Tonight we discuss Professional Development and hopefully learn a few resources and experiences we can share with each other to grow together.
In college while taking a 1945-Present US History class, I was asked to interview someone who was around during the Vietnam War. The professor may have said Vietnam Conflict as it was technically not a war, but I digress. When presented with this project, I think I went with the easiest person I could think of which was my dad. To be honest in thinking about it now, I think I likely knew my dad had served in the Navy, but didn't know much else. Over the years he didn't talk much about his experience. We knew he traveled to Japan as he had a couple of dolls that still reside in the living room of their home. I also remember him showing me a sword he got again while in the Navy and in Japan. I think the mementoes being from Japan precluded me from ever realizing he was involved in Vietnam. He never spoke of it.
When tasked with conducting the interview, I came home from college and we sat down to talk about it. He shared with me that he enlisted. Now at that point in my life I had known my dad for about 20 years. I knew he had a gun he used for hunting, which I think he only went like two years when my older brother went hunting. So my dad wasn't someone that I thought of as this gun ho Jo. He wasn't someone I saw as eager to go to war, or have a heightened sense of duty to country or patriotism that would drive him to volunteer. I was puzzled as to why he would put himself at risk voluntarily. This seemed at odds to the man I knew, especially knowing how unpopular the Vietnam was for many at that time. When I pressed him on this he told me, he had a high draft number, and he figured he was definitely going to get drafted. Facing almost guaranteed service, he decided to enlist. He said if you enlist you get to chose the branch of service. He chose the Navy and had several years serving in Vietnam. There are many differences between his experience and someone who was in the Army. One that he was thankful for was that he had a clean bunk every night and had hot meals.
As we talked he also shared that he had guys he grew up with that didn't make it back. He shared some of the stories of the things he saw, did, and heard about from people he knew, but little in way of graphic details about what we likely think of as the reality of war.
I could go on about the other really cool things he shared with me, like being on the recovery mission for one of the Apollo flights; they weren't the ship to recover it, because it was such a powerful experience for me. Getting to see a different side of my dad, hear about his experience, especially in context of a major historical event is still one of the best memories I have of spending time with him.
There are other people's stories that I haven't heard or experienced. There are people in my life that I haven't taken the time to learn about. There are things that I missed out on or am missing out on because I haven't take the time to start the conversation. I think interviewing people is such a powerful experience. One of the classes I work with, 3rd grade bilingual students started last year with a project where they interviewed the teachers in their building to help the entire school get to know the staff better. I have been thinking about this activity, along with the potential for using this to help students experience history. Tonight's chat is about the story of history and doing the work of history.
The past month or so we have seen a variety of events unfold before our eyes. There has been the tragedy of Las Vegas; the hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas; the NFL protests, the standoff with North Korea, and many more. Each of these have received a Twitter response for President Trump. With many of these events there has been controversy and conversation that followed.
This is about the third post I have started about how to discuss the multitude of current events that have taken place in the last few months. I first want to take a moment to remember those who were injured or killed by the terrorist in Las Vegas. I am deeply saddened that we continue to see these types of violent events unfold in our country.
My dilemma this week is how do we talk about these events in our classes? I know I can engage in conversation in my personal life. I can share my thoughts with friends and colleagues and family, but how do we create a platform to discuss important issues in our classrooms? I can share my thoughts after the Las Vegas terrorist attack that I think it was a terrorist attack even though the media and our government doesn't call it as such. I wonder what makes this act of violence different than those that have been called terrorist attacks? Does the color of skin of the perpetrator change the definition?
Another issue is our political response to this. Now is not the time to talk about gun control. Stephen Colbert aired a segment last night shining light on the rhetoric of politicians following every mass shooting in America. "Now is not the time to talk about gun control." Whether you favor gun control or freedom to bear arms, if the days following another senseless tragedy isn't the time to discuss how to make our country safer, then please tell me when is a good time. And when I say make America safer that doesn't automatically mean take away guns, but rather a call for action to step out of this loop of insanity. Insanity is doing that same thing and expecting different results. I think in regard to these mass shootings we are in a loop of insanity.
While I am not in the classroom everyday, I think the topic of classroom discussion of current events is one that impacts all of us. So how do we engage in dialogue about controversial issues and teach our students the skills to discuss, share, and disagree with the ideas of others in a civil, respectful manner?