Dear Class 7a,
Today was a good day. This week has been a good week. You don’t know how proud I am of you guys, seeing you guys walk into class everyday (rain or shine) with your homework (done or incomplete) in a line that is (more or less) straight. I’m constantly amazed at your perseverance and how you guys never fail to keep trying (in the face of mountains of homework, thick break packets, failed math quizzes, and borderline grades). It’s wonderful to feel confident when an observer walks into my class, knowing that you guys won’t fail me – you’ll consistently be alert, attentive, and –best of all– eager in answering my questions and contributing to discussions. (Well, except for math).
Yesterday, while talking about Sir Gawain and King Arthur and about chivalry, we happened upon the topic of modern-day respect and how to treat women now. Steubenville happened to come up. It was amazing to be able to talk about this with you guys in a more or less mature manner (although some of you did giggle, I just assumed it was out of discomfort).
Today after school, a coworker brought me a notecard that had apparently been circulating through the 7th graders. I automatically assumed it was the other class, because honestly, you guys are so great compared to them. We always get better grades, we have less behavioral issues, and you guys are so polite in public. But according to all students involved, the story originated from my class. I was skeptical, and as I read the story, my heart sank. One of you (and I’m pretty certain I know which one because the handwriting corroborates with the person that each student named) wrote a story about a girl who would do anything for a piece of gum and a boy who would take advantage of that. The demeaning resolution of this horrifying story that you apparently made up (I googled words, plots, and key phrases, and I’m pretty sure it’s original) and just the fact that you could make this up astonished me. Furthermore, I was sickened at the fact that it was circulated amongst you guys first and that both girls and boys found humor in the situation.
I know that right now, you probably don’t understand the implications of this story. Right now, it’s cool to laugh a girl who’s “dumb enough” to do anything for a piece of gum. It’s funny that a boy is clever enough to exploit it. It’s downright hilarious that the finale of the story has a clever pun on the boy’s name and includes his mom as a witness.
If anything, this story would have been easier to swallow if this happened with the “bad” kids, but no, it was the model kids. Thank you for the reminder to not be so naive.
Part of me wants to get incredibly sarcastic. How dare you use your amazing brain to create something like this.
Part of me wants to shun you forever. How can I look any of you in the eye when you guys can betray my trust so casually?
Part of me wants to show you a scarring documentary that is so real that you guys would never laugh at this again.
But the largest part of me wanted to just cry. I wanted to cry because I realized that no matter what I do, you are your own people. I wanted to cry because I know that you guys are not innocent and that there is no excuse. I wanted to cry because you do have one excuse, and that is ignorance. I felt powerless in that my teaching and example is nothing compared to everything in society, the media, and the playground.
I’m glad that I have other teachers around me. Teachers who remind me that you guys are in middle school and you don’t realize everything you’re doing.
I’m most thankful though that I can find comfort in the Truth – that we are fallen. We are all depraved (which is something I sometimes don’t believe is the case for you – you guys are all so bright, smart, and charming). But times like this remind me that what we all need is not education, not morality, but we need mercy to save us from ourselves.