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A Different Kind of Possible

By Karla Hilliard

This post was supposed to be about the magic of back to school. I was going to talk about the yellow school buses and freshly waxed floors, the expertly organized classrooms and intentionally designed lessons, about our students arriving with the anticipation of fresh possibility. 

I was supposed to remind us why teaching matters, how our pouring ourselves into our work and our ongoing fight for a voice that is valued is for a singular purpose: our students. I was going to write about how in West Virginia, we lean into the ways our work can change the trajectory of a student’s life and how that is a fight worth fighting. 

I wanted to write that post. I wanted to tell you about the brilliant people I’ve had the true pleasure of calling students over the years. I wanted to tell you about the places they’ve gone. I wanted to tell you, too, about the struggles, how some of my most difficult and challenged learners taught me the most about my teaching and myself. 

But instead, as I wake up on a morning where 30 people from two different cities in our country are dead as a result of domestic terrorism fueled and incited by hate, I am once again brought to my knees with grief for our country, for our children, and with the delicate relief of being alive. 

Teachers, I want to remind us of a different kind of possible that awaits us in our classrooms in just a few short weeks. 

Yes, we have the tools to open eyes and minds to great and beautiful literature, the elegant proportions of math, the dire importance of history, the curiosities and phenomena of science, the ways a body can move and a mind can think, the satisfying feeling of shared knowledge and experience. 

But we must—now more than ever—deeply examine and reflect on who we are as educators and the spaces we make for our students to be seen, heard, respected, and valued. 

What is possible this year must not be limited to new tech tools or textbooks. We must set our hearts, minds, and curriculum to actively promote equity and dismantle injustice and to make our classrooms and schools a place of love, trust, and acceptance. We must not allow spaces for hate and silence to exist. We must speak up, and we must allow for the discomfort that follows. 

I remind myself this morning, in the wake of more senseless violence, that teaching is hard work and heart work, and our students, like our own children, watch, listen, and learn by what we say and what we do not say, by what we allow and do not allow. 

In a country where people are being gunned down in grocery stores, churches, and of course, schools, and in a state where we have stood up and stood together, we must also work to ensure that hate has no home here.

What we do matters.

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