The text was marked at 2:25 am. The news: one of our students had died. Been killed. I searched on-line but could find no confirmation. By the time I got to school 5 or so hours later. He was dead. They don’t teach you about this – how to respond, how to be ready, how to simply get through the day. I’ve had school before on days of tragedies. When my 3rd period class arrived on the day of the Colombine shootings, a student asked, “Can we just have a normal class?” And so we did. The message was clear. The student, the class – they were tired of discussing it. And so we did. We went on with our day. I don’t remember what we were working on, but do remember the tone that student had and the look on his face. He needed normal. He wanted to feel normal. So we did (to the best of my ability) normal.
This student was not a great student. His attendance was shaky and sometimes, when he was present, he seemed and looked more than a little out of it. Earlier this week, he asked me if I had any poster board. It turns out he wanted to complete a project I’d assigned. He was going to compare the perceptions of certain neighborhoods with their reality. A colleague worked with him. He was making progress. I was thrilled that he wanted to finish something, that he wanted to finish this. I got him the poster board. My colleague and I – I think we’re going to finish the project.
There are counselors in the library. And I’m sure they are doing good work. Today. We need them every day. We all need to figure out how it came to this. A 16-year-old black male is dead. I’m looking at his chair now. He sat right there.