An educated mind is an opened mind. An opened mind is a liberal mind. Teachers don't have to intend to create liberals, it happens naturally.

On the inside:

  • A Professor Speaks
  • Links to other education-related stories.
  • As always, the topics will be whatever you want to discuss.

Door's Open...

A Professor Speaks

Thirty-one years.  That's how long I have been teaching.  It's been four or five days a week, even six days a week, once upon a time, responsible for the welfare of one or more classes of students for somewhere between 50 minutes and 3 and a half hours at a crack.  I teach.

Meanwhile I am also the parent or the mentor, the friend or the coach, the social worker or the therapist, and even sometimes the doctor, depending upon what each of my students requires of me at the particular moment.  And sometimes I am the cop.  At all times it is expected that I will be the protector.

No student has ever been harmed physically by another human being in any of my classes.  I would hope that I could also say that is true as far as emotional damage as well, but I can't know that.  I know I try to protect my students from each other, but I am limited in what I can do.

In 1998 I was plying my trade at the University of Central Arkansas, teaching teachers mathematics and how to teach it.  Shannon Wright, the teacher killed by students at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro (which I wrote about in this piece, which was published in the Ozark Feminist Review) could have been one of my students.  She stepped in front of a 6th-grader and was shot instead of the child.  She could have been one of my students.  She could have been me.

This past Monday, I was being prepped for eye surgery at the moment Jamie Bishop was killed.  And Jocelyne Couture-Nowak. And Kevin Granata.  And Liviu Librescu.  And G. V. Loganathan.  And the students.  They also had names.  They had lives.  But the names I have chosen to single out were at work at the time, plying their craft.  Jamie was teaching German.  Jocelyne may have been giving a pop-quiz in French.  Kevin was probably busy tying the day's engineering lecture into his research interest in biomechanics and the dynamics of cerebral palsy.  G. V. was no doubt expounding about conserving our water resources or bending water to do our will.  We do know for certain exactly what Liviu was doing at the time of his death.  He had ceased his lecturing (was he climbing on the furniture to convey his deep love for his subject?) and was standing at the doorway offering his life in place of that of his students.  I'm sure the others tried to do the same.

Each day we go to work knowing that it could be the day that some student could snap.  College campuses are living communities of folks strung tightly.  College is hard.  It's supposed to be hard.  At many colleges the majority of the students are not going to complete their programs.  Someone has to be the bearer of the bad news.  Guess who that is?  That's right, it's the teachers who grade the papers and projects and the sum total of a student's life.  That's what they pay us to do.  We try to rescue those who are floundering and shepherd those who are  trying to find their way and cheer those who are marching ahead, hopefully supplying them the knowlege and skills they will find useful.  But some of our students will fail, despite our best efforts.  And some of them will react badly.  As teachers we have to be watchful.

But there is another level of danger on our campuses.  The students come being who they are.  Part of our job is to reshape them, refocus them, reinforce the good parts and recognize the bad.  Some people are resistant to change, so there is a degree of confrontation always present, no matter how much teachers try to convince students that we are actually part of the same team and not the enemy.  And some people are damaged by their college experiences.  Some people arrive already damaged.  We do what we can do for these students.  This school has an extra college counselor because we are in the shadow and aftermath of 9/11.  That makes two.  It is not enough.

We know what causes the incidents to happen.  Every single damn one of them was the result of bullying.  Either the young person who committed the attocious acts was a bully or he was someone who was bullied.  If you want these things to stop, you have to stop the bullying.  It started when they were very young.  You cannot just let it pass as part of growing up and expect that these incidents are not going to continue...and probably escalate.

For the love of our children, can't we do this?  In the names of the dead, shouldn't we do this?

Here's the deal.  Each week I locate and skim all the educational diaries so that I may (hopefully correctly) classify them.  I have to do some picking and choosing because some items don't fit what I'm trying to do here.  Then came Virginia Tech.  270 diaries and counting.

I am emotionally incapable of reading them all.  Actually I seem to be an eater of pain, so I probably could, but I'd be seriously deranged for a time after doing so.  I read about 75, the ones which specifically were tagged school shootings.  Some of them were actually concerned that there was a school involved.  Those are in the links below.  Consider the Stories:  Ourselves and Others section to express the broad spectrum of out-pooring from our community, seen through an educational lens.

At the same time, I want to express my own view of some of my favorite other writing about Virginia Tech, if only to gather it in one place.  Those links are included in a special section at the end.

--Robyn Elaine Serven
--Bloomfield College, NJ

Education Round-up:  I've categorized.
Philosophy and PoliticsStories:  Ourselves and OthersFreedom on CampusNCLB/Department of Education/Standardized Testing/Assessment
MoneyAction, Advocacy and InformationVirginia Tech Special Section
I'll be hanging around most of the day, actively waiting for your comments (actually, I'll be working in another program, but I'm close by), so at least one person will be here to discuss whatever anyone wants to discuss.
The Not-so-many Rules
  • No general bashing of administrators, politicians, etc, just on general principles. If you want to bash them, have a point and a plan.
  • No bitching about students unless you're talking about what you are going to do to alleviate the problems you think the students have.
  • Introductions are encouraged, but not essential.
  • I have no investment in hosting the Teacher's Lounge. If someone else thinks they can and wants to do it better, cool.  I just want the space. And not for teachers only, but respecting the general theme of teaching and learning.
  • Teacher's Lounge can be "slow blogging" if you want it to be.  You don't get quality writing if you demand velocity.  It doesn't have to be the case that something posted today is dead by tomorrow. I would like it to eventually be up and active 24/7, but that may have to wait until I have developed an independent blog site.

Every Saturday I'll post a clean slate, around 12 noon EST.

Originally posted to Robyn's Perch on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 08:44 AM PDT.

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