Thursday, April 2, 2015

Networks and Newsrooms

A year and a half ago I sat in the newsroom at the high school where I teach with my good friend, Tina, our eyes red and swollen from crying from the news that one of our beloved former students had died. It was sudden - a seizure and a stroke on a city bus on his way to classes at his college.

I had dinner with Kenna a month earlier where he told me about his dream to become a civil rights lawyer to fight for gay rights. He was a black gay man who was the arts and entertainment editor on his school newspaper and he was active on his college campus in his quest for LGBTQ rights on campus.

Kenna's Memorial at CU
As Tina and I sat in the newsroom that September we began making a list of the people who Kena knew so that we could inform them of his tragedy. We started with the kids who were on the newts with him. Then we thought about who those kids knew to remember who his core group was. Then we started thinking about teachers and we went through the same process. Finally, we talked about all the students from the University of Colorado who were posting on his Facebook site. The net was wide, for sure.

Kenna...We Still Miss You
Our conversation that day landed on the fact that we doubt that Kenna knew the impact he had on all of these people who were posting their heartbreak on Facebook. People who decided to come out of the closet because of conversations they'd had with him. People who lived authentically because of the work he did on campus. People who were inspired by him to stand up for themselves. People who were inspired by him to stand up for themselves. The heartbreak felt endless because of the impact he had on those he came in touch with.

And I don't think he ever even realized the reach and the impact he had on others...that is the true heartbreak.

But will we ever know the impact we have on others? Those things that stand out to us are probably things that we needed and were ready to learn at that point in our lives, so the people who taught us most likely won't have the same reaction we have. It really is a beautiful circle of teaching.

Last week I had the opportunity to go to the Gates Foundation to talk about networks. The idea goes that we can solve the problems of education if we get a group of people together who do great thinking about solving problems. There are some amazing groups out there that are gathering these groups of people, one of which I was privileged to represent at this meeting, The National Writing Project.

I can't even tell you how many times the writing project has inspired me and touched me and helped me push my thinking. I'm not sure the people who push my thinking even realize how much they have impacted me. I mean, really, why would they? After all, in their minds I would imagine they think they are just doing their job. But to me, their thoughtfulness and willingness to work with me has kept me in teaching. It has added inspiration to my teaching.

I feel like I'm at a point in my career where I want to begin to give back because I have been given so much.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful reflection. Ripples and circles are certainly connected. I like the idea too that two individuals can have the same "experience" but have separate meanings.