I teach high school in New York City. A week ago Wednesday, my students were blissfully running around between classes exchanging chocolate, stuffed animals, balloons, roses and, of course, Valentines—it was February 14th! The next day, although the cataclysmic tragedy had already occurred in Parkland, somehow the subject had barely filtered through my mind or through most of my students’ mind.
For tomorrow was the Chinese New Year, and my largely Asian population was just trying to get through the school day, preoccupied with thoughts of upcoming feasts and visits with various relatives, while visions of red envelopes stuffed with money danced before their eyes. For my part, I was solely focused on trying to finish projects in all five classes.
The next day, Friday, schools were closed for the Chinese New Year, which preceded a week off for Winter Recess. I spent much of that day, as well as several more, mesmerized by the news while also crying, reading and commenting on various articles and posts on Facebook, or writing my own. I watched as students took over the narrative and reframed it, confronted politicians, marched to Tallahassee, the Capital and Parkland, took over town hall meetings, performed songs, held banners, were interviewed on CNN, were smeared by adult bullies, spoke to Donald Trump and, dressed in their best black shirts and pants, attended funerals.
On Monday I will return to work. I will look into my students’ eyes, my students who have now most likely seen everything that I have, and who are every bit as articulate, brave and wonderful as those of MSD, minus the tragedy. What will I say to them? What will they say to me? I don’t know.
Shelley Zipper teaches high school in Brooklyn, NY.