Today was day one after the tragedy. For the sake of respecting the student who passed away, I don’t feel comfortable sharing any details here. Still, for me personally, many things have come into stark relief in the past 36 hours. Between bouts when my chest tightens and my eyes start to water, those moments when potential sobs get suppressed so that I can be strong for my students and colleagues, I’ve had all sorts of thoughts about teaching and our roles as teachers, as well as the awesomeness (in the great and terrible sense of the word) of the human condition.
All day my mind keeps running to — of all things — a comic I read ages ago. It’s from xkcd.
On the first day of every class, I show this to my students. We talk about what it means. Everyone is special. Everyone is flawed. Everyone is unique. Everyone has depth.
On this day, a day of triage where everyone’s emotions are all over the place, you start to see these secret worlds start to become exposed. Students were sharing their feelings, they were crying together, they were empathizing and being compassionate. They were exposing their own inner worlds, in some small way, with others. And we saw on this first day that everyone — students, teachers, and administrations — that everyone is complex, inscrutable, beautiful, flawed, great, and very, very small.
Today I saw such sadness in in the sunken eyes of students who hadn’t sleep, who had been crying, who spent the day looking down and were too stunned to have anything to say. As I type this, I start to see their faces, and my eyes are watering up again. I know that with time things will get better. But knowing that doesn’t make anything easier right now.
With that, I’m out for the evening. If I have any energy, I’ll post again soon with my thoughts about teaching and the role of the teacher that this incident brought up.