Let me begin by saying these opinions are not opinions of RunDSM, because RunDSM is the youth. These are the opinions of a confused educator who, like each and every person reading this, is trying to figure out how to use this as a conversation to move forward. And it starts with the youth.
As quickly as CNN popped up on the screen of my space-age Smartphone during lunch Friday, the browser in my mind popped up a picture of the boy who crawls out of his skin while “sitting” in the far left corner desk of my 6th period class. Or the girl who dances in her seat while rhyming the name her favorite teacher (a.k.a. her “teacher crush”) with anything she can possibly think of. I work with kids every day who are screaming for help in uncanny ways. They blurt out as many times as possible just to have a few moments of personal time with you in the hall. They put themselves down in front of the class, spawning giggles and laughter that takes minutes to redirect, so no one else can do it for them. They try, so hard, to push you away, even though you’ve done everything in your power to show them you respect them. They are the faces of mental illness.
I didn’t become an educator to work with students with mental illnesses. I had heard the horrors of special education, the mountains of paperwork coupled with the intense work done with students on a daily basis only to see a shred of progress. I wanted to work with “tough” kids, “poor” kids, kids who could (hopefully) benefit from a girl in a dress with energy for days. But I quickly realized that there isn’t a distinction between kids you work with and kids you don’t. Every single one of them has a way of working themselves into your bloodstream, dragging every last tear and fear into the canal that is your heart. They become the kids you advocate for the most.
In the 5 years I have been teaching, I have watched many people (whom I lovingly refer to as my “teacher heroes”) model positive relationship building. The way they talk to kids, respond to kids, de-escalate kids, it’s remarkable. And it always starts with a conversation.
RunDSM was created for those conversations to take place and for kids to be heard. It’s a space for us to ask kids what they think about the world, and gently nudge them toward the road of compassion. An environment where activism is the solution and energetic reciprocity the vehicle to getting what you want. Where the youth become a generation of people better than we are today.
Perhaps it’s a gesture resulting from this delicate time, but I felt compelled to say thank you for the support you having given me, Kristopher, and our kids. Because every kid deserves the chance to be heard.
Peace and love to you,
Miss Emily Lang