Recognizing that I often address the District regarding significant world events, a few people have noticed and mentioned to me an absence of comment regarding the recent mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. A couple have also expressed their concern about how I might have been personally impacted – and for this I express my deepest appreciation.
Perhaps selfishly, I needed to grapple with this senseless act within my own internal mechanisms before I felt I could make any public comment. With some sense of gratitude, I was distracted from this by the annual grueling June schedule which (as with most of you) has kept me from personal time for reflection and with my family.
My first public mention of this horrible event ended up being included in my comments at the retirement and long service recognition banquet this Saturday evening. In consideration of the importance of what we do as adults involved in the education of our children and youth – no matter our role in this work – custodians, administrators, education assistants and teachers spoke with compassion and deep commitment to our students. In my comments, I spoke about the privilege it is to see our adults connecting with our students from a place of deep compassion and caring. Our tight-knit school communities know each other well. We know many of the challenges that each of us, employees and students, bring to our learning communities. And, with compassion we reach out to support each other.
It is through generous acts of compassion that communities open spaces for enlightenment, wisdom and development of self. In last week’s message to our District, I shared a link to the OECD document, Global Competency for an Inclusive World. In the introduction to this document, Andreas Schleicher wrote “…Schools need to prepare students for a world in which people need to work with others of diverse cultural origins, and appreciate different ideas, perspectives and values; a world in which people need to develop trust to collaborate across such differences; and a world in which people’s lives will be affected by issues that transcend national boundaries.” Later in the document we read, “If young people are to co-exist and interact with people from other faiths and countries, open and flexible attitudes, as well as the values that unite us around our common humanity, will be vital.”
In my opinion, the mass shooting that occurred at Orlando is a scar on humanity. It joins a lengthy list of horrible acts through the history of humankind and deeply wounds our collective identity, reaching deep into the scaffold of values we each hold until we finally find those values that we share as a global community. These acts are insidious. As horrible as they are, however, I wonder if they are more horrible than the daily attack many people – children, youth, and adults – experience when they become victims of vile rumors, malicious bullying, refusal to understand and learn about each other, and the isolation of unfounded judgement. In the end, one needn’t attempt to rank the degree of adequation of these events. I contend that it is these behaviors that have injured or killed the souls of many human beings throughout history. When we ignore or compel these behaviors through our own actions we send the message that it is okay – a message which quickly escalates and in some cases becomes the vile attack such as we saw last weekend.
This brings me back to the comments I made at the long service and retirement banquet. I believe it is through a relentless commitment to accessing our personal compassion, and sharing that freely with those around us, that we can contribute to the development of a world in which people are able to work with others of diverse cultural origins, “…and appreciate different ideas, perspectives and values.” And so it is with this that I give my thanks and appreciation to each of you for being kind, for your compassion and for your commitment to the children and youth in our care and the adults with whom we work. You do make a difference and together we collectively massage a healing balm on the wounds that are etched into our common humanity. Never to forget – but hopefully to grow closer together in our collective efforts to make a better world.