ was my reply. ‘That’s Ethiopia.’ It’s about that time when I told a pupil that Rudyard Kipling was not, in fact, Mr Kipling’s brother (if only he had been though…) It’s also my documenting of proud parenting moments such as when we lovingly bought our girl two goldfish and she screamed and shouted all night for a dog. My Facebook isn’t about being ‘in’ or ‘out’, I just want to make people smile.Secondly, I don’t write about current events because I am not clued up on everything that’s going on in the world at the moment. My television channel barely moves from 614 and 615 when the kids are awake (CBeebies and Nick Jr for those of you who are wondering…) and by night, my sordid love affair with Sky Atlantic takes precedence over watching the news. I am not knowledgeable enough to weigh in and discuss serious stories and my come back of ‘I know you are, I said you are, but what am I?’ is just not a strong enough argument to defend myself against some of the trolls hiding in the dark spaces in-between the comments section on social media.
Despite my knowing more about ‘Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures’ rather than some of the ‘prehistoric’ views of our country’s MPs (Oh no, she didn’t…), we do now live in a world where the news is instantaneous and where, if we want to, we can delve into all of the nooks and crannies of a story.
This week, I did just that. After putting my children to bed each night, I strained my eyes and read page after page of news on my phone screen and some of the facts I read brought me to tears.
Last week, I watched British Football Fans fighting in France. I read about a young pop star being killed in Orlando and then my heart broke for Orlando again when innocent people were killed and injured in a night club in a horrific shooting. Tuesday came around and I found myself reading about Orlando again and how a two year old had been dragged into a lagoon by an alligator. Then on Thursday, just as my colleagues and I were about to watch the England and Wales football match, I read about a local MP called Jo Cox. She had been shot, stabbed and rushed into hospital. My colleagues and I briefly discussed it and condemned the attack instantly. We settled down to watch the match knowing that Ms Cox was alive and in safe hands at Leeds General Infirmary.
After the game, I rushed home and collected my children from Grandma and Grandad’s. The Other Half was home and making dinner. We briefly discussed the football game and spoke about the hideous attack on Jo Cox.
Once seated at the table, the conversation came up again.
“I hope she is okay,” I said.
“She’s died,” the Other Half said. “It’s barbaric.”
“She hasn’t,” I insisted. “She is in hospital.”
The Other Half reached for his phone and instantly updated me.
I had to take a minute.
Like I have said, I am not political and I did not know the MP, but this news story absolutely devastated me.
Later that night, as I lay next to my children, I read more and more about the very wonderful Jo Cox. As a successful working mother, she would have left her children that morning and expected to see them again that evening. No one should ever go to work and never return home. I was heartbroken. I searched desperately to find the good in the world again.
That is what this post is about. Finding the good. Because it is there. It is all around us. It always has been and it always will be. It’s about knowing where to look.
This week, I found goodness in my Year 9 class. They are a wonderful eclectic mix of pupils of middle to low ability. Sometimes they challenge me; sometimes they stare at me in silence with blank expressions on their faces, but more often than not, they make me smile.
Sometimes they amaze me.
On Thursday morning, they did just that. But, they didn’t realise it. Nor did I until they had raced out of my class in a bid to be the first in the lunch queue.
The topic for the day was the analysis of language. We read an article about an openly gay rugby player.
After a weekend that saw the news filled with stories of hate that linked with both sport and sexuality, I saw this article as a great tool to spark some serious debate, some riveting conversations and some strong opinions. I thought I might even have to challenge some ideas.
I was wrong.
I have mentioned in a previous post that rugby is the beating heart of our school; it is a topic that draws a lot of our pupils into conversation.
We read the article and before picking out key words and phrases, I wanted to find out what they thought of it.
“Why do you think the rugby player kept his sexuality to himself for so many years?”
“He was scared of what others would think, Miss.”
“Yes, so if your fellow team mate told you, after years of playing rugby together, that he was gay. How would you react?”
“What would you say to your friend?”
Eventually, someone spoke.
“I wouldn’t say anything, Miss. He’s my friend.”
“What if your friend wanted a reaction, your opinion or some advice? What would you say?”
“I’d tell him to stay focused on the match because we had a game to win.”
I feared that they didn’t understand what I was asking of them. However, we unanimously agreed that the appalling things that happened last weekend have no place in this world. They recognised discrimination and they condemned it.
When asked to speak about sexuality in context, they couldn’t. Not because they didn’t understand, but because it just isn’t an issue for them. I am lucky enough to work with young people who tolerate, accept and love people’s differences – whether it be their sexuality, their beliefs or just how they have their hair styled. When the world is at its most cruel, I look to them because they are our future and they are good.People yearn for the Britain of old when people were perhaps more patriotic. But, weren’t people also more racist back then and less tolerant of people who dared to be true to themselves and stand out from the crowd?
I am lucky enough to live in a country that celebrates freedom and I am privileged to teach pupils who don’t just tolerate people’s differences, but they accept them because it’s all they have ever known.
As teachers, we will strive to educate your children and turn them into good citizens, but education starts and finishes in the home and love will always breed love.
Thank you Year 9 for allowing me to see some good in the world this week.